The week that was

Do you remember six-day weeks?

Some of you might remember the strikes and three-day weeks we had in early 1974 – if you do, you’ll probably remember that six-day weeks were the norm in those days.

My dad would work five full days and then part or all of Saturday. Saturday morning was paid at time-and-a-third, Saturday afternoon at time-and-a-half. Saturday afternoons were voluntary – the football kicked-off at 3pm, after all.

Now I’m not talking about shift work or special events – I’ve worked 13 days out of 14 for both of those in the past – but a regular working week that would easily reach the Working Time Directive limit of 48 hours1.

Leisure time was different, of course. Pubs closed in the middle of the day, the shops were mostly shut but more people went to Church (other religions are available) – my local had three services every Sunday. Then came the Great Readjustment, when Thatch sold off everything to the lowest bidder, and people had to start doing things to fill this sudden extra time they had now that there wasn’t much Saturday working.

The Premier League started in 1992, with its range of different kick-off times. Sunday trading2 came in 1994 – which, with longer opening hours and out-of-own stores at least provided some employment opportunities.

More sports moved around as well; rugby league to Friday nights in the summer, cricket tests began to be played on Sundays, women’s football games generally kicked off at 2pm on Sundays as well. We began to make more of our leisure time – no longer crammed into two summer weeks but spread out across the year. Twenty-plus days to take whenever we wanted, near enough.

But then something odd happened. Our Sundays started to get a bit too busy.

More football. More weekend sports activities for the kids. Now we even have three programmes about politics in the morning during which things get announced – not just to provide a summary of the previous week’s events. And that’s if you’re not religious.

As our Sundays started to get nibbled away, those that could tried stretching their weekends out by taking Friday afternoons off work. Then Friday mornings as well. Or coming in later on Monday mornings.

It’s fairly noticeable (from my window) that the car park at Leeds Station is full only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s mostly full on Mondays. The rest of the time there’s plenty of space, if you can afford it. My old offices used to be quieter on Fridays as well.

Whenever I’ve had (unremittingly bad) news about jobs it’s never come on a Monday or Friday.

So now our week seems to be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Saturday and Saturday.

Until my recent self-unemployment I’d tended to be a seven-day-a-week operation, thanks to my various volunteering obligations, so I suppose it’s only while I’ve had nothing much to do that I’ve noticed. The trick is for everyone to notice before we lose our weekends in general and our Sundays in particular.

  1. Something employers won’t need to worry about from 30 March 2019. []
  2. Since you’re wondering; no, I’m not in favour of extending Sunday trading hours. []

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