Tilda and Rocky

I had a lovely dream this morning that made me sad when I woke up.

I had a daughter, Tilda, who everyone called Harry for reasons no-one knew. It seemed apt though because she was a happy, intelligent, confident kid, always with a smile. She radiated kindness and wisdom, and everyone who met her came away thinking that she would make her mark in the world. She was one of those rare people that others gravitate to and cherish.

She’d befriended a stray dog that became our pet – a handsome, tan coloured dog, a bit like a Viszla, though with a bit of mongrel thrown in. On it’s back it had five small discolourations that looked like stars, lighter than the surrounding skin. Tilda – Harry – had named him Rocky.

I was so proud and happy, so grateful, to have a daughter like Tilda. For someone like me, who’s lived a solo for much of my life, and therefore independent and egocentric, it was a welcome and surprising sensation. There was something self-effacing in the experience. I’m just her father, and it was enough for me to put aside my ambitions, my striving, my sense of having to act and do. All of that seemed small and irrelevant to me then, puny and petty and self-conscious. What need had I of any of that? I had Tilda. She was my legacy and my gift to the world. For the first time, I understood what it was like to live for another.

I woke with an ache. There was about a time, about ten years ago, I was determined to become a father and thinking I had to find a surrogate. That never happened. And I was reminded of the women who had set themselves for me, so determined and certain that they would win me when I knew they never would. I was ‘unwinnable’ – too independent, too contrary, I didn’t want to be won. This morning I wondered, as I have before: what if I had allowed myself to give way? What I lacked was humility, and the capacity to see myself as a part of a whole, rather than as a single whole.

Doing the thing you need to do

I’ve commented previously how throughout this lockdown my dreams have featured an ever-expanding cast of characters from my past. People I haven’t thought about for years, let alone seen, have been popping up in starring roles. On other occasions, it’s felt as if reality has been re-written in my dreamscape. It’s been interesting and curious and sometimes confronting.

Last night was another such dream in which obscure characters from the past made an appearance, and mostly it was cosy and relaxed, if a little strange, in the way of dreams. But then the dream took an unexpected turn, which is what I want to share today.

In the dream, I was in a kind of work environment, unrecognisable from anything that exists in reality, but perfectly natural in the surreal world of dreams. I was a competent, affable character, popular with my colleagues and much respected. The first part of the dream was spent catching up with these colleagues – characters from my past – in different scenarios, every one of them easy. I remember part of the business was concerned with growing barley (plucked from today’s headlines, but also touching upon my past). So there were agricultural and industrial aspects of the business, which is what the dream pivoted upon.

I’m going about my work normally when I hear some kind of steam engine labour. It made ugly noises, which made me pause to listen before it would settle down into a regular rhythm. That happened several times before it started again and didn’t stop, getting worse with every passing moment.

I remember thinking something along the lines that ‘it’s gonna blow’. There were people working in and around and I knew that if it exploded then many would be injured, perhaps killed. Without a thought, I began to run towards it.

There was no conscious thought in this. The risk to myself didn’t factor. I remember generally running at half pace initially, believing that others would be attending it, which is when the first real thought leapt to mind. What if they weren’t? And I knew I couldn’t leave it to chance – I had to do something. I re-doubled my pace.

I had to climb down a serious of ladders to get to it. The nearer I got, the louder it became. Finally, I climbed down the last ladder as someone was coming up. He yelled something to me along the lines of save yourself. I didn’t think of that, though. I knew it could blow at any moment, but what was the option? I couldn’t let that happen without trying to stop it. By now, I knew I was in danger, but I felt no real fear. It was too late for that. I ploughed through it as if it was an irrelevancy.

I was in the room alone with this thing, alarms blaring, and a disturbing roar coming from the machine itself. I realised I had raced to it without knowing what to do. I wasn’t an operator of the machine. I didn’t know how to turn it off or fix it. I raced towards it in hope, which is when I spotted an extension cord running from it – I kid you not. Quickly I pulled the cord from the outlet and thought, I’ve done what I could.

I ran back to the ladder and began climbing out. The alarms still blared. The machine was undiminished. It seemed no material difference had been made. I climbed out of the room into the next chamber and began climbing the second ladder. If it blew, then I was dead, but I had done my best. Then, as I climbed out of the second chamber into the third, the machine began to return to a steady beat and wind down.

