Strictly speaking Oliver Cromwell is not my kind of guy. He was a Puritan, one of English history’s baddies. He banned the theatre. He didn’t like Christmas or the eating of turkey during the period. He even banned the watching of cock fighting and bear baiting.
But there are some things we can thank him for, amongst them Restoration drama – smut galore! – six-day retail weeks until 1994, and the saying ‘warts and all’. While kissing on the Day of Rest was prohibited – not something I’m down for – it was possible to be fined for working on a Sunday. Now I’m no Puritan, but Sundays are rattling my cage.
Sunday is a conflicted soul. Is it the end of the week, or the beginning as per the traditional Hebrew calendar? Unsurprisingly, the noun Sunday was developed from the Old English meaning of ‘sun’s day’. Shocking, obviously. In Russian it blithely translates to ‘resurrection’ while other Slavic languages take it to mean ‘no work’. Works for me on all counts. But it’s not another manic Sunday, a la The Bangles; they wished it was Sunday, because that was their fun day. And if you haven’t got that stuck in your head, I haven’t done my job well enough.
I recently read a feature that decided that ‘Sunday nights are important’. I couldn’t agree more, if you’re referring to my too-full-post-roast slump on the sofa. Unless it’s a bank holiday or otherwise God-sent phenomena, Sunday evenings are not for wild partying even if I was capable of that. My most recent Sunday was the best: I watched the rowers outside Christchurch with a picnic and then wandered through town to the meadow and accidentally into a Baptism. And then, naturally, to the pub where I sat in the sun for the day of the day. My face is looking pretty red. But it was just too divine – the best kind of Sunday, and the best kind of day.
This inspection of the ideal seventh day is not an isolated incident. Examining the reasoning behind my nine o’clock gym alarm diverted my attention to the day as a whole. It didn’t seem very restful as I ran, rowed and cycled before finishing off with an ounce of sauna-calm. Those final five minutes of peace ought to make up for the fact that normal people are still in bed. Oddly, they don’t.
I am fully cheered when I see that shops aren’t open on Sundays. London’s poxy ‘browsing time’ doesn’t make up for the fact that Sunday is a rubbish shopping day because everyone think it’ll be ‘the quiet day’. And outside London high streets shut at four on the dot. It seems positively feudal if you live within the tube lines.
A recent trip to Highgate village taught me that some London locations facilitate a six day week. Good for them, I wish I wasn’t open for business on Sundays. If I had my way it would be like last weekend, all dreams and peace and pints of beer. Or you know, the conventional winter version complete with paper buying slave – read hunky man – eggs Benedict in bed, and half a series of House. A gentle run in the park follows before a trundle to the pub for a bottle of wine and roast lamb. Or the aforementioned hunky man could make me one. I’ll do the gravy, and the peas. But all of this happens in a parallel world.
The last dinner party I held was dress-coded ‘Sunday Best’. Obviously, all our tongues stayed in our cheeks. A cheeky chap RSVPed with a postscript that he was rarely dressed on a Sunday, so did that count? Well, no. But it struck me that our now-culture has no place for such formalities. Between my seventh and twelfth birthdays I spent my Sundays cassocked in a cathedral with three pairs of tights on and a packet of Rowntrees fruit gums in my pocket. My 10-year-old self spent more time sniggering at The Song of Songs, whispering in sermons and scoffing – in almost third-world desperation – dark chocolate digestive biscuits before Matins than should ever be considered healthy. That brings a whole new meaning to Sundays, and I’m off that subscription list.
So Sunday, you cheeky thing, what will we do with you? I’ll tell you what, how about nothing? Take a look at your calendar and yourselves this weekend. Do you really need that jumper? Can you live without bacon? (I can, controversially.) Or wouldn’t it hurt to relax in front of some terrible television, get the paper mucky with ketchup and have a little day drink on Sunday’s behalf. That pint might not look so holy, but it’s frankly puritanical.
Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She probably won't follow you back.