Losing control


I had a dream last night that I was a part of a paramilitary type unit. I was in command of a small troop patrolling a city when race riots broke out. My unit and I fought to protect the vulnerable, ushering them to safety. Outnumbered, it was a bruising experience both physically and mentally. We fought hard and long, but we couldn’t protect everyone and watched as some we couldn’t save set upon by the mob and beaten.

Eventually, the riots died down, and reinforcements were sent to the city. It was in the aftermath, and we were sitting in a room sore and reflective when one of the replacements pipes up. There’s one like this in every group. He’s had a look around, and everything has become quiet, and with a mocking tone to his voice, he wonders aloud what the big deal is about? He goes onto to say it’s all an exaggeration and probably political anyway. And what does he care about the victims of this – they’re not his people.

I’m respected by my team because I’m calm and measured, and I’ll always make the right call. They know I’ll do everything to protect them. They understand that I lead with a moral imperative, but I’ll always have their back. They’re shocked then, by what comes next.

I’m exhausted. Though we’ve fought hard, I’m dismayed at the thought of those we couldn’t save, some of whom were friends. I hear this man’s words, and I sit there reflecting on them, then I get up. I walk across to him, and though I know it’s probably the wrong thing and counter to my image of self-control, I feel great satisfaction as I swing with my fist and knock the man down.

I’m disciplined for this, obviously. I’m stripped of my command locked away for a few days. My team is shattered at what’s happened. Though they understand my feelings, they wonder what got into me. Is the old man cracking up?

I’m released and return to the unit. My 2IC has now taken over the team. She’s someone I have an intimate relationship, and she looks at me with tenderness and pity. The rest of the team are happy to have me back but uncertain given my present status. It doesn’t feel right that I’m not out in front.

Also, there is the man I struck, as well as some of the top brass. There’s trouble brewing again, and we’re about to be thrown into the cauldron. The new skipper, my lover, is angry at how I’ve been treated. She wants to protest and demand that I’m reinstated. I smile at her and with a gesture as if releasing something from my hand, I tell her to let it go.

One of the top brass has observed the interaction. He chuckles, makes a comment about wise words, and then proclaims that in light of the coming troubles it’s been decided that I will re-assume command of the team.

The whole team is thrilled. They come to me, one by one, to let me know how relieved they are that I’m in charge again and how much they’ve missed me. One or two admonish me gently, but even the recruit is happy to have me back.

They feel safe with me, and it’s an obligation I’m happy to shoulder. I look at them knowing we have a job to do. They look back, waiting on my command. The world has righted; there are things to do – and our mission to do them.

Thus ends the dream.

As always, I wondered what all this meant. It seemed to me that once upon a time, I was once that person known for calm and unflappable judgement. I used to thrive when the pressure was on. There was an edge to me, and I was more inclined to go my own my way than the character in the dream, but he’s recognisably similar – at least in my mind – to who I was.

That I’m not that man now is something I’ve come to accept, though most of the elements remain – they’ve just combined in a different way. Funnily enough, a work friend told me a couple of weeks ago that I was the wisest person she knew. I felt uncomfortable with the praise and made light of it, remembering how much I’d fucked up in my life.

I like that man in the dream and wish I was he. That I dream this now is a reflection of recent times I think. I’ve been off the last few months, as many have been. In that time, I’ve been managing what I’ve described as the most unpleasant project of my life.

Much of it is just plain difficult – an incompetent vendor, a tricky brief, everyone working remotely, and perceived pressure from board level. What’s made it more challenging is that the team drafted in for this – unlike the dream – are unwilling to be part of it. They don’t believe in the value or purpose of the project and question it. I share some of their reservations but, as I tell them, our job is not to question the validity of the project but to deliver it. (Unfortunately, all of this plays into the general malaise I feel, doubting the value and purpose of every task.)

