Under the influence of Anaïs Nin, I used to keep a dream diary. I wrote down every dream I had for 20 years, long after I ditched Nin’s humourless, self-dramatising journals. I did learn from her that if you take notice of your dreams, they become richer, more colourful and infinitely weirder than if you just ignore them. I have been extraordinarily pleased with some of my dreams but of course I don’t know who to congratulate for them: myself? Some mysterious ‘dream-maker’ such as Swedenborg thought responsible for his bizarre nocturnal visions? I have no idea. Once I beheld a vast plane with a mountain range in the distance. As I gazed at the mountains they became elephants, lions and giraffes sculpted from the rock. On the plane stood a temple, sumptuous with mosaics and stained glass, gold censers and lampadaries. I was floating up into the dome, hearing strange, urgent, beautiful but uneasy, restless music. On waking I thought ‘that was bloody good, that was, it must mean something.’ Some years later, when I first heard Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde, the first movement of Mahler’s ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ I was reminded of the dream because the music I had heard in the Temple on the Plane was so amazingly similar. Pretty neat, huh? Still have no clue what it could have meant.
Sometimes the symbolism is so obvious it’s corny. I was not happy when I was a student at Cambridge, and a dream from that period had me wearily dragging heavy bags of books across the grass below the Raised Faculty Building, where a football match was in progress. The referee is my waspish French literature supervisor and I’m getting seriously in everybody’s way. In another from those three years I find my room in college is transformed into the kind of room I wanted and want still; a grotto full of wonderful Indian mirror-work cushions, Thai Buddhas, Persian carpets, kilims and tapestries. Gorgeous cats recline on the cushions. Unfortunately, they have crapped all over the place. Not so obvious, this one. No idea what it meant, if it meant anything.
If it meant anything. If any of them does. They may be no more than ‘an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.’ Once I dreamed my head was being stuffed into a hoover bag full of pubic hair. This was explained by the fact that the cat had decided to cosy up to me as I slept, and sprawled across my face.
I’ve stopped recording my dreams as regularly as I once did, because I decided they only seemed to have significance, they only pretended to portend. Surrealist paintings once fascinated me. They rarely do now. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m becoming as literal minded as my grandmother was... I seem to become less and less tolerant of ambiguity though. Bored with mystery, where once I was drawn. Duller, really.
In the grey-and-mud-coloured dreams of nothing in particular that go on largely ignored behind my eyelids these nights, odd things stand out. There are these sumptuously appointed rooms, nowadays minus the cat shit, that I find leading off my unsumptuous flat. There was this bank manager who took me through a door in his banal office and into the glittering chambers of a splendid deserted mosque, where I notice for the first time his dark-eyed, dark shaven Anatolian beauty and fall achingly in love with him. But then it’s really a dark, gloomy morning and there’s a bloody train to catch.
My bank manager... in yer dreams...