Haven’t had a dream in a long time…

…You see the life I’ve got means I hardly sleep a jot.

I started university at the end of September, and it’s full on already, man.  I mean, right now I’m just taking a break from listening to some additional lecture material about standard deviation and z-scores, and later on I’ll be trying to approximately balance the evidence for and against the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis in time for a presentation.

Anyway what with this and that, I really haven’t been keeping up with my sleep research.

But on Saturday, hungover after dinner at a friend’s house,* my subconscious woke me up with a dream that K had just dumped me – by text, the cad.  It wasn’t even spellingly or grammatically correct, which is all the more heartbreaking.

This morning, a dream about masturbation. No really, there was a Downton Abbey – style house in which lived a lot of aristocratic women who had never learnt how to masturbate.  Two of the servant-girls slyly told them what they were missing.  The aristocrats were too overcome with new-found delight to know that the servants were laughing behind their aprons at how pathetic their naive mistresses were.

Also, sitting at my computer studying, and being distracted by a large, dark grey owl that seemed to swoop directly towards my bedroom window, then change tack at the last moment to fly over the house instead.

* there were deep-fried olives, and homemade lamb ravioli!  Juskers I’m a student don’t mean I have to eat pot noodles, yo.

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.”



too late, too early

Late for my call to go on stage at a performance with my Bollywood dance group.  I was supposed to be the first to walk out, during the blackout betwen numbers, and the other four or five dancers would file on after me.

We’d been called to the wings much too early, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes before we needed to be, and one or two of our team hadn’t arrived yet.  Realising we’d still be ages, I went wandering to find a vending machine or something.

My vantage point as I watched the dream was now in the wings with the other dancers, including the director of our company (who in reality, doesn’t normally perform with us).  The other one or two dancers had turned up, and finally the lights had gone down for us, while dream-Sotto was nowhere to be seen, and, angrily, the others went on without her.

This dream was a conflation of two recent, real performances we did.  For Holi, we premiered a piece we’d (barely) finished learning choreography for two days earlier. One dancer had come down with pneumonia at the last minute.  Our teacher / choreographer performed with us, which she doesn’t normally, and the overall director of the company was in the audience. Last Diwali, I made a complete dog’s beard of a routine we’d done several times before.  I’d been excited to see an old acquaintance – the bhangra teacher who first tuned me in to Indian dance – and I was chatting to him through the open door of his dressing room while we waited in the wings.  Once on stage, we stood in the dark for ages before the technician realised we were ready and turned our lights / music on, and by then I was a mess of nerves and flusterness.

bollywood feet crop 2

If I look beyond the obvious, dance-related meaning, the dream indicates me being trusted to lead an effort or project of some kind – with others relying on me, and / or being observed by a superior – but getting distracted and failing when I didn’t need to (or failing simply by not turning up for duty).

As I wrote the last paragraph, it resonated with an academic project I’m doing with my Dad, who works as a senior lecturer at a university near where I grew up.  I’m in charge of interviewing people for our research, but it’s stalled recently as I’ve got preoccupied with applying to uni and writing this blog. As in dance, so in any day jobs I’ve had, so in academia, I worry not only about being good enough but about letting myself down by sheer absentmindedness or inability to stay focused on any one thing.


Get in!

A real-life update: I heard back from my university of choice, and as of October I’ll be studying for an MSc in Psychology! I’m looking forward to being back on campus after many a year’s absence, and joining all the societies I didn’t have the confidence or social wherewithal to join as an undergraduate, like the LGBTQ, the Fetish Society, Bhangra Collective, the Pokemon Society, and the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

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?


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…!

beds, boots and bad debts

Three separate but closely-blended university-related dreams in one night:

1. Arriving at the student flat that had been provided for me. It was lovely, big and light, at one corner of the third or fourth floor overlooking the big city which as night came on became lit up with neon and car headlights.

The flat seemed to only have single beds, but four of them.  My mum had driven me to the city, and stayed overnight.  She was comandeering the music we played in the flat, which I only grudgingly accepted because she was the guest.  I felt I couldn’t start making the place my own til I’d heard some of my choice of tunes there.  Mum chose the bed by one window, so I went for the furthest away.  I was looking to see if any of them were doubles; one of them looked like it might be.  I would investigate further the next day.

The bathroom walls were made of one-way glass, so when I sat on the toilet it looked as though I was right in the middle of the apartment with nothing between me and my mum, who was sitting on the end of her bed.  I was astonished when she assured me that she really couldn’t see through the wall – and she was equally astonished that I could.

2. Unpacking my shoes onto a low shelf in the apartment, I saw to my surprise that I had a dark red pair of suede boots, some knee-high disco platforms in glittery red, and some black patent Dr Martens.  I hoped my mum, nearby, wouldn’t pay attention to what I was doing and criticise my shoe-spending.  My pink DMs (which I do have in real life) were now made of suede rather than patent leather, and the disco boots had got wet, bleeding some of their colour into one pink boot, staining it a different colour to its partner.  I tried to dry them off, hoping the red colour would fade, which it did slightly.  But I couldn’t get rid of the water; droplets kept appearing around the disco shoe.  I couldn’t take the boot into the bathroom to sort it out properly because then my mum would see and be angry that I’d thrown money away by spoiling the shoes that I shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

3. Despite having not given out my address, I had a stack of post at the new place (which now looked very different, dark and narrow).  There was an A4 envelope with my dad’s handwriting on, saying “open 31.12.2003” (my 21st birthday) and with a post-mark dated to 2007.  I wondered why my dad had sent me a birthday present separately from my mum, apparently in secret, apparently long before the date, and why it had taken so many years to arrive. And now, turned up at this address.

When I opened it though, it wasn’t from my dad at all.  The letter demanded repayment of my undergraduate loan, claiming I owed over £10k (significantly more than I actually borrowed, even with interest). The company had tracked me to this address, forging my dad’s handwriting and giving the date of my 21st to trick me into opening the letter.  I spoke to him on the phone and we agreed it was a scam which I didn’t need to respond to. All other questions remained unanswered.