I was always under the impression that reading fired the imagination and watching too much TV snuffed it out. So I was a bit confused when overloading on books caused me to have hardly any memorable dreams at all last year, and that the dreams returned when I put the books down and resumed wasting my time with vintage Doctor Who and Children's BBC dramas instead.
There's no consistent theme in this batch, as usual, but if I had to pick one that shows up in at least 15% of them it would be frustrating marriages. That was quick.
My Old Lady
For some reason, I've married an old lady. I think I felt sorry for her when her previous husband died (certainly not the first, she's been around), and things got a bit out of hand.
When she promptly dies, I don't feel too much heartbreak, since I didn't know her that well after all. But I still consider it to be in bad taste when the news report of her death is followed by a repeat of that episode of her 1980s TV series in which her character died. Too soon, guys.
Right Bastard, feat. James Nesbitt
I start work as the put-upon personal assistant of a right bastard played by James Nesbitt (I re-watched Jekyll recently). My hectic Saturday morning involves taking documents back and forth from the bank and preparing coffee and cakes in line with his rigorous demands.
It's the boss' custody weekend and he doesn't seem especially fond of having his bored teenage daughter hanging around his office. In fact, when I deliver his coffee, he opts to test its temperature by sadistically pouring it on her head. In a long-brewing outburst I inform him that he's a fucking maniac. The dream ended there, but as I didn't report back the next night I presume I was let go.
I'm browsing a seaside magic shop when I accidentally release an evil snake demon from its jar that proceeds to cause chaos in the world. Well, if you will leave these things lying around. I go swimming in the cold, polluted sea (thanks for that, subconscious), and spot the snake demon down there electrocuting sharks, giant squids and other predators (so I was swimming with those too? Great).
Once it's taken care of the ocean, the snake demon sets its sights on bigger things and unleashes a torrent of energy into the sky, which my dream doesn't have the budget for because it reuses stock footage of a Jodrell Bank type dish zapping the sky from some 1990s sci-fi miniseries or other. Did they think we wouldn't notice?
Cue more stock footage of sped-up clouds and lightning zaps to illustrate the environmental catastrophe while I splash back onto dry land and take shelter in the magic shop. I suddenly remember it's Easter and crave a chocolate egg. Happy Easter, everybody!
The Late Edition
A new boss take over at the news office and the three of us are chastised for our lazy, sedentary approach to journalism (not the first time this professional guilt has manifested in my dreams). He sets us the ultimatum to have an exciting story on his desk by 3 o'clock sharp, and we dash out into the world to experience some news.
As luck would have it, it isn't a slow news day and each of us has a mini adventure (I think I'm all of us). Here are my waking notes, I can't remember much to elaborate:
1. waterslide/flooded street investWe arrive back at the office ready to write it all up, but find the boss dead and the police dusting for clues. The evil doppelganger who's still hanging around from story 2 confirms that it wasn't anything to do with Satan's lot, so we can rule that out at least. I know I should feel sad for the boss and his family, but I'm mainly annoyed that we did all that work for nothing.
2. 'evil' doppelganger from hell helps solve silent film murder
3. solve number wall before all reach zero and spikes come down (joke message about sex)
They Don't Make Purple Ones, feat. Dave Benson Phillips
I'm in a class taking a patronising multiple choice exam. When the examiner leaves the room, we all share answers to get it over with faster, but as the last to drop my paper onto the desk when Teach returns, I feel pressured to keep him company during the remainder of his contracted hour. Fortunately he's Dave Benson Phillips of Playdays/Get Your Own Back fame, so it doesn't pass too tediously.
Not having much in the way of admin to take care of, I help Dave out by tidying spilled M&Ms back into a jar, but the purple ones keep rolling off the table onto the floor. That's alright, I console myself, they don't make purple ones anyway.
Literally Cruising for a Bruising
I head up to my lavish suite aboard the cruise boat and start to unpack when I'm irritated by some of my fellow passengers trying determinedly to open the door. Eventually they gain entry with the assistance of crew and a spare key, and a heated argument ensues about whose room this is. Since I have the key, that seems to settle it, and the family grudgingly goes away.
