SUNDAYS AS A CHILD
When I was growing up, Sunday was a day when not a lot was allowed beyond going to Church and Sunday School. My world and the world around me stopped. Had we wanted to shop, there were no shops open, apart from newsagents who opened briefly to sort out the Sunday morning paper rounds and then cater for those who collected theirs. I presume that in other areas there could well have been ethnic corner shops which did open on Sundays to cater for the need of their customer’s shopping habits, but my world in those days was a geographically small one. For a good part of my childhood, you couldn’t even top up your car with petrol on Sundays – and the petrol stations rarely offered the range of confectionary, milk etc that the do these days, so forward planning was certainly a part of our way of life.
As for my family, it was simply a matter of worship, eating, and my mother’s change of clothing between these processes as she couldn’t possibly cook in her church best clothes. I was not allowed to play out, or watch the television, not that there were any programs on during the day. Books were my ally as well as endless drawing and colouring in of the tiny squares on sheets of graph paper, making patterns and wiling away the time. I was later allowed to knit or make things - the establishment of my ability to occupy and entertain myself and not be bored.
My childhood was what would be considered these days as being quite naïve. I was only minimally aware of the details of other religions, or other cultures and would not have chosen to go against the norms of my family. Having said that, I was fascinated when an Indian family briefly lived in our street. They had no children, but were amazingly patient when this inquisitive little girl chatted with them and asked them so many questions. I remember being shown their currency, tasting their food which was so totally alien to my very traditionally English home cooking. So different, and so delicious to my young taste buds. They showed me their religious statues, again, so different and something of which I had no experience having always attended a non-conformist church which did not include anything other than a basic wooden cross. How sad I was when the family left. They had let me peep through a window to a wider, fascinating world.
One thing that I, as a child, did not consider was which day of the week, if any, was their special day for religious worship. What of other faiths, such as the Jewish communities with their Saturday Sabbath, the Islamic holy day of Friday? Did they just have to work around the shutting down on Sundays and continue as normal. A question I never asked.
The news took time to percolate through via newsprint and the limited radio and television news programmes, so major happenings had little impact on my life in those days. Anything deemed unsuitable was instantly switched off without any discussion. Likewise, if anyone let slip a ‘damn’…… off they went too.
However, when I became a teenager, I began to want to be out with my friends, to have more freedom on Sundays. Kicking against my family’s values, but very much in a gentle way. I didn’t agree with what my parents felt to be right yet I respected their views. I began to persuade my parents that it was ok to spread my wings and was delighted that they allowed this, well, within what they felt was appropriate, though at times what they didn’t know, couldn’t hurt them. Just as the shops and garages were beginning to remain open for at least part of Sunday, so my Sundays were becoming less of a Sunday, bloody (boring) Sunday. They remained family based, but I had been allowed the use of my wings. This seemingly mirroring the lives of many of my peers, the masses of working folk within my part of the UK. The world of work around us gradually changed from a five and a half day week of toil, followed by football at 3 on Saturday afternoon, going out on Saturday night; resting on Sunday ….. then start all over again. Awaiting ‘Wakes weeks’ when all factories closed and the trains and charas (coaches) loaded up for Blackpool and the like for a week’s break.
I managed to get to music clubs in Manchester and I am sure that had it been around then that I would have pumped my fist to Sunday Bloody Sunday by Irish band U2. A very young looking Bono et al recorded and released this in 1983.
WHAT OF THAT SONG, SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY?
Very much a protest song written about what had come to be known as Bloody Sunday. In January 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland, there was an illegal march against internment without trial. The backdrop of the time was very much set along religious differences. British soldiers fired on the marchers, killing 13 on the spot, injuring others.
Although it was written about this specific incident, it has relevance for many subsequent incidents. I cannot but think of the horrific events in Sri Lanka – a dreadful example of man’s hatred against man on another Sunday – this time, Easter Sunday just gone, when many of the people killed were worshipping the god whom they chose to follow, seemingly in the name of some others’ concept of god. Sadly, as with so many current and former atrocities, extreme religious ideology is apparently at the root of these attacks.
