Mad Dogs and Englishmen

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The title of the famous song by Noel Coward: ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’, satirised the unwillingness of English people to adopt the age-old custom of taking a siesta during the heat of the day in hot climates.

It wasn’t long ago there were talks of abandoning the siesta and becoming more in line with the rest of Europe and working through the afternoon so people could be at home earlier. Spanish campaigners pushed to end the timezone anomaly, claiming it would boost productivity and improve civil society.

The different working hours came when General Franco, seeking to please his German fascist ally in 1942, changed the times to sync with the rest of Europe, but because of the position of the sun meant Spain ate lunch at 2 pm and dinner at 9 pm instead of 1 pm and 8 pm.

I supposed this latest relentless heat has reminded some people why they had siestas in the first place. The town of Ador up the coast from Denia are adamant they are installing a curfew between the hours of 2pm and 5pm banning the use of anything that expels a decibel above an alarm clock including children playing out and businesses operating.

The siesta was originally taken by agricultural workers toiling in the baking sun preferring to stop working in the afternoons and take the time to catch up on a few Zzzs until the sun relented and then back to work in the evening refreshed.

Work environments dictate the changing attitudes: office, shop and factory workers aren’t subject to the elements and probably have air-conditioning. The majority of office staff rarely take a siesta and view two to three hours too long for lunch, most grabbing a bite at their workstations and think they would rather start work between 7.30 am and 9 am, finishing work no later than 6 pm so they can spend time with their children or peruse other activities.

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