It’s Not (Quite) All About Me (part two)


I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I am aware that when I do, I drive my wife barmy with “What was she in? Was it that thing with wosname, out of the thing set in Oldham – or was it Glasgow – you remember, she was having an affair with the bloke out of the Pampers advert, you know, the one with the lip – kept a sockful of marbles in his trouser pocket… oh, what was it called?” And I can’t let it go. I will spend the next fifteen minutes trawling around on Google, eventually deciding that I actually know her from all the previews they’ve been running for this series and return in time to find that she’s been murdered by the woman from the Specsavers advert. I often wonder why my wife gets so overcome by tiredness whenever I turn up to watch a program with her: why she’s usually gone up to bed before I have had time to tell her that the woman playing the detective’s wife was actually the murderer in a program I watched the week before… or was she the zookeeper with hives? “Oh, that’s this? Sorry, I didn’t realise. Of course, it was the librarian all the time wasn’t it? You don’t know? No, of course you don’t. It’s only just started hasn’t it? I’ll just go and… trim my nasal hair…” Anyway, it is now out in the open, isn’t it? I shall address it.

And I am useless at the kind of social chit-chat that is shared with acquaintances rather than friends. My brain, full of questions – “Do I know them? Do I know their name? Do they have children? Maybe I know their partner… Do they even have a partner?” – freezes and I do nothing but nod like a tongue-tied mute (if that’s even possible) in fear of saying something crass (normally asking after the health of someone whose funeral I have recently attended) until we part, at which point I remember who they are and realise how rude I have just been. I’ll address that too…

And – my word this is disturbingly easy – I am a terrible travel-companion. Travel makes me anxious and I have an almost pathological fear of being late: put the two together and I become a bloody nightmare. I insist on always being so early to the airport that I have more than enough time to become nervous beyond comprehension. Even a giant Toblerone is not enough to settle me. Eventually ladling me onto an aircraft is a blessed relief to my family as I am, by then, struck dumb with terror. Fear of flying, contrary to what people may try to tell you, is not irrational. Expecting a giant metal tube with wings not to come crashing down to the ground is, to my mind, irrational. Disaster is the logical conclusion to the bloody thing being up there in the first place. It’s not the crashing that scares me, it’s the moments before (and I am not thinking about the in-flight food). It is the realisation that I am, thanks to the bloody-minded check-in algorithm, half an aeroplane away from my nearest and dearest, strapped in next to an over-lubricated first time flyer, trying to explain that ‘no, there will be no bar service as long as the plane remains pointed straight at the ground.’ I have realised that the only that thing settles me to the scientific rationale of powered flight is gin. But I’ll address that as well…

I could go on. Sadly, it would be very easy. Trouble is, of course, that whilst I am fully conscious of all the bad characteristics of which I am aware, they undoubtedly pale into insignificance alongside all of those of which I am unaware. How can I address what I am unaware of? I could ask someone, of course, but I don’t really want to hear the answer. It might be long and painful. It might involve traits that I had always considered endearing. It might mean that I can never eat or sleep again. It might mean that I have to change the way that I breathe. It might mean that I have to stop breathing altogether in certain circumstances – e.g. the pause before the winner of Strictly… is announced. No, I can’t seek outside input: I am no Piers Morgan, but even so the results may be too unpredictable and the solutions too drastic. You see, I am reconciled to the fact that I am not very good, but I do not honestly want to be made aware of the myriad ways in which I am actually quite bad.

I could, of course, stop making this all about me and start considering the flaws of those about me, but, in the end, that would only reflect on one person and you might be able to guess who that would be. Besides, I’ve become quite reconciled to being cranky, I just don’t want to be cranky and friendless, thank you very much. I’ll consider my own flaws and you can consider yours – if you have any, of course – I am jumping to conclusions. I’ll address that too…

Niles, I’ve got news for you.  Copernicus called and you’re not the centre of the universe. – Frasier

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.