Dreams are strange things at the best of times. And I always seem to remember the most peculiar of mine.
Boats have been a common theme in recent months – for obvious reasons. Everything from being the only thing in an empty cargo hold on a massive wooden ship; nothing to hold onto as it pitched and rolled. Right through to steering a cross between a narrowboat and a gondola along tiny, twisting waterways running alongside fields and through villages. To trying not get swept down a weir in a similar craft.
And then there was the dream about the boat lift. A massive, ancient wooden construction that lifted boats about 250 feet in the air to the next stage of the waterway. These things do exist – ask Aunty Google. But they are nothing like this hand made, victoriana death trap of my dream. And in this dream a pair of boaters who were old and unable to live the life anymore had opted not to go back on land. They had opted to set fire to their boat at the apex of this wooden contraption and then fall to their deaths, hand in hand into the freezing waters below. It buggered things up for everyone else, thats for sure!!
In last night’s dream I was once again poling my gondola/narrowboat and i came to a ‘docking area’. A cross between a marina and The Albert Docks of home as they used to be. I saw another boat I recognised moored haphazardly in a corner. And I made my way into the warehouse building nearest to it. This too floated. Inside I walked through a market, with boxes opened to display the contents and barrels stacked as pyramids to the roof. A table covered with glasses half filled as samples for tasting.
Beyond the market was a cafe. A huge echoing chamber with scrubbed wooden tables the size of ship’s decks and waitresses dressed in mop caps and long skirts that swept the sawdust around the floor.
And I spied him. In the corner. Dressed in an oversized and over-holed red jumper and green trousers. He was sucking the last bits of goodness off a bone.
His arm swiped the grease from his face onto his sleeve, still chomping as he looked about him. But he didnt see me.
In my dream I wasnt me. I was tall, and lithe. My body had strength, my hair was short – the colour of sand. And i wore brown boots, brown jeans and a brown coat. I could even have been a boy.
I watched him. As he stood, this ragtaggle of a man, I realised how long it had been since I had seen him. And how long it must have been since he had possibly seen himself. His beard was not longer – but fuller, and covered half his face.
But his hair!! Once kept very short and neat, if there at all, hung past his shoulders, beyond his waist to the region of his knees, in almost one giant matted dreadlock.
He passed close to me and paused – just for the fleetest of seconds – as if he had caught a trace of a scent or had the flicker of a thought that was gone as swiftly as it came. And i saw the bits of twig, the leaves from the previous autumn, and the odd downy feather trapped in the fossil of what used to be hair.
“Seriously? ” I thought.
After that, i tailed the ragtaggle man slowly down the tiniest of waterways….for miles…..through villages with houses built back when the waters ran higher. Their doors now opening onto mid air. We poled our boats across roads and railway lines where only a trace of dampness remained.
But I never caught up.