Monday, 18 May 2009

The Way To Do Luncheon

We thought the traditional Spanish siesta had gone the way of so many other sensible habits of the past, but thankfully, we were wrong. And it took some South American friends to show us how....

Our splendid lunch date chez David and Nataly really can't pass without comment. They were excellent hosts, not only cooking up some delicious vegetarian nosh, including one of their own Venezuelan specialities (fried yam chips for dunking), but also plying us with generous quantities of booze and freshly-made CDs. Every time David put on some music, he asked if we liked it and if the answer was affirmative, he promptly burnt us a copy to take home. All very pleasant and civilized, but not hugely out of the ordinary so far.

No, the thing that made their hospitality a (so far) unique experience, was the inclusion of a siesta in the proceedings. A post lunch stroll or some other gentle digestive activity would probably be the expected thing to follow such a get-together in our home country, but David and Nataly had other ideas. Whether it's a general Venezuelan thing, or because they now live in Spain or because it's simply specific to them, a siesta is something that is a must after lunch in their household.

Accordingly, after Nataly's family limoncello had been sampled (half of Nataly hails from Italy), David announced it was time for some shut-eye. The sofa-bed in the lounge was duly pulled flat, cushions and clean sheets were provided and David even had the kindness to provide a couple of condoms. Down came the shutters and, replete with food and wine, we all enjoyed the luxury of an afternoon snooze.

The Spanish certainly know how to plunge their rooms into pitch blackness at the height of the day - shutters are an essential component of all houses and apartments. A sure sign that the siesta is not an entirely forgotten custom - not to mention a sensible way of preventing the intense summer sunshine from turning the window glass into an unwanted room-heater. On the subject of darkness, a Spanish friend who recently moved to Southampton was astonished at how ineffective most British curtainage is. "Haven't they heard of blinds?!" he asked us, "I'm going to have to buy a pair of dark glasses to wear in bed."

The other hangover from the obligatory siesta is the long lunch break many Spanish businesses give their staff. A good hour and a half, sometimes two is not uncommon. For many people, it's an ideal time to go shopping or take English lessons, but there are still those (like David) who use the time for its intended purpose. He told us he pulls the blinds down in his office and snoozes from two to a quarter to three every day without fail.

Anyway, we awoke feeling refreshed and ready for anything, which was just as well, really. Next on the itinerary was a free show by a Catalunyan performance artist, which was a mixture of surreal cartoons, computer interfaces applied to peculiar bodily protuberances and deadpan commentary. You need a siesta to handle that sort of thing, believe me.

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