Sleeping in the afternoon? I’m just being Italian

IT turns out that Italy really is the land of la dolce vita. Never mind the wine, the food, the weather, the architecture and the glorious landscapes – it’s a great place to get your head down.

A study of 13 countries found that, among Europeans, Italians have the best night’s sleep. Britons have the worst (across the pond, our American cousins don’t fare much better.)

Italians also have a riposto, an after-lunch nap, to recharge their batteries. I once worked on a newspaper where the managing director, who measured well over six feet lying down, installed an extra-long sofa in his office, so that he could stretch out comfortably and enjoy his daily afternoon snooze.

When head office discovered this, its reaction was not exactly Continental. The sofa disappeared; to be followed, not long afterwards, by the MD.

Modern British culture is blamed for our sleep deprivation. Afternoon naps, in particular, are seen as a sign of old age and weakness. In future, when I feel the old eyelids drooping around four in the afternoon, I shall put it down to my deep affection for all things Italiano.

MOMENTS TO SAVOUR

IF I do manage to stay awake, I hope every afternoon will be as enjoyable as the one I experienced on Tuesday, eating bowls of The Current Mrs Feeney’s rice pudding while watching recorded episodes of Tutankhamun – a television series starring the actor Max Irons as an unfeasibly handsome version of Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered the boy pharaoh’s treasure-filled tomb.

Retirement has its moments.

WHO’S RUNNING THIS SHOW?

ED Whitlock is running proof that retirement is about a lot more than tending the roses. He recently ran a marathon in under four hours. Ed is 85 years old.

Ed isn’t exactly a newcomer to running. In his youth, he regularly competed with a couple of athletes who went on to become Olympians. Evidently, he always had a natural talent for running long distances very quickly.

Unlike several of my friends who, having been strangers to a pair of running shoes all their lives, have developed an apparently insatiable desire to run a little over 26 miles.

When asked by me why, the invariable answer is to “challenge” themselves. Fair enough, but in a world full of possibilities (volunteering in a care home, for example), I wonder why so many people decide that running a marathon is the challenge for them.

The cynic in me can’t help feeling that somebody, somewhere is getting rich by encouraging this marathon craze.

BY OUR WORDS WE ARE KNOWN

A FORMER colleague, who is academic, bookish and a little old-fashioned,  described a mutual acquaintance as “a bit of a wag.” I don’t think I’d ever heard the word used outside the covers of an early-Twentieth century novel (not counting its modern incarnation as an acronym for the Wives And Girlfriends of overpaid footballers).

It’s fascinating how the words we use to describe others, so often say a lot about us.

KINDNESS HAS ITS LIMITS

SCIENTISTS have discovered (it says in my morning newspaper) that magpies are kind and altruistic to others of their kind. Which will come as a surprise to the bird I saw being attacked by four other magpies on our lawn this morning.

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