Then I realise the suite is quite a bit too big for my needs and expensive-looking for my tastes. Do I even know where this boat is going? What am I doing here? Looking out of the window, it's too late to worry anyway as we've already departed. Never mind, I hope I enjoy whatever this is.
She's Been Grinding the Ice Cream Again, feat. Grace Park, Steve Carell and Pippa Haywood
A sly shelf stacker (Battlestar Galactica's Grace Park) with ambitions above her convenience store station visits her boss' office with plans of seducing him. Unfortunately for her, her boss is essentially Michael Scott from The Not British Office, and not sharp enough to understand what's being offered to him. He's more concerned with the news that his crazy wife has been heading down into the store at night, stark naked and pissed off her tits, "grinding the ice cream again." They'll have to order a replacement batch, it's just not hygienic.
Grace lays on the charm more heavily and Michael finally twigs, but he's worried what his crazy wife will do if she finds out. On cue, she staggers in (a more alcoholic Mrs. Brittas from The Brittas Empire), bottle in hand, and the lovebirds make a hasty retreat out of the emergency exit. Unconcerned about what she's just seen, the pissed fart shouts that if they're going down to the store, they can pick her up some Coke and peanuts.
Yeah, I know, something related to ice cream would have made a better punchline. I didn't write it.
The Grey World and Other Boring Stories, feat. Piper Laurie
I reunite with my brothers and find out they've been getting creative, with mixed success. The youngest wrote a TV episode in which Piper Laurie (Twin Peaks) and an old man have a really boring conversation on a beach. The middle brother has hand-written and illustrated a massive book about dragons (exactly like the kid in the Louis Theroux autism documentary, recently re-watched). I ask him if the cover is a joke, since it's called The Grey World or something but the font and background are bright and colourful. He doesn't say anything, so I assume it isn't.
It seems I married an old lesbian acquaintance. Why did that happen? It's not like we're even into each other or get along. I try to comfort myself that this could at least mean there'll be some saucy bedroom action ahead, but I know it's more likely I'd be requested to go downstairs and stop getting in the way. So, my dream there.
Le'monentary My Dear Watson, feat. Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs and Benedict Cumberbatch
I spot my old friend John Watson hanging around in the street with his Sherlock co-characters and stop by to say hi, and ask if I can buy them drinks. He requests a "le'mon" - some sort of posh foreign liqueur, I forgot he was difficult like this. Mrs. Hudson requests a grape juice and Sherlock isn't paying attention, so I decide I'll just get us beers.
I head for my local pub, but remember the le'mon and cross the street to the posher bistro instead. Him and his sodding le'mon!
Image: BBC I suppose
The Love Inside, You Take It With You, feat. Richard Griffiths
When an eccentric old friend of ours passes away (Uncle Monty from Withnail & I), friendly poltergeist activity convinces my wife & I that his spirit is still around, which is quite the revelation. For the sake of the narrative, one of us has to go next, and mercifully it's me, cut down when crossing the road. I don't mind being dead that much; I'm more worried about how it will affect Jackie when she finds out, and I decide to delay that grisly knowledge for as long as possible.
Visiting her at home, she assumes I'm the ghost of our friend paying another visit, and I don't do anything to dispel that belief. When she's set up by an old enemy and arrested on a false charge (who's writing this?), I use my poltergeist superpower to move objects around and break her out, and we leg it. We pass some teenage goth girls on the way who I realise can see me, and I can only look on, impotent, as the morbid bitches take cruel delight in revealing the truth to Jackie about the decaying husband tagging along beside her.
Because decaying I am. I can see other dead people in this state, and they only walk around looking like regular people for a comparatively brief time as their spectral bodies reflect the condition of their physical corpses. Most of them are skeletons, many are unpleasantly in-between, and I'm getting there. Despite my concerns and efforts to throw away any pills and other dangerous household objects that could speed up our reunion if she was so inclined, Jackie comes to accept my condition, since it's not like I'm really gone. We're just separated by all the senses, and I don't let on that I don't enjoy watching films together any more since it's unpleasant seeing all the ghouls unintentionally caught on camera.
