I Wonder, I Wonder

“I wonder, I wonder what you would do if you had the power to dream at night any dream that you wanted to dream?” – Alan Watts.

When I was a child I would choose what I was going to dream about before I went to sleep each night.  I planned each dream, each twist and turn and each happy ending.  There was always a happy ending.  I awoke every morning happy in the knowledge that everything had almost certainly gone to plan.  Sadly, it was only ever almost certainly because I very rarely remember my dreams in the morning.  I am familiar with the tripping up the kerb thing, the finding myself naked on the way to school thing, the falling thing, the being somebody else thing, but only vaguely.  I am certain of pattern, but very lacking in texture.  I have no recollection of detail.  It is such a waste, particularly given the range of dreams I could set myself these days.  They would have made my ten years old toes curl.

It has always been a bit of a problem to me, sleeping.  I’ve never managed to get the sleep I am told I need yet I rarely feel tired for lack of it.  The hours between my wife retiring for the night and the time being right for my own slide into stygian slumber are spent picking at crosswords, reading books and considering why one whisky is never enough.  They are frustrating hours because even after all of these years, I would dearly like to be able to drift off at will as many of my friends are able to do – more often than not when I am telling them a story.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what I would choose to dream about if I had the opportunity?  Would I dream about being rich, knowing that I would have to wake up to not being so?  Would I choose to dream about being handsome and popular, knowing that I would wake up a schmuk?  Would I dream that I was still awake?  The obvious problem with all dreams is that you have to wake up at the end of them or risk not waking up at all.  Surely if you could choose what to dream, then real life would have to be a disappointment because most of the time, in the waking world, you are firmly stuck with what you have got, and what you have got is not all that it might be.

Perhaps you could dream a world that is more drab than the real one knowing that when you wake, what you have will seem bright and sparkly in comparison, but that too would be a waste wouldn’t it?  A third of your life spent in circumstances far more dreary than they have any need to be.  While you sleep, you could be a God, a rockstar, a saviour of mankind (peoplekind?).  Your world could be filled with colour, a kaleidoscope, a garden in full summer bloom, then surely, rather than the ability to decide what to dream, you would crave the ability to remember it all in the morning.

I wonder, I wonder…

The Alarm Call

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on Pexels.com

When I woke this morning, I was cooking flatbreads on a tropical beach with a friend who was telling me how to identify lab-grown salmon.  The recollection is crystal clear, but it is ring-fenced:  I cannot remember a single detail more, I cannot illuminate you further except… wait, yes, the salmon came in little oval cells, like Ibuprofen capsules.  They looked like giant pink mouse droppings on the plate. 

Why?  I have no idea.  I have strained to find an explanation.  Who was the friend?  I really don’t know.  Why do I (presumably) associate them with food?  Ditto.  Why was I cooking flatbreads and why did both my unknown friend and I think that they would be a suitable accompaniment for what appeared to be fish-flavoured Tic-Tacs?   And the beach?  Well, it felt like it was tropical, but I really can’t be sure: it was a dream, who’s to say that the palm trees weren’t plastic?

The alarm clock went off at precisely its normal hour.  I am usually prepared for it, already half awake, my hand heading towards the ‘Snooze’ button before the first inane chortle of the Breakfast DJ.  This morning it took me by surprise, caught me fully asleep and sounded a clarion ‘Beep’ rather than its normal Radio 2 burp.  I was bathed in sweat: clearly caught mid-dream.  Maybe that’s why I presumed the beach was tropical. 

Clearly I pressed the wrong button in setting the alarm the previous evening (Although why, I cannot begin to imagine.  I have had the alarm for years and have always primed it in exactly the same way, uneventful night after uneventful night.) and the unaccustomed electrical siren startled me into wakefulness rather than allowing the soothing tones of the breakfast DJ to lull me, as usual, back into a micro-sleep, before waking me in time to press Snooze just one more time.

