Sunday, 7 March 2010


If it was 3 am on a Sunday morning and I had an over-whelming urge to purchase a teeny-weeny bolt for my bicycle, if I required a roll of designer flock-wallpaper, if I fancied an iced-bun topped with hundreds-and-thousands, if I yearned for fringed indigo bootlegs with a spangly motif, if I hankered after a high-potency-pamplemousse-and-ginger body rub, if I became livid at the paucity of my Gregorian chant CD collection and sought to augment it, or if I simply couldn’t go on without consuming a Whopper-Lip-Smacking-Gut-Buster, with cheese, none of this would pose a problem in Scotland. I could go to a shop at any hour on any day of the week.

How very different things are in Norway. They have shops here. They have specialist shops here. They have big shiny shopping centres here. Norwegians know how to shop, and do so with swift efficiency and careful discernment. But on a Sunday, you wouldn’t know it. On a Sunday, no shop is open. Doors are locked, shutters pulled down, gates blocked. Aarrgghh....even IKEA is shut on a Sunday. You are not going to go shopping on a Sunday. You’re just not.

When foreigners arrive in Norway from the retail-addicted rest of the world, they sometimes go into a kind of depression over this issue. One poor bloke was sent over from Yorkshire for a couple of weeks work, but nobody told him about the Sunday thing. Nor did he realise everything would be shut for days because it was Easter. Mercifully, petrol-stations have a small selection of mind-blowingly expensive foodstuffs on offer for real desperados. By the time he was on his eighth day of non-stop hotdogs from the garage, he was a bit miffed.

I’ll never forget arriving in a picturesque coastal town one Sunday afternoon, simply aching for a decent cup of tea (laughably British, I know, but really, it’s not a complex request). We padded the streets, we peered into windows, we stalked round the back of buildings....not a chance. Rien. Ingenting, (Norsk for ‘nothing’). There wasn’t even a living soul to ask. Talk about ghost town. I felt I was in some kind of Hitchcock movie. But I couldn’t help thinking, as we retreated to the nearest garage to relieve ourselves of last month’s salary, that somebody was missing a trick here.

It’s a shock for people are they meant to manage? How will they feed their families? And even more worrying, what the blazes will they find to DO on a Sunday?

Well, I for one have had a conversion. I’ve seen the light and got the message. I love NOT shopping on a Sunday. I like having to stock up in advance. I adore the fact that if we don’t have it in the house, we’ll just have to wait until Monday. It’s verging on the Hair Shirt School of Life, I know, but ‘Sunday Closing’ creates a situation that calls for creativity. It works the imagination no end. If a child announces on Saturday night, ‘Oh, by the way, my homework is that I need to built the Taj Mahal for Monday morning and I don’t have the right stuff,’ then you just have to get busy with the recycling stash (although I couldn’t help asking at the time, ‘couldn’t you have picked a slightly less intricate building?’)

I’ve also decided that Sunday Opening makes me feel bullied. In Scotland, if find I have some time at the weekend, I feel I’d better fill it by rushing off to a DIY store and painting the kitchen ceiling. Or hauling in eighteen bags of ingredients order to embark on a cooking marathon and fill the freezer. Oh, and the back bedroom needs new curtains, so I should really find some fabric and get stuck in with the sewing machine. And the garden...blimey....the garden needs more trees, a new fence, a replacement paving stone, and a small mock-Victorian sculpture of Judith Slaying the Dragon. The list is endless, so by Sunday night I’m ready for a seriously long weekend of recovery.

We’re forever hearing that Brits work longer hours than any other European nation. Not true. We work the average number of hours, with only 13% of us working more than 48 hours per week. The difference is WHEN we work...Britain has the highest percentage of people working Saturdays, Sundays and nights, the reason being, we are a low-manufacturing, high-service-sector economy.

We all know that work-life balance is important, but if the ‘life’ part of it cannot provide a chance to recharge the batteries and attend to the soul, then the balance ain’t working.

Incidentally, the Taj Mahal turned out just fine, so we went for a walk in the sun.

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