Presently Calban could make out the rising hills which marked the southern fringe of Marta City’s conurbation. This was the north easterly range of the Saullon Mountains although there were many miles to go before that high barrier was reached. Most of Southern Marta from the river Senl to the high peaks of the barrier was hilly or mountainous. Marta City itself was on the river plain dominating the wide valley that had once been and still was in places the granary of the Empire. The City and those that had developed around it and been absorbed by it had expanded through the mountains until the urban land on the plain far outweighed agricultural land. It had expanded as far as these hills on the southern side and the urban sprawl spread over the first of them. This was where Calban had been born and where his parents still lived today.
The District was known as Callison after the original Lord who owned the area at the foundation of the Empire. It had been a family estate. A village had existed here for centuries next to the Lord’s Castle, which had eventually been torn down like so many others in the days when the monarchs had insisted that the Barons and Lords obey their central authority. The castle had been replaced by a grand house, which still stood today. Once it had been used as a remunerative tourist attraction, in the days when that was an important industry and people had come to the park. Those days had gone. Modern people were less curious about the past. Perhaps they also had less time for outdoor leisure. The rising price of land had eventually persuaded the House that owned it to sell most of the park to the developers. In Calban’s lifetime part of the park remained with the House. On certain days it was open to the public to visit the house and parkland for a fee and look around it at the history and art it contained. The people who came to see it were in small groups. Since the abolition of the weekend some decades before and the introduction of “flexible” working hours it had no longer been possible to guarantee the profitability of this form of business.
The tourist industry and many service sector providers, restaurants, cafes and hotels fought voraciously against the government when the weekend was abolished to prevent the decline of their industries. The government, always keen to be seen to be promoting business, had been close to defeat in the Grand Council over the issue. The government had argued that leisure activities and tourism would become diversified throughout the week as employers gave workers alternative free time during the week. In some organisations a voluntary weekend continued until some years or decades later when the force of international competition forced them to change their policies. Where weekends were broken up and alternative time given to employees during the week it frequently amounted to two or three hours off at a time on certain mornings or afternoons. The employee was now rarely free from his work for any one day and certainly not two days in a week. This meant that people rarely travelled far from home unless they were on business, or after retirement. The old family holidays reduced in size and became less frequent.
For years governments had been encouraging the growth of the leisure industry and of the service sector. At a stroke these were damaged. Government had opted for more flexibility in the working week in order to give business organisations more freedom and enable them to devise ways of competing in the international market. In essence Martan organisations were not competing well with foreign ones. Their costs were too great making their prices uncompetitive or squeezing their profits. With profits squeezed they could not expand and they were not attractive to new capital which large organisations badly needed in order to keep up with their competitors. Martan Houses were losing business because orders could not be placed and delivered over the weekend. The government believed it had to act to liberalise the ancient Martan regulation of the weekend in the best interests of the Empire. Indeed some extra employees were taken on initially reducing the ranks of the unemployed. The added effect of this was to reduce the average wage of employees slightly because it gave employers the chance to alter work contracts and to use more casual and part time labour.
In time it became obvious that many original employees were expected to work for longer hours to cover for the additional working time, organisations now needed to provide. Many workers, suffering a reduction in their hourly rate of pay, felt obliged to work longer hours so they could maintain their standard of living. Others had no choice but to work for longer because their organisations expected it. The government believed that the business Marta saved because of the increased market orientation of her economy and improved competitive situation more than justified the reduction in the leisure industry. The government argued that leisure would become more concentrated in the evenings and that the reduction in holiday travel distances would result in more local leisure activities being undertaken. They were probably correct in this assumption to a degree and to that effect less money disappeared into the coffers of foreign countries or travelled to other cities.