I seldom remember anything I dream, so this adamantine recollection, although fragmentary is – pardon me – alarming.  Why was I dreaming it in the first place?  It must surely have had some foothold in the day that preceded it, but I cannot think of a single instance that would lead me down that particular gustatory path.  I cannot think, either, why I was so fully asleep when the alarm sounded.  I always wake in advance of the alarm, even when the time is an unaccustomed one.  Was my mind so distracted by this particular dream that it quite forgot its primary function of preparing me for wakefulness before the bloody clock shocked me into it?

It has bothered me all day.  It has set synapse against synapse in my poor enfeebled noggin: wakeful elements attempting to tease information out of the uncooperative elements of the occipital lobe.  If there are neurons up there that know the secret, they are not letting on, and such elements of my mental faculties that I am able to muster remain, like me, completely in the dark.  It bothers me.  I fear it might keep me awake at night…

I was standing at a public urinal today, mulling this situation over as my mind and my bladder emptied in unison, when the person to one side of me – how shall I put this – vented with some gusto.  Instantly the man to the other side of me said ‘Blimey.  I don’t know what it is mate, but whatever it is, you’ve dropped it.’  I laughed so much I had to dry my shoes…

Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!*

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

In my last blog (Working Title) I attempted to answer the questions posed by Petra in her Writing Questions for YOU post.  Not unusually for me, a few dozen words became a few hundred and I ended my own post having answered (in a peculiarly roundabout way, I admit) only one of her questions.  I promised (threatened) to answer the others and, unfortunately, this is the best I have yet managed.  The questions seemed to me, serious ones, so I have given them some consideration and answered them as honestly as I can.  This is not my strength, so please forgive me if I meander… 

The first question asked whether dreams have ever provided inspiration for stories and, if so, how?  I have two main problems with dreams as inspiration:

  1. In general, I do not remember them, and
  2. I am never totally convinced that everything is not a dream: that my entire life is not merely a figment of somebody else’s fevered nocturnal machinations, in which case it is just possible that my dreams are reality and the reason I don’t remember them is because they are incredibly tedious.

I don’t believe that I have ever knowingly written anything based on a dream, but I have written about dreams in a post, way back in November 2019 (All You Ever Wanted to Know About Dreams, But Were Afraid to Ask), so if you truly seek the answers, they just might be there.

The next can of worms (I’m sorry, ‘question’) involved writing about other races and genders. Well, I truly have never questioned the ethnicity of any of my characters. (Does that make me racist?) They just are. I cannot claim to be content with that, but in my small world, everybody is the same under the skin, and skin is just that – something to keep the rain off. I am perfectly happy to talk about racism; it is inherently, futilely evil and pernicious, but writing about it within the kind of posts that I write would simply trivialise it, and I have no desire to do that. There are many who are perfectly capable of articulating the sheer iniquity of it, but I am not one of them. Most of my characters, at heart, are me and they are whatever colour, whatever diaspora you choose for them. I very much hope that you like them when they are likeable and dislike them when they are not.

As for gender, well, I have to admit that the gender of my characters often changes during writing.  If you have ever read any of the Dinah and Shaw Little Fictions, you should know that Dinah is almost certainly me, but then again, so is Shaw…  I think in most respects we are similar – we laugh at the same things, get mad at the same things, cry at the same things regardless of reproductive arrangements.  In a few respects however, we are completely different and that has to be celebrated.  If you can consider those differences in a way that both sexes find amusing, well, that’s comedy gold isn’t it?  If you ever find a way of doing it, please let me know.  (The late, great Victoria Wood handled it effortlessly.  Unfortunately few of us, if any, will ever possess such talent.)

I am a passionate believer that, fundamentally, we are all the same and that we should, therefore, all be afforded exactly the same opportunities in life – which we patently are not.  I have no idea how we can put that right.  Antagonising a certain type of person will just entrench their views; preaching only ever appeals to the already converted.  If I can make somebody think by making them smile well, at least it’s a start isn’t it?  I’m not keen on confrontation and I would never seek to deliberately offend (although I have no doubt that I may have inadvertently done so a thousand times) and I think that seriously limits me, but it does mean that I have never published anything that I truly regret.  I regret having published things that I now realise were just not good enough, but that’s a whole different bucket of frogs. I’m annoyed that I can’t do better, but ashamed?  I don’t think so.  There’s always time though…

One thing I seldom, if ever, stick my nose into is religion.  As far as I can see, there is more than enough room in this world for anyone to believe whatever they choose to believe.  I completely understand why religion is so emotive, I understand the passion.  What I don’t understand is why the passion so readily becomes violence.  I cannot believe that hatred of ‘others’ is a true tenet of any religion.  You may say that I’m a dreamer etc etc.

