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Sundays: to shop or not?

Two readers give their opinions on Sunday opening. Is it progress or is it a step in entirely the wrong direction?

I was at the forefront of the campaign to change the laws in England and Wales.

Those laws dated from a bygone age, allowing any shop to open but only to sell a very specific list of items, unlike the laws in France, which restrict Sunday opening altogether.

Scotland and Ireland long ago put aside similar restrictions and shops open freely if they want to, and yet, religious observation was and still is, far higher in both of those countries than it is in England.

Many who opposed change cited examples of young mums being 'torn' from their children, while at the same time happily eating out on a Sunday in pubs and restaurants, often served by the same young mums they wanted to prevent working in a DIY store, supermarket or garden centre.

The facts are that many families like shopping together and Sunday is often the only day when they can as other pressures are minimal.

Many young mums like the chance to work spending time away from the home and the children, on the one day when their husbands can spend quality time with those children.

My observations in France show similar patterns already to those we found in England and Wales.

I shop in a store which opens every Sunday morning.

Recently I needed some forgotten items on a Sunday, and was surprised to find the store bursting at the seams with French family groups, all in their Sunday best.

All ten check-outs were working flat out, operated by staff not normally seen in the store on weekdays.

If you want to observe a quiet Sunday, you don't have to go anywhere near a shop.

Part of the brief for the Attali Commission was to examine ways in which restrictions could be relaxed to provide a wider freedom of choice for everyone, and I'm certain that French unions will insist on the kind of protection for Sunday shop workers we won in the English debate.

Saint Nicolas Courbefy

As someone who lived for nearly 25 years in the over-populated south east of England, I dread the thought that the French might open shops on Sundays.

Initially in the UK it was a novelty, especially as I was working and it took the pressure off the need to do all the shopping on just one day.

However as time passed, roads leading to local towns such as Guildford, Brighton and Kingston got totally choked.

You couldn't go anywhere without noise, traffic and fumes and Sundays lost their special feeling.

Suddenly people seemed unable to find anything else to do other than go to Sainsbury’s or to DIY or garden stores, frequently dragging bored children or screaming babies with them.

Whatever happened to family Sundays, summer picnics, walks, bike rides and all the other pleasurable activities of earlier years before this consumer obsession struck?

The last time I went to a UK shopping mall I couldn't stand it any more and left after stopping for a coffee.

A girl in her early twenties sat down next to me. She had been living in the south of France but was now working in the UK and had also noticed the changes so it is not just a 'middle age crisis' issue.

France, rural France in particular, is protected in its own wonderful time warp.

Round here, summer and winter, friends and families can be seen in small groups going out for Sunday strolls. Please France, learn from the mistakes of the UK.

If you value your quality of life, take our advice - don't, there's no going back.

PH and RN

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