Friday, December 29, 2006


It's so improbable I'll end up talking about it at length and more than once.

Annie (the trombonist I mentioned once) and I were in a cafe in the Brunswick Centre, just off Russell Square. She was telling me about a dream she'd had and I'm going to pass it on to you, partly because she went to such lengths to remember it and partly also because some of the other things that crop up about her are related to this.

She was driving a car in a town and there was someone important in the car with her, sufficiently important that they had a police escort and that Annie knew she must not stop the car, ideally wouldn't even slow down. She didn't know who the important person was, thought it might be royalty but anyway. The first problem is that there was some sort of roadblock ahead so they had to detour and she turned right into another road, this one long and settling down a slope towards the edge of town. This wasn't so good since they'd lost the police escort and also this road was busier. A van pulled out from a side road and she had to slow down. Some cyclists were coming the other way, on the opposite side of the road but one swerved out and she had to slow down. Then there were some men unloading beer barrels from a truck and she slowed down even more. By this time she was quite some way along the road to where it curved right and there was a large open space on the left being used as a car park, with another truck being unloaded by some men. A car accelerated past her on her right then cut left across her into the car park and she had to stop completely.

As the other car accelerated into the car park it clipped one of the men, sending him sprawling down to the ground, face down. His leg was very damaged. In fact it was bent in all sorts of improbable and awful places. She could hear him say "I'm not going in there again, no way" which she understood to mean that something like this had happened before, and he'd had to spend such a long time in hospital, in such terrible pain that he wasn't going to repeat it and as she understood what he'd meant, he plunged his face into a puddle in order to drown himself.

Annie wasn't very good at describing the next part but I think I know what she meant. Imagine one of those tv shots where the camera moves forward fast, following the action, it arcs forwards out of the car and up so that it is above the puddle and swoops down into it, breaking the surface of the water. It isn't gone for long, the only sound is a whooshing and then it breaks the surface of the water again and hovers a few feet away.

This is what she can see:- a small cubical room, the walls, floor and ceiling covered in terracotta tiles. A bath. Water dripping from herself (the camera).

This is what happens:- a door opens and a nurse comes into the room, humming to herself, goes over to the bath, reaches in and nonchalantly flips out a dolphin, leaving it spluttering on the tiled floor while she says "Thanks, B" and leaves the room, leaving the door open.

Annie told me that the dolphin gasping for breath on the floor is the man who was hit by the car so that's what she means. She is struck by the normality of what just happened. I was goggle-eyed at all this and said to her "I'm not surprised you have dreams like that."

"Why not?"

So I told her:- you used to laugh in your sleep, sometimes I used to wake up and find you crying and when I asked you what was wrong, I would realise you were asleep and sobbing. Sometimes I used to listen to you asleep and hear you stop breathing.

Sunday, November 19, 2006



an old man playing an accordion and singing by the side of a market place

three men in their early twenties in fashionable suits standing by a burger van

boats on a lake

trees casting shadows thirty feet long as the sun was setting

children running around, somehow still awake

someone sitting on their own

someone never on their own, always with different people

someone never on their own, always with the same person

someone organising things

people sitting on chairs outside on a freezing cold night, drinking and smoking menthol cigarettes, roll ups, fat cigars, all talking

through a spider's web, a roof covered in frost

through the grime on the windscreen, a bird splashing in a puddle in a field lit by a very bright sun in a bright blue sky


She was called Michelle and he was Sam. They were 13 and spent much of their time together because for years their families lived on the same street so they have always played together. Easter evenings they'd be in the street on bikes, in summer when the sun was too hot they'd be gone for too long, a couple of miles away in a field or on a building site, worrying their parents that it was too hot to be gone for so long. When it rained they'd be at each other's house, in the garage or just around, getting under everyone's feet. Michelle and Sam easily became Shell and Sham so as a pair it changed first to Shamble and Shambolic, then Thumbelina and Thumbs. They were only 13. It was just a game for everyone and a good one at that. Thumbelina! Who? And Thumbs!

Two years later her family moved away for her father's work. They never saw one another again.

Years later, she still loves the story of Thumbelina and tells it to her new nephew and niece when they are old enough to listen to stories and ask questions. At around this time, Sam works in IT support for a London bank just south of the river. His colleagues call him Thumbs but none of them knows why.


She was telling me that in a dream she had accidentally shone a laser into her eye, just for an instant and had felt her eye melt, or at least start to, sagging like glass before solidifying into translucent perspex.

She'd woken up straight away but kept her left eye shut and could still feel it, a short while later when she was wide awake but she was afraid her eye was distorted and could still feel the sensation of a rigid beam of light frozen through the centre of her pupil. She was telling me that after she'd woken up she lay there wondering whether her dream could have been sufficiently powerful to actually affect her eye.

All of which I understood to mean that we were having that conversation again about what would it be like if dreams meant more than they actually do (which we'd decided was "nothing at all") and that actually she'd had a dream about someone, was missing him terribly and wondering if the power of the dream might have meant he too was dreaming about her, or she was at least wondering if he ever dreamt of her.

So she'd been curled up in bed at 5.30am, half awake with her left eye closed, wondering and remembering, and then both eyes closed, half-remembering and half-dreaming.