Monthly Archives: March 2011

Lucy In The Sky

Every night I go there. It’s a place I’ve been several times in real life, it’s a place filled with memories, good and bad, but I’m surprised to find myself dreaming about it so often at the moment. Every night this week.

In my dreams, I know that that’s where I am, although the settings in my dreams have absolutely no salient features in common with that place in the real world. So far this week, I have been in the desert once, and in a variety of suburban and rural locations the other few nights. I have been with a whole selection of people, known and unknown, and to my knowledge not one of them has ever been to this place – either at all, or at least at the same time as me. I have been horseriding, once, which was odd, I’ve been horseriding about twice in my life. That was the night in the desert. I was appropriately fabulously dressed in yards of floaty linen, you’ll be glad to note.

The next time I appeared to be taking part in a concert in this place (which isn’t unheard-of – concerts here, that is, not my participation, which is). More oddly still I seemed to be with an outfit which gradually it transpired was not my old county youth orchestra, although some of the members of it were there. The orchestra I think was actually the university orchestra – or rather a subset thereof, although as is the way with dreams there was no-one there I recognised from Uni Town. And I was baffled when we were getting on stage because as per usual I was trying to cobble together an appropriately-coloured outfit (in this case, black bottoms, coloured tops) which looked elegant and smart and was also celloable. And just as I had comprehensively failed to look anything like an elegant, socially acceptable human being but had given up and was making my way towards the stage with my cello, a girl I knew from Hampshire days breezed past and told me that we were actually supposed to be wearing our Hampshire Youth Orchestra uniform dresses (if you really want to know, look here, and find no.184 for a fairly clear shot of the dresses I’m talking about), so then I spent a goodly while trawling through a pile of dresses to find mine (which was exactly as I remembered it, down to the biro marks, smudges, and numbers on the label). Other dreams have featured caravans, cakes, institutional china (you know, that pale green, heavy, thick glazed ware that they have in community centres and church fetes and WI meetings up and down the whole country), trees, bunting, old ladies, floods, lightning, jewellery, all manner of things.

I’m confused as to why I keep dreaming about this place though. All of these dreams are filled with a sense of something else about to happen, someone about to arrive, come round the corner, be exactly where I expect them to be. This is accompanied by an overarching sense of dread. And whatever and whoever I’m dreading has yet to appear in a single one of these dreams.

I can well understand why people attribute such significance to dreams. It’s very easy to think that dreams like this are more than simply a way my brain is using to present to me my current preoccupations in glorious technicolour. I know why I am dreaming these dreams, I know it’s not the place itself that I am dreaming about, that this place is simply a metaphor for certain aspects of myself and certain things in my life, it’s a symbol significant to me and only me, formed out of my memories and the way my thoughts run. But it would be so easy to see these repeated, reiterated visions, made all the more powerful by this cyclical, constant repetition – it would be so easy to think of them as an omen – harbinger of events, good or bad, a sign, a storm, an approaching event horizon. And they are nothing of the sort.

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Fun & Games

I think it’s time I enriched your lives a little bit with a really fun game called Association Bingo.

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who has recently become single, about that terrible thing we all do when we’re newly single and not necessarily entirely complicit in how this came about, and for a while, literally everything you do, say, think or see conjures up a memory of some sort about the person in question. Whether that’s chopping up vegetables on your own and suddenly recalling some time you cooked together, and that moment when you sucked on a strand of spaghetti and your lips met in the middle; or hearing a piece of music and finding yourself transported back in time to the very moment of your first kiss; or catching the smell of some passing man and that smell being the same aftershave that your ex used to wear and all at once you feel tragically, miasmically sad. Bingo, bingo, and bingo.

I think I probably should win some kind of prize for once genuinely thinking, ‘oh no, this person is breathing exactly how so-and-so used to breathe’. What, in, and then back out again? Gosh.

