Singing the praises of that traditional Sunday feeling

Laws covering Sunday opening hours are expected to be relaxed by the Chancellor George Osborne.
Laws covering Sunday opening hours are expected to be relaxed by the Chancellor George Osborne.
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The Sundays I remember used to be special, says Chris Bond, but now they have increasingly become just like any other day of the week.

perhaps it’s a generational thing but I don’t recognise the world Anna Soubry talks about.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme about possible plans to extend the Sunday opening hours, the Tory Minister dismissed critics of the move as “harking back to a world that probably didn’t exist”.

The 58-year-old Minister then told presenter John Humphrys: “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.”

Maybe I’m guilty of falling into that age old trap of looking at the past through rose-tinted specs, but that’s not what I remember when I was younger.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, lazy Sundays are part and parcel of my childhood memories – the sense of anticipation as the smell of the roast dinner slowly intensified, wafting its mouth-watering way through every room in the house.

Once lunch was joyously demolished, the afternoons were mostly spent happily slumped on the sofa in front of the TV watching the Formula One Grand Prix or a one day county cricket match.

If there wasn’t any sport on then there was usually a war film or a Western to sit and watch, and in the summer months when the weather was nice my brother and I could play outside. Bliss.

I’m pretty sure it was a similar story in homes up and down the country. Sundays were traditionally a day of rest when families had a chance to take a breather from the daily grind.

The notion of Sunday as a day of rest has long since retreated to the pages of history, but even today in our busy, 24/7, existence it still remains an important anchor in family life, perhaps even more so with both parents usually out working during the week.

Maybe this is why news that shops could soon be opening for longer on Sundays has received such a mixed response. George Osborne is expected to unveil proposals in today’s budget to give elected mayors and councils powers to relax local laws and allow shops in England and Wales to open on Sundays for longer.

Under the existing laws small shops can open all day while larger stores are restricted to six hours. The Chancellor is in favour of the move, saying that online shopping trends suggest there is a “growing appetite” for Sunday trading in high streets and retail parks, and that a trial of longer hours during the London Olympics had proved a success.

But the move has been criticised by the Association of Convenience Stores which argues it would force small shops out of business and is unpopular with the public.

It’s actually 21 years since Sunday trading was legalised in England and Wales. The 1994 law was widely seen as a compromise which fell short of an attempt by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1986 to do away with all restrictions.

At the time the move caused a bit of a furore with Marks & Spencer and Waitrose opposed to Sunday opening, although both opened branches following the change.

There was also vocal opposition from the likes of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign which felt that Sunday trading would lead to an erosion of family life.

It hasn’t led to that, but it has changed the way we spend our time, gathering not in churches or around kitchen tables, but trolling around DIY stores or supermarkets.

Perhaps the Sundays of my youth weren’t really halycon days, but they felt like it at the time and looking back more than 30 years later, they still do.