Napping offers a free cinema trip round my subconscious

I awake, not exactly refreshed but pleasantly woozy, after my first afternoon nap. Homer Simpson might have discovered a new meal between breakfast and brunch, but I have found at least three extra folds in the fabric of time itself during the day in which the sleepy freelancer can have a little snooze. What shall I write about this week? I wonder. It has certainly been exhausting. There was . . . there was . . . there was . . . anyway, there were lots of things. But I think I shall write instead about the nap. I could write about the discovery, during last Thursday night's awful weather, of a hole in my right boot that finally forced the question of whether I keep resoling them at 40 quid a time or buy a new pair for 90 quid.

As there are holes now in both the sides of each and the sole of one boot, I think it is time to bite the bullet, buy a new pair and eat baked potatoes for a month. But already I have bored you at least halfway to tears, so I shall be didactic and useful, and tell you about the Art of the Nap.

Pyjama party

O wretched Stakhanovite, o psychically pauperised office drone, o underpaid and Clarkson-beset public-service worker who cannot afford the humble luxury of forty winks! Explain to your overseer that this is how we won the war. No half-measures about it, said Churchill: get into your pyjamas and under the covers.

Hitler considered sleep a weakness and tried to abolish it in himself; one suspects that, had he conquered the world, he would have tried to abolish it in humanity. As it is, a mind fragile and fevered at the best of times became completely unhinged through amphe­tamine use, resulting in bizarre decisions for whose ultimate result we can still be grateful every day.

The interesting thing is that the nap is not just a way of refreshing yourself ("power nap" - the phrase is revolting, but usefully so, because you can use it to sneak the practice past the humourless vigilance of those who disapprove of such non-productivity; they confuse it, for one critical moment, with the "power breakfast"); it is a way of topping up the imaginative batteries, or clearing stuff out of the unconscious. As it is, I have just woken up from a scenario in which I have upset a tray of surgical instruments about to be used in an operation on a vaguely familiar woman whom I suspect of being a terrible hypo­chondriac (but I am discreet enough not to mention this to the surgeons). The ad-hoc surgery is happening in the far corner of a large hall in a Fitzjohn's

Avenue mansion where a yoga class is taking place. In the detail of Fitzjohn's Avenue, I can work out that the dream is consciously offering itself up to professional interpretation, as I read recently that the street contains a higher number of psychoanalysts' home addresses than anywhere else in Britain (and is built over a buried memory of London, the River Tyburn, which also flows, in a sewer, virtually underneath the Hovel).

I cannot understand what the yoga class is doing in my subconscious at all, and am not really interested in finding out, but still, isn't that a nice vivid piece of surrealism, available free between 2.30 and three o'clock? It's a lot cheaper than a cinema ticket, and you don't have to expose yourself to the naked cynicism of Hollywood marketing divisions. I also broke my glasses in the dream, but when I woke up, they were whole and this has made me happy.

The pleasure's mine

On the Continent, they are called siestas (from the sixth hour of the day) and have pedigree. The nymphs of ancient Greece, made horny by Pan, would cast their spells at this time and the shepherds would find themselves violated by succubae as they slept. (Which was presumably fine by them. Earlier, Pan had taught them the art of masturbation, to ease the pain of erotic longings otherwise satisfiable only by bestiality. A tug is a splendid thing - one doesn't know where one would be without it - but in the end it is only a substitute.)

Anyway, as I recall from Thierry Paquot's The Art of the Siesta (published in translation in this country by Marion Boyars): "The siesta is a sidetrack leading away from all activity that is distinct, obligatory, habitual and mechanical." To indulge in one is virtually a political act, or can be turned into one if you wish. "The siesta is an act of resistance, an adopted position, a policy," he writes, and reminds us that Marx's son-in-law Paul Lafargue wrote a pamphlet that denounced work and demanded the right to idleness.

These are tough times, readers, and they are getting tougher. Have you seen the weather out there? Turn your back on it for a moment and refresh yourself for the struggle ahead.

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 12 December 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Unholy war