Long story short, I had saved the day. People came to me. I was called a hero. I was interviewed by the media. Everyone one of them wanted to make something of it bigger than it was. I kept on trying to explain to them that I only did what I had to do. I didn’t think about it. I acted. And I became annoyed by them trying to elevate it into something more. Every word seemed to cheapen it. What choice was there? And it had just happened.

I wanted to get away. It felt a private thing, and I wished no-one knew it was me. It was simple, after all. I only did what I had to, no more.

Only dreams

Dreams again last night, starting with Rigby. This was a happy series of dreams as Rigby was as spirited and as affectionate in my dream life as he is in real life.

My cousins morphed into these dreams then, as is normal in the dark hours. This was happy too. Though I hardly see my cousins, I’m fond of all of them. They’re good people.

Finally, my step-sister made an appearance. In the dream it was happy. We always got on so well. I used to think that she loved me and mum more than she did her husband. For many years we had a special bond – that’s how people used to describe it. In the early days, when she was still a teen, she had a crush on me. I don’t think she ever lost that completely, though life moved on. We had similar tastes and outlooks, and a similar level of confidence and ambition. Each of us was curious. She was smart and sometimes sweet and sometimes tough. I had much more in common with her than I did my own natural born sister.

We lost each other when mum died. In the great disruption and acrimony that came after that, we found ourselves in opposition. Somehow, superficially at least, I think she came to blame me a little for the situation, though all I did was defend mum’s last wishes. When finally the dust settled on that my life was completely different. Not only had I lost my beloved mum, but all the family that joined with us when she married a second time was also lost, too, including my stepsister. I went from being in a large and loving family group to just me and my sister.

You move on, you accept it, but it’s been a source of sorrow whenever my mind happens across her. I could care less about the others, but I loved her – and when I need her most, she was gone.

There was a late-night call from her a few years later, missed on my end because it was past midnight. I figured she’d had maybe one too many chardy’s and called from remembrance and remorse. She followed up with a message though, wishing me well, ending it with an x. I had no doubt that she remained fond of me in her heart. She still follows me on Facebook.

It was last year, I think, that I reached out to her. Wasn’t it time, I suggested, that we became friends again? Hadn’t enough water gone under the bridge by now? She lives in Noosa, divorced with her kids. She didn’t respond.

And so I dream of her again, and though it was a delight to share her company in my sleep, I woke feeling sad because of what it meant.

Last week I wrote of a friend I’ve had a fraught relationship with in recent years. I’d dreamt of him. After I wrote, I sent him a message. In the course of that, I told him I loved him. I wanted him to do well, be well. He began to cry. We committed to our friendship again, and I suggested we set ourselves an exotic adventure together in the next couple of years.

I was glad I reached out. It doesn’t come easy to us blokes being that open, but it has its own reward.

I wish I could do the same for my stepsister, but I’ve tried that to no avail. She has her own life, she doesn’t need me pestering her. She’s made her decision. Sad, but that’s life. I still have my dreams, I guess.

Iso dreams

I’m generally a good dreamer. I hear from others how they dream irregularly and have a poor recollection of them. I seem to dream often, and though the dreams fade, they stay with me for a while.

Usually, I reckon, I would probably wake-up every second or third day with dreams lingering in my memory. I’ve noticed something a bit different since I’ve been living in iso, and I wonder if it’s been the same for others? I dream every night now, all through it and not just for a bit. The dreams are vivid and deep running. And – it seems to me – they’re about the people in my life. It’s almost as if in the absence of people around me, my mind is drawn to those who have meant something to me.

Last night I dreamt about Whisky. Whisky and I were great friends once. For many years we were closely linked. As I have, he has a great appreciation for fine food and wine, and with a good appetite for it, and we spent many occasions indulging those interests together. Like me, he was pretty restless, travelling often and far, and on occasion, we travelled together. To be blunt, we were also out and about a bit, social and inquisitive. We even unknowingly dated the same women on occasion.

