Friday, 24 July 2015

SOS - Save Our Sundays

The UK government is determined to make Sunday just the same as any other day of the week. Generations of trades unionists and philanthropists fought to get the right to a work-free Sunday recognized in law, but now those who don't appreciate its wisdom want to throw all that away.
Anna Soubry, our latest Minister for Small Business, said that Sunday was awful anyway and we should all be glad to see it go. "We are of that generation where Sunday, truthfully, was the most miserable day of the week. The only thing to look forward to was Sing Something Simple on the radio. Goodness me, if that didn't sum up a miserable Sunday."  What an utterly crass thing to say and what shallowness it reveals. She seems to think that people have nothing to do in this material world of ours than work, then rush off with the percentage left to us after rapacious taxation, to exercise our consumer right to sharp, sharp, sharp till we drarp. Nothing is worth doing except acquiring more consumer goods, waving our credit cards and carrying home the latest acquisitions in carrier bags with the names of posh shops on them. 
   For millions of people, Ms Soubry, Sunday has never been boring. It has been, at the very least, a day to enjoy a lie-in and the company of your family or your friends. Sunday has always been the only day of the week when you could enjoy a leisurely lunch with all the family present. It has been a day of relative quiet on city streets and a day when you could phone a friend in the middle of the afternoon and be likely to find them in  - at least in winter. In summer they might be outside doing their garden or their allotment. Sunday was free from the dull chore of shopping, done on Saturdays, and of housework, as far as possible. For those lucky enough to be brought up in the Church of England, Sunday was a day for discovering the wonderful language of Cranmer and the Authorized Version of the Bible. It was a day for singing in a choir, and listening to the fascinating sermons of our vicar, a graduate of King's College Cambridge, with a pronounced taste for Shakespeare, George Herbert and Thomas Hardy. 
    Sunday was also a day when you could just sit and read your library books instead of being a slave to homework; I was fortunate to live just opposite a public library and treated it almost like an extension of home. If not reading you could play music or listen to the radio or gramophone. You could go for a walk or a bike ride without having to go anywhere in particular. My family liked to walk around the nearby lake. You could pursue whatever hobby you fancied. Only a very dull person finds leisure boring.
     On Sunday evenings there used to be a tradition of offering some classic drama on TV, such as the Three Musketeers with Jeremy Brett as d'Artagnan, or the Count of Monte Cristo with Alan Badel in the title role. And people would play board-games, and card games, which was at least a chance to meet your own parents before you grew up. If Ms Soubry's family couldn't find anything better to do on a Sunday than listen to "Sing Something Simple" they must have been very boring people. 
    So the shops were shut  - so what? If you ran out of something, you didn't die. You just waited till Monday, or asked a neighbour to help. I still don't shop on Sundays if I can help it. Only badly organised people need to do that.
    While certain professions, nursing in particular, have traditionally sacrificed their Sunday for the benefit of others, that is an exception, and the majority of people in non-vocational jobs should not be forced to work on any day of the week. We need one day off and why not make that Sunday?  In France they have more or less adopted the strange religion of closing on Mondays, which unless you worship the moon is a pointless variant from Sunday. If Ms Soubry is supposed to be encouraging small businesses, she should know that with limited staff, they need Sunday off, and will be at a greater disavantage if Sunday trading is made a universal norm.
   Sunday is more valuable than people realise. You don't know what you've got until it's gone. Write to your MP and protest at the destruction of a civilised tradition by philistines who don't understand its value.

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