Dreams run in my family. That’s a silly thing to say, of course, since everybody dreams. But what I mean is that my mother, and her mother too, believed they received messages in their dreams. For example when my mother was living in London in the nineteen fifties she dreamed three nights running that her own mother, back in Ireland had died. She saw the funeral and saw her self there. This was long before people in the rural West of Ireland had access to telephones so my mother could not just phone home to check that all was well. Then on the fourth morning she received a telegram to say that her mother had died.
I share my mother’s conviction about dreams However, the messages I receive are generally less direct, more open to interpretation – a sign of the times perhaps. In the dream about Time’s Workshop that I described in my last post there was one feature which has continued to intrigue me. At one point in the dream I came across a man working on a very peculiar object. Unlike all the other things in the workshop, it seemed to have no obvious use. It was a great coil of wood in the shape of a Catherine Wheel but larger than a table and it was studded with nails.
I knew right away that this uncertain artefact was something to do with me and as I watched the workman studiously pulling out the nails one by one with a pair of pliers, I realised that it did not bode well. With each nail that was withdrawn, I found myself wincing, not in pain exactly but in a kind of sympathy for the inarticulate thing that lay there at his mercy.
Since then I have pondered what the significance of the wooden coil might be and I have come to the conclusion that it was my life. After all, in Hamlet Shakespeare describes dying as ‘shuffling off this mortal coil’ and I have learned from a little research on the internet that the word coil was commonly used in the sixteenth century to mean tumults and troubles.
I’m reminded of that marvellous passage in A Christmas Carol when the ghost of Jacob Marley appears to Ebenezer Scrooge. Marley carries a great chain with him which is described as ‘wound about him like a tail’. It is made up of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. When Scrooge asks him why he wears it, Marley replies, ‘I wear the chain I forged in life....I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.’
It seems to me then that the strange wooden coil is something I have manufactured in the course of my everyday life. It is a symbol of all my successes and failures. And if it is not too literal an interpretation, I rather fancy that the nails the workman was so assiduously removing one by one were the novels I have written that have disappeared into the remaindered bin. If that is so, then I must try to make those nails a great deal harder to remove. They must be driven much deeper into the wood with all the hammering I can muster so that in the years to come Time’s busy workman will need more than just determination and a pair of pliers to remove them.