On this day in 2003 I first juggled with flaming clubs! But first, let’s back up to when I very first learned to juggle. One night, back in about 1998, I had a dream. And in that dream, I could juggle.
I’d always been a big believer in following my dreams, sometimes in a quite literal sense: once I dreamed that I’d been writing a Perl computer program to calculate the frequency pattern of consecutive months which both have a Friday 13th in them. Upon waking, I quickly typed out what I could remember of the code, and it worked, so it turns out that I really can claim to be able to program in my sleep.
In this case, though, I got up and tried to juggle… and couldn’t! So, in order that nobody could ever accuse me of not “following my dreams,” I opted to learn!
About three hours later, my mother received a phone call from me.
“Help!” I said, “I think I’m going to die of vitamin C poisoning! How much do I have to have before it becomes fatal?”
“What?” she asked, “What’s happened?”
“Well: you know how I’m a big believer in following my dreams.”
“Yeah,” she said, sighing.
“Well… I dreamed that I could juggle, so I’ve spent all morning trying to learn how to. But I’m not very good at it.”
“Okay… but what’s that got to do with vitamin C?”
“Well: I don’t own any juggling balls, so I tried to find something to use as a substitute. The only thing I could find was this sack of oranges.”
“I think I can see where you’re going wrong,” she said, sarcastically, “You’re supposed to juggle with your hands, Dan… not with your mouth.”
“I am juggling with my hands! Well; trying to, anyway. But I’m not very good. So I keep dropping the oranges. And after a few drops they start to rupture and burst, and I can’t stand to waste them, so I eat them. I’ve eaten quite a lot of oranges, now, and I’m starting to feel sick.”
I wasn’t overdosing on vitamin C, it turns out – that takes a quite monumental dose; perhaps more than can be orally ingested in naturally-occuring forms – but was simply suffering from indigestion brought on as a result of eating lots and lots of oranges, and bending over repeatedly to pick up dropped balls. My mother, who had herself learned to juggle when she was young, was able to give me two valuable tips to get me started:
Balled-up thick socks make for great getting-started juggling balls. They bounce, don’t leak juice, and are of a sensible size (if a little light) for a beginning juggler.
Standing with your knees against the side of a bed means that you don’t have to bend over so far to pick up your balls when you inevitably drop them.
I became a perfectly competent juggler quite quickly, and made a pest of myself in many a supermarket, juggling the produce.
So: fast forward five years to 2003, when Kit, Claire, Paul, Bryn and I decided to have a fire on the beach, at Aberystwyth. We’d… acquired… a large solid wooden desk and some pallets, and we set them up and ignited them and lounged around drinking beer. After a little while, a young couple came along: she was swinging flaming poi around, and he was juggling flaming clubs!
I asked if I could have a go with his flaming clubs. “Have you ever juggled flaming clubs before?” he asked. “I’ve never even juggled clubs before,” I replied. He offered to extinguish them for me, first, but I insisted on the “full experience.” I’d learn faster if there existed the threat of excruciating pain every time I fucked up, surely. Right?
Juggling clubs, it turns out, is a little harder than juggling balls. Flaming clubs, even more so, because you really can’t get away with touching the “wrong” end. Flaming clubs at night, after a few drinks, is particularly foolhardy, because all you can see is the flaming end, and you have to work backwards in your mind to interpret where the “catching end” of the stick must be, based on the movement of the burning bit. In short: I got a few minor singes.
I ordered myself a set of flaming clubs as soon as I could justify the cost, and, after a couple of unlit attempts in the street outside my house, took them to our next beach party a few days later. That’s when I learned what really makes flaming clubs dangerous: it’s not the bit that’s on fire, but the aluminium rod that connects the wick to the handle. Touching the flaming wick; well – that’ll singe a little, but it won’t leave a burn so long as you pull away quickly. But after they’ve been lit for a while – even if they’ve since been put out – touching the alumium pole will easily leave a nasty blister.
