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And so my subconscious mashes together literary and historical references.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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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?

banksy

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.

First day at university

Induction day for my MSc course, although the building it was in was a cross between the sixth form block at my school, and an NHS outpatients’ centre I once worked at as a secretary.  My Dad drove me there although it was only a few miles down the road. It was in an uninspiring suburb of the city, surrounded by a large car park.  The main road there was congested.  I was the last to arrive and the other students were already settled at long trestle tables and were eating from a buffet.

Surrounded by 18-20 year olds who first assumed I was a similar age and reacted with unflattering surprise to finding out how old I actually am, I felt embarassed that my career isn’t further along. I felt they were looking at me thinking they would be mortified to be in my position at my age.

We were directed to play ice-breaking / team-building games outdoors on the back lawn.  It was a sunny day, and I loitered by the outer edges, feeling out-of-place and looked down upon.  I felt I may have made the wrong decision in coming back to university, not only because I was out-youthed, but that the course was too basic and not covering my real interests.  I couldn’t show those around me my strengths, and the experiences I had – which my coursemates didn’t – were not recognised.

wtf, subconscious?

Well, this one doesn’t need much interpretation.  The insecurities that crop up here are real and self-explanatory, albeit not as prominent in my conscious mind as in this dream.

My dad would drive me to university if I had to move away for it – although in the dream, the campus was only a short bus ride away, and in reality, though it will involve a bit of a commute, I’ve no intentions of moving out of my current house. I see the being-driven as a metaphor for the help that my dad – a lecturer at another university – is helping me in getting back to academia.

The symbol of being on a busy, congested or slow journey is a common one in people’s dreams. Easy enough to see the analogy. In this case, I also had a sense of guilt that my dad was putting himself out, when I could have made my own way to campus and in fact probably would have got there more easily.

It’s only as I’m writing these dreams up that I’m seeing the links that my subconscious mind makes between different times of my life, and how they affect me now. The locations – sixth form, and my former workplace – tell me that I’m still feeling sore about being underestimated, undermined or unrecognised in those places.

As for the buffet, we could explore the symbolic meaning of food – nourishment and all that – but I dunno, I’m happy enough to say that I just fricking love food.