Finally (at last!) the question of style. Do I Work on Style? Well, patently not. Take a read through my ‘back catalogue’ and you will be absolutely assured of my lack of it. I fear that ‘This Man Had No Style’ may well be my epitaph. As for genre, well, other than the constant attempt to grapple a little humour from everything I write, I don’t really think I work within one. I hope that, other than being filed under ‘drivel’, I am not that easy to categorise.

So, that’s it.  I have tried to answer the questions honestly.  I hope you will forgive me if I promise not to do it again.

When you know the answers, I think, perhaps, you keep them to yourself…

*Focus (1972)

Perchance to Dream

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Woke with a start. Why?

Don’t usually wake in the middle of the night. Not unless I want to… you know. Admit, need to do that rather more often these days. Lie awake for some time before certain of needs. Little men inside head require time to fall-in. May have been woken by something else entirely of course: mouse exercising jaw on rafters; adenoidal cat screaming on the lawn; twenty year old Ford Mondeo revving past, full speed, flat out, having left its exhaust in Doncaster; back gate banging in gale like… like… well, like back gate in gale. Sometimes something very loud lands in back garden. I think. Know what imagination is like in the middle of the night. Once thought that big toe was Lenin. Sometimes I can hear my eyebrows growing…

Imagination, of course, that’s it. Now know why I woke so suddenly. Imagination. Strange dream. Chased by large Danish Blue on legs. Strange sequinned wannabe from X-Factor singing song by disgraced 70’s half-hit wonder. Perma-tanned man with peripatetic smile bouncing on prostate.

Ought to write this down while still fresh in mind, before details become twisted e.g. perma-tanned prostate dressed as female blue cheese being chased by delusional morons singing next year’s Eurovision Song Contest entry… Actually, might have read that in yesterday’s newspaper. Should write it down anyway. Will forget by morning. Will remember only that I have forgotten whatever it is I had to remember.

Now, where pen and paper? Remember seeing pen when getting out of shower earlier. Still have small blue hole in heel. Or is it black? Perhaps pen still on bathroom floor. Perhaps among shards of clear plastic, refill is still usable. As ever was…

Always buy these pens. Why? Why is ball-point always hemispherical? Why does flat bit always hit paper at crucial time, leaving sticky blue pool on paper? Or black pool. Handwriting resembles scrawl of madman…

Grip sticky refill between slightly trembling fingers and search for paper in desk drawer. Desk drawer locked tight by mysterious night-time force. Pull hard against malevolent night-time Gremlin. Drawer releases… suddenly. Hit head on book case, drop drawer on foot. Dance around on one foot, cursing under breath, aware that penalty for waking sleeping wife is sleepless night followed by day of stares and silence. Become aware of sticky blue footprints on mushroom carpet. And walls. Sticky blue refill stuck to ear.

Grasp sheaf of crumpled paper and take refuge in bathroom, away from scene of accident. Bathroom only bulb in house that does not light entire neighbourhood like UFO – like candles on my birthday cake. Not easiest place to write. Paper sticks to soap, pen falls in sink. Foot trapped in toilet bowl. At least ink has flushed away. Or perhaps wife has put blue block in cistern again.

Very conscious of value of clearly remembered dreams in psychoanalysis. Saw play about Freud once. Sigmund, not Clement. Musical I think. Jolly songs and neuroses. Everything relates to… you know. Including blue cheese. Remember saw a film once about writer’s dream. French I think. Very symbolic. 3 hours, no dialogue, no blue cheese, no Victorian Freak Show misfits, just bestial grunting and flashing monochrome images of crumpled bedsheets and a half-opened wardrobe. Deeply boring. Like Prime Minister’s Question Time. The London Eye. And ‘Viz’.

