My silly Cuban heels

A bit more oneirography (I don’t intend to make a habit of it). I had a dream last night which reminded me oddly of a dream I made up some years ago. (I wrote it for a short story (unpublished); the story was vaguely, partially autobiographical, but the dream was completely made up.) See if you can tell which is which. (Yes, it’s Am I Unconscious Fantasy Or Not. That old thing…)

I went round to see my grandmother and apologise for something, I forget what. I saw my grandfather through the glass by the front door, but I didn’t see him after my grandmother let me in. She started to make a pot of tea and asked if Earl Grey would be all right. I assumed she’d be using teabags, and was quite surprised to see her spooning loose tea into the pot; it was bright green and looked like grass cuttings. Reacting to something I’d said, she interrupted me indignantly – “Not Russell! Don’t bother with Russell! You want to get rid of Russell!” As she spoke, she furiously shovelled more and more bright green tea into the pot.

My father and I were queuing up together at a cold buffet: potato salad, crisps, poached eggs and a large bowl of pickled onions in a sticky red-brown sauce. My father had just come back from Japan, where he’d been for three weeks. “They have a whole different system out there,” he told me, “a whole system!” Then we reached the head of the queue and he began to help me to potato salad. Seen close up it didn’t look very appetising – there were pieces of yellow celery in it and bluish peas, and the lumps of potato were five or six inches long – and I was annoyed to see my father piling it onto my plate. I said, “I can manage, I can manage!” and tried to push him out of the way, flapping my arms uselessly.

“Families, eh?” (S. Freud)

Update 15/6 – it was the first one. I haven’t thought of my grandmother for years, but she’s clearly still in there somewhere; she still connects in some way with things I know I care about. (I know who Russell is, and it’s not T. Davies.) I guess what’s going on in dreams like these is illuminated by Voyer‘s suggestive formulation (emphasis added):

If, for one reason or another, an individual’s character is dissolved, the phenomenal spectacular form of the totality is dissolved in its pretension to pass for the absence of value. Thus we have established, negatively for the moment, an identity between character and the spectacle effect. Whether the subject sinks into madness, practices theory or participates in an uprising, we have ascertained that the two poles of daily life—contact with a narrow and separate reality on one hand and spectacular contact with the totality on the other—are simultaneously abolished, opening the way for that unity of individual life which Reich unfortunately labels “genitality.” (We prefer ‘individuality’.)

Madness, revolution and the practice of theory (on which more here): all areas where ‘character’ (in what I understood to be Reich’s sense of the word) comes unglued and the spectacle with it. Closely related states, I would argue, include dreaming, psychotherapy and childhood. What’s at issue in childhood isn’t the dissolution of character but its initial formation; infancy, in particular, is truly a character-forming experience. As adults we partition off what matters (who’s in government) from what matters (who’s in bed with us), calling one ‘society’ and the other ‘private life’; but for children – as for psychotics, as for revolutionaries – it’s all in there together. And the place where it’s all there is the family. The place we first learn about authority is the same place we learn about love; we learn to acknowledge reality in the place where we learn to desire.

What this means is that your world was sculpted by love and fear before you ever started to put it together rationally – and, somewhere beneath the rational brickwork, it still is. In dreams, Gordon Brown is your Dad.


  1. Posted 12 June 2008 at 21:58 | Permalink | Reply

    Honestly Phil, posting your dreams when one of your regular readers is a student psychoanalyst might not be the wisest thing in the world!

    I can’t really hazard a guess as to which one is the “real” dream based upon such brief descriptions (though the question of how much ‘unconscious fantasy’ seeped into the fictional dream might be an interesting one to consider). That said, the first one seems more “dreamlike” to me (the glimpse of your grandfather through the glass, for instance) and even includes a potentially intriguing omission (what was it you said to provoke the indignant reaction?)

    The second one, on the other hand, appears to contain a couple of very un-dreamlike aspects. The final phrase — “tried to push him out of the way, flapping my arms uselessly” — does not sound to me like someone describing a dream, but rather someone “creating a scene”.

    As I say though, I wouldn’t want to make a definite call (and won’t attempt a public analysis), given the limited amount of material I have to work with. But I can offer very reasonable rates should you decide to get either “dream” professionally analysed ;-)

  2. Posted 13 June 2008 at 10:08 | Permalink | Reply

    That is a bit strange! My dreams are too weird to post (I had one the other night that featured getting a life from Robert Mugabe) but if I’m having a slow blogging day/week I might just have to go there …

    I would stick my neck out and say your last one is the dream. Am I right?

  3. Phil
    Posted 15 June 2008 at 22:24 | Permalink | Reply

    Jim nailed it. I like the bit about the shadowy glimpse of someone who doesn’t appear again being ‘dreamlike’ – I can see it’s one of those and-another-thing moves that dreaming does. It may be relevant that my father was alive when I wrote that story, but both my grandparents died a long time before I had that dream. (Or it may not.)

    Phil – Mugabe?

  4. danmihalache
    Posted 9 January 2009 at 04:27 | Permalink | Reply

    I’ just listening Pink Floyd:
    they flutter behind you your possible pasts
    some bright-eyed and crazy some frightened and lost
    a warning to anyone still in command
    of their possible future to take care
    in derelict sidings the poppies entwine
    with cattle trucks lying in wait for the next time

    do you remember me? how we used to be?
    do you thing we should be closer?

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