Graham Reid | | 7 min read
The recurring dreams are different – but very detailed. Yet there's something which binds them in my subconscious.
In the first and most common I am in a strange city, some of which I recognise.
There are citadels and cathedrals, winding narrow lanes, ruined buildings and under the archways Arabian traders spread their wares on low tables. People have real faces, old and young, but rarely do I see anyone I recognise.
Once there was tourist bus outside a Buddhist temple but I wasn't part of the group and so walked under ochre skies down the hill and across the bridge to the old port where rusting tramp steamers with Korean markings and modern ferries were moored on the other side of the railway lines.
There are wide street corners I recognise from somewhere: Melbourne or a half-remembered city in Italy?
There is a neon-lit cafe at night below a different bridge – more an aqueduct really – and I'm waiting for someone as the full moon rises behind a massive building which probably belonged to a Medici.
There have been rural villages in South East Asia and low voices behind curtains as I walk past, a record shop full of old vinyl but the ones I want are too far back . . . and anyway I am meeting an old man at the nearby laundromat who has a map.
The only common thing here among these images – which change almost every dream – is that I'm alone and at one point I realise I don't have a passport or any money. I don't know the name of the area I am staying or the name of my modest hotel.
I am lost with no way back to wherever I need to be, and in a couple of recent versions I also have no phone.
Since we've had the flooding my dreams have involved more rain, dark rivers and dirty lakes.
The last time I was on a tram which passed a street corner which was familiar – but familiar from previous dreams, not in the real world maybe – and so I decided to stay on for a little longer.
The Scottish woman with the wild fuzzy grey hair tells me I should get off at the next stop and so I do and walk up the hill so I can look at the city below.
I cross the railway tracks covered in snow – not cold snow, more like fine warm flour – and I look across the cupolas and mosques, the huge stadium and the bombed-out buildings. And I still have no idea where I am.
But I feel fine because, as I have learned from just how such a dream occurs – different cities and buildings, every now and again a place I wonder if is in my imagination or something I did actually see – I know I will wake.
And I do.
I am no longer frightened or anxious about being adrift like this, at some point I am close to waking and so nudge myself forward and there I am back in the familiar.
Those dreams – just variations with different cityscapes and streets, sometimes me taking huge slow-motions strides and lifting off to fly over a landscape of high hills, forests and ocean – have become welcome.
The other recurring dreams not so much.
I'm at university and it is exam time. But I haven't been to class all year. I think I have passed one paper but I've never been to any of my other lectures in subjects like the English Civil War.
I don't even know who the lecturer was, the course content or where the classes were held. I need to find the exam room, but why would I bother? I have no idea what the subject is about.
But I'm panicking.
I am plunging headlong into failure to the embarrassment of my mum and dad.
Especially my dad.
I never doubted my dad loved me very much but I always felt I was a constant disappointment to him.
I was pretty good at rugby but he only seemed to remember when I failed to take a high ball or miss a tackle. I guess he, having grown up in New Zealand, saw his young son who'd grown up in Scotland, needed to become a Kiwi kid and that meant rugby and hardening up.
I was sometimes told to harden up.
The biggest disappointments for my parents were my schooling. When I went to intermediate school I was put in a class with slower leaners and some oddballs. Not special needs or anything, just the less bright ones.
My mum and dad were horrified (I could read and write, in fact I was a voracious reader) and insisted I be retested, and the school complied.
I remember the day of the test – some maths and some reading/writing I think. There was another boy and me on a glorious day in late February and I spent most of my time looking out the window at the other kids playing on the top field in the sun.
The test results came back. I stayed in the same class.
When I went to secondary school I ended up in class much further down the totem pole than my friends. Again my parents were disappointed, and dad angry.
After a few weeks the school did some second testing of all students just to see if the placements were right: I went down a class.
On one report under the parent's comment which went back to my teachers my dad wrote, “Be ruthless. Hammer him along as I do.”
I passed School Cert but failed UE.
In all those years I tried my best but had no real idea of how to study and would waste my time doing silly drawings or secretly listening to pop music.
I went to university because that is what was expected not because I had any aptitude. My mum had left school at 14 and my dad at 15. They were intelligent, well-read and well-traveled people with a wide circle of friends from all walks of life. But they didn't really have much clue about what university meant.
I had even less.
I went there at 17 so was immature, unprepared and ill-advised. I took sciences which I hadn't really done at school. In chemistry I was lost on the first day.
In the first year I passed one paper and failed two – more disappointment at home – and went back the following year. I was given a D Restricted in Botany (meant a pass but don't come back) and uni kicked me out.
I went to teacher's college and my girlfriend got pregnant. My fault again.
For more than a decade I'd let my mum and dad down, and was pretty inept at other things outside of school.
If I cleaned the car I did it badly and my dad would call me “a bloody clot”; if I tried my hand at some minor repair on our dinghy I did it all wrong and I'd be “a bloody clot” again.
I heard those words right through my teenage years. Add in coming home drunk or bleeding and even now I can feel the weight of disappointment my dad must have had about his only son.
That recurring dream of failure relates directly to that period. Half a century later in my subconscious I haven't got over it.
There's also a slight variant. In the first failure dream I am 20 but in the next I am a little older.
I'm a teacher and turn up to class without a clue of what I'm going to do, no notes, not even an idea about the subject I'm expected to take. Another dream is me as a teacher waiting for the school inspectors to come and check my lesson plans and grade book. And I have no lesson plans and haven't given out or marked any assignments all year.
I'm just waiting for the hammer to fall.
Dreams of being lost, of failure and being found out.
The dreams of being lost in a strange city I now enjoy because the barrier between what I've seen and what I dream is quite porous. There are images in dreams of places I'm sure I've been but do not recall, and there is a certain enjoyable adventure about it . . . and knowing I will wake.
The other dreams are much more troubling.
When all these dreams happen I get to the edge of consciousness and push myself awake.
The dreams of being lost I can quietly come out of but the dreams of disappointment, failure and being found out are worse.
I really have to force myself awake to escape them.
And when I do I reach out and rest my hand on Megan and she will say, “Are you alright, darling?” and I will say I am and she will whisper, “I love you” and roll her warm body into my embrace.
I will lie there thinking of my dreams, holding her and listening to her soft breathing.
And I know with certainty that I love my wife and family, and that I am loved in return.
I am happy and have been very lucky in my life.
I'm enjoying more and more being lost in the city visions. . . but I do wish I could get over the other more troubling thoughts which come up from the depth.
There's no need for them anymore, probably never has been.
I guess I'm still just a bloody clot.
These entries are of little consequence to anyone other than me Graham Reid, the author of this site, and maybe my family, researchers and those with too much time on their hands.
Enjoy these random oddities at Personal Elsewhere.