Suddenly aware that I am being watched by face in furniture. Daytime, grain in wooden doors looks like… well, grain in wooden doors, but at night is full of faces. Grinning faces. One eye… underneath nose. Can also see skull. Unless tip head to one side, then can see stag. Slightly damaged antler, three legs, no tail. Carrying umbrella or shooting stick. Probably large knot in daytime. Or scene of long-ago coffee mishap.

Strange faces now joined by strange noises. Gurgle, gurgle. A strange sort of thrum. Thrum, thrum. Must have air pocket in boiler again. Or burglar in aqualung. Night time, whole house twangs like newly filled tooth when faced with ice. Or coffee. Or anything really…

Stags head has become grinning dentist. Antler has become whirring drill. Dentist has three legs and pointed tail. Is holding trident. Vaguely aware of familiarity in insane grin. Could be well-known talent spotter. Or banshee. Step back and bang head on bathroom cabinet. Attempt to fish gold filling from blue toilet bowl. Hope toilet lid does not fall on fingers.

Toilet lid falls on head. Commence search for other filling in inky waters. Can almost hear dentist laughing. Thrum, thrum.

Feel very strange. Need drink of water. Need glass. Turn on tap and form cup with hands. Place hands under running tap. Dry self with towel. Also floor, walls and ceiling. Drink water direct from tap. No trouble now remembering to phone dentist in morning. Teeth have begun to resemble stalactital growths. More gap than tooth. Water still running. Always same problem when I hear running water. Surely toilet lid cannot fall again. Tomorrow will nail it to cistern.

Give up on writing half-remembered dream and creep back to nicely cooled-off bed. In my absence, wife has swelled to three times normal size. Requires all but six inches of mattress. Wrapped in duvet, like Swiss Roll. Symbiotically joined to sheets. At least sleep should come quickly. Should come shortly. Should come eventually…

Had a trick as a child. Pretend bed was submarine, fast car or aeroplane. Am competing in round the world race. Winning of course. And as I drift off to sleep, I decide what to dream about. Think very, very hard of something peaceful. Concentrate hard. Do not allow mind to wander. No thoughts of ill-advised blue cheese supper, Simon Cowell or demented bedroom veneers…

Woke with a start. Why?

The amount of sleep required by the average person is about five minutes more.  Max Kauffmann

All You Ever Wanted To Know About Dreams, but Were Afraid To Ask


You all know the scene: you are late walking into the examination room at school. As you enter, you become aware that you are not wearing shoes. You barely have time to wonder why, before you grow volcanically hot upon the discovery that your tootsies are not alone in their state of undress, and that your whole body has joined in the fun. The whole class, which by now contains everyone you have ever known, turns towards you and starts to laugh and you use your hands to cover up as much of yourself as you can while you wait for the alarm clock to go off. It’s a common dream I believe, but none-the-less, one that will have earned Mr Freud and his acolytes many a hot supper.

Dreams are a kind of surrealist re-boot for the brain: a means of finally closing down the half dealt with bric-a-brac that constitutes a day. So why do they contain so many scenarios that would have no place, either in your conscious or subconscious thoughts, within your wakeful hours? And why do these mad scenarios keep replaying in your dreams? If dreams are intended to purge this useless nonsense from the brain, then clearly they fail in their duty, when the very same irrational situations play out again and again.

Some people can recall their dreams in frightening detail. Others dream in monochrome – presumably because they prefer a 1950’s film noire-style defenestration for their unheralded meanderings: dreams through the window to the soul. I have no idea how well-filmed my own dreams are. I very rarely recollect exactly what I have dreamt. I remember the sense of them, but seldom the detail. Perhaps just as well, I think: my sense of confusion with real life is bad enough. To be honest, I find the very notion that anybody who is not paid to do so, would find any interest at all in the content of somebody else’s dream, to be very odd. Is there anything in the world as boring as another person’s dream?