For me, it’s been difficult because I’ve got little practical support but from one, and so have to shoulder much of the burden myself. Like the character in the dream, I feel like snapping sometimes. I look at them occasionally and think how nice it is to have the luxury of an opinion when you don’t have to put anything on the line.

But how does the dream reflect all this? And what is it telling me?

Uncle Don


I dreamt last night that I was Donald Trump’s ‘nephew from Australia’. I went to visit him, and we went on a road trip together and hit it off fine. At one stage we’re walking side by side along a busy road with a lake on the far side of it. It’s pretty, and we’re talking and as we go along, he takes my hand in his. Though I’m in my early twenties, I accept it as a fond gesture. And in fact, all through my dream my experience of Donald is that he’s a friendly, generous and fun to be around sort of guy. And actually, quite a basic character when you strip away all the bullshit – which is an awful lot.

I woke with this dream in me and didn’t know what to make of it. Then I thought some more and it didn’t seem so strange.

Like much of the world, I despise Donald Trump, but I also pity him. It seems a generous position given all the terrible things he’s done, but when I look at him, I see a man terribly out of his depth. He’s not smart enough to know it, and certainly not to admit it, and so he blusters and pontificates to hide his ignorance and to supposedly portray the sort of character he wants to be. Unfortunately, the real tragedy in this is that he’s been allowed to get away with. He’s a prime analog for the emperor with no clothes, and so he swans around naked while his cronies and the corrupt and imbecilic who follow him fall over themselves to exclaim what a splendid suit of clothes he’s wearing.

This is one of the diabolical aspects of these times. I don’t know of any other era when someone so profoundly incapable would attain such a position of power, and maintain such power throughout. It says a lot about the fierce polarisation of ideology these days when someone so inadequate and dangerous is preferable to the power-brokers behind him than some liberal alternative. And it says a lot about the usual checks and balances in society that have allowed this – a critical media and an educated electorate.

I wonder sometimes in his reflective moments – if he has them – if Donald suspects he might be such a strawman? Does he ever look in the mirror and realise he’s a terrible fraud?

I think the truth about Donald Trump is that he’s not very bright (and has probably some form of Alzheimer’s), was badly brought up, and learned early it was more important to bullshit and bully and barge your way through than to get your hands dirty. I suspect he’s a man without any real values or convictions.

He certainly has a history of bigotry, but I suspect little of it is firmly held. It’s more a matter of convenience or some perverted sense of being cool, which I think is important to him. He’s a populist carried away on the tide of his own narcissism. Everything is status for him, and he can’t bear to be seen wrong or ignorant, which is why he invents such fantastic tales and why everything is always the best or biggest. He’s really a child who somehow has become the most powerful man in the most powerful country on earth.

That’s just my opinion and none of it excuses his behaviour, though it might explain some of it. If not for all the bullshit he might be a reasonable guy – but then, there’s a lot of bullshit.

Dreams and long hair


I think the hardest thing for me being in lockdown is the utter sameness of life, from one day to the next, and from week to week. There’s nothing that disrupts the monotony because the opportunities for variety are so limited. You could do a time-lapse of my life right now, and it would be a suite of scenes repeated again and again. For me, it makes the routine of life close to meaningless because you recognise in its sheer repetition. It’s no different from life before – except that before there was padding in our life to hide the fact, and enough variety to make it less critical.

The other thing, obviously, is the lack of human connection. I see Cheeseboy every Saturday morning when we walk our dogs, but other than that it’s incidental contact with people in shops, and through remote meetings – if you can call that a connection at all.

As I’ve expressed before, I accept it, but I don’t have to like it.

I had a dream last night, which, when I woke up, left me feeling more positive. The details are blurry, but I remember I did a lot of moving around in the dream and that a lot of it was work-related. There was an incident when I’d been called away to do some urgent work and had to briefly relocate. I was returning with all my stuff under my arm. As I passed by a woman said: “you’re a good looking man, man”. Then I was joined by a friend who helped me with my stuff – in actual fact an Essendon footballer, Michael Hurley. When I got back to my (company allocated) apartment, I found someone else had moved there. He’d pulled rank and taken over the vacant property when they were short of space. He said I’d have to find somewhere else. I knew better.