BLOODY SUNDAY REFLECTED BACK IN LATER YEARS
The topic of this and other sectarian incidents were talked about by a guest speaker, a social worker, at my counselling course. We were talking of discrimination, bigotry, the biases that we have. I had met this lady when she arrived, and being a caring sort of person had asked if she would like a drink. She said that she would like a coffee. I asked if she wanted it black or white and went off to make her drink. Apparently, she had reported me to the tutor as a racist stating that I should have asked if she required milk or not. Though tempted to duck out on what she had to say, I decided to be a good girl, so instead I sat down to listen to her. How I wished that I had left as she included the ‘Northern Ireland Situation’ and she talked of the black people. I had to ask for help with this comment. I admitted that I hadn’t had time to watch much news recently, so I was unaware of a problem particularly involving people of colour in Ireland. She replied that I hadn’t missed anything, rather, the downtrodden Catholic population of Northern Ireland considered themselves to be black.
I struggled to get my head around this concept and shared this feeling with her. Guess, this meant that I was even more firmly in the naughty girls’ corner, although maybe if I had said this, she would have considered me to be sexist as well as racist! It led me to wonder if my almost entirely white, Christian upbringing had led me to have a skew against others which I didn’t acknowledge. On consideration of the people I knew, had known, and the things I had done, I was able, with a clear conscience to largely set this aside.
My personal Sundays changed as my circumstances did. After University which opened my eyes so much, I married a guy was was in the RAF. He went on to do display flying for them. So my married life began with a gradual watering down of my Sundays due to Exercises of one kind or another, which paid no heed to days of the week, as well as duty rostas. Once the display flying began, there were few week-ends let alone Sundays which could be spent as a family. Then civilian flying replaced the RAF – again, Sunday was not considered to be a day off as holiday makers were happy to get away for their breaks at week-ends to suit their work patterns. So my Sunday bloody boring Sunday had become simply another day without church attendance to mark it as different in any way.
I guess that this reflects the lives of many, especially the medics, police, armed forces as well workers in the retail sector, those in the food industry to name just a few of the areas for whom Sunday had become just another working day. For the rest of us in UK, the world has become very much a 24/7 place with week-ends the time to squash in the tasks that slipped through the net during the week.
However, others, including other European countries such as France and Spain seem to have so many more people who continue with the tradition of making Sunday special. A day to spend with family, resting, often through walks or trips out en famille, or family gatherings for a shared Sunday lunch. In the UK, the Isle of Lewis stands out as the exception to the rule of Sunday being largely just another day. The whole community rather than just individual families, makes Sunday a day for doing as little as possible. It is an essential part of the islanders’ rhythm of life.
WHAT OF LISTENING TO THE NEEDS OF THE HUMAN BODY?
That need for rest, recuperation, relaxation is, in fact vital in support of the ability to spend the working week effectively toiling. A Scientific American article states that research shows that a weekly break is more beneficial for us that an annual holiday as the affects of this tend to wane after a couple of weeks back at the coal face of our daily routines. It is a more effective way of keeping burnout at bay.
We are not machines and if we treat our bodies as such, we do so at our peril. We not only need to recharge our physical body; but also our emotional selves and our spiritual selves via a faith, or maybe by communing with nature.
It is counter-productive in business, in productivity of any kind to ignore this basic human need and to press on like that automaton in this hurly-burly world of ours. So many convince themselves that they are indispensable, but so very few of us actually are. Even in large economic powers, such as Germany, it’s down tools and step away from the rat race for all on Sundays. This sees most shops closed, roads much quieter as heavy vehicles are banned from them. Electrical garden tools remaining unused to allow for that feeling of peacefulness to spread. It is a time for families, and getting outdoors into nature, though church attendance mirrors the drop seen in the UK. It is felt that this leads to higher efficiency across the German workforce for the rest of the (working) week.
Basically, a return to the conditions that I knew as a child, when I was unaware of the many advantages of having that day of rest. Though I cannot see it ever happening, with my adult eyes, I feel that a return to something akin to my childhood Sundays would change the 24/7 pace of life for the better. We would be handling life to suit human beings rather than to suit the bank balances of the minority. Whoops, as I am erring towards becoming political, I will step away from my writing and spend some time chilling for the rest of my Sunday; make it my Sunday of rest.