On a Sunday morning

January 22, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It was a sad day, I thought, when the British government allowed shops to open on Sundays. I really loved Sundays in London, England. Once a week, there was a special calm; motor traffic was considerably reduced, making the air a little more breathable, and the crowds jamming the sidewalks and pushing into shops were basically gone. They were staying at home with their families, bless them, chowing down on the Sunday roast. At least the pubs were still open but for fewer hours, mind you. There was still time for a chap to nip across the street for a pint or two after a lunch of roast beef with all the veggies, Yorkshire pudding and a bulky dessert. I marvelled at the talent that could down a decent quantity of beer following so much food.

Well, they could and did and sported the bellies to prove it.

Opening the doors to Sunday shopping suited the stores alright, but it ruined the definition of a week when no day was quiet. Instantly, the law was confirmed; Sunday was just another day of heavy traffic and busy sidewalks. It made me wonder how much shopping we had to do for the stores to be so busy on Sundays when there were six other days of the week to run errands.

It makes me wonder, too, if being able to shop seven days a week has made a difference, however slim, to how much more we spend than we did with only six days to shop. Or, to put it another way, did stores see increases in sales overall even though they have to pay staff to come in for that additional day?

After all, one almost always buys something extra to the list one brought to restrain oneself and do these extras benefit shop owners more than one might realize. If we returned to shopping on fewer days, would we actually save money and still have all that we need in our homes?

Routine is comforting in many ways. To count on that one enforced day of rest from shopping and most of the commerce of our lives, one day to hang out with family or a friend; to take the time to make and consume a leisurely meal; go for a walk in a town that is noticeably less busy and maybe have that idle moment to notice things we were in too much of a hurry shopping, to notice before.

Once in a while, there is talk of all businesses going on a seven-day cycle, and I guess some of them do. Hospitals and emergency services must be available, but we still only get our mail five days a week. Restaurants in town here close on Monday; some more days than that, but by and large, the offices are shut on Sunday.

I looked this all up, and the issue is still a matter of debate in the U.K. Being a country of many millions of people who are much more inclined to engage in politics than we seem to be, it was no simple matter of whether or not to allow Sunday shopping. All the benefits of taking one day a week off versus the very many opinions of “to open or not” were more or less settled at last in 1994 when Parliament approved the Sunday Trading Act. This allowed limited opening times on Sundays for larger outlets at six hours only.

Here in Canada, Sunday closing was debated as being based on religious directives and thus a matter of biased restrictions. The Canadian encyclopaedia tells us “On 24 April 1985 the Supreme Court of Canada in the BIG M DRUG MART case struck down the Lord’s Day Act on the grounds that it contravened the freedom of religion and conscience provision in the CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS.”

The Lord’s Day Act was a law passed in England under Charles I in the 17th Century, an act prohibiting “Abuses” on the Lord’s Day, namely Sunday. This became part of the melting pot of British laws ruling the New World, specifically Canada. However, controversy over the law here still exists.

Don’t worry, I am well aware that Walmart, Loblaws and well, everybody, I guess would never agree to the backward step of forcing us all to cool our heels, as my daughter Patricia says, closing them on Sundays. Even so, many shops do agree that shopping hours should be shorter on Sundays.

It is not about religion; it is about the attitude that life has to be the same every day and that there is no thought to the real benefits of taking a day off. We need time to recharge, to have genuine time to ourselves; social time with others.

Businesses dealing with overseas companies have a variety of expectations on how many hours a day their employees will work. Those employees must measure those demands with the very clear damage to their health such jobs may inflict.

Yet, to idle sincerely without calling it lazy is to give ourselves creative time.

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