There are, according to the internet, a couple of dozen commonly recurring ‘themes’: falling, being chased, being naked at school (so at least I’m not alone), flying – all at a rate of about ten million people per theme anxious to interpret them for you. The ‘art’ of dream interpretation seems to me to be staggeringly simple:
“What do you dream about?”
“I’m running away from something.” – (We all do this apparently.)
“What are you running away from?”
“I don’t know.” – (Nobody does.)
“Are you worried about anything at work or at home?”
“Yes, I suppose so.” – (Isn’t everybody?)
“Well, that’s what you’re running away from. That’ll be £500 please.” (This is the point at which you realize that it is bankruptcy you are trying to escape.)

The principle is the same as clairvoyance: find me a room with enough people in it and there will always be somebody who has lost, or knows somebody who has lost, someone with the initial B, or possibly R… Dream catching with ectoplasm.

I would imagine that most people have, at some time, experienced dreams associated with falling – and we all know that, having fallen for some time, if you ever hit the ground, you die. The same fate as you would face in the conscious world I would surmise, unless you’re in a soft-play area.

Another common dream is that your teeth are falling out. This is not a dream! This is the consequence of a dental pay-per-filling wage structure in the 70’s. This is real life for a man of my age. I do not need to be asleep to realise that a crunchy bit in my porridge is either:
a) A piece of grit (on which I will almost certainly break a tooth).
b) A piece of already decomposing molar.
c) A woodlouse thoughtfully left there by the grandchildren.
It is one of life’s little ironies that each time a piece of my tooth breaks away from its moorings, I manage to chew on it and break another tooth.

A further almost universal theme, apparently, is ‘flying’: not in an aeroplane or a helicopter, but just flying, with your arms outstretched and the wind blowing through what remains of your hair. This, presumably, is the precursor to the ‘falling’ dream. From my very limited experience of such things, I would have to say that being up in the air without something or other wrapped around you (like, for instance, a Jumbo Jet) seldom ends well. I don’t suppose that many ‘flying’ dreams find you touching down safely in the Seychelles, where you spend a pleasant week of sun and cocktails before returning via Dubai for the Duty Free. In real life, ‘flying’ for the average human being is more correctly known as ‘the short interval between falling over and hitting the ground’. The most likely destination is Accident and Emergency.

One or two further dreamscapes are familiar to us all. Their meanings, I might suggest, are both obvious and banal, and really not worth even discussing until you’ve cracked open the second bottle:
• Driving a vehicle that is out of control – interpretation: some element of your life is out of control. (My word, that took some working out, didn’t it?)
• Being pregnant – interpretation: you are, you fear you are, or you want to be pregnant (as above – particularly if you have sore breasts). I’m guessing this only applies to ladies. (I’ll be honest – I started to read the proper explanation, but there’s only so much Freud you can take, and I gave up, so it is possible that the real explanation is very much more exciting – although, frankly, I doubt it.)
• Your partner is having an affair – interpretation: you believe your partner is having an affair. If he/she is having an affair, then this hardly qualifies as a ‘dream’ does it? It’s the same as being awake – except that you are asleep. If he/she is not having an affair, then this qualifies as a neurosis. Either way, wake up and face it. The conversation will probably go like this:
“I know you are having an affair.”
“A what?”
“An affair. With your secretary.”
“I don’t have a secretary, and I am not having an affair with anyone. Where did you get this from?
“I dreamt it.”
“Oh God, not again…”
“I know you’re having an affair.”
“Well, don’t you want to talk about it?”
Either way, it probably beats falling to a certain death…

It seems to me that for most of the time dreams are little more than a mashed-up re-run of everything we thought, saw and did during the preceding day, stripped of chronology and rationality: liquidised and gobbed out one random spoonful at a time. Conscious and subconscious bonded together into a bland, unpalatable emulsion that would probably get you summarily dismissed from Masterchef. Thus, reduced to an homogenous puree, the humdrum constituent parts of an ordinary day meld into something that is at once both fantastical and lacklustre: like ‘Lord of the Rings’. I imagine that during times of stress, dreams become more vivid – with the consequence that you are more likely to recall the nonsense when you wake. Dull rememberings taking on huge significance in those grey-light moments when consciousness is kicked awake, but your hand is still wiping the stream of dribble from your chin. I guess that most people, like myself, find it difficult to recall dreams-gone-by in any detail simply because, by and large they are very, very boring.

