a bit of culture

‘Upcoming ‘puentes’
FIESTA Todos los Santos 2007 La Almudena 2007 San Saturano 2007 San Fracisco Javier 2007 Día de La Constitución 2007 Inmaculada Concepción 2007 Navidad del Señor 2007 San Esteban 2007 Día de Reyes 2008 San Valentín 2008 Carnaval 2008 Magdalena Castellón 2008 Valencia en Fallas 2008 Feria de Abril 2008 San Jorge: Moros y Cristianos en Alcoy 2008 Puente de Mayo 2008 Día de la Comunidad de Madrid 2008 San Isidro Labrador 2008 WHEN 1st Nov 9th Nov 29th Nov 4th Dec 6th Dec 8th Dec 25th Dec 26th Dec 6th Jan 14th Feb 31th Jan - 5 Feb 23th Feb 15th-19th Mar 8th Apr WHERE All of Spain Madrid Pamplona Pamplona All of Spain All of Spain All of Spain Baleares,Cataluña All of Spain All of Spain All of Spain Valencia Valencia Sevilla, Andalucía

somewhere below those of sloths on heroin, often let their workers take a day of annual leave (some companies even close for business). The day becomes a bridge between weekend and public holiday. Now, I suspect the clichés about Spanish people being lazy might be floating into your head, but I think that would be unfair. Most Spanish companies still force their workers to take at least three of their four weeks of annual leave in July or August. Really, these little islands (with bridges) of respite are the only thing to take the sting out of 10 months of hard grind in a country with some of the longest working hours in Europe. Spanish people seem determined to get the maximum benefit from these breaks and, as a result, roads, airports and train stations quickly become as congested as an obese man’s arteries. Newsreaders tell us where the traffic jams are and compare the road death statistics with last year. Nearly everyone has gone somewhere else, whether it’s the beach, the mountains, the country, another city, it doesn’t really matter as long as you go somewhere. Newly-arrived foreigners make contingency plans when they discover all the hotels in their destination of choice have been booked-up for three months. Those who have to stay behind usually send their minds ‘de puente’, even if their bodies have gone to work. I missed out on the puente on that Monday in May. But, each time the machine has whooshed coffee into my plastic cup over the last few weeks, those blue and red Thursdays on the calendar have been looming large and they are beginning to look more and more promising.

Puent e
What in Great Britain might be called a Baker Day, in Spain might be called a bridge. Confused? Luc Ciotkowski explains all.
WORDS by Luc ciOtkOWSki

23th Apr 1st May 2nd May 15th May

Valencia Toda España Madrid Madrid

‘B

ridge’, ‘long weekend’ or ‘bank holiday weekend’. No. None of them are quite there…

There was something strange about my first day in my current job. What I have since come to know as a bustling office, with about 40 people in a rush to do their jobs, phones ringing and a generally very busy-feeling atmosphere, was silent. Five or six people are ambling about and respecting an unspoken agreement to do as little work as possible. Only the odd phone call from Barcelona, Seville or some other regional office can spark them begrudgingly into action. I know that there is nothing unique about this situation and

that it is being mirrored in almost every office or workplace in the autonomous region of Madrid. I’m not shocked by it, I had seen something similar when I lived in France and Spanish people often talk about days like this, but I haven’t lived in Spain long enough to be completely unsurprised by the scale of the standstill. It is Monday 14th May and tomorrow is the public holiday of San Isidro in the Comunidad de Madrid. Most Madrileños are probably feeling especially fond of their patron saint this year; he has given them a ‘puente’. On my first trip to the coffee machine on that Monday a big calendar catches my eye. There are

ten red days, two green days and two blue days to represent national, regional and local holidays. 14 public holidays! After weekends swallow some, you always get between 10 and 13 public holidays in Madrid. Mustn’t grumble. Back there in the coffee room I have already worked out that we’ve got 12 holidays in 2007, but now I need to work out which days of the week they fall on. We’ve got one on a Monday and three on a Friday; what I call bank holiday weekends. We’ve got two on a Tuesday and two on a Thursday; what they call here the “puente”. Employers, realising that one working day between two days off usually results in productivity levels dipping

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12

nov 07

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