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Sunday in England

For many English families Sunday begins with the by now traditional "lie-in", when, instead of getting up at 7.30 or at 8 o'clock, as during the rest of the week, most people stay in bed for at least another hour. And there are many younger people - Saturday night revellers in particular - who never see the light of day before midday: what is usually referred to as "getting up at the crack of noon".*

* ("the crack of noon" - a pun on "crack of dawn".)

Church bells are another typical feature of an English Sunday morning, although by many their summons remains unanswered, especially by those in need of physical rather than spiritual comfort. But whether people get out of bed for morning service or not, their first meaningful contact with the world beyond the four walls of their bedroom will be the delicious aroma of bacon and eggs being fried by mother downstairs in the kitchen. This smell is for most people so much a part of Sunday mornings that they would not be the same without it.

During the mid-morning most people indulge in some fairly light activity such as gardening, washing the car, shelling peas or chopping mint for Sunday lunch, or taking the dog for a walk. Another most popular pre-lunch activity consists of a visit to a "pub" - either a walk to the "local", or often nowadays a drive to a more pleasant "country pub" if one lives in a built-up area. It is unusual for anyone to drink a lot during a lunchtime "session", the idea being to have a quiet drink and a chat, perhaps discussing the previous evening's entertainment or afternoon's sport. One additional attraction of Sunday lunchtime drinks is that most men go to the pub alone, that is to say without their wives or girlfriends, who generally prefer to stay at home and prepare the lunch.

Sunday has always been a favourite day for inviting people - friends, relations, colleagues - to afternoon tea, and there are no signs that this custom is losing popularity nowadays.

In recent years television has become increasingly popular, and Sunday evening is now regarded as the peak viewing period of the week.

Concerning the differences between a typically English Sunday and a Sunday on the Continent, there are still many forms of entertainment which a visitor from Europe would be surprised to find missing on Sundays in England. Professional sport, for example, was for many years forbidden on Sundays, and although the restrictions have been relaxed in recent years, it is still difficult to find any large sporting fixture taking place on Sundays. This is in marked contrast to the situation in most European countries where Sunday afternoon is the most popular time for so-called "spectator sports" - football, horse-racing and, in Spain of course, bullfighting.

On the Continent museums and art galleries also attract large numbers of visitors on Sundays, whereas in England it is only in recent times that such places as the National Portrait Gallery* and "The Tate"** have been open on such days - at present between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. One of the most popular attractions in London on Sunday afternoons, especially in summer, is the Tower,*** although this too was closed for many years on Sundays.

* (The National Portrait Gallery - the collection was founded in 1856 with the object of illustrating British history, literature, arts, and science by means of portraits of the most eminent men and women; the building adjoins the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in London.)

** ("The Tate" - The Tate Gallery, a public art gallery in London (opened in 1897).)

*** (The Tower - the Tower of London, assemblage of buildings now used as a repository of objects of public interest, originally a fortress and a palace and later used as a state prison; founded in the 11th century.)

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