Banksy’s student days (your input welcome!)

Banksy, while at Bristol University. His tutors included Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore (still played by Richard Harris) and Hagrid. Dumbledore gave him a kind of glowing, opalescent statuette which he was not to tell anyone about, “especially Minerva XX XX McGonagall” (the dream script gave her two extra middle names).

In his black hoodie and combat trousers, Banksy would climb up the outside of buildings at  night. He seemed to be fixing things – unsafe, crumbling or leaking structures – without wanting the work to be attributed to him. Maybe he just thought he’d get round to the jobs quicker than the university or city authorities would.

I often have semi-lucid dreams in which I seem to be reading a story that I’ve written; seeing a film based on my screenplay; or watching a story unfold and wondering how I’ll go about turning it into a novel. In this case, Banksy was narrating the story, and I could hear his voice, deep and distorted as it is in Exit Through the Gift Shop.  As he told me his memories, I was simultaneously / alternately watching them as an outsider, and having a discussion with him about how, together, we would write the book.

Banksy told me about a long-standing Bristolian legend, that somewhere in the city is hidden an ancient relic that would give the finder magic powers.  Many speculate but few know what the relic looks like or how to recognise it.

Did Banksy ever see the relic – or any evidence that it existed – during his nighttime climbs? “Yeah, I found it alright,” he said.  “I put it back.”

wtf, subconscious?

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So, this dream features a narrative device that my subconscious often uses – watching a scene unfold only to discover that I’m writing it – and the fascination / frustration of waiting to see what my imagination will give me next, while still feeling I have limited or no control over the process. (“Murder, she watched” was another example of this.)

But since famous people, characters and locations are involved here, I’d love to know your thoughts too.  What associations do any of these hold for you?

  • Banksy
  • Graffiti and / or street art
  • Bristol
  • Bristol University in particular
  • Universities in general
  • The Harry Potter books and / or films in general
  • Dumbledore, Hagrid or McGonegall in particular

And how about these motifs?

  • A gift of something possibly magical, but secret
  • Secret names or ones that very few people know someone by
  • Old buildings in need of repair
  • A quest to find a legendary, missing relic
  • The juxtaposition of ancient and modern (or postmodern), establishment and subversiveness, global fame and local knowledge, anonymity and instant recognisability

…Or any other themes, motifs or metaphors that jump out at you?

Please feel free to comment below or send me a message; let me know what this dream content might mean for you – and of course if you’ve had any similar dreams of your own.

‘Til next time…!

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Dream a little dream of me? I’d rather you didn’t.

Happy valentine’s day, dream-lovers!

So, pop-culture would have us believe that to dream of one’s lover is the surest sign of true amour.  So obsessively should the loved one occupy our thoughts, that even sleep shouldn’t interrupt our devotion, right?

Well, maybe not.  About a hundred years ago, some dream researchers were pointing out that the more mental energy we devote to something – or someone – during our waking hours, the less likely our dreams are to reflect it.

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Yves Delage (1854-1920) was a French zoologist who turned to the study of dreams after experiencing a bereavement. He was confused to find that, even at the height of his grief, he didn’t dream of the person he’d lost, and set out to discover whether this was typical.  Sure enough, in a study of newly-weds, he found that, “if they are very much in love, they have almost never dreamed of one another before the marriage or during the honeymoon; and if they have dreamed of love, it was to be unfaithful with someone unimportant or distasteful.”

Wow. Mama Cass didn’t know what she was wishing for when she implored her beau, “in your dreams whatever they be, dream a little dream of me.”

I’d slightly moderate what Delage suggested: I have had romantic or erotic dreams about people I’m attracted to, but only if they were secret, guilty or unrealistic crushes on people who there was no likelihood of me actually getting together with.  In the context of a happy, committed relationship, I don’t recall having ever dreamt about a partner.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), quoting Delage in his own book, The Interpretation of Dreams, put his own slant on this phenomonom by saying that dream material mainly consists of things we are not conscious of, and that whatever is least conscious makes the strongest impression in the subconscious.  Therefore: “we either do not dream at all of what occupies us intently during the day, or we begin to dream of it only after it is overshadowed by the other interests of the day.”

A friend of mine noticed something similar in her first few years of motherhood.  She felt almost every joule of mental energy was being transmitted into her son; and yet she didn’t recall ever dreaming about him.  Her interpretation was that by nightfall she simply had no more of that energy left, and had to psychically tune out for a few hours before she could give her attention again.

But what are your experiences?  Sling me a comment either way: do you dream of the same things that have occupied your wakeful mind, or do your daytime fixations vanish as soon as the light goes out? Do your dreams seem to protect you from material that is currently too raw or overwhelming – or do they rub your nose in it even more? Can you comfortably admit to your dream lusts, or have you, like Titania, ever thought yourself “enamour’d of an ass”? *

I’ll leave you with that thought, and another quote from the great romantic, Freud. “The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man actually does in real life.” (The Interpretation of Dreams, 1899)

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* William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Nights’ Dream

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:

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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.

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Mascara clumps. Nightmare.