I didn’t make a fuss, I just dumped my stuff on the floor and made a quick call. A moment later he got a call from the top asking him to vacate and leave the place to me. He was bitter and complained about my ‘friends in high places.’ I just shrugged. I knew my work was essential, and it was valued, which is why I knew this would happen. Then I woke.

It felt like the old me in the dream. A me I used to take for granted. And I woke still feeling that sense of being valued.

It puts a different spin on these sterile days. I’ve been growing my hair long – haven’t had it cut since before started in lockdown back in March. I started off curious and without any great need to get my hair cut since I was working from home. It had a symbolic element to it also. This was reverting to type, I thought, to my natural and untamed self. It was an assertion of independence in a way, of individuality. Isn’t it strange where we search for symbolism, and where we find it?

I feel almost the opposite now, and it’s been coming for a few weeks. I now look forward to getting my hair cut (I can’t until we’re out of lockdown). Besides looking a bit tidier, it would signify a brighter future – a redo, a start again, a let’s get out of this lockdown and live once more vibe. There’s the symbolism I’m reaching for.

It’s all probably a bit strange and empty, but in times like these, the vague meaning of dreams and invented symbolism take on a greater significance. If it feels good, I’ll take it.

 

And what does the prang mean?


I was in a dream where I was a consultant as part of a team pitching for a new job with a client. The pitch was a joint effort between two different entities partnering for the work, and I was engaged by one separately to assist with the proposal and presentation.

The dream begins when we’re all returning after the pitch. We’re all jammed into the one car. I’m in a smart suit and am content I’ve done my bit well. It’s me in an earlier guise when I was younger and more ambitious and at the cutting edge of things.

Next to me is a woman who is a member of the other entity. She’s in her early thirties perhaps, professional and attractive. A lawyer, I think. We strike up a conversation. She tells me a little about her work, then refers to the blue University of Melbourne clipboard sitting in my lip (which I possess), assuming that I graduated from there.

In the dream, I only did a semester (just as in real life), and I have an internal debate whether to admit to that and go down the long-winded and uninteresting path to explain it. I figure I’m never going to see her again – my job is done – and so I basically nod my head without making any comment. It’s an omission of convenience, though it troubles me instinctively.

The next thing is we’re in a minor prang. We all get out of the car and find it’s undrivable. We mill about waiting for a taxi or something, and while we’re waiting I go with the woman to a nearby cafe for a coffee.

We get talking some more and we find ourselves warming to each other. We’re more than just acquaintances thrown together making polite conversation. We’re now genuinely interested in what the other has to say, and I find myself drawn to her, as she seems to me. She’s warm and smart and kind, just the sort of person I want to know, and perhaps get close to – and it feels as if the same feelings are dawning on her.

We laugh easily as it goes along, but in the back of my mind, there’s my faux pas about Melbourne University. It’s a small thing really, and something that can be easily explained without embarrassment, but I don’t feel that. I feel like I’ve lied to her. I feel because of that, she might have the wrong idea of me and that our warm relations are based upon something false. It’s an over the top appraisal of the situation, but you know what it’s like? Everything has more meaning and greater bearing when you figure you might like someone.

It plays on me still when we get news from the others waiting outside that word has come through: we got the job! Everyone is festive. We decide to have a drink together. It becomes clear now that I have some sort of personal relationship with the principle of the entity that engaged me. He’s a kind of father figure, and clearly very fond of me. He starts praising me to the group in general, but particularly to the woman. They’ve all cottoned on that the woman and I have become friendly and the mood is of amused encouragement – let the young ‘uns go!

