Reverend Mother Winifred from my old school featured in one of my dreams last night.
‘Don’t use that chair’ she said, as I staggered onto the soft padding of a red chair whose central springs had given way and my foot sunk through the middle.
A problem because I was using this chair to give me additional height in order to reach something that dangled from the sky.
It’s hours since I left this dream and only snippets remain but see how useful it as a starting point.
It’s one of the reasons why I love dreams.
The way people who are long dead come back to you in full form just as they were fifty years ago and you can relive moments of the past you thought you’d forgotten and reconstruct them from the snippets you retain.
The other day my daughter described a dream that had troubled her from the night before. In it her beloved dog had been hit by a car and all because her dad had left the door open.
I won’t even try to go into interpretative mode here, only to say, the dream says a great deal about certain of my daughter’s feelings towards her dog and her dad. Later that same day I heard on the news about a type of real life reversal of her dream: a dog had killed a 61 year old man and seriously injured the man’s 58 year old wife.
My first thoughts were along the lines of ‘vicious dog’. Only to hear further that the dog belonged to the dead man’s son, was a family pet and had never betrayed such behaviour before.
This puts me in mind of the notion that sons want to kill and take the place of their fathers. When there’s plenty more evidence to suggest it’s more the fathers who want to kill their sons.
And this says nothing about mothers and their daughters.
We adults tend to blame the children first and find it hard to look to our own struggles with the children or our wish at times to be rid of them.
None of this is as simple as I make it sound here.
The daughter of the dream is away for the weekend and I’m in charge of the dogs, the walking, feeding and entertaining.
It’s working out well enough though I’m trying to encourage my husband to join us on our walks.
But walks with the dog to him are a bit like travelling abroad is to me, distasteful. Not something either of us want to do, he to walk the dogs and me to travel.
So, I don’t push it too hard, any more than he urges me to go overseas.
We respect one another’s differences even though each of us can imagine that it would be good for the other to alter our ways.
Which is another thing I’ve been thinking about of late, the ability to tolerate difference.
When I was a young would-be social worker on one of my earliest placements in the then Citizen’s Welfare Service in Drummond Street in Carlton, I shared the space of a small office with a remarkable supervisor who went by the name of Barbara.
Barbara was innovative. She suggested not only would she write an assessment on my performance while on placement, I should write one too.
It says how long ago this happened to suggest this was an innovative idea. In those days the authority of our elders prevailed and to think that a fledgling social worker might write her own report was indeed radical.
It was a thrill to write an assessment of my developing self and performance all those years ago but the only thing I remember was writing the words,
‘I have begun to recognise the otherness of others.’
The word ‘otherness’ appealed to me and the idea that people could be different from me and that I should and could respect their difference at the time was mind-blowing.
How naïve was I in those days when every new idea that entered my mind seemed like a stroke of brilliance?
Now I see that most ideas have been thought before by someone else somewhere and the best we can do is put our ideas in fresh words, ‘to make the stone more stony’ as the formalists, those Russian bods who had ideas about literature and language argued.
And every time I dream, the images and ideas that come to me have all the freshness of a new day, so much energy, even though I can never capture them in words.
Only bask in the sensation of my amazing unconscious that sneaks out and visits me while I sleep. You too can enjoy such visits, but you must of course pay attention.
Such visitors arrive fast and leave just as fast, often without leaving a calling card.
All they might leave is a snippet of memory a flash of colour, the sight of your old Reverend Mother and a red ruined chair.