JANET STREET PORTER: Sundays are special – don"t turn them into a shopathon

Sundays are special – don't turn them into a shopathon



08:24 GMT, 19 March 2012

The government plans to lift Sunday trading restrictions for eight weeks during the Olympics — when George Osborne unveils this in the Budget this week, he’ll claim it will give a much-needed boost to the economy.

When did shopping become the 11th commandment

These days, the ability to spend money where and when we want is seen as a human right.

Nation of shopaholics: But Janet thinks there are better ways to spend a Sunday (posed by model)

Nation of shopaholics: But Janet thinks there are better ways to spend a Sunday (posed by model)

Shopping has become a hobby, like gardening or chess, not a means to an end, and now the Government, always keen to pander to popular taste if it doesn’t cost it anything, has taken the first step in making the modern dream of 24/7 consumerism come true.

At the moment, small shops can open all
day on Sundays if they want, but big stores are limited to six hours,
although the law has been relaxed in Scotland.

If chain stores and supermarkets in England and Wales open for longer, the losers will be the low-paid workers who stock them and serve on the tills, ordinary men and women whose kids go to school Monday to Friday.

The Tories are always bleating on about how they are the party of the family, but if they allow the Olympic experiment to be rolled out permanently, they are anything but. Sunday must be kept special — not for religious, but family reasons.

I grew up in a working-class bit of London — both my parents worked long hours. Sunday was a day of sacrosanct ritual.

After breakfast, Dad went to the allotment and my sister and I did chores. We always listened to the same radio programmes (Family Favourites and the Billy Cotton Band Show).

Lunch was at 1pm — even if the veg had been boiling since 11. Then, my sister and I walked to Sunday School while my parents listened to Movie-Go-Round. This was probably the only time in the week they had sex, while my sister and I were bored to tears learning about the New Testament.

More from Janet Street Porter…

Why a walk in the woods works wonders for Janet Street-Porter

JANET STREET-PORTER: Cleggers, you mummy’s boy, don’t be such a wet dishcloth!

JANET STREET-PORTER: Posh, a great British brand
No, she's just plain bland

JANET STREET-PORTER: Roses are red, violets are blue, I HATE Valentine's and so should you

JANET STREET-PORTER: Why don't female MPs care about real women

JANET STREET-PORTER: Banks, bonuses and why we're
NOT all in this together, Dave

Lord Gherkin and the 50bn airport that we don't need

JANET STREET-PORTER: Lord Gherkin and the 50bn airport that we don’t need


On our return, we ate High Tea at 5pm: horrible tinned tongue and ham, tomatoes cut into zig-zags, tasteless lettuce smothered in salad cream, and sliced bread and butter. After that, a bath around 6pm — the only time in the week we had access to the bathroom, which was in the part of the house dad rented out. Then (joy of joys!) it was time for a classic radio serial or Sunday Night At The London Palladium.

In the summer, there were late afternoon outings to pick blackberries and collect tadpoles, but our routine was firmly established.

I don’t want to turn the clock back, but shopping was never part of our Sunday and it’s not part of mine now.

Even though I work on Sundays writing this column, I always have a proper meal with friends at the end of the day. I try to fit in a walk and a quiet bit of thinking. A good Sunday sets you up for the week.

Art Galleries and Museums are packed on Sundays as families enjoy free admittance and the chance to do something together. Changing the law so that they can stand in queues buying clothes they don’t need, gadgets they can’t afford and food they have no time to cook is hardly a big step forward for civilised society.

In France, all the shops and supermarkets shut at 12 noon on Sundays, and in Italy people emerge from Mass, do their final bit of food shopping and go home for lunch. You can’t imagine them queuing up at Westfield to buy trainers in preference to a lovely home-cooked spread.

Mr Cameron, don’t flog me shopping as ‘freedom’ — it’s just a cynical excuse to extract more money from us.

Green with envy Not on your life

Let’s be pleased we’re not best mates with clothing billionaire Sir Philip Green, possibly the most vulgar man in the UK.

Can you imagine the wardrobe anxiety if we’d received invites to his 60th celebrations along with Naomi Campbell, Katherine Jenkins, Kate Moss and Kate Hudson

Model company: Philip Green will celebrate his birthday with friends like Naomi Campbell

Model company: Philip Green will celebrate his birthday with friends like Naomi Campbell

The retail tycoon pays tax in the UK (as he’s always reminding us), but he also takes advantage of loopholes in the law enabling his wife to be based in Monte Carlo and earn obscenely huge dividends from his companies.

When you’re worth millions, it’s relatively easy to attract famous people to your birthday — especially when you’re throwing in a free trip to a luxury resort in sunny Mexico on a private jet and laying on 15 bottles of vintage champagne per guest.

Sir Philip has form when it comes to over-the-top revels — at his 50th in Cyprus he dressed as Emperor Nero in a toga and was serenaded by Rod Stewart. His 55th took place in the Maldives, and this Mexican trip is costing 5 million.

My 60th was a lot more fun — it took place in the village hall in Upper Nidderdale North Yorkshire and the dress code was ‘warm’.

I did the catering — Lancashire hot pot and trifle — as well as the table decorations. We borrowed the bunting, and wrapped up the gifts for pass the parcel and musical chairs.

Daniel Craig was a surprise, secret last-minute guest and a jolly good time was had by all. So top that, Sir Philip.

Scrabble spells trouble

Word score: Actress Sophie Winkleman was proposed to via a Scrabble board

Word score: Actress Sophie Winkleman was proposed to via a Scrabble board

Sophie Winkleman, promoting the upcoming ITV blockbuster Titanic, tells a touching story of how Freddie Windsor proposed.

They’d planned a picnic and taken their Scrabble set — when she unpacked it, he’d already arranged the letters to read ‘will you marry me’.

Surely that’s the only time in the history of the game when an opening move has led to a romantic conclusion.

Whenever the board is unpacked in our house, it ends in tears and tantrums.

I was a chronic Scrabble addict — playing weekly games against Charles Saatchi (extracting several hundred quid off him the last time we met) — but I beat my daily habit by snapping the Scrabble CD-Rom in two.

I’d stay up for hours playing on my computer and, in the end, I chose physical contact rather than a rack full of letters. Sophie, you have been warned.

The Greenwash Olympics

Seb Coe has reluctantly admitted that just 10 per cent of the 31,000 tonnes of chicken that McDonalds, an official sponsor, expects to sell at the Olympics this summer will come from the UK.

He’s claimed the 2012 Games are the most environmentally-friendly ever, with suppliers signing up to a policy called Food Vision, which seeks to favour locally produced fare.

McDonalds has mysteriously been exempted from this requirement and will be using chicken from factory farms in Brazil and Thailand, which have very different standards to those in the UK.

There’s a huge amount of greenwash (i.e. eco-bilge) attached to these Games — only 9 per cent of the souvenirs available on the official website are made in the UK and the tickets are being printed in the U.S. and then flown back to London. Do Olympic Air miles not count

Gillian should keep mum

Gillian Anderson rarely gives away much in interviews — the former X Files star, who recently starred as a glamorous Miss Havisham in the BBC’s Great Expectations, is far happier talking about her work than her two marriages and her current partner, with whom she has two small children.

In an uncharacteristically bold moment recently, though, she admitted to Out magazine that she’d experimented with lesbian relationships.

Immediately, the Sun splashed the story and asked readers to contact them if they’d had a lesbian fling with Gillian.

Her daughter by her first marriage is 17 — it can’t be easy having a mum who’s such a free spirit.