Once, a Nightline training ended up being held at an unusual location, and the other trainers and I were concerned that the trainees might not be able to find it. So we advertised on the email with the directions to the training room that trainees who can’t find it should “introduce themselves to the man juggling fire outside the students union”, who would point them in the right direction: and so I stood there, throwing clubs around, looking for lost people all morning. Which would have worked fine if it weren’t for the fact that I got an audience, and it became quite hard to discreetly pick out the Nightline trainees from the students who were just being amused by my juggling antics.
Nowadays, I don’t find much time for juggling. I keep my balls to-hand (so to speak) and sometimes toss them about while I’m waiting for my computer to catch up with me, but it’s been a long while since I got my clubs out and lit them up. Maybe I’ll find an excuse sometime soon.
This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.
It may come as a surprise to you that the stuff I write about on my blog – whether about technology, dreams, food, film, games, relationships, or my life in general – isn’t actually always written off-the-cuff. To the contrary, sometimes a post is edited and re-edited over the course of weeks or months before it finally makes it onto the web. When I wrote late last year about some of my controversial ideas about the ethics (or lack thereof) associated with telling children about Santa Claus, I’m sure that it looked like it had been inspired by the run-up to Christmas. In actual fact, I’d begun writing it six months earlier, as summer began, and had routinely visited and revisited it from time to time until I was happy with it, which luckily coincided with the Christmas season.
As an inevitable result of this process, it’s sometimes the case that a blog post is written or partially-written and then waits forever to be finished. These forever-unready, never-published articles are destined to sit forever in my drafts folder, gathering virtual dust. These aren’t the posts which were completed but left unpublished – the ones where it’s only upon finishing writing that it became self-evident that this was not for general consumption – no, the posts I’m talking about are those which honestly had a chance but just didn’t quite make it to completion.
Well, today is their day! I’ve decided to call an amnesty on my incomplete blog posts, at long last giving them a chance to see the light of day. If you’ve heard mention of declaring inbox bankruptcy, this is a similar concept: I’m sick of seeing some of these blog articles which will never be ready cluttering up my drafts folder: it’s time to make some space! Let the spring cleaning begin:
Title: Typically Busy Unpublished since: March 2004
Unpublished because: Better-expressed by another post, abandoned
In this post, I talk about how busy my life is feeling, and how this is pretty much par for the course. It’s understandable that I was feeling so pressured: at the time we were having one of our particularly frenetic periods at SmartData, I was fighting to finish my dissertation, and I was trying to find time to train for my upcoming cycle tour of Malawi. The ideas I was trying to express later appeared in a post entitled I’m Still In Aber. Yay, in a much more-optimistic form.
Title: Idloes, Where Art Thou? Unpublished since: June 2004 Unpublished because: Got distracted by rebuilding the web server on which my blog is hosted, after a technical fault
In anticipation of my trip to Malawi, I was prescribed an anti-malarial drug, Lariam, which – in accordance with the directions – I began taking daily doses of several weeks before travelling. It seemed silly in the long run; I never even saw a single mosquito while I was over there, but better safe than sorry I suppose. In any case, common side-effects of Lariam include delusions, paranoia, strange dreams, hallucinations, and other psychological
effects. I had them in spades, and especiallytheweirdtrippy dreams.
This blog post described what could have been one of those dreams… or, I suppose, could have just been the regular variety of somewhat-strange dream that isn’t uncommon for me. In the dream I was living back in Idloes, a tall Aberystwyth townhouse where I’d rented a room during 2002/2003. In the dream, the house caught fire one night, and my landlady, Anne, was killed. Apparently the fire was started by her electric blanket.
Title: Are We Alone In The Universe? Unpublished since: March 2006 Unpublished because: Never finished, beaten to the punchline
Here’s an example of an article that I went back to, refining and improving time and time again over a period of years, but still never finished. I was quite pleased with the direction it was going, but I just wasn’t able to give it as much time as it needed to reach completion.