This was the first proper nightmare I'd had in ages, and I woke up feeling a bit distressed. Then embarrassed when I told the plot to my real wife and she pointed out it was just Ghost. The ghosts looked like the ones in a recent Doctor Who too, so I guess Mary Whitehouse was right about that show all along. I am 30 years old.
A Word from Our Sponsor, feat. Rich Uncle Pennybags
I arrive late for the first creative writing class of the year, which means all the good seats are taken and I have to sit next to the weirdo (alright, the other weirdo). I try to pay attention, but keep getting distracted when the Monopoly mascot regularly pops up under the table dispensing non sequiturs and sales pitches for Hasbro products. Lewis is unperturbed.
"What was that?" I ask. Lewis is surprised that I can see him, as he always assumed it was his imaginary friend, who's been around ever since childhood. I tell him I think he's picked up a spam virus and he should really have that looked at.
The American Dream
A lot of my dreams are set after-hours in run-down theme parks. They're usually based on The American Adventure, Derbyshire. Let's put it down to childhood trauma masquerading as fun family days out.
This time, me and the gang (I don't know who these people are) are visiting to meet the guy who's causing a very minor media stir by having lived on-site and never gone home for the best part of a year. He says it hasn't been so bad - he still enthusiastically attends the live cowboy show twice a day, even though it's always exactly the same, but he avoids the petting farm these days, as he doesn't get along with the pigs.
He proudly demonstrates his expert survival skills, revealing the best sheltered spots for sleeping and the best skips to find tasty restaurant leftovers. I have a rummage and succeed in finding an unopened packet of biscuits, which I generously/insultingly donate to the fat member of the gang. I'm sure I'll find something else to see me through the night.
My travels of the world's least inspiring places take me to the former United Nations pyramid, which has now been converted into a department store. That's some scathing subconscious satire right there, I expect.
As I ascend the stone steps inside this air-conditioned temple to consumerism, I wryly observe (to myself or anyone who wants to listen) that the spirit of international diplomacy is still alive and well, as these decorative homewares are all made in China!
Then I join the extensive queue and wait to pay for my purchases. This is a dream.
Just Desserts, feat. Stephen Fry, Peter Cook and Griff Rhys-Jones
We're frugally house-sharing with another British/Filipino couple, who I naturally haven't made any effort to communicate with, however long we've been here, until the day when our independent excursions into town coincide and we begrudgingly make the trip together. When the boyfriend hears a passerby say "salamat" (thank you), he asks his partner what it means. Wow, I realise, he's even worse than me.
There's a poster along the way advertising a sort of mini-Fringe of 1980s British comedians (including dead ones, who impressively haven't let that stop them). Better yet, the shows are all free, with optional donations in support of some health charity or other. My British housemate explains to his partner that Stephen Fry always gives presents to the needy at this time of year, though it's the first I've heard about it.
We spot Stephen's helicopter coming in to land, weighed down by a crate of relief goodies. It temporarily becomes toy-sized and I hurt my fingers on the blades (serves me right), though there's no real damage. We follow Stephen to the amphitheatre where he delivers a serious keynote speech about the importance of healthy eating, which is almost derailed by my Filipina housemate laughing inappropriately. I save the situation by explaining to Stephen and the audience that accents can be tricky sometimes and she didn't mean to cause offence. Stephen seems to understand.
Slipping out to the cafeteria, I notice that it's become a den of gluttony now that Stephen's not around to police things. I get in line behind Peter Cook and the other vintage/dead comedians as we're served delicious cakes and tarts, delighting in our naughtiness.
Heading back home with the wife, we pass our housemates who are being helped out of a drain. I don't know how they wound up in there, or what happened to their clothes, but the girlfriend's tone suggests it was all his fault. Later at the house, I see her pack her things and storm out, leaving the boyfriend to sob into his duvet while a visibly offended Griff Rhys-Jones sarcastically comforts him. I tell Griff to please just leave it; we all need to have a long, hard look at ourselves every now and then.