I haven’t started to draw up a proper rulebook, or so much as an objective. Presumably you get a score for every bingo (instance that conjures up a memory), but also it is presumably one of those games where the higher you score, the more you’re actually losing. And different leves of association should presumably score different amounts of points. Thinking, ‘person Y is breathing like person X used to breathe’ probably gets a whackingly high score for sheer idiocy, whereas more specific associations, clever and specific though they may be, probably score lower. So if you find yourself doing some kind of activity that used to exclusively be something you did with your ex, and then you remember doing that activity with them – say ballroom dancing, or Scrabble, or something – then you get quite a low score, because that’s not really a surprise, and you should either man up and deal with it or stop dancing and playing scrabble (especially not at the same time, that’s silly).

Perhaps a Full House is when you have remembered all the things in the world that you could possibly remember about X. Or perhaps you just get so many points for thinking ‘so-and-so used to breathe’ or ‘so-and-so had legs’ that you win (lose) right there and then.

The best thing about this game is that it turns hideously painful moments into hideously painful moments in which everyone you know (and hopefully yourself) is laughing at your pain. This might make life better, or it might just make you feel seriously pathetic, I’m not quite sure. The other great thing is that devising a workable system of points and rules could potentially take up so much mental time and space that you don’t have the space in your brain to score as many bingos as you otherwise would, thus effectively distracting yourself for a few seconds or something and being in the running for a winner for longer than you thought you would be.

The real brilliance of this is that if you suddenly sigh because you’ve just spotted a pigeon, or thought for the millionth time about how X used to pour out his or her cereal, or whatever stupid thing it is that gets you every single flipping time – you don’t then have to say, in response to all the concerned looks you’re (hopefully) getting from your friends, exactly what it is you’re sighing about. You can just say ‘bingo’, and everyone in the know will smile ruefully and do something friendly and caring like thump you on the back (this is something my dad does when I’m sad, on which note I will say that although I don’t think he’s quite yet been known to honestly utter the phrase ‘plenty more fish in the sea’, I’m pretty sure it’s been a close-run thing in the past. After all this is my father, famed for his bemused cry of, ‘it’s only a gerbil’ when faced with two wailing, grief-stricken 7-year-olds (I’m taking an average here) and a dead rodent).

Other games in this vein include Sermon Cricket (which would make a lot more sense if I understood the scoring system in cricket) and, more simply, Sermon Bingo. Both of these are best played when the person giving the sermon is someone you’ve heard preach often enough that you can pick up on (and allow for in the rules) assorted verbal tics, common themes, and favourite anecdotes. I suppose all of these are basically a bit like I Spy for adults – adding that hint of danger, subversion and cruelty that improves nearly all childrens’ games, I find (if alcohol doesn’t cut it, that is).

To all my concerned readers, no, I have no-one to have just broken up with me, so I am absolutely A-OK. I do have a friend in this situation though, and to that friend (if said friend is reading this, which I doubt) I will just say that I’m really sorry if this conjures up a whole swathe of bingos and meta-bingos; and also, as ever, I wish there was something I could do that was any more curative than providing food and whisky and a listening ear and occasionally terrible advice, platitudes, etc.

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Cut Off The Telephone

The other day I just stopped. It’s not something I do at all often, I like being busy, I’m always busy, there are so many things to do and so many things I want to do, but I never think to just take some time out from my day, but the other day, I did.

I had forty minutes between the end of one thing and meeting a friend to go and do some music, and I had been meaning to go and buy some new socks in M&S, or possibly spend the time in the library catching up on some reading. But for some reason, instead, I went to the park and spent half an hour in the sunshine. I watched a group of lads learning to tightrope-walk on an elastic rope stretched between two trees; I watched two middle-aged women walking along and eating bananas; I watched a small child learning to walk, and a slightly older one, a little boy of about three, playing with a scooter and being utterly adorable. I watched the ducks, I watched the sky, I watched the trees, I listened – birds, traffic, the breeze through the budding branches.

I’ll be doing that more often, I think.

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Aiken Drum

There was a man lived in the moon, and he played upon a ladle, and his hair was made of cream cheese, and his name was Aiken Drum. It’s a song, and there’s more to it than that, but you get the picture.