In the article, I examine the infamous Drake Equation, which estimates the likelihood of there being intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy (more specifically, it attempts to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations “out there”). Which is all well and good, but the only way to put the formula into practice is to effectively pull unknowable numbers out of the air and stuff them into the equation to get, in the end, whatever answer you like. The only objective factors in the entire equation are those relating to the number of stars in the galaxy, and everything else is pure conjecture: who honestly thinks that they can estimate the probability of any given species reaching sentience?
The post never got finished, and I’ve since seen other articles, journals, and even stand-up comedians take apart the Drake Equation in a similar way to that which I intended, so I guess I’ve missed the boat, now. If you want to see the kind of thing I was working on, here it is but better-written. I wonder what the probability is that a blog post will never end up being published to the world?
Title: Why Old People Should Be Grumpy Unpublished since: October 2006 Unpublished because: Never finished, possibly bullshit
In this post, I put forward a theory that grumpy old people are a positive sign that a nation is making just enough change to not be stagnant: something about the value of keeping older people around crossed with the importance of taking what they say with a pinch of salt, because it’s not them that has to live in the world of tomorrow. I can’t even remember what the point was that I was trying to make, and my notes are scanty, but I’m sure it was a little bit of a one-sided argument for social change with an underdeveloped counter-argument for social stability.
In any case, I left it for years and eventually gave up on it.
Title: The Games That Didn’t Make The List Unpublished since: July 2007 Unpublished because: I could have kept refining it forever and still never finish it
After my immensely popular list of 10 Computer Games That Stole My Life, I received a great deal of feedback – either as direct feedback in the form of comments or indirectly in other people’s blogs. Reading through this feedback got me thinking about computer games that had stolen my life which I hadn’t mentioned. Not wanting to leave them out, I put together a list of “games that didn’t make the list”: i.e. games which could also have been said to steal my life, but which I didn’t think of when I wrote my original top ten. They included:
Castles and Castles 2
The original Castles was one of the first non-free PC computer games I ever owned (after Alley Cat, that golf game, and the space command/exploration game whose name I’ve been perpetually unable to recall). It was a lot of fun; a well-designed game of strategy and conquest. Later, I got a copy of Castles 2 – an early CD-ROM title, back before developers knew quite what to do with all that space – which was even better: the same castle-building awesomeness but with great new diplomacy and resource-management exercises, as well as siege engines and the ability to launch your own offensives. In the end, getting Civilization later in the same year meant that it stole more of my time, but I still sometimes dig out Castles 2 and have a quick game, from time to time.
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates!
Early during the development of Three Rings, I came across an existing company with the name Three Rings Design, based in the US. Their major product is a game called Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, an MMOG in which players – as pirates – play puzzle games in order to compete at various tasks (you know, piratey tasks: like sailing, drinking, and swordfighting). Claire and I both got quite deeply involved during the beta, and played extensively, even forming our own crew, The Dastardly Dragons, at one point, and met some fascinating folks from around the world. When the beta came to an end we both took advantage of a “tester’s bonus” chance to buy lifetime subscriptions, which we both barely used. Despite the fact that I’ve almost never played the game since then, it still “stole my life” in a quite remarkable way for some time, and my experience with this (as well as with the Ultima Online beta, which I participated in many years earlier) has shown me that I should never get too deeply involved with MMORPGs again, lest they take over my life.
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
As a Civilization fan, I leapt on the chance to get myself a copy of Alpha Centauri, and it was awesome. I actually pirated my first copy of the game, copying it from a friend who I studied with, and loved it so much that I wrapped up the cash value of the game in an envelope and sent it directly to the development team, asking them to use it as a “beer fund” and have a round on me. Later, when I lost my pirated copy, I bought a legitimate copy, and, later still, when I damaged the disk, bought another copy, including the (spectacular) add-on pack. Alpha Centauri is the only game I’ve ever loved so much that I’ve paid for it three times over, despite having stolen it, and it was worth every penny. Despite its age, I still sometimes dig it out and have a game.
