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Sunday, 7 August 2022

Loose but transfixed

Not all nightmares are terrifying. As Eliot said, “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” The following dream left me woebegone.

I walked somewhere in the southern suburbs of London, intent on getting home (to the west) at a specified time but not for a specified reason. Pressed by a vague urgency.

On reaching an inner suburb I found I’d diverged from the known route. Nothing was familiar.

A large chauffeur-driven car stopped beside me. The chauffeur had silver curled hair resembling that of David Gower, the England cricketer. He opened the rear door to reveal a well-suited man in his forties who asked if I wanted a lift. Without mentioning my destination I said yes.

Immediately we launched into a high-level conversation about current politics. During which my host was even-handed, well informed and dispassionate. Everything seemed entirely normal and I forgot the urgency of my walk.

Time passed. We abandoned the car and walked together, the chauffeur loitering to the rear. Then we switched to the mysteries of bitcoin.

More time passed. Inexplicably I parted from my host though I was still aware of his distant presence and felt guilty about this act of desertion. Convinced he would be setting official wheels in motion to find me. For the friendliest of reasons.

My surroundings were no longer suburban; the pavements crowded with hurrying office workers. Remarkably I met a friend I worked with years ago, He listened attentively but his mind was elsewhere; we drifted apart like two separate clouds.

Suddenly I remembered my need to get home, Knowing I was, by now, very late. I reached for my mobile to explain things to my wife.

My doing so is an anachronism. These events are occurring a quarter of a century ago when mobiles were rare. Yet I accepted the time slippage without question. I do not make the call because I cannot justify my lateness. 

Nighttime bears in on me and this new world is lost.

Dust scattered on a trail of non-sequiturs. But somehow menacing.


  1. There is a melancholic aspect to considering one's past - where your dream is set. Add the confusion of vaguely familiar landscapes and lapses of reason, a penchant for seeking symbols, and no hope of resolution (you're awake now, remember?) and you've got the perfect recipe for a dream hangover. Probably a good choice to avoid the phone call - you had, at best, a very long and detailed excuse. Maybe your dream-self knew it made no sense.

    1. MikeM: I think you've picked the right word - melancholy, It was my prevailing state of mind throughout these events. Even though the conversation was "high-level", even rewarding, it seemed to be detached from me as a person, as if I were taking a sort of oral exam in the subject. I don't usually recount dreams but this one had continuity and the details stayed with me. I tried to reproduce the odd way things occurred in my style of writing.

  2. I seem to few dreams these days and if I do they are not so logical and often involve some jumbled up memories of my time in the army.

    What did you have for supper?

    1. Avus: As I say to MikeM I don't often recount dreams. The last dream I did (some years ago) you suggested I might have drunk too much the night before. Now you ask what I had for supper. Neither of these potential influences would be worth writing about. Saying the events (in your dreams) are jumbled is a cop-out; the trick is to capture the way they made themselves known, to render their strangeness. Not easy but always remember the author's adage: easy writing = hard reading.

  3. Such a vivid dream. Almost an Odyssey. But you didn't make it home. And you didn't call? That's probably why it stays with you!

    1. Colette: Odyssey - a well-chosen analogy. I'm much affected by James Joyce. What influenced me most about this particular dream was its wholeness; most dreams fragment within seconds of waking. This one remained - as a story - several hours until I was able to record it in the style it seemed to demand. Seemingly inconsequential yet somehow menacing depite the absence of identifiable threat. Perhaps a coded message for which I lacked the key.