Image: Oh I can't remember, I closed the tab now. Probably just some other website not bothering to credit someone's old photo anyway.
Finally finding my departure gate in a labyrinthine airport terminal, I get speaking to a bubbly young woman who works for a friend of mine. She can't believe her luck - her employer has paid for her round trip flights to Japan, the only proviso is that she takes a detour via Cuba on the way back to pick up some local souvenirs. I ask if they would happen to be cigars and she says yes they would. Poor naive young fool, I think, everyone knows those are illegal imports or at least used to be and maybe only in America (where am I anyway?) She could get into serious trouble, I'll have to give my friend a stern talking to.
I go to buy a snack, but I see they have one of those mini zoos that airport departure lounges have, so I buy bananas instead to feed the baby tamarins.
It seems that something upsetting has happened to my wife, but the dream doesn't focus on that part - when we come in, she's already been born again and is coming along nicely. Confusingly nicely, in fact, since she resembles a grown woman in less than 24 hours and has the conversation skills to match.
I test her vocabulary and ask where she learned all these words, since some uncommon situations definitely hadn't come up today. I decide to test her reincarnated knowledge definitively by asking probing questions such as "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?" At least, I meant to leave the last word blank for her to complete if she could, but I accidentally did it myself. Never mind, who needs proof or has the effort to think up a second question? We have more important things to be getting on with. I wonder if what we're doing is technically illegal.
Strolling through carriages/corridors on a crowded train/halls of residence (I can't seem to decide), every available surface is crowded with my slumbering schoolmates. One of them catches up to me and tells me I dropped my teenage diary, which could be potentially incriminating if it fell into the wrong hands. I prepare to negotiate for its safe return, but he happily hands it over.
Arriving at my room, I notice the door is ajar and curse myself for not having locked it. Sure enough, someone's claimed the bed and is watching my TV. I prepare to stand my ground, but he apologises and makes his exit. I'm surprised that I let him - when did I stop being a meek doormat and become an arrogant prick?
Later, I pass by the office of an old teacher who worked with me on a project one time. She's busy on the phone, but I can't fail to notice the large certificate dominating the wall above her head in celebration of my achievement (even if they spelled my surname wrong). This place would be nothing without me.
I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost, I Just Forgot to Charge My Proton Pack, feat. LeVar Burton
My paranormal investigation group's meticulously planned vigil of a haunted cave is called off when the hour approaches and we realise we forgot to charge the cameras and equipment. We re-schedule for tomorrow.
At least we have our hired celebrity LeVar Burton to regale us with stories from his television career, though he isn't on top form, and if you ask me, he doesn't look a well man. He's so gaunt and decrepit, I don't even recognise him.
We get a call that LeVar is stuck in traffic and won't be able to make tonight's investigation. So who the hell is this guy?
The Reign of Terror, feat. William Hartnell, Jacqueline Hill and Louise Jameson
I've been fortunate enough to stumble across one of the missing 1960s Doctor Who serials in its entirety, which I've somehow digitised from the dusty 16mm film cans to watch on my laptop. After making a sweep through to check it's complete, I go back and watch all six episodes in detail, taking notes and screenshots as I go. I'm pleasantly surprised by the self-deprecating nature of the script, that criticises the cheap and formulaic nature of the era in general, but it's still pretty rubbish.
Still, at least now the world can finally see Leela's original outfit, which isn't anywhere near as risque as fans' adolescent memories would have us believe. I compare it against an artistic rendering and laugh at the fanbase's horny optimism. (This is a dream, couldn't it have gone the other way? Just saying).
I wake up briefly and realise I was dreaming, then feel depressed that I was wasting my unconscious effort on such a thankless chore. This is as bad as those dreams where I'd write a corporate article, realise I was dreaming and be annoyed that there was no way to transfer my work to the real world, where it would be of no value.
Congratulations Dave, you've broken your already impressive nerdy dream threshold. Maybe this is how physicists feel when they wake up after exhaustively cataloguing a new particle that doesn't exist.
Image: BBC probably
Art by Zdzisław Beksiński