School kids, teenagers, alive today,
can have no conception of the Sad Sunday.
Those Sundays in the sixties, my teenage years,
deepened my depression, fomented my fears.
Shops closed, libraries closed, cafes closed,
cinemas closed, theatres closed, pubs closed.
Everywhere closed, and everywhere around,
the unsettling silence of a gloomy ghost town.
No trains, no buses, nothing to do
but go to church, join the dwindling few
wriggling in discomfort, in an unforgiving pew.
I was miserable at school; in the bottom class.
I couldn’t please the teachers, could never pass
examinations; never learnt the trick.
I felt I should do better; knew I wasn’t thick,
for on my own, at home, purely out of choice,
I’d read Camus and Sartre, Beckett and Joyce.
And I knew what they meant, what they were saying:
no point to religion, no point in praying.
Existential Angst; just another way to say
what I was living through, every Sad Sunday.
Sisyphus’s boulder, every seven days
loomed nearer and nearer; became huge in my gaze.
Saturday night, it rolled down the hill;
Sunday morning, it settled into place.
I would read The Myth of Sisyphus,
think of next morning’s dreaded school bus.
In depths of despair, I’d let out a groan,
huddle under the sheets; start pushing the stone.
I was a teenager in the 1960’s, and I still vividly remember how every Sunday seemed like a day of doom and depression for me. As I detail in the poem, just about every place of interest or entertainment seemed to be closed, and I was left with little to do except to brood on the impending horrors of starting back at school the next day. Having somehow managed to pass the “Eleven-Plus” exam, I was attending a grammar school run by black-robed Roman Catholic brothers, who were strict disciplinarians – and I hated it. These days, I have no sympathy at all for the minority of people who bemoan the fact that Sunday is no longer a “special” day, and, remembering those “Sad Sundays”, I can’t help thinking how lucky teenagers are today.