I began my last post, ‘Dreams are dreams; nothing more, nothing less’ and it was this short sentence that set me hurtling off along today’s winding path. On this one occasion it is possible, I think, that I was right and, truth be told, I’m a little bit miffed about it because it has just occurred to me that I could have just left it at that, saved myself a thousand or so words today and had a little snooze instead…

“Trust in dreams, for in them is the gate to eternity.” Khalil Gibran.
“I had the one with the giant doughnut again.” Colin McQueen.

Envoi: moving slightly off-piste here – I would like to propose that we add super-consciousness to our list of consciousnesses: it is the only possible explanation for the feeling that we all get when we know in advance what record is going to be played on the radio.

Love in Mind – A Valentine Divertissement.


…on falling asleep in the dentist’s waiting room over elderly copies of Psychology Today and Woman’s Own with Jeremy Kyle playing in the background…

…Dreams are dreams; nothing more, nothing less. Reality cannot hide behind the thin veneer of truth and ‘self’ cannot be discovered in the fevered fantasy of uncertainty. Order cannot exist where there is no logic, nor logic without order. Reason sleeps while the mind stays wakeful, and from where it raises its images, who can say?

They met, quite by chance, after he inadvertently bid £371 for a second-hand corn plaster on E-bay. Their emails, confirming prompt despatch, became increasingly fevered and he realised that love was in the air after discovering that she had somehow removed £3000 from his PayPal account in order to finance a romantic weekend in Venice. Not with him, unfortunately. Never-the-less he continued to pursue her, purchasing over the ensuing weeks one slightly bent can opener, two novelty corkscrews, a pair of slightly soiled tartan socks and an autographed photo of Hilda Baker. Knowing only that her E-bay name was sociopath1 and that she did not live in Italy – a country with which he had refused to deal since he discovered that his uncle Derek was being systematically short-changed by the local Mr Whippy to the tune of fifty mini Flakes per year – he hired a private detective to discover her whereabouts. Eventually, having hired another private detective to find the first who had disappeared with £1000 in cash, his bank card and PIN, he managed to trace her through a specialist fraud unit and made her an offer she could not refuse. She refused, but eventually agreed to meet him as soon as he had given her his credit card number.

He remembered the first time they met: the way she seemed to drift towards him as though on the back of a driverless milk float, her head held steady, her feet unmoving, her delicate hands holding a sack of a handbag. He remembered the faint smell of cats. She was nothing like her photograph, yet he recognised her at once. She was wearing a plaid Tam O’Shanter as arranged and she had a carnation in her lapel as he had asked, although he was slightly surprised to note that it was a can of evaporated milk rather than a flower. She was carrying a rolled-up newspaper which, he was alarmed to note, she held like an improvised weapon. She terrified him and he loved her for it. She demanded it. His panic at her approach seemed natural at the time – he had never met anyone in such a fashion before – the quickening of his pulse, the perspiration on his forehead, the pricking at the back of his neck, the pain in his groin; was this love at first sight, or the bubonic plague? If only he knew her name. He was sure it would be a symphony. A bow with which to caress the strings of his heart. It would be musical; it would be lyrical; it would be magical; it would be mystical. It would transcend the boundaries between beauty and emotion. It would be Tracey.

She spoke and her voice washed over him like the gentle flow of a sparkling brook: her words were a song (something by Marilyn Manson); her teeth glowed with the mellow hue of a golden sunset; her breath a nostalgic reminder of the farmyard. Her hair was long and auburn with a slight ‘flick’ to the right – the consequence of having received so many swipes left – she walked on her toes, giving her the appearance of a panther stalking its prey, or (as was actually the case) someone with a hole in their shoe. In her eyes he saw all the hidden depths of Woman. They were very well hidden. And very very deep. Like the Mariana Trench they were unplumbable with all currently available equipment.

