Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, December 16, 2016

In the dark

One of the things that tourists in Spain often find a little odd is the Spanish working day. Whilst there are as many variations as you can imagine the basic structure is that people work in the morning, have a long break in the middle of the day and go back to work for the evening. A local shop, for instance, would probably open at 10, close at 2, re-open at 5 and close for the day at 8.30. This means that most people have lunch between 2 and 3.30 and have their evening meal after 9.30.

In Portugal it's the same time as in London. In Madrid the London time is advanced by an hour. When people sit down for lunch at 2pm in Madrid it's also lunchtime in London, except that there it's 1pm.

After a conference in 1884, that established the current time zones, Spain slotted in to the same zone as the UK. Then in 1940, apparently in a move designed simply to please Adolf Hitler, Franco changed Spanish time to that of most of the rest of Europe.

There has been talk in Spain, for years, of trying to rationalise the working day. Critics say that the split reduces productivity and increases time spent travelling to and from work. This week the Government said that it was in favour of changing the working day, so that it generally finished at 6pm rather than 8pm, and doing away with the long lunch break.

Fair enough I suppose. Choose your argument. But at the same time all the press reports said that would also mean going back to the "proper" time zone. The argument being that if it gets darker earlier people would be keener to go home (honest, that's what they said).

The time zones fan out from the Greenwich Meridian. Last time I looked Greenwich was reasonably close to the Dover and Newhaven and other places that act as ports for ferries across the Channel to France. People swim the channel so it can't be very wide. Yet, on the beach at Dieppe or Calais it's the same time as in Spain. So is France in the wrong time zone too? And the answer is apparently yes. It's to do with that same bloke Hitler and him capturing France. Oh, I should mention that the Canary Islands which belong to Spain, are on London time. From my reading of a time zone map they should be two hours behind Madrid and an hour behind London.

I would be dead against moving Spanish time back to London time if only for the simple reason that it makes Winter much less miserable. It doesn't get dark here till 6pm even in the depths of December. Equally, in Summer, because we're farther South, we don't get the light nights of Northern Europe and sunset on the longest day is currently around 10pm. I prefer lighter evenings in summer too.

By the way I kept saying London time to avoid the UCT/GMT/BST thing.

No comments: