In which Quizzical ponders the nature of the season
Turned on the computer this morning and was greeted with the news that today is the most depressing day of the year. UK psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall tells us that there are real reasons we're in a funk. Lest you think that this is all touchy-feely, wifty, subjective nonsense, the good Dr even presents us with a formula so that we can calculate just how lousy we feel:
([W + (D-d)] x TQ) divided by (M x NA)
where W = weather, D = debt, d = monthly salary, T = time since Christmas, Q = time since failed quit attempt, M = low motivational levels and NA = the need to take action.
Heh. I would suggest that he missed a few variables, to wit: the number of days since you've seen the sun, the number of pounds you've gained over the holidays and the amount you still owe on those holiday bills. Shoot me now.
Every year as the permacloud settles in over my city, I wonder why a reasonably-intelligent person such as yours truly still lives in such a god1-forsaken climate. You know why the Vikings were such a surly lot? They lived in a land where January lasts for six months, that's why. They headed south to warm up! So this leads me to conclude that surely my Viking ancestors didn't loot and burn and pillage2 their way south just so that I can freeze my hinder off every January.
Well, maybe they did. When Ingevar the Disgruntled ('Grrrr') and Gudrun the Seasick ('Are we there yet?') took their sons and other assorted kin south, they sort of got stuck around the area where Germany would eventually be. (Their youngest son Pernod took a wrong turn and ended up in France where he taught the natives to make hooch out of lichen and reindeer hooves.) The clan more or less prospered after they drove out the riffraff ('mem: loot, pillage, then burn'). Thorvald the Complainer, the oldest son, inherited a facility with words along with his relatives' taciturn disposition and he became a wandering bard. Unfortunately his poetry so depressed his various audiences that they inevitably set the dogs on him and ran him out of their settlements with torches and much hue and cry. He eventually made his way to Greenland in the New World, where the Norse settlers were doing their best not to learn the wisdom of the indigenous population and eventually died out. (History does not record if the presence of Thorvald hastened them on their way.)
Once the more colourful members of the clan had dispersed, the rest settled down and became the staid and dour folk who built solid houses, paid their debts on time and generally lived sober and uninteresting lives. Once in a while, particularly in winter, they would get a far-away look in their eyes and they'd wonder what the heck it was all about. Their hands would itch and their bones would ache and they'd take to restless wandering in the woods, not realising that what they really needed was a sword in hand and a boat's deck beneath their feet and the prospect of some looting and pillaging (and possibly even some burning) just over the horizon.
Down through the years the clan sometimes threw up a sport who wasn't happy with the itching and wandering and he (or she) would light out for places unknown. Some took to the seas as pirates, who were just professional looters and pillages, and a few made their way to the New World, particularly the US, where they became businessmen, some of whom are just pirates of a legal sort. One particular troublemaker who was run out of Germany made his fortune within a day of landing on Ellis Island, when he saved a fur-clad lady from being trampled by a runaway horse; in gratitude she and her wealthy husband set up the troublemaker in business, and he proceeded to make a pile of money.
Anyway, here we sit in America, my family and I, and every winter we commence to complain vigorously about the weather and we get that restless, footloose feeling that generally presages trouble. Winter depression? Nonsense. It's just that old urge to head out for a spot of looting and pillaging and that warm and comforting fire in the fireplace is giving us ideas.
Yo-ho, yo-ho, a Viking's life for me.