THE season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us again and I find myself succumbing to the annual bout of SAD.
Everyone is advising me to take up mindfulness, but that’s the problem – my mind is too full as it is. If I could just curl up and hibernate in a cave for the next few months I’d gladly do so, but, with less than 70 shopping days to Christmas, I can’t even be caught napping, not to talk of sleeping through the winter.
People have started stocking up for the Christmas already and I haven’t even started saving yet. A woman ahead of me at the supermarket cash desk the other day caught me staring into her trolley where six tins of Afternoon Tea biscuits took up most of the space. There was no special offer and the fall of the leaf hadn’t even started in earnest, so what was the panic? At the same time I couldn’t suppress a niggling feeling that maybe I should buy a couple of tins myself in case the store ran short on Christmas week. As my mother used to say, they’re taking all the good out of Christmas.
Meanwhile, whatever about starting the Christmas shopping, we’re each about to spend the equivalent of a house deposit on the festival of Halloween, even though we’re not that keen on witchcraft anymore and we don’t even like pumpkin pie. All this crazy seasonal spending is, I would suggest, all down to the onset of SAD. The whole country is afflicted by Seasonal Affective Disorder even though it’s a relatively new malaise. It certainly wasn’t around when I was young. We were too busy struggling to survive to notice the change of season.
Anyway, it does seem that rampant consumerism is the only way to counteract the effects of SAD and compensate for the lack of sunshine. The seasonal spree may be a welcome boon for the economy and a delight for the revenue commissioners, but it can’t be good for the health of the nation. For all we know, SAD could well be the basis for the current plague of industrial unrest, but going to the shops is hardly going to shake it off.
However, I think I have a remedy. In the middle of all the sadness and manic urge to spend, a light came on in my head, although I’m well aware that not everyone will share my enthusiasm – when did they ever? I also know that what I’m going to suggest will probably infuriate the entire retail industry, if it doesn’t drive Michael Noonan to distraction as well.
I can’t even bear to contemplate what effect my words may have on those who don’t believe that God made the world or even on those who accept that He did, but who can’t believe that HE actually had the audacity to take a rest on the seventh day.
That’s right! What I’m suggesting is that Sunday shopping should be discontinued and the Sabbath should be honoured again, if not for religious purposes, then in order to give workers a day with their families and the rest of us a breather from the shopping.
The idea came to me after getting a sneak preview of the latest edition of Mining the Past – the Journal of the Silvermines Historical Society, of which I am honoured to be a member. The book, by the way, is due out on November 4, so you can take this as a plug, if you like. One article in particular caught my eye – an article on Sabbatarianism in pre Famine Ireland by Cait Logue. Now I never thought I’d be saying this, but I think I’d be a fan of the Sunday Observance Act of 1695 under which buying and selling on the Sabbath were frowned upon –outlawed actually. I never did like the idea of Sunday opening, anyway.
When it was first mooted just a few short years ago, I campaigned against it. I knew instinctively that, as far as I was concerned anyway, a perverse version of Parkinson’s Law would kick in and my shopping would expand to meet the extra shopping days at my disposal.
At that time I couldn’t even have envisaged 24 hour shopping: now I have to take a sedative every night during Advent to stop me from getting up in the middle of the night and making a beeline for the nearest shopping centre.
They took their Sabbaths more seriously in pre-Famine Ireland. In 1838, the Inspector General of the Constabulary – one of Noreen O’Sullivan’s predecessors – issued a directive to his forces saying ‘No person, or persons whatsoever, shall publicly cry, show forth or expose to sale, any wares, merchandises, fruit, herbs, goods or chattels, whatsoever, upon the Lord’s Day . . . .” My local Farmers’ Market would be sunk if that were revived, and we’d all be trampled in the panic buying every Saturday.
The only trouble is that the Sunday ban also applied to entertainment and sport.
An unfortunate fiddle player was prosecuted for keeping a ‘jig house’ opened on Sunday and the authorities threatened to confiscate his fiddle. Sabbath Day hurling was also frowned upon. Even small buoys were fined a shilling each for hurling in a local field on a Sunday.
Now I don’t want to return to those dark times, or even to the 1950’s when I was child and an elderly neighbour saw me knitting a scarf on a Sunday. “You’ll be ripping that with your nose for a long time in Purgatory,” he informed me gravely. At the time, outright sainthood was all I could even countenance.
No, I’d just like to see again one day in the week when the shops would close and everybody would enjoy their leisure, and the pressure to try and counteract SAD or make up for the Famine experience or whatever it is that drives our worst frenzies, would be lifted.