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.

Larkin small

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And so my subconscious mashes together literary and historical references.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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Cretan dreams

In Crete, they eat a lot of cheese. Rich food in general, in fact, heartily doused in olive oil.  And after every meal in a restaurant, we were given raki and usually a small dessert from the house.

Now I’m back, I’m abstaining from cheese from at least a week, before I embark on research that Wallace and Gromit would be proud of, to test the hypothesised correlation between dreams had, and quantities of cheese eaten.

But first, here’s what my subconscious had to say while I was out of the country.

24th May

A fragment of a song by Nick Cave’s former band, The Birthday Party.  It was called Doreen and could have been either about a lost lover or missing child.  “Doreen where are you / I miss you,” Cave intoned. “Please come home / I’ll love you.”

The previous morning, I’d found out from a group whatsapp conversation about the terrorist attack in Manchester, in which most of the victims were female, and most very young.  Using hotel wi-fi, I’d seen reports totting up the death toll, and family members using social media to try and locate missing people.

26th May

A newish friend (someone I’ve known a few months, and not very well), asked me to help her transfer out of bed and into her wheelchair.  To do this, I had to lean my weight into one of side of her body, mostly the thigh, in order to sort of roll her.  Once she was moved, I noticed a big wet patch on the sheet she’d been lying on; not urine, maybe saliva.

In reality, this person is physically very active and able, a keen dancer like me, so to see her chairbound was unsettling.  Also uncomfortable was being the person who was asked to help.  My squeamishness here recalls the first dream I posted on this blog, Not Today.

I’m sure that the dream reflects my fears about losing my own physical capacity, particularly my dancing ability as I know it.  In dreams, seeing a thing happen to someone else – one degree of detachment – can be less psychically* overwhelming than seeing it happen to yourself.  (Two degrees of detachment might be, watching a film in which something happens to someone else, which is a device my subconscious also uses now and then.  See Murder, She Watched.

For what it’s worth, I often drool quite a bit if I fall asleep on my front.

* Do tell me what you think of my using the word ‘psychic’ as in ‘pertaining to the psyche.’  I shuddered a little as I typed it; mostly I chose that rather than ‘psychological’ because I felt the shorter word lent a more pleasing rhythm to the sentence. But I do find phrases like ‘psychic death’ or ‘psychic pain’ – as opposed to psychological – so fucking pretentious at times.  Same difference as far as actual meaning is concerned, I know.

27th May

An awful dream, this one.  An old Caribbean man with a brown hat, smoking a pipe or cigar, while verbally decrying the local prostitute (who was very well known) to anyone in the neighbourhood who would listen.  He did that a lot; indeed some of his favourite pastimes were smoking, staying indoors, and proselytising about the evils of prostitution.  The building he lived in was struck by accidental fire (I don’t think it was anything to do with the guy’s smoking), and all the other residents, adults and children, were evacuated.  Still he refused to leave his front room.  As the flames rumbled around him, he just kept on, talking about the local harlot.  The last thing to go was his face, still with pipe / cigar in his hate-driven mouth.  Skin and facial features melted and charred until they became covered in a thick layer of silent ash.

Two police officers – a man and a woman – glanced knowingly at one another when they came to retrieve his remains.  Their eye contact conveyed mutual support, steeling themselves for a sight they knew would be more appalling than anything they’d seen on the job so far.

Before that, I think there’d been a dream about snakes.