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O magic sleep! – siestas and being useless

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake – Ernest Hemingway

Some people are up with the lark – and consequently useless to anyone by noon – so perhaps they should stick to the tradition of having lunch, pulling the blinds down and dozing off for a while. And they don’t need to be in Spain to enjoy a siesta. Or they could simply get up later.

A recent Guardian article – which bizarrely doesn’t even mention the S-word – states that Japanese research puts the best time to nap at 2pm, for 20 minutes. To us, that seems about right.  We don’t often snooze in the day but when it’s 40 degrees outside (and inside too) and we’ve done loads in the heat and then eaten, it’s easy to flop down, sweating, with a cat by our side.

Furry cat next to sweaty leg

Cat and sweaty limbs

Apparently Siesta comes from the Latin word hora sexta – sixth hour – so, counting from dawn, the midday rest.

Of course, this is nothing new here in Spain where shops close around 2pm, restaurants swell and the odd glass of vino is enjoyed while people hide from the sun.

Nowadays the tradition isn’t always linked to escaping the heat; many families simply enjoy the afternoon together before, perhaps, returning to work. And in many parts of Spain, especially the North and in major cities, places don’t shut down at all.

On the subject of places shutting down; once upon a time in England and Wales, pubs were forced to close at 3pm, opening again in the evening. A World War 1 Act was introduced restricting the nation’s – then – 18-hour drinking day. It was so that munitions workers didn’t get trashed and inadvertently blow up the factory they worked in. Around the same time in Russia, Tsar Nicholas II outlawed the production and sale of vodka.

In 1987, the liquor law was scrapped so that we could stay all day in a boozer on Sunday. There are children alive today because of this.

So, back to siestas: they’re great, stop you getting ratty (unless you kip for too long), enable you to improve your understanding of the Nimzo-Indian chess opening before tea – and stop you crashing your vehicle.

I’d like to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather….not screaming in terror like the passengers on his bus – Bob Monkhouse (or possibly Jack Handy).

[Update 2016: an article in El País about Spain’s ongoing debate about its time zone.]

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5 thoughts on “O magic sleep! – siestas and being useless

  1. Despite the Basque being so ademant they’re not Spanish, most things are also closed for the siesta here, even in Bilbao 🙂 ¡Viva la siesta!

    I’ve been in Andalucía en in the summer, which made me understand the tradition so much better. It’s a great one.

    Posted by setmeravelles | July 21, 2015, 8:45 pm
  2. A 20-min siesta? If I go down, I’m out for two hours…

    Posted by ladyofthecakes | July 21, 2015, 9:37 pm

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