Anyway, I’ve just come back from the moon, and there it was sunny, and three days seemed to take a week to go by, and by the evening on Saturday I remember seeing someone in a top I’d seen them wearing earlier, and thought, gosh, how many days have they been wearing that top now? before realising that, of course, ‘earlier’ was breakfast time, and what had felt like two or three days was in fact only one.

Alice in Wonderland, and baking, and walking, and thinking, and talking, and beer, and stories, so many stories, and a wall, and bears, and dreams, and prayers, and silence, and words.

Awkwardly, the best metaphor I have come up with is about earthquakes. I feel bad about that, because I don’t want you to think I’m comparing my life to Japan. Just that a lot of things have changed recently, and what I want and what I wanted to want weren’t always the same thing, and now everything has been dragged back into place again, a new place, like a mental tectonic shift, though unusually painless. These things can never happen all at once. And now I don’t think I necessarily want for anything.

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Are You Seriously Saying You Slept With Her Because You Thought It Might Save The World?

I think I started thinking about this because of a line something like the title above, from In The Loop, which isn’t particularly relevant at all to what I’m about to say, but who knows how the mind works (well, me, or I should, because I’ve got an exam on the anatomy of the head and neck (which does include the brain) just over a week from now).

Anyway, here is a question that I am posing.

Say that for whatever reason, there’s some kind of apocalypse scenario. I don’t know what it is that’s happened, say we’re all wiped out by some hideous disease, society has collapsed, it’s all a bit shit really. Whatever has happened, though, has left the bones of the land pretty much intact. Sure, buildings are falling apart, society’s gone, but meanwhile, horses and sheep and cows roam the land freely, fields throng with birds and foxes and badgers, with crops run wild, gone to seed, verdant and lush and plentiful but without anyone to care for them or corral them into neat rows or fertilise them.

Communications are down and there’s no power and no-one to run anything. Nuclear power stations were all shut down as they became increasingly short-staffed and anyway, there were fewer and fewer people to use what power there was.

And there are you, seemingly all alone in the world, or at least all alone in as much of the world as you know about, which at this point isn’t much, it’s as far as you can see, as far as you can walk, or perhaps you’ve got a bike, so it’s a bit farther than that, but anyway, not far. And as far as you know, whatever danger it is that struck down the planet has basically gone – you were clearly immune to any disease that might have killed people off, radiation doesn’t seem to be an issue, and there’s still rain, sunshine, snow, and the rest, at all the appropriate times. Simply that there are, for whatever reason, no people. Perhaps no other great apes, even, depending on just how specific this disease, or whatever it is, is.

Firstly there’s the slightly boring question: if you’re alone in a world which can, with a bit of effort, feed you and keep you warm, do you keep going? If life is one long round of picking berries and harvesting potatoes and lighting fires and cooking things and looting houses for tins and saucepans, and finding and maintaining hte house in which you live, and possibly hunting food too, and clothing yourself, and occasionally you listen to old cassettes on a battery-operated cassette machine, maybe, if you find such a thing, and you read books and sing to yourself and play music (if you’ve got an instrument to play, that is), and there’s no-one to talk to and no reason to do any of this – would you just give up, would you some day just turn around and shoot yourself in the face? I don’t know if I would or not, I really don’t know. What do you think?

Then there’s the other question which I think is kind of more interesting. One day, someone else shows up. You’re pretty surprised, because you’ve been alone for a while, and for all you knew previously, you were the only person left alive. The statistical likelihood of this hasn’t particularly crossed your mind. Now there are two of you, in possibly the entire world, one male, one female.

Say you’re not attracted to this person at all. But you’re both young and fertile and you get on peaceably enough, they’re not actually a bad person, they’re just pretty average really. So, considering everything – your possible isolation on the planet, the fact that actually, you could make a pretty decent living out of it – do you sleep with that person in order to attempt to repopulate the planet, or do you decide that it’s actually better if you don’t, or pointless, or what – and what are your reasons, personally, either way?

And do you think there might actually be some kind of Stockholm Syndrome type response – do you think you’d end up falling in love with this person for no better reason than that they are the only other person in your world?

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