Not surprisingly, I become a tad embarrassed by his effusive commendation, especially when he gets things wrong, or exaggerates my achievements. All of this seems to pile on top of my original lie. The woman smiles. She’s enjoying it. There’s a teasing affection in her as she observes my discomfort, and it feels as if we’ve achieved some kind of casual intimacy. It’s great, but what am I going to say?

That’s the dream. There are a few things in here to unpack, but I won’t do a public analysis. The key elements, to me, is that this is a previous version of me – a long way from where I am today. And the lie, if you want to call it that, which could be symbolic of many things, but perhaps alludes to not belonging, or perhaps to an embarrassment I’m unwilling to admit to. There’s plenty of those. Then there’s the father figure – it harks back to earlier days also, and to relationships and affection long gone. And the woman? I suspect she’s more generic, though representative of a deeper desire. But what do I know?

Dreams in isolation


I’ve always dreamt a lot, but it seems to me that I’m dreaming more now than ever before. I’ve begun to wonder if this is a symptom of extended isolation. In past times life would contain enough distraction and colour that dreams were no more than an adjunct to that. I’d go out, have a beer, chat to people at work, have a laugh with friends, go the footy, and so on. I had a life outside of these four walls, and external to the internal world I largely reside in since lockdown. Is it too much to believe that in the absence of the normal stimuli that our unconscious will step into the void? Will not our mind conjure up the colour and movement missing from our everyday lives?

It’s an interesting question. Do prisoners dream differently to the man on the street? What about the man marooned on a desert island? Or is this just me?

It’s got to the point that I feel it’s affecting my sleep. For the last month particularly, I’ve been sleeping poorly and as a result, I’ve felt more lethargic than usual, and sometimes just ‘off’. The other day I felt particularly unrested after a night I dreamed away. My sleep stats showed that my REM sleep was four and a half hours – surely that’s excessive? But it made sense because that’s what I felt.

Then there are the things you dream about. The prisoner probably dreams of his liberty. The man on the island probably dreams of crowds. My dreams are no more than fragments to me now, but what I recall is, yes, of being out and about, but then there’s another strong thread. There appears a strong aspirational theme in many of my dreams – of situations in which I achieve what I don’t have now. That may seem positive, but there’s a melancholy angle to it because they play like movies of things I might have – or might have had – but do not. There’s almost a taunt in it.

Dreams like that are probably common in days like these when we’re set back to basics. All the trimmings and flummery have been removed. Exposed are the bare bones of our existence. Much is revealed at ultimately hollow. Where do we find meaning then? What does ‘meaning’ mean to us? When everything is cut back to the bone, what brings us solace?

I dream of the things others have but I don’t, such as a family about me, and regular intimacy. The other recurring element has less substance, but when you don’t have a family to fall back on then you must find purpose elsewhere. In my case, it returns to work, though more accurately it might be termed, ‘calling’.

In this, there’s a comparison between what I do and opportunities to do something nobler. I’ve commented on that enough that I don’t need to again. There’s meaning in doing something close to your heart, whatever that might be. In my case, while that’s true, there is something more superficial in it, too. I long to be the hero again, as I felt so often before in my work – it’s why I did challenging, independent work, and it says a lot about my psychology. I guess everyone wants to be their own hero, though some more than others. In the absence of anything else to fall back on, and for someone like me, it becomes purpose.

It’s probably more true now that I’m closer to the end of my career than the start of it. No matter what I’ve done before, it’s the past. I don’t want to go quietly. I want to believe there are great things in me still, but I feel more of the old stager these days. Not the virile matchwinner I used to be, more the clever and reliable stalwart of the team. And, before I’m trotted out to pasture, I want to prove that I’ve still got it.

I’m too old to change that and the instinct too deeply ingrained, even if ultimately it’s an empty thing. I know that. I need to get past that, and the best way to do that is by substitution – find something else that will satisfy that innate need. I know what it is, I just don’t know how to get it.

 

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.