We were tight for a long time and he was an intimate friend. He had a beautiful, warm personality, and at his best was quite playful. Of all my friends he’s by far the most sensitive. Many times we shared our deeper feelings, our private thoughts, even our fears. That’s unusual in most masculine relationships but was comfortable with him. And it was good for me.

Unfortunately, it came to an end a few years ago because the other side of that – sometimes – was an overweening ego. We were both strong personalities and characters, neither inclined to back down. That led to some fraught moments along the way, but nothing serious. But, though he could be charming, there were times he could be arrogant and inconsiderate and even cruel. For most of our relationship that was well and truly balanced out by the good stuff, but a few years back, it seemed to take over. That coincided with a time when I was struggling, and one day I made a decision that I’d had enough.

He was greatly shocked, I think, and for while we had nothing to do with each other for a while. Then, slowly, we began to re-connect. We’re not back to where we were and I doubt we’ll ever get there again. He’s on the other side of the country now and, I think, is showing the scars of a contested and independent life. In many ways he’s become quite frail, it seems, and is very conscious of it. I hate to say it, but he seems sad.

I dreamt of him last night, and it was all about our entangled lives. I can’t explain to you the narrative. I don’t know if there was one. What came out of it were things I understood already.

There were similarities between us, including self-belief and ambition, but one of the big differences was that I was self-aware. Self-awareness gives you a little bit of a buffer. It grounds you because no matter how you chafe and strive for you know the truth of yourself – or some of it, at least. I was always the steadier of us. Whisky was inclined to extremes, to highs and lows, and that was a part of his charm, but also a part of his downfall. When I hit strife, it wasn’t fun, but I took the blows because that’s my nature. Whisky, as smart as he is, never had those reserves.

It was sad remembering. I wish it was different and that he was closer. He doesn’t know it, but I care for him and wish I could do more for him. I still love him. I want him to believe in the future again, and when I realise that I know that I still do myself. I’ll persist and survive, that’s what I do. I wish I could share that gift with him.

It’s a funny time, we know that. I was speaking to another friend the other night, and she feels like she must take this time to change her life to how she wants it. That’s a fair call, but she feels the pressure to step-up and make a difference. Quiet, uneventful times like this lead naturally to reflection. We need more of that, and if it can lead to personal improvement, then great. You can’t force it, though. Let it happen. I told her not to overthink it (funny from me). Know what you want, and become.

I spoke to another friend. He’s been working from home the last month. His home life was rocky even before all this, but it came to a head last week. The combined stress of living in close proximity lead to his wife asking him to move out. No surprise, it’s been on the cards for ages and may be a good thing now that it’s finally happened. But it took being locked up 24/7 for it to happen. I wonder how many homes the same thing is happening?

Romance in the time of social distancing

I want to share with you a dream I had last night in the hope you might explain it to me. It’s quite amusing.

I’ve just returned to my apartment with an appealing neighbour I’ve met for the first time downstairs. She’s tall and though not beautiful, has an alluring quality: earnest, but wry at the same time, a person of substance who also knows how to have fun. There’s a faint and attractive northern European intonation to her voice. She wants to discuss with me some neighbourhood issue and, good citizen that I am, I’ve suggested we do so over a bottle of wine.

I leave her in the living room while I dash to the bathroom and quickly tidy up, as you do, putting away incriminating evidence and making sure the toilet seat is down, and so on. I return to find a little old lady is in my kitchen, putting things away in the fridge.

Turns out she’s from a delivery service I’d forgotten about and my neighbour has let her in. She’s all business, small and prim, like someone’s no-nonsense grandmother. She asks me to check things and to sign here.

When I look up, she’s in the bathroom and has shifted the washing machine out of the way (this is set in an apartment I lived in SY many years ago). She returns and tells me I have an amber alert on air-freshener.

“Um, an amber alert?” I mutter.

Turns out it means I’m almost out, and my surprise is not so much that such a thing as an amber alert exists, but rather that I possess air-freshener at all. I agree to add it to next weeks order.

By now she’s rummaged around in my bedroom and reports I’m short on condoms also – and I wonder what alert that is. “There’s more in the bathroom,” I tell her, my neighbour smiling in amusement at my predicament.

“Do you need any more?” the lady says.

