I cannot read in my dreams. It’s nothing to do with my eyes getting tired with age. I have never been able to read in my dreams. The letters won’t keep still; they shift and blur and shrink and dance. I believe this is one of the problems with dyslexia. But I’m not dyslexic – I’m eulexic, if anything. Now there’s a coinage for you.
I wonder if this is a singularity. Do let me know if you have the same problem in the comments below. Meanwhile, I am left to wonder what opportunities I have missed through unreadable documents: letters, posters, signs – and treasure maps, unexamined and unpursued.
What I can do in dreams is drive a bus – a great big double decker with a beautifully massive steering wheel. I often drive through the night in my red leviathan, looking down on mere cars, taking corners with ease and slipping easily through the gears. I never take on passengers – this is my bus and I’m not going to share it. Usually, I end up in the water – a pond or a river or a lake, or even the sea – but it doesn’t matter – I just keep on driving.
What I shouldn’t be allowed to do in my dreams is to drive my own car. All is well until I need to stop – and then, the foot pedals have gone. I stretch to reach them, but there is nothing there, and I cannot find the hand brake.
I have been fascinated by the oneiric since childhood. That means ‘relating to dreams’ (- I told you I was eulexic). When I was in my early teens you might have found me in the Reading Room in Blackburn Public Libraries among the bent heads of clerks and clergy and professional men, ladies in tweeds, and down-and-outs, in from the cold to read the newspapers.
I was reading Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, originally to look for any dirty bits, but gradually becoming fascinated with the the theory: the notion of the unconscious mind condensing, distorting, displacing and reforming waking experiences. And then the idea of wish-fulfilment and the frustrating interruptions of the dream censor.
I was not convinced by the idea that snakes, trains and umbrellas were phallic representations and that caves, tunnels and boxes represented female genitalia. The idea that dreams of crumbling teeth represented fears of impotence, I rejected outright. This was largely because I had really smashed my front teeth on the guard rail of a car on a roller coaster in Rhyl when I was eleven. So I can assure you that dreams of crumbling teeth represent a fear of crumbling teeth.
The earliest dream I can remember still recurs occasionally. Brookhouse Lane, where I spent the first eleven years of my life, sloped from the Whalley Range pub down to ‘the bottoms’ and then up again to the Craven Heifer. We lived at number 52 at the Whalley Range end. In my dream, I am going to meet my daddy coming home from work. I often did this. Standing near the Heifer, I could see him coming up Cobwall on his bike, with the child seat on the handle bars. He would put me in this and we would zoom home, down the hill and up the other side.
I waited a long time until he suddenly appeared and was immediately captured and whisked away.
My daddy had been abducted by MUFFIN THE MULE!
He was in a cart behind the dreaded animal and they were clattering away at speed down Whalley New Road. I watched till they disappeared beyond St Michael and All Angels where I had been christened.
I turned to go home to give Mummy the terrible news. As I ran down the slope, the sky darkened until I could see that it was alive with black vultures, swirling until it was like night time. Then they began to swoop down to get me and I woke up.
And what do you make of that, Herr Professor Doktor Freud? Hardly the classic Oedipus scenario, is it?
Before becoming an author, I was, for most of my adult life, a teacher. It is a truth universally acknowledged that all teachers have the same dream. It is the start of a new term and we have lost the capacity to keep order. Our charges run riot and we cannot cope. A colleague and I dream a variant on this. Term begins and I can’t find my timetable. I’m not sure I ever had one. The master timetable is not on the noticeboard. Colleagues are unhelpful. Classes are neglected.
I have been retired from teaching for five years and I still get this dream.
Once upon a time in Paris, in my youth, two friends and I shared a hotel room in the XIième. There were three beds all right but the room was so packed with a couple of giant, horribly ornate wardrobes that there was scarcely any floor space. It was so cramped that, had a cat walked in, there would have been no room to swing it. One bed was so short that my friend had to sleep with the window open and his head on the sill. Had the sash window broken, he would have been guillotined.
During the night I woke up screaming: ‘Help! My wife is eating my feet.’ This so terrified my friends that they didn’t sleep again that night. I just turned over and resumed my slumbers.
Once, I dreamed that my feet were made of prosciutto.