Sunday used to be a day of rest and it was OK to slow down and enjoy it.
The month-long stay at home has brought back to me fond memories of what life used to be like when I was a child living in the country.
When the majority of New Zealand’s population lived in the country, some distance from their closest neighbours.
I still relish those days and I offer these memories …
For my parents, who farmed in Canterbury, Sunday, the traditional day of rest was their only day off, apart from a few public holidays over Christmas.
It was quite usual to spend Sunday at home on our own. We enjoyed good food (mostly from our garden and orchard) and each other’s company.
A day to relax in the sun, write letters or occasionally host friends for lunch or afternoon tea (with home baking, of course). Some weeks these visitors were the only people we saw as farming can be quite an isolated way of life.
Our meals were planned around what was ready in the vegetable garden and it was eaten together at the table.
Work on Sundays was limited to cooking and washing dishes. Dad walked around the sheep once instead of the usually twice-daily routine.
Most, but not all, Sunday mornings we drove to church.
Sometimes friends invited us to Sunday lunch afterwards, which was easier for them as there were three of us and many more of them.
After lunch, the two ladies would enjoy the garden where the hostess would point out her latest horticultural successes. The two men, most likely accompanied by me, would take a drive around the farm.
Other Sundays sometimes Mum, Dad and I picnicked in the local riverbed after church – the lunch had been prepared at home and was packed into a basket along with a thermos of boiling water.
These days most of us have parks within walking distance where we could picnic – just a suggestion for the times we are now in.
Sometimes we would pack the picnic basket with afternoon tea and go for a leisurely Sunday drive – hence the term ‘Sunday driver’.
Shops were shut on Sundays (and in most places Saturdays as well). Occasionally, you might find tearooms open where you could buy afternoon tea on that Sunday drive. Or buy an ice-cream at the dairy, a treat as we didn’t have a freezer.
TV was broadcast only from 5 pm Mondays to Saturdays but, on Sundays, it began at 2 pm, which was great if the weather was wet and we were all inside around the open fire in winter.
As for the rest of the week that was when we did baking, cleaning, washing, lawn mowing and gardening and, of course, most were weather dependent, along with farming activities of growing crops and raising sheep.
Grocery orders were phoned to the local store twice a week. We could then collect them or they were delivered.
People living in rural areas often have only their immediate families around them most of the time. We spent most of the time with each other except when I was at school.
Our closest neighbours were a kilometre away and collecting the mail meant walking down our 500 m drive to reach the mailbox.
We made our own entertainment, be it watching TV, sewing, reading or playing board games.
Our pets were also our companions.
While there was plenty of work and chores to be done Monday to Saturday, we never felt stressed.
We kept in touch with others via the mail and phone calls. Toll calls were expensive and reserved for special occasions like birthdays.
And we enjoyed, but often took for granted, the beautiful setting on the Canterbury Plains, dominated by the Southern Alps we saw every day, in winter frosted with a sparkling coat of snow. We also had an extensive garden to wander through.
It’s only in recent years I have appreciated how much visitors from out of the area must have enjoyed staying with us for the relaxing environment alone.
There is a certain pleasure many of us could have simply by enjoying more the beauty all around us.
So this lifestyle is what New Zealanders used to call normal. Our busy lives have often left us out of touch with our families, communities and the environment. Perhaps it’s time for change.
A good way to start is to clear anything deemed work out of your Sunday schedule.
Make your house a haven, not just somewhere to eat and sleep.
Let a sunrise or sunset lift your spirits.
Spend more time experiencing the world around you and within walking distance of your haven.
Take time to watch the flowers and birdlife.
Plant a vege garden – at this time of year, perhaps in a few pots.
Read for pure pleasure.
Listen to your favourite music.
Try new recipes.
Put that hammock or sun lounger to use without feeling guilty.
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