“Sadly, no,” I respond.

My neighbour pipes up with a twinkle in her eye. Did I tell you she was alluring? “Oh, don’t be so pessimistic,” she says, “you can never have too many condoms.”

In a time of hoarding, who am I to argue? And so I agree to add some to my order, wondering if this is real life or a dream.

Without batting an eyelid, the little old lady asks me what sort, and begins reeling off the different types: “….ribbed, studded, flavoured, ultra-thin…”

I’m at a total loss by now. I turn to my neighbour. “What do you think?”

With a wry, confident smile, she tells me: “I like ribbed.”

Indeed, I think, and to no-one’s surprise, I order the ribbed, my mind by now in lurid and hopeful overdrive. The little old lady notes down my order – and the dream ends.

Hopefully, I get to part two tonight.

I posted this on Facebook earlier hoping to get some dream analysis. I got some surprisingly intelligent feedback. It was said this was a classic dream of being interrupted – the old lady being the force that prevents me from what I want to do. What about the amber alert? I felt sure it must mean something. I was told that it meant that I should stop and think before doing anything.

Fine time to tell me now!

I’m not going to argue with the analysis as it sounds pretty sensible, but I will offer my own explanation of the dream. It’s weighed on me the last couple of days knowing that for the next few months I’m not going to meet anyone new, not going to have the chance to flirt, and have no chance of a random fling even if I met someone, somehow – it’s hard to get intimate standing 1.5 metres from each other. These days, it’s probably illegal, too.

Ghosts of Christmas past

I switched the light off last night and went to sleep listening to mournful, hopeful, slowly swelling music of Henryk Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony.

I slept well, better than usual lately, but like most nights recently my sleep was full of dreams. That seems a feature of the last few months. Sometimes I feel as if I have dreamt all night long. The dreams are of the usual variety, some strange and surreal, some happy, some sad, some just quirky. The dream I remember from last night was sad.

The only reason I make mention of this now is that it seems a telling dream.

It’s Christmas time, I’m an adult, but younger than I am now. As in most dreams, the scene and perspective switches rapidly and there appears little in the form of a linear narrative. The moments I remember, however, are revealing.

There’s a sombre mood throughout. It’s Christmas day, but I’m heading off somewhere. At one stage someone says Merry Christmas to me, but there’s no-one there – I’m all alone. In the next scene, I look out the window and my step-father is there, smiling at me. He’s been dead for a dozen years, but he pops up here and there in the dream, like a Christmas ghost.

A moment later I’m speaking aloud as if there was someone there to hear me, as if it has dawned on me: “I need help.”

I’m meant to be travelling, but before I do I drop by my mother’s house – she’s still alive in my dream. And my stepfather is there again, alive and sitting in a lounge chair. I go to speak to my mum, who seems surprised, and perhaps a tad irritated, to see me. Her hair has a purple tint to it. She stops to check why I haven’t left yet, busy otherwise with Christmas day festivities.

Her Christmas guests I know well enough in the dream to nod at (I don’t recognise them from my conscious life). They’re not family and I have no connection with them, but my mother is hosting on Christmas day, rather than me, her son. In the dream, I’m saddened by it. Eventually, I leave.

That’s the dream.

Wait your turn

I had a dream last night where I was on my way to work and stopped into a café advertising fresh-made crumpets (I grab a home-made crumpet every Friday currently). I’m about to be served when a young couple who have come in after me start asking questions of the dude behind the counter. They go on a bit ditzy like while I grow impatient. I’m well brought up and don’t say anything, but try to give them the hint that they can wait until it’s their turn.

Then, out of the blue, the woman looks at me and says something along the lines “obviously, you’ve got a problem with us. Why can’t you wait?”

I don’t say anything for a moment or two but just look at them wondering if I want to engage in a debate with them. I don’t. I let rip with a well-timed “get fucked”. They seemed spooked by my response and even I’m a tad surprised at how brutal it sounds. In a way, though that was what I was after, crank it up an abrupt notch and kill any debate on the subject.

It works. I order my crumpet while they quietly slip away with their tails between their legs.

That’s the first version of the dream, but right after there comes the second.

