the m john harrison blog

Tag: dreams


I was living in a house I didn’t know in a city I didn’t know. The people who lived there were young. They were cheerful, although their faces had a certain toughness, a certain wariness. The house had a lot of rooms. I left objects of mine, including my personal identification and a laptop with new work on it, in various of them. While I was anxious about this I wasn’t worried. I kept track of my things by rehearsing their positions in each room. I visited every room regularly to check that everything remained in its place. Everything was fine until I began to notice that the house was badly built. Living spaces had been constructed out of what had clearly been a condemned building. Then I began to forget where my things were. As I went from room to room looking for them, the house revealed itself as even more badly built. Some of the rooms had collapsing floors. Ceilings and walls seemed solid but were made of draped tarpaulin. The stairs moved under you. First I forgot where my belongings were. Then I realised that I was beginning to forget the layout of the building too. I wasn’t sure which rooms I had visited and which I hadn’t. The structure was increasingly unstable. Lath and rafters showed through. The rooms trembled and wallowed as I moved. My panic increased. I had lost all my objects. I had lost all sense of where I was. I had lost all my identifiers. I didn’t recognise anyone in the house. When I looked out of a window I realised that I had forgotten what country the city was in. I went out there and began to wander about. At first I was absolutely certain where the house was.



A garden lawn should be like a round green pool, especially in twilight. It shouldn’t be large. The plantings around it–foxgloves & monbretia, gladeoli, huge hollyhocks, night-scented stocks–should lean over the smooth dark turf as if they’re leaning out over water. There should be a sense of seclusion, as if the plantings stretch away in all directions, too thick to walk in & steadily changing their nature from tended to untended. At one end, a gap between well-grown fuschias allows access; at the other, under an arch thick with white rambler roses, two or three steps lead to a lower garden you can’t quite see. Under the arch the lawn gathers & brims & curves. There’s a faint sense of water falling away quietly the other side. One late evening in early July–really, it’s almost dark–you watch a dragonfly hunting over the grass; & without thinking–but never hurrying–you take off your clothes & walk into the lawn & swim to the other side, where you sit in the scent of roses & stocks & stare for a moment or two into the lower garden & the gathering dark before you take the worn slippery steps down. Not even the briefest look back.


Blake, Peckham and “the tree of angels”. The sheer willpower needed to envisage something. Even a memory has to be forced back into existence, and for all your effort what do you get? An artefact if you’re lucky, something not quite right in the corner of your eye. The exhausting effort to understand exactly what it is you’re trying to see. The exhausting effort to keep focus. The mad daily struggle against all the side issues that offer themselves. The struggle to keep the symbology intact/exact. I don’t care about anything else in writing now, as long as I get that part right. Everything else can follow along, rag tag and bobtail. Everything else is better that way any way.

the burden of possibility

Two important-looking clergymen prowl uneasily in the bitter platform cold. They are travelling down from Leeds to London. When the train arrives they sit on opposite sides of a reserved table in the quiet carriage. “Young mothers with chipped nail varnish,” the first begins, “fill themselves with cigarette smoke for a brief blank moment of satisfaction.” To this challenge, the other responds: “When you take your clothes to the laundrette you are reaffirming or celebrating your identity. Its components dance, spin, enumerate themselves in front of your eyes.” At this, they nod and smile; a slight milkiness, an opaqueness, passes across their eyes. Later that same night they’re collecting armfuls of dead roses from the expensive homes along the river in Chiswick. “Your mind unravels like a pullover as your driver explains to you the positions of the stars.” “Certain kinds of wear and tear reveal themselves. Every personality is prone. On the other hand its renewable energies become clear.” These two men have a uniform whiteness of hair the secret of which has been lost to the laity. Neither of them drink coffee. “It occurs to me I will probably never need to write, ‘He fell into the abyss of the nunnery.'” “And yet you never know.”

Dogs left barking in houses and gardens and outside shops. The “moonlight collectors” on the roofs. An exchange which goes: “I’m your double.” “But you don’t look anything like me.” “So that’s how you see it, is it?”

still as pretty as ever

Today I woke the Marin from its deep protective dream in the corner of the shed. Advanced psychic engineering & a thick layer of cobwebs appear to have kept it functioning.


Now if only I can remember what it’s for.

this Greek dog

This Greek dog fished all day in the sea.

He never caught anything but his attention never wavered.

end of a dream

We ran through the rooms, looking for a way back to the staircase. I found a way–an empty corridor in a different kind of place, quite old but much more upscale–then I was out in a street on my own. I was still agitated and excited and I wondered what would happen next time we met. Then 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.

is there anything you want to tell me

I dreamed I had been commissioned to review a cafe. I ate a good meal & went to bed with the waitress. I downclimbed the outside of the building a couple of times, the way you do. (It was easier the first time.) Then I got down to business. I was particularly interested in compliance with local health & safety regulations, also getting the history right. I wanted to do a serious job with this. I sat the waitress down & took out my notebook.

google maps, 2am

A half-built estate. I remember kneeling over frozen puddles from which all the water seemed to have evaporated, leaving only ice on top of air. Later in the year a stile; a narrow pathway between hedges. I used to have a dream about walking on the flat green water of a canal. I remember looking down from a bridge. The water on the left, narrow lawns with trees on the right. Sunshine and shade. Ecstatic happiness. In the dream the water’s right at the level of the path, they form a single continuous surface. By the time I was twenty I’d forgotten all this except as flashes, glimpses, nothing that could even be labeled as a memory. I’ve been looking for the childhood source of the images for almost fifty years. I also have an image of playing with wooden building blocks, faded grainy blue, orange and brown. And from the same period, I think, nightmares featuring a train with a coloured dragon coming out of its chimney instead of smoke. With some of these dreams I associate the distant sound of shunting engines and the leaden buzzing noise–apprehended as both a taste and and a smell–I used as an index of the uncanny in some stories. But those images may be from later, when we had moved somewhere else.