Fire dreams and barbeque-ing students

Philip Larkin’s father – shortish, with greyish-white whiskers – was having a go at some army official or politician.  “You know they barbequed my son,” he was saying, and he meant it quite literally.  During the war, he accused, the troops didn’t have enough resources, they didn’t have enough food.  Some platoons turned to cannibalism and Larkin was roasted and eaten by his colleagues.

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wtf, subconscious?

As I was waking from this dream, semi-conscious, I thought, “is that really how Larkin died? I’m not sure that’s right…”  My thoughts also turned to Angela’s Ashes, which I’d been reading before bed.  Although no cannibalism as far as I’ve read, it does describe abject poverty and desperation.

While Larkin wrote “they fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to but they do / They fill you with the faults they had / and add some extra, just for you,” Frank McCourt claims to have an infallible rejoinder: “People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version.”  At least both authors were of like mind with regards to a happy childood not being “worth your while.”

Once I was fully awake and making breakfast, I remembered the words, “they barbequed him.” Of course! Today I was going to a barbeque for postgraduate students in Coventry, which happens to be where Larkin was born.  There’s a pub named after him there.

Coventry, as we know, took quite a roasting itself during the second world war.  And in the bit of Angela’s Ashes that I’m reading now, the protagonists’ father is working on a defence plant there.  (Larkin had nothing to do with the war, by the way – his bad eyesight saved him the inconvenience of having to fight, so he swanned around at university instead.)

And so my subconscious mashes together literary and historical references.  I wonder if, gruesomely, I’d also come up with a link between a person’s ashes and a person being barbequed.

More personally, the dream reflected some of my anxieties about going back to university – am I going to get burned? My flesh torn from my frame like that of a spit-roasted pig?

*

Well, it turns out the student-barbeque was quite benign.  I haven’t met anyone else from my course yet, despite there possibly being eighty of us, but I had some nice chats with a few of the staff, and students from other courses.  I’ve enrolled online, and given them my bank details…shit got real.

Lectures start in four weeks time, so to quote Phil: “kick up the fire, and let the flames break loose.”

 

 

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Disappointment

T shirtMy aformentioned ex, while we were still together, giving me a printed black t-shirt for my birthday.

We got it from a shop that catered for goth / alternative types but was run by a small middle-aged man who didn’t really know or personally care much about an alternative scene. (As I remember the dream, he reminds me a bit of the Engineer from Miss Saigon.) I tried to wear the t-shirt that night when we went out clubbing, but even as I was doing my makeup to go out, it started to come apart at the seams.

We took it straight back to the shop for a replacement but the guy, having served us just hours earlier, denied memory of us and wouldn’t refund or directly replace. He tried to fob me off by getting me to choose from some other, much less expensive items.

Eventually I negoPoetry booktiated to get a selection of small gifts to roughly compensate the value of the t-shirt. To find anything that took my fancy, I’d had to go through obscure boxes and shelves, delving further than the average customer might. I found a tiny book of (metaphysical?) poetry, bound in pale cream leather. Quite a precious find, to be fair, discarded with no sense of its value. Otherwise, I just got some bits of tat so unmemorable they haven’t made it to awake-mind, and – wtfsubconscious? – a massive bottle of lube.

Yeah…

 

The T-shirt design above was adapted from the Deviant Moon Tarot, by Patrick Valenza. http://www.deviantmoon.com/wordpress/

A Monster Calls

I’m reading A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness’ down-to-earth fantasy for young adults, about a boy who’s being haunted by a recurring nightmare, and an anthropomorphic tree that visits him at night.

Conor’s mum is dying, and every night he dreams of trying to hold on to her hand while she dangles off the edge of a precipice. Until along comes a yew tree in the shape of a man-monster, uprooted from the nearby churchyard, to tell Conor three stories and demand just one truth in return.

Author Siobhan Dowd created the concept for A Monster Calls when she, herself, had terminal cancer. Knowing she wouldn’t live long enough to write the book, she passed the idea on to Patrick Ness, who completed it after Siobhan’s monster has visited for the last time.

Ness uses Conor’s nightmares to explore the secret, unspeakable truths of how it feels to be losing the person closest to you. Guilty, rageful feelings that Conor would rather risk his own life than admit to.

So after reading this profoundly important tale of love and loss, imagination and rage, what does my mind come up with?

…I dreamt that I was applying mascara, and couldn’t keep from getting black scuff marks on my upper eyelid.

Really subconscious?

I mean, as nightmares go, I’ve had worse.

Thoroughly disappointed with my own apparent lack of depth or real sensitivity, I started getting ready for the new day. And reaching for my mascara wand, I saw this:

budget-mascara-fail

technic-monster-lash-600x399

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illustration by Jim Kay, from A Monster Calls (2012)

Ok.

Phrased like that, what dream-me did there seems entirely reasonable.

MONSTERCALLS small

Mascara clumps. Nightmare.