Norton of Morton

Read a new instalment of Norton of Morton every Saturday at 4 o'clock

Saturday 1 June 2019

The importance of being idle

In which G.M. Norton shares his healthy outlook on life.

I’ll let you into a little secret. Loafing is my favourite pastime. 

Like many people, I find it terribly difficult getting out of bed each day. I used to set an alarm, but I came to the conclusion that it was the invention of an evil dictator. Now I do my best to gently wake up, rousing myself as I formulate my plans for the day. That’s unless my youngest child decides to lie across my head or worst of all, to play some form of musical instrument right next to my ear; which like the alarm clock, is a device obviously designed for torture.

As I’m not a wealthy wastrel with an inheritance to squander, I spend 36 hours a week sat in a corporate world. A place dictated by deadlines, meetings and an urgency for doing things at speed. 

In an ideal world, there’s nothing I’d like more than to amble down to my imaginary writing hut plonked at the bottom of the garden (I imagine it to be a little wonky in structure). Once safely inside, I would spend a couple of hours writing before taking a long lunch. I’d then return to my hut for another hour or two and then at four o’clock, I would break again for tea and biscuits. 

As I am forced to go to the office, I do my best to introduce idle victories to my day. If you had the pleasure of working with me, you would often find me doodling, daydreaming and drinking tea. 

The power of daydreaming shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, it was J.K. Rowling who was idly staring out of the train window when the idea, plot and characters for Harry Potter suddenly popped into her head. Although I’m yet to hit the daydream jackpot that Rowling achieved, I believe that my best ideas come when I take the time to look out of a window and just let my mind wander. So much better than the alternative of staring at a fanciful illuminated computer screen.  

Lunch is another oft-neglected ritual. So many people gobble down a ‘quick sandwich’ or skip lunch altogether. Presumably influenced by Gordon Gekko in ‘80s film Wall Street, who uttered “Lunch? You gotta be kidding. Lunch is for wimps.” 

I always make a point of taking a proper lunch break. I go out for my daily constitutional and get some much-needed fresh air. I peruse the beneficiary boutiques. I indulge in a spot of people watching, sat on a park bench. Much more importantly, I forget about work.

The literary world is full of examples of idleness. 

For instance, the 1908 story Wind in the Willows begins with Mole, who decides to abandon his spring cleaning and venture outside to enjoy his day.

Then there’s the great lord of loafing himself, Mr Sherlock Holmes. The fictional detective is capable of solving complex cases by sitting, smoking his pipe and thinking. In The Man with the Twisted Lip, the bungling police inspector is in awe as he remarks, “I wish I knew how you reach your results.”

"I reached this one," Sherlock replied, "by sitting upon five pillows and consuming an ounce of shag.”

Sherlock Holmes ably demonstrates that being idle doesn’t mean not being productive. 

My musical idol (no pun intended), John Lennon, is another case in point, penning songs such as ‘I’m So Tired’, ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ and ‘Watching the Wheels’. 

‘I’m Only Sleeping’, from the 1966 longer player Revolver, is a particular favourite with lyrics such as: 

“Everybody seems to think I'm lazy
I don't mind, I think they're crazy
Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find, there's no need”

As if that wasn’t enough, John Lennon and his beloved Yoko Ono, spent a whole week in bed as part of a protest for world peace. If that doesn’t grant him the idle crown, I’m not sure what will.

I’m not sure I’d be here if the Nazis had emerged victorious in the Second World War. 

Like many rulers, they were particularly fearful of an idle fellow. Giving them the catchy moniker of ‘work-shy elements’, they rounded up the unemployed and bundled them off to concentration camps.

So, the next time you find yourself sleeping in late, or becoming lost in your own thoughts, just think; you’re sticking up two fingers at Hitler!

Take a delight in being idle. The beneficial properties of taking control of your own life and time are limitless. 

Now, I’m off to take a much needed break, this writing lark can be hard work!

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of 'Norton of Morton'

1 comment

  1. My husband is very good at loafing, but I'm dreadful at it, I'm afraid.


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