Wii Sports Tennis – Target Training Perhaps the most recent game in the list, this particular part of the Wii Sports package stole my life for weeks on end while I worked up to achieving a coveted platinum medal at it, over the course of several weeks. I still play it once in a while: it’s good to put on some dance music and leap around the living room swinging a Wiimote to the beat.
Rollercoaster Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 In the comments to my original post, Rory reminded me of these games which stole my life during my first couple of years at University (and his, too!). RCT2, in particular, ate my time for years and still gets an occassional play out of me – but was pipped to the post by OpenTTD, of course.
X-COM series Another series of games which hooked me while I was young and stayed with me as I grew, the X-COM series (by which – of course – I mean Enemy Unknown, Terror From The Deep, and Apocolypse; not Interceptor and certainly not that modern travesty, Aftermath). Extremely difficult, each of them took me months or years before I completed them, and I’ve still never finished Apocalypse on anything higher that the lowest-two difficulty settings.
I wanted to write more and include more games, but by the time I’d made as much progress as I had, above, the moment felt like it had passed, so I quietly dropped the post. I suppose I’ve now shared what I was thinking, anyway.
Title: Rational Human Interaction Unpublished since: September 2007 Unpublished because: Too pretentious, even for me; never completed
I had some ideas about how humans behave and how their rationality and their emotions can conflict, and what this can mean. And then I tried to write it down and I couldn’t find a happy medium between being profound and insightful and being obvious and condescending. Later, I realised that I was tending towards the latter and, besides, much of what I was writing was too self-evident to justify a blog post, so I dropped it.
Title: Long Weekend Unpublished since: April 2008 Unpublished because: Too long, too wordy, and by the time it was nearing completion it was completely out of date
This post was supposed to be just an update about what was going on in my life and in and around Aber at the time. But as anybody who’s neglected their blog for more than a little while before may know, it can be far too easy to write about everything that’s happened in the interim, and as a result end up writing a blog post that’s so long that it’ll never be finished. Or maybe that’s just me.
In any case, the highlights of the post – which is all that it should have consisted of, ultimately – were as follows:
It was the Easter weekend on 2008, and town had gone (predictably) quiet, as many of my friends took the opportunity to visit family elsewhere, and there was a particular absence of tourists this year. Between Matt being in Cornwall, Sarah being out-of-town, and Ruth, JTA, Gareth and Penny off skiing (none of them wrote anything about it, so no post links there), it felt a little empty at our Easter Troma Night, which was rebranded a Troma Ultralite as it had only two of the requisite four people present: not even the three needed for a Troma Lite! Similarly, our Geek Night only had four attendees (but that did include Paul, unusually).
Claire and I took a dig through her wardrobe about found that of the skirts and dresses that she famously never wears, she owns over two dozen of them. Seriously.
I played and reviewed Turning Point: Fall Of Liberty, which turned out to be a second-rate first-person shooter with a reasonably clever alternate history slant. I’m a fan of alternate histories in video games, so this did a good job of keeping me amused over the long bank holiday weekend.
Paul and I were arranging for a beach-fire-barbeque with Ruth and JTA when they got back, to which we even anticipated attendence from the often-absent not-gay-Gareth.
Title: Confused And Disoriented Unpublished since: April 2008 Unpublished because: Never finished; abandoned
Having received mixed feedback about my more-unusual dreams over the years, I’ve taken to blogging about a great number of them in order to spread the insanity and let others comment on quite how strange my subconscious really is. This was to be one of those posts, and it catalogued two such unusual dreams.
In the first, I was at my grandma’s funeral (my grandma had died about two years earlier). A eulogy was given by both my mum and – confusingly – by Andy R. Afterwards, the crowd present booed them.
