Today, I spent the morning lazing around in something of a fug, feeling the Internet slowly chew away at the best of me. Everyone is busy today except for me. There is nothing to do. The last huffs and puffs of a hurricane are rolling across the city and battering the window with rain. Fruit flies rise and fall on tiny glass elevators above the bin; my record fizzes and pops more than it should. I think to myself that I should really take the bin out and that I need more money to buy better quality vinyl – knowing I will do neither. Instead, I take out some lamb chops to defrost and peel some potatoes. I go back to my room and to the bed. It feels like a Sunday – that slow-dripped awareness of your own short-comings coupled with the inability to muster the energy to do anything about it.
I decide to do something about it.
I shower and dress in my Sunday best. Some shiny pointy shoes, a pair of new jeans that are too tight and a shirt that speaks of faded glories. I walk to the pub with some pound notes in my pocket and an urge to drink. I am going to spend money on ale which I will drink by myself, looking smart. My clothes will act as a veneer, shielding me from the fact that drinking at this time in the afternoon alone is unacceptable. I will not go for a run, I will not work out in my bedroom, I will not take up a hobby, I will not tick off anything on my list of important things to do or any other such nonsense. I will be lonely and I will drink. I will write alone in a pub and feel sorry for myself.
Sundays used to be so much stranger than they are now. As far as days of the week went, they were unique. There was a dull soporific feel to them that smothered you like a cabbage fart. Sunday’s had a slow depressive quality, like you were experiencing the final prolonged moments and eventual death of a week.
When I remember Sundays, I remember my childhood. I remember how impossible it felt to actually take a bath but how wearing freshly-laundered Count Duckula pyjamas afterwards was pure unmitigated joy. I remember when pubs were busy with old men dressed in suits, sitting in blue-grey clouds of smoke. When time turned elastic, expanding, with nothing whatsoever to fill it.
On Sundays all of the shops were shut. The town centre became even more of a desolate wasteland than it was at any other time. You didn’t have to see it to experience the misery of pigeons pecking at discarded fast food packaging, at dog turds turning white on the pavements, at carrier bags buoyant, dancing slow waltzes in front of the corrugated shopfront of WH Smith. It wasn’t that I even wanted to shop on Sundays, more that it was not an option; an avenue of potential fun or at least an hour-eating activity denied. My pocket money was always gone by Sunday, spent on Saturday’s E-numbers and Monsters In My Pocket.
Although I’m sure we had them, I don’t remember any Sunday trips out as a family. More so I remember the tension from my dad trying to force me, sometimes my mum, out for some fresh air. After much bickering, we would usually compromise on a trip to the market but never before the atmosphere had soured.
Usually housed in some farmyard barn or industrial hanger on the outskirts of town, the market had rough concrete floors and as many unsavoury characters as smells. There was a propensity of men that picked their bums and women that scratched in places you shouldn’t scratch in public. I understand now that this was a trip that had to happen: a protective adult attempt at resisting the tide of hopelessness that would wash over the day.
Despite the motives, it was a trip about commerce. My dad would buy fruit, badly: great paper bags twisted by fat-fingered grocers tightly sealing several pieces of decaying fruit that would inevitably implode in the boot of our Ford Escort on the way home. He also purchased huge multi-packs of Wagon Wheels that would have just rolled past their sell by date, making them taste even more like polystyrene. Then, as a treat (I never learnt for whom), American Football corn snacks which had flavours like Hamburger and Hot Dog but always, always tasted of vomit. I soon learned that this was the reason why mums did the shopping and dads carried the bags.
The two things that made the Sunday market trip worthwhile was my dad buying tins of Petis Pois that, compared to the normal frozen peas, tasted like a rare and exotic treat, and the Taiwanese laser guns that spat silver sparks from their nozzles. I didn’t often get to buy one of these colourful fizzing beasts but I always got to have a good go until my dad was forced to drag me away from the disapproving stare of the stall owner.
My mum all the while would be at home cooking a roast. This is what she did. As we frittered away money we didn’t have, she sweated and grumbled into bubbling pans armed with a Newcastle Brown apron, several wooden spoons and a white jar of lard.
The roast was always a good meal. Just as Sunday was different from every other day, the roast was different from any other meal. It was complicated. It had many components. It took, as far as I could tell, several hours of constant attention and a sizeable chunk of my mum’s soul. In fact, the preparation took so much out of my mum that she would sit facing the plate in front of her, silently coming to terms with the same simple, painful equation – hours = this = too sad to eat.
After dinner, I remember an endless procession of television programmes that would slowly suck away my will to live. It was raining, it always was back then. I knew that I could not go outside to the streets and play. I knew every other kid in the street was in the same position as me: playing with their Transformer or practising Tiddly Winks as Antiques Roadshow, Last of the Summer Wine, Allo Allo, Songs of Praise rolled together. These television shows were for adults to doze and digest bad meat to – something to inoffensively gobble away hours that nobody wanted to fill.
It was only James Bond that saved Sundays. The promise of Roger Moore, every child’s favourite Bond, winking and waddling through gloriously ridiculous scenes, seducer and superhero rolled into one. And then it was time for bed. One more sleep and a new week would begin and there would be six whole days until another Sunday.
One more pint and the lamb chops will probably be defrosted. Maybe, just maybe, Live and Let Die will be on the TV. Let’s see.