Irritations of Modern Life: 13: Sunday Shopping

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LET US be clear about this: it isn't that I think everyone should be Praising the Lord. It isn't that I want everyone to be cleaning the car, walking the dog, planting begonias or playing cricket on the village green. For all I care, people can spend Sunday dreaming of Shula Archer naked in a pigpen. My only wish is that - just for one day - they would stay off the High Street, get off the M25 to Thurrock Lakeside and stop going shopping.

The concept of "Sunday opening" used to be a laughable one, meaning one shop that closed at around the time you were emerging from your Saturday night-induced stupor.

One week in three you might wake up in time to get to the shop before it shut, there to be confronted by a single white loaf that tasted, and looked, like Dunlopillo; stockpiled packets of Stork margarine, and a carrot. But in you would go, and out you would come, clutching a bag of Revels, twenty Silk Cut and the News Of The World.

Then you would bunker down for the day.

Now, of course, Sunday is no longer a day from which you can retreat in this lazy, lovely and necessary way. It demands to be acknowledged, to be consumed.

Fancy a Sunday jaunt into the country, pub guide held between your Terry-Thomas driving gloves? Impossible. Five carefree minutes up the road, you will be trapped within the evil tangle of traffic that leads towards an out-of-town shopping centre.

But the strange thing is that if you actually look at them, you see that most of the Sunday shoppers are not really buying very much.

Rather they are gazing through glass and dreaming: contemplating the mysterious, the elusive, the unattainable. Doing a Sunday thing, then, in a way.