Does anybody have a full day of rest during the week any more?
I remember a time when most people actually rested all day on Sundays. It wasn’t because we were all religious fanatics: in fact very few of my immediate family went to church. It seemed to me, in our family anyway, to be part of the national culture. After five days at work and a Saturday fulfilling necessary tasks not done during the week, everyone except essential workers (emergency services, hospital staff, etc) actually took Sundays off.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my sister and I weren’t allowed to play out in the street on a Sunday despite being allowed to do so on every other day. Nobody did any DIY or even mowed their lawn on a Sunday for fear of the resultant noise disturbing their neighbours. Washing was never hung out to dry on a Sunday. I’m also pretty sure the only shops open were newsagents which were only allowed to sell newspapers and magazines. Incidentally this led to the anomaly that you could buy a pornographic magazine (so I’m told!) on a Sunday but not a bible.
I don’t ever recall any of this being a huge problem for anyone. My sister and I played indoors on Sundays. DIY, lawn-mowing and washing were done on other days of the week. Shopping was planned in the certain knowledge that we wouldn’t be able to get anything we ran out of on a Sunday and if we did go short of something we survived without it. Although we children found it strange and somewhat frustrating that our local newsagent covered the sweets he usually sold with an old curtain once a week, we just had to live with it.
It wasn’t only Sundays. I also remember that whatever the demand, no shops were open or services offered on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day either. There were fewer Bank Holidays back then of course but on those days I’m fairly certain it wasn’t just banks that were closed for business.
So what happened?
Well, for one thing we have become a far more secular society. Although I began by saying that the religious aspect didn’t tailor my family’s behaviour much, I’m sure the ever diminishing number of believers in society has influenced the way society now behaves. However I don’t think we can single out an atheistic upward trend as the only reason we have changed our ways.
The increased diversity in our population may have had some effect as well. There are many British citizens who don’t have a ‘seventh day of rest’ included in their cultural or religious upbringing and are therefore happy to work on Sundays.
Commercialism has undoubtedly played its part too. The Government is, I have read, constantly being lobbied by retailers to change our Sunday trading laws and what on earth would DFS do if they couldn’t start a new sale on a Bank Holiday? Our local ‘Tesco Extra’ is somewhat refreshingly closed on Easter Sunday this year but the nearby ‘Tesco Express’ is open from 7am to 11pm so you have to wonder why the big one is bothering. I also heard on the radio today that retailers are “distraught” having found out that the cold snap is to extend over Easter. Apparently the next four days are usually a ‘retail spike’ for sales of gardening and DIY products.
The media have had a hand in these changes too. There was a time when all league football matches were played at 3pm on a Saturday. Now, presumably at the insistence of the broadcasters, there are usually two premiership games on a Sunday whether the fans and players like it or not. I wonder what the audience figures are for the BBC’s long-running Songs of Praise when it clashes with a Chelsea v Manchester United game on Sky?
In my opinion the only time many of us really relax now is on our holiday (well those that don’t have children do!) For most of us that is just 14 days a year (12 if you take into account the stressful two days you spend getting there and back!) This is instead of every Sunday plus the occasional Bank Holiday that we used to have. I don’t think this is making any of us better people and may well account for the number of patients who go to their doctor claiming to be tired all the time or in need of tranquillisers to help them relax or sleep.
The late great Frank Sinatra once sang of New York: “I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps.” In 2013 he could save himself the trip across the Atlantic and stay here!