Those of a certain age may remember Annie Nightingale’s BBC Radio 1 programme on Sunday afternoons. Radio 1 was broader in its appeal then, and was the only music option available to those who lived away from the cities. Annie Nightingale’s programme would begin with the refrain from the Small Faces‘ song, Lazy Sunday Afternoon.
Lazy Sunday afternoon
I’ve got no mind to worry
I close my eyes and drift away-a
The lyrics tell of one who is complained at by his neighbours for playing loud music, so his response is to retreat within himself, to close his eyes and to drift away.
Perhaps it is the most sanguine response available in the present time. If it was only loud music that was prohibited, then life would be entirely different from the stifling existence currently endured.
The Monkees’ song Pleasant Valley Sunday is a protest against the materialism and conventionality of middle class life, it is an expression of a desire to escape from bourgeois boredom, yet the possibilities of the interactions it describes seem full of variety. Even listening to someone who complains that the kids don’t understand is attractive when compared with interminable social distancing:
See Mrs. Gray she’s proud todaybecause her roses are in bloom
And Mr. Green he’s so serene,he’s got a TV in every roomAnother Pleasant Valley Sunday
Here in status symbol land
Mothers complain about how hard life is
And the kids just don’t understandCreature comfort goals they only numb my soul
And make it hard for me to see
My thoughts all seem to stray to places far away
I need a change of scenery.
If there are lines to capture lockdown Sunday England, perhaps they are best found not in music lyrics, but in poetry. Seamus Heaney’s poem Tate’s Avenue captures a sense of claustrophobic oppressiveness.
Instead, again, it’s locked-park Sunday Belfast,
A walled back yard, the dust-bins high and silent
Sunday lockdown in Belfast was an imposition of Protestant unionist Sabbatarianism. It was the invention of those who disapproved of all that was fun or pleasurable. To those familiar with the confrontations between Jesus and his opponents in the Gospel story, it is not hard to imagine locked parks being endorsed by the Pharisees.
Lockdown is a clinical necessity but its essential nature does not detract from the fact that it is suffocating. Heaney’s walled back yard with its high and silent bins seems no more enclosing and mundane than England on a Sunday afternoon.