the m john harrison blog

Tag: dreams

the Master from Venus

In the early 1970s I was introduced to two or three sweet old ladies, probably younger than I am now, who lived in a vast, light-filled flat near the seafront in Southport. They were members of a cult that believed in a “master” who would soon come down from the planet Venus to save us from ourselves. They were excited by The Pastel City, which they assumed was a kind of oblique spiritual nonfiction, assembled by some inner self of mine. When I said I didn’t believe in flying saucers, they said, in unison, “Oh but you do. You just don’t know yet.” This demonstrated a generosity of spirit I was unable to extend to them, and which I’ve never forgotten.

a busy life

It’s advert time. She’s being pulled along by a big friendly dog. She’s seeing friends, they’re stealing her snacks! She’s trying on clothes and advertising a breakfast cereal. The camera’s going with her everywhere. Now she’s shaving dead skin off her heels where her weight forces them daily into the backs of her shoes, with a thing that looks like an electric razor. Quick as you like, the camera cuts to garlic being squeezed through a garlic press. She’s looking at houses, she’s getting lunch, she’s eating a sandwich her way. She’s getting Gaviscon for her lifestyle-induced acid reflux. Her constant constipation is like a bag full of uneaten food, her house smells but she can fix that with a smile. Soon she’s flirting with the dentist, flirting while she takes something for a cough, flirting as the camera follows her into the toilet. She knows so much more than her mother!

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in case she hurts herself

It’s so nice to hear from you. It feels as if we haven’t talked for ages. You write, “All along the Thames, boats are on their way to being islands, islands on their way to being boats.” Then something you overheard on the bank near Kew, a woman calling to her little girl: “’Don’t run!’ Then: ‘Daphne! No more running! You’re going to hurt yourself.'” And you add, “There’ll be no more running in Daphne’s life, in case she hurts herself. She’s three.” When I re-read that paragraph of your mail, I experience a weird deja vu, as if you told me this–or at least something similar to this–described some encounter of the same sort–a long time ago. Of course, you couldn’t have, but it’s strange, and the whole content of the scene is strange too, I don’t know why. It would easily fit into the kind of story I am writing now.

buried in exotic ground

Buggy tracks in snow. Spindrift blowing off the roofs. Silhouette of a labrador dog hauling the silhouette of a woman across Grove Road; detail from a Lowry of the West London suburbs. Meanwhile the van from Bathrooms At Source–a constant visitor to this pleasant street–ploughs its way responsibly towards the river, first-responder to the morning’s soft catastrophe. Everything is so hushed as he makes his way down! In Barnes, bathroom commerce, second only in religion to kitchen commerce, must go on. He’s closely followed by Bespoke Carpentry. Meanwhile, over in “Burma”, no crates of preserved Spitfires have come to light. Buried Spitfires! The very words are like a knell, awakening the British retroconscious to a deep sense of itself. The earth with which they turn out not to be compacted is the authentic dark chocolate of myth. We dream that Spitfires lie buried in exotic ground, the exact way they are embedded in our diffusing memories of empire. Meanwhile, perhaps the Spitfires dream themselves, in some half-world of suspended purpose, the trope of sci fi war machines made obsolete by time, waking too late. It’s the final reinscription. Ballard would have loved it.

internal relations

I was in the kitchen talking to someone I knew on the phone. Then I realised she had just come through the door. I said: “I don’t need to be doing this!” We both laughed & switched our phones off. It seemed necessary to have this joke between us to ease the awkwardness we felt. I was also embarrassed about how untidy I had allowed the kitchen to get. Then I realised she was upset about something. Perhaps she even needed my advice. “Do you want to talk ?” I asked her. She did, she said, very much, but instead she started to clear away the pots from the draining-rack. Her manner was so nervous & clumsy that she pulled everything, including the rack itself, on to the floor. There were broken plates everywhere. She scrabbled about in such a panic trying to put things back that she only made it worse. She seemed to be scraping at the crockery and glassware like a dog, pulling things down and dropping them on the floor. When I saw that I became frightened & got out through the kitchen window. A combination of momentum and skill allowed me to catch holds on the wall of the building–window ledges, drainpipes and other features. I was easily able to swing down from fixture to fixture, in precise fingertip control of a kind of dreamy fall. I found an old chair in the street. It was quite small and still looked good, but when I picked it up I saw that parts of it were missing, and when I put it down (on a bench near a phone box) it fell to pieces. I climbed the advertisement hoarding next to the phone box, higher and higher until I was at second or third floor level, then ran along the top of it. I was thinking, “This is exactly like the climbing dreams I used have, in which I was so competent I couldn’t come to any harm.” As soon as I thought that, I woke up.

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