Sunday, 28 April 2013
According to Robert Bly, the poet who became more famous as a thinker about the "crisis of masculinity" with his book Iron John, young viking men would often enter a permitted period of lassitude, when they would simply lie around the hall doing nothing much, maybe listening to Björk or more likely Burzum, and often sleeping in the warm ashes of the fire. This was known, apparently, as "ashes time".
These would presumably have been young noble vikings, and not the sons of working-stiff vikings (and certainly not anybody's daughters). "Hey, there may be no daylight today but wood needs chopping to make fresh ashes for his lordship to wallow in, you lazy git -- get out of bed right now!"
One of the great advances of modern society since the 1970s has been the democratisation of ashes time. In the absence of any actual work to do -- not even any wood seems to need chopping -- whole sections of the population have nothing better to do than stay in bed. For the first decade or two, this can seem like an extremely fine idea.
Unfortunately, as the Nouveau Idle do not stand to inherit the Great Hall or the dragon-headed ship, and will not by right of birth lead raids or steer great enterprises of state, this period of wool-gathering, day-dreaming and daytime TV amounts to nothing more than an extended false start to life.
Someone has been busy making ash piles up on St. Catherine's Hill. The view is gradually opening up, as trees and scrub are felled and burned, in an attempt to recreate "proper" chalk downland.
However, I suspect that the scrub will be planning its counter-attack right now. Thorn and brambles never sleep. They know the weakness of our species, with our fondness for permitted or enforced periods of lassitude. They'll be back.