I’m reading the late Roy Jenkins‘ most excellent biography of Winston Churchill. Now, Churchill was famous for his energy, and for his ability to thunder rumbustiously around having had a very minimum of sleep. The rest of us need some more shut-eye, and what I am beginning to discover, now that the shades of advancing years descend like a veil across my transom, is that a short nap in the afternoons would be a very good idea – were I to be afforded the chance. The Spanish, with their convention of siestas, have the right idea. When I was in China, recently, my hosts would often ask me whether I’d quite like a short post-prandial nap – a fair question, as my schedule of sightseeing, eating, drinking, lecturing, touring universities, eating and drinking was both busy and remorseless. But can one nap at work?
Like Roy Jenkins, my late boss, Sir John Maddox, was a son of South-East Wales, and a writer of prodigious output and skill. A hands-on editor of indefatigable energy, productivity and verve, he had a sofa in his office, on which he’d curl up for the occasional catnap. One wonders whether it enabled him to be more productive, for longer.
But what about the rest of us? We are not so well accommodated, notwithstanding inasmuch as which there exist, in the atrium of the building in which I work, various couches, banquettes, sofas, chaises-longues and pouffes, designed for the reception of guests. OK, I lied about the pouffes. One day, long ago, I found myself discommoded by reason of jetlag, mild illness, or just general fatigue, and stretched myself out on one of these items for a brief fifteen winks. I’d be just nodding off, as it were, falling into Morpheus’ welcome embrace, when I’d be tapped on the shoulder – ‘Are You All Right?’ would come the concerned emission.
Next time I’ll drape a sign across my person. ‘EDITOR ASLEEP’, it will say. ‘PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB’, it will continue, although it might not conclude ‘IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU’.