Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ad nauseam for a dream

Did you enjoy my Tedious Dreams Trilogy earlier this year? Would you like to be bored by more self-indulgent unconscious nostalgia? Absolutely no chance? Well tough jugs, because I want there to be a written record of these fuzzy memories of things that never even happened before dementia devours it all. You don't have to read it.

In this final (promise) collection from the neural archives, I identify recurring themes in my adult dreams, good and bad. Mostly bad, to be honest. I have plenty of pleasant dreams, I guess they just tend to be more freestyle.

I can never look after animals (age 14 and up)

Since I was a teenager, I've had dreams where one or more small animals are trusted to my care and I spectacularly fail in the simple task of keeping them alive. That's not fair, actually - most of them don't die, I just forget about them for about a fortnight or longer of dream-time and then suddenly remember with icy dread that there are animals shut away in a parlour somewhere that I was supposed to feed and stuff.

When I open the door and the light falls on these poor creatures for the first time in however long, it's not a pretty sight. There's been dream rabbits lying impossibly shrivelled and gaunt in the hay; guinea pigs surrounded by their own inbred children on a course to malnutrition themselves; a lone cat deformed and hairless, clinging stubbornly on to life just so it could impale me with a scathing stare, and one time a little chick grown bulbous-headed, one of its fragile eyes burst, that seems to beg for the sole of my shoe to put it out of the misery I created. What have I done?


Before you forward this to PETA, I'll reiterate that nothing like this has ever happened in real life, I just clearly don't have high esteem for my ability to be a responsible pet owner. There haven't been any similar dreams involving the neglect of children, I suppose that's all to come.

I've never had the stability to own a pet, regularly hopping between flats in the UK before travelling around all over the place, but as I was raised with cats (I mean we always had pet cats, I wasn't some kind of feral Mowgli), I don't think a home would truly be complete without at least one of the furry, selfish rascals.

The genesis of these critter anxiety dreams probably lies in my first real experiences of animal death in my teens. Hamsters are short lived by nature, guaranteeing grief in two years or less, and we had no luck with rabbits, which lived considerably less than even the hamsters. It wasn't anything to do with me, but it obviously had an impact.

The sickly, incestuous cyberpets my brother nurtured on this PC game might have had an impact too (Image:

I can never drive (age 18 and up)

This is probably a common anxiety dream, at least among people like me who can't drive, have no interest in driving and aren't looking forward to the day when family commitments mean they'd bloody well better learn to drive whether they like it or not.

Any time I reluctantly end up behind the wheel in a dream, I let rip with some impressively bad driving, the type you probably can't even pull off in the Grand Theft Auto games if you're really trying to break the law thanks to realistic game physics. I turn into the wrong side of the road, accidentally climb up over a bonnet and crunch along a line of beeping vehicles before a police siren sounds and I speed off road along fields and through rivers before the car ends up completely wrecked and I scamper away, somehow alive and undeservedly free.


In one of the dreams, someone was trying to persuade me to give driving a go and I kept insisting that I couldn't do it, until I finally gave into the pressure and showed them how bad I was, ending up with something similar to the events described above. This might be based on one of the only times I've been behind the wheel of a vehicle in real life - a go-kart on holiday when I was eight or nine, which I really didn't want to drive despite my mum's nagging, but which I reluctantly got into. Fuelled by anger (and whatever was in the go-kart), I shoved my foot on the accelerator and drove straight into a pile of tyres. It was a foolish and dangerous demonstration, but at least I proved my point. In my mind.

Theme parks are creepy (age 16 and up)

Theme parks and rides show up a lot in my dreams, and fear for my life is never far away. These are never bustling, big-budget parks like Disneyland or Alton Towers, always obscure, empty, often derelict parks with run-down rollercoasters, slides, zip-lines and ghost trains (better than any ghost train in the real world, admittedly), that I'll feel compelled to take a spin on for old time's sake. This sometimes ends in disaster when the ride breaks down or a shady character prowling these inappropriately jolly grounds bundles me into a van and holds me for ransom. Other tragic endings out of the blue are available.


My dad had an unhealthy preoccupation with theme parks, buying season tickets and taking us to the same places on one of his custody days every fortnight without fail until an embarrassingly late age (right up to the time I escaped for university and had a legitimate reason to opt out). I'd wander round with my brothers, trying to kill the time on over-familiar rides, wishing we were at home downloading things and generally not having a fun family day out. That might sound spoilt, if you didn't have the chance to go to many theme parks yourself as a child, but you try spending 7% of your teenage years at The American Adventure and see how you like it. It closed down the following year, so he switched to Blackpool Pleasure Beach instead.