This time, all the same stuff happens the same right up to my reaction. In this version, I take my time considering my response. “Okay Einstein,” I say finally, “you seem to know all about me and my problems. Not that it’s any of your business, but my dog died yesterday, and I’m fucking sad about it, so spare me your prognostications and presumptions, and fuck off.”

None of it is true of course, and though maybe I’m trying to guilt them a little what’s really riling me up is the entitled presumption that they can push in, that they know what’s going through my mind, and then they presume to lecture me about it.

In a way, I’m over it. I’ve reached my limit. My patience with self-absorbed poseurs has reached its limit, and this is the result.

I’m surprised by what this says about me. I can be a pretty blunt character, but it’s rare I get into confrontational situations like that, though I’ll hold my ground. Generally, I’m a genial, reasonable character – I defer to others out of good manners and am tolerant enough to give some leeway when some overstep.

I may be reading too much into it. Either scenario is possible in extreme circumstances, but the fact that I’m dreaming this makes me wonder if I’m holding unresolved anger inside?

Would that surprise me? Not one bit.

Bare bums and golf balls

Listening to someone tell you about their dreams is a bit like being stuck with someone who has a stamp collection they can’t help sharing with you, or a proud parent describing their child’s school sporting carnival. Or maybe being stuck someone bent on describing every aspect of the Marvel universe to you. Eye-rolling tedium. That’s your warning: I’m about to describe a dream I had last night. Look away now.

Let me get the sequence right. It started, I think, with me visiting my friend Donna. For some reason or another, I was staying there on her spare bed. She had a visitor, a plump blonde woman who totally ignored me.

Scene switches. Now it’s just the blonde woman and me. She’s talking to me over her shoulder as she goes from room to room. I’m following, and as she goes through a door, I reach out and pull her skirt from her hips. Revealed is a pale, well-rounded arse waggling slightly as she walks. She keeps talking.

In the next scene, I’m in bed. I feel like I’m at Donna’s and she’s out for the night. Then someone returns, and it’s not Donna but a woman who strongly resembles Emma Stone.

She’s fun and alluring. Vibrant. She snuggles up beside me outside the covers and murmurs to me, a laugh in her voice. It feels like something more than platonic, but not as if we’re together either. Maybe that’s what’s coming.

We get to talk about some of my recent experiences. I tell her I’m either with women I’m drawn to but am uninterested in, or women I find interesting but am not drawn to. All I’m after is the combination, but lying there with the woman I feel warm and wonder if I’ve found her after all.

Then the final scene comes, and I’m in this happy state, but I discover a lump the size of a golf ball in my right groin. I don’t have much time to think of it, but it’s so vivid that when I wake I check my groin, there’s no lump there.

Father’s day

Maybe because it’s Father’s Day today I dreamt of dad last night. In the dream, I saw myself as he did: ever so reliable and intelligent, but prickly to boot.

I don’t know how true that is, but I’m sure it’s a true impression for some of me. If I am ever prickly then – I say – it’s in defence of my independence, or to assert a right. Or maybe to refute a nonsense I won’t abide.

As for dad, if he ever thought that, then the first part he took for granted while exaggerating the second.

Needless to say, I’m doing nothing for father’s day. I’m having lunch with him this week, I think. I think he’s mellowing.


The dream I had last night was both interesting and disturbing, and also hard to explain. It was a world in which there were different versions of ourselves – or rather, different versions of ourselves residing in different worlds. The worlds were similar, but none were the same, with small but significant differences between them.

As me, I was aware both of the diversity of worlds, and also a hierarchy of sorts. Each of the worlds and each of the different personas were subsets of the one true original – like copies made slightly different. The ‘I’ in the dream was living in one of the subsets, and I knew it. It didn’t feel entirely natural to me. I would be surprised, and sometimes disturbed, by how things weren’t as I expected. It wasn’t altogether comfortable, as if I was a stranger in a strange land.

What I knew is that I had to get back to the source world. That was a common aspiration, but it was different for me. I felt as if I was living a life not meant for me, and knew that the highest goal in life was to be the original, not an inferior copy. And so I wriggled like a worm on a hook wanting to get back to where I thought I belonged, my true self in that true world, but not knowing how to get there.

Make of that what you will.