Love is blind, they say, and certainly it helped that they were both seriously myopic. She was his first love. Infatuation made him blind to her tendency to leave him regularly for anyone she considered more attractive or exciting, coming back to him only after he had bought the chips; her habit of smearing her bare backside in Vaseline before sliding down the banister at the local shopping centre; her practice of violent nose-picking (seldom her own) during times of stress. She, fortunately, had remained oblivious to his own peccadilloes: his propensity to chant aloud selections from the AA Guide to the Yorkshire Dales when queuing at the post office; his habit of picking at his toenails with a sharpened matchstick when intimidated (usually by the wine waiter); his unwillingness to change his underwear in any month without a ‘Q’ in it. He had to be honest with himself – he was never love’s young dream. Truth be told, he was not even love’s young slightly-distracted-by-a-walnut-whip. He was a wallflower in his own bedroom. The ugly duckling in a brood of one. The non-detonator in the family box of Brocks*. He had never kissed her. Perhaps he never would; his teeth, after all, were very inexpensive and not quite his own (much like his hair and the faux-leather truss he had borrowed from a friend) and anyway, he was disconcerted by the muzzle that the police insisted she always wore in public.

He remembered his own humble origins. His fourteen years living alone in a mud-lined shack at the end of a rubble cart track, wondering why the rest of his family lived three-quarters of a mile away in a nice pre-war, red brick semi’. He remembered his favourite toy: an empty crisp packet with a bottle cap, which he called Eric, inside. He remembered his pet pebble. And he remembered his mother with her hair always neatly bunned, her arms folded tightly across her chest and her apron, always covered in cookie dough, despite the fact that she had last made cookies at school in 1943. Of course, his mother loved him, but then she also loved Vesta Chow Mein, and she never remembered to fry the crispy noodles. Was she not the woman who had nurtured and fed him throughout his childhood; cared for him and loved him; advised and supported him? No, as a matter of fact she was not. She was the woman who scolded and chided him; who taunted him about his extra nipple; who boiled his underpants while he was still wearing them. She told him he was gullible and he believed her. She played strange games: Hide, But Not Seek; Hunt The Food; Lick The Electric Light Socket. She made him hide from the rentman, the milkman, the window cleaner… God! How he hated Postman’s Knock.

He remembered his father. Dear father and his homely homilies. The smell of tobacco; the gentle mocking laugh; the great hook of a nose with the semi-permanent dew-drop which eventually formed a stalactite some four feet long. He too liked to play strange games, but could always be discouraged with an electric cattle prod.

That golden summer of love seemed so far away now. A distant memory of fleeting passion that burned violently for just one glorious season before it was extinguished by the suffocating reality of life and her court appearance on the charge of multiple bigamy. Too short that time, when his mind, unfettered by the quest to understand his own mortality, began to consider how best to get his arm around her on the bus without knocking the e-cigarette from the mouth of the woman on the seat behind. Too short the time he lived his life with the gay abandon of feckless youth and somebody else’s bank card; too short the time that they had meshed together like separate pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle; too late by the time that they realised that she was, in fact, the edge of the Hermitage Museum by Twilight and he was the belly of the Fat Controller. Too short the summer when they thought of nothing but joy, love and beauty… and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. The bond they had once shared became a bucolic indifference which eventually boiled over into spiteful intolerance and a sock-full of frozen peas.

As for love, well, after that one magnificent summer, he would never feel its full flush again. There were moments, true, when he felt certain that it was waiting for him just around the corner, but it was usually a mugger… He was certain that sometime, in the middle of it all, something had happened that had changed him forever, but he could not remember what. He did not wish to recollect, because to do so would be to remember and to remember would be a betrayal of the past. And the past was his present and his present was a giant, hand-knitted crew-neck sweater from his grandmother, four sizes too big, with three arms and the neck-hole sewn up. Dreams are funny that way…

Valentine’s Day is 14th February 2019 – when normal blog service will be resumed. And for all aspiring psychoanalysts, before you ask, the answer is ‘No’.

*Brocks Fireworks – the poor cousin of the more popular Standard Fireworks: a limpid potpourri of damp squibs in a cheap cardboard box.