Monday, 12 July 2010

Vikings and Sausage Rolls

There's no stopping the march of Vikings into the world of advertising. The latest one I have just caught is an advert for Walls' sausage rolls, showing one of the Vikings of Middle England tucking into one just after he becomes 'dead' on the battlefield. I reckon the ad company got the demographic, of both sausage rolls and Viking re-enactors, just about right. What's a bit odd is that it is all part of a 'Bring it on Britain' campaign. But then Vikings have been an essential part of Britishness since at least Victorian times.
Re-enactors obviously have a lot of fun and good luck to them. I find the whole phenomenon fascinating though, as a 'proper academic' I can't help shuddering at their ideas of 'authenticity' which some groups, like the VME, make a great song and dance about. It's not that difficult to find out about Viking runes (a topic on which I have moaned before), but they never seem to bother, thus the VME website has both a slightly dodgy runic logo, and some curious misinformation about rune stones.
Ah well, it's all part of the fun. And it provides a raison d'etre for degrees in Viking Studies which some people see as somewhat Mickey Mouse, but someone has got to teach people 'proper' Viking stuff.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Jinxed Lava

I almost never watch Top Gear, except over the shoulder of my other half, considering it to be a programme For The Lads Only, and not being very fond (to put it mildly) of Mr J. Clarkson. However, I was tempted the other night, because the programme guide promised James May driving up an Icelandic volcano. And, indeed, it was our old friend Eyjafjallajökull, spouting fiery bits onto Mr May as he drove right up to its rim, 'still with no idea how big this eruption would become'. A clip of this can now be seen on YouTube. The vehicle was a specially adapted Toyota Hilux with some corrugated iron on top (to keep off the dropping fiery bits) and a water-cooling system for the tyres (to stop them burning, though they did). James May got amazingly close to the active crater and even managed to scoop up a bit of newly-spewed out lava.
I wonder though if this last bit was wise. Iceland Review Online reports that a British tourist, who stole a piece of lava from the volcano, has now sent it back to Iceland on the grounds that his life has been jinxed ever since. The University, who received the piece of lava, arranged for it to be flown out to the volcano and dropped back in, on the grounds that one does not trifle with the rocky powers that be, and referring specifically to the folklore associated with natural phenomena (see this longer Icelandic version of the story).
If you search the Iceland Review website, you will see that the whole Top Gear exploit was considered pretty controversial at the time, though clearly overshadowed by later ash-cloud related events!