Mañana was all very well ayer, but no mas

Spain’s culture of siestas mean that many industries there have a weird, chopped-in-half day: stopping work at 1pm and resuming around 4pm—the staggering of various people’s siestas turning that reliability gap into something more like 12 till 5—the average office worker can still find himself at his desk at 10pm. To what extent this particular pattern “works” is a matter of debate: certainly before the Victorians invented the 9–5 working day, people would frequently chop up their work, rest and play into periods of whatever length was convenient or necessary, working at 3am or sleeping at 3pm, as necessary. There’s no crime in doing your work in several chunks.

But small shops seem to have adopted the siesta break without working much longer in the evening. As a comparison, consider our local Co-Op. For non-UK readers, Co-Ops provide a sort of ersatz capitalist experience, very much reminiscent of life during the Blitz. But even the tiny local shop opens on a workday from 8am till 10pm: a working day of 14 hours. In comparison, the branches of Isver near my parents opened from 9.30 till 1.30, then (they pretended) they re-opened at 4.30pm and continued moping around the tills until 7.30pm. In total, they were open for seven hours in theory; more like six and a half in reality.

Worse, banks follow much the same hours but don’t re-open after the siesta: try cashing a cheque, in Spain, on any working day, after lunchtime; you poor deluded fool. It was a combination of both the banking and shopping industries’ behaviours that led K. to point out that she—unacquainted with any recreational drug use—would be able to find and purchase heroin in the UK faster than it would take someone to obtain milk where we were staying.

You might defend Spain’s lassitude on grounds of cultural relativism; and certainly Franco’s all-too-recent decades of misery mean that Spain is in some aspects a third-world country pretending to be developed. But that disguise will be hard to maintain for much longer. It just takes one bank to pull their fingers out of their arses of an afternoon, and you’ll probably hear the whining of all the rest of them from here. After all, if bank employees are stuck in the building during normal work hours, when will get a chance to buy their groceries?

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