My shady dream theme parks often have an Arabian theme or are actually located in the Middle East. Did I read something about derelict theme parks in those countries, or am I just being generally racist?

I like big things (age 14 or so and up)

Limited only by my imagination, sometimes my dreams are tragically, embarrassingly drab. Other times they compensate with implausibly vast settings in which I have the freedom to go crazy. I love these dreams, they've covered a variety of locales from MASSIVE castles and mansions with GARGANTUAN chambers and stairs that just keep going up and up like a glitch in a Mario game to COLOSSAL space stations and boats with hundreds of floors, each as large as a stadium and inviting drooling appreciation when you ride the glass lifts up to the stratosphere.

I don't have these dreams as often as I'd like (which would be every night), but my unconscious even throws in grandiose epic plots and thrilling jeopardy for good measure, as I track down evil terrorist clones before they can execute their dastardly plans or race to find scattered treasures in time to ward off an advancing demonic horde.


I don't think there's much to read in to this, except that my brain feels guilty for some of its off-days and is doing its best to make things up to me.

Art by Zladislaw Beksinski (top one too)

My grandparents return from the dead (age 18 to 24 or so)

These are difficult dreams. I'm glad to see my nana and grandad again, but the happiness is diluted by a very strong sense that something isn't right. My grandparents weren't taken in the prime of their lives by accidents, and we all know this second wind won't last long before they succumb to their illnesses again, for real this time. It's the old Lazarus issue - isn't he just going to die again in a while and put everyone through mourning anew? It's good to spend a little more time with them at least, even if they're not really themselves. If only my brain wasn't such a pedant and could just enjoy the fantasy.


As well as obviously missing my grandparents and trying to deal with losing both of them in the space of one year at an impressionable age, these dreams were also very obviously influenced by the time I foolishly wandered over to see how their old house was doing a few years later. The driveway was cracked and overgrown with weeds and the lawn was full of debris. It really rubbed it in. I'll stick to happy memories and family photos from now on.

I'm back at school (age 21 and up)

Another unoriginal one, what do you want me to do about it? Give my unconscious a harsh review? These dreams combine elements of secondary school and university, but they're always based at Sandbach School. It was just more imposing and authoritative than Lancaster University, with the latter's absence of a strict uniform code and shocking mingling of the sexes.

I haven't gone back in time to my school years, I've actually gone back and enrolled for another year or two as a mature student to get some qualification or other that I don't need. Nothing about this seems to be a good idea, as I'm stressed about preparation I haven't done for the upcoming German exam (always the German exam), having problems trying to secure accommodation and generally feeling incredibly stifled by the rigid structure of the day, being so used to working on a bed in my pants.


School was bloody hard. This is coming from someone who was generally good enough at the academic side of things, though in the last couple of years, GCSE Maths made me feel hopelessly stupid. I would never, ever put myself through that again, but some time last year I did daydream for a while about going back to university for a year before I reached 30 to upgrade my degree to a Masters.

I don't think the qualification would be any use to me, I just wanted the excuse and motivation to get stuck into a critical dissertation of some area of interest (I had a few ideas) and to be part of the student lifestyle again. But then I realised I'd be one of those weird PhD students impressing the freshers with his ability to grow a beard, a self-appointed sage boasting knowledge of the local music scene from slightly before their time. We all knew people like that, didn't we? I grew out of the daydream after a while, when I remembered I already have my dream job.

Your comments about how I went to 'a Harry Potter school' won't help me escape that image

I work in my sleep (age 24, mostly)

Speaking of dream jobs, for a while in 2010 I would spend a good portion of my REM sleep writing websites and news stories, like I did for my day job. There wasn't any value or point to this work, and when my alarm sounded or the daylight reached my eyes and I realised I was dreaming, I would get seriously annoyed at the lack of a save facility in my brain, meaning all my work would be lost. Then I'd open my eyes and get seriously annoyed that I'd just wasted my sleep doing the sort of work I'd soon be heading into the office to do for real.


I have no grounds whatsoever for claiming to be over-worked these days, but for a while in 2010 before I left the country, I was working pretty hard, doing eight hours of the day job supplemented by freelance work in my lunch hour and for a few hours after I got home. I learned the hard way that your imagination really needs some kind of sustenance or it'll starve, and without inspiring vistas or fun antics with friends to feed it, all it could provide for me was the most tedious virtual reality game imaginable - the boringest bits of my own boring life. I started to take a lot more books out of the library, that seemed to nourish the neurons a little before I packed in the day job altogether.

I've only had those types of dreams a couple of times since, when I left work until the end of the day and bashed it out before bed. And yes, I've dream-blogged a couple of times too... maybe that's happening right now? If I just open m

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