In the second, I revisited a place that I’ve dreamed of many times before, and which I think is a reference to some place that I found as a young child, but have never been able to determine the location of since. In this recurring theme I crawl through a tunnel (possibly of rock, as in a ruined castle) to reach a plateau (again, ruined castle-like), from which I am able to shuffle around to a hidden ledge. I have such vivid and strong memories of this place, but my faith in my own memory is shaken by the very “dreamlike” aspects of the event: the tunnel, the “secret place”, as well as the fact that it has appeared in my dreams time and time again for over 15 years. Perhaps it never existed at all: memory is a fragile and malleable thing, and it’s possible that I made it up entirely.
Some parts of it are less dream-like. For example, I’m aware that I’ve visited this place a number of times at different ages, and that I found it harder to fit through the tunnel to re-visit my secret childhood hiding place when I was older and larger.
A few years ago, I spoke to my mum about this dream, and described the location in great detail and asked where it might be, and she couldn’t think of anywhere. It’s strange to have such a strong and profound memory that I can’t justify through the experience of anybody else, and which consistently acts as if it were always just a dream. Maybe it’s real, and maybe it isn’t… but it’s beginning to sound like I’ll never know for sure.
Title: The Code In The School Unpublished since:May 2008 Unpublished because: Never finished; abandoned
Another dream, right after Troma Night 219, where it seems that the combination of the beer and the trippy nature of the films we watched inspired my brain to run off on a tangent of it’s own:
In the dream, I was visiting a school as an industrialist (similarly to how I had previously visited Gregynog on behalf of the Computer Science department at Aberystwyth University in 2005, 2006 and 2007). While there, I was given a challenge by one of the other industrialists to decipher a code represented by a number of coloured squares. A basic frequency analysis proved of no value because the data set was too small, but I was given a hint that the squares might represent words (sort of like early maritime signal flags). During mock interviews with the students, I used the challenge as a test, to see if I could get one of them to do it for me, without success. Later in the dream I cracked the message, but I’m afraid I didn’t make a record of how I did so or what the result was.
Unpublished since: May 2008 Unpublished because: Forgotten about; abandoned
At the beginning of the long, hot summer of 2008, I wrote about the immenent exodus of former students (and other hangers-on) from Aberystwyth, paying particular attention to Matt P and to Ele, who left for good at about this time. And then I forgot that I was writing about it. But Matt wrote about leaving and Ele wrote about being away, anyway, so I guess my post rapidly became redundant, anyway.
Title: =o( Unpublished since: June 2008 Unpublished because: Too negative; unfinished
I don’t even know what I was complaining about, but essentially this post was making an excuse to mope for a little while before I pull myself together and get things fixed. And that’s all that remains. It’s possible that it had something to do with this blog post, but without context I’ve no idea what that one was about, too. Sounds like it was about an argument, and so I’m happier just letting it go, whatever it was, anyway.
Title: Spicy Yellow Split Pea Soup Unpublished since: November 2008 Unpublished because: Got lazy; unfinished
I came up with a recipe for a delicious spicy yellow split pea soup, and wanted to share it with you, so I made myself the stub of a blog entry to remind myself to do so. And then I didn’t do so. Now I don’t even remember the recipe. Whoops!
In any case, the moral is that pulses make great soup, as well as being cheap and really good for you, and are especially tasty as the days get shorter and winter tightens it’s icy grip. Also that you shouldn’t leave just a title for a blog post for yourself and expect to fill it in afterwards, because you won’t.
Title: (untitled) Unpublished since: December 2008 Unpublished because: Too busy building, configuring, and working on my new PC, ironically
December is, according to Rory, the season for hardware failures, and given that alongside his troubles, Ruth’s laptop died and Paul’s computer started overheating, all at the same time, perhaps he’s right. So that’s when my long-serving desktop computer, Dualitoo, decided to kick the bucket as well. This was a particularly awkward time, as I was due to spend a weekend working my arse off towards a Three Rings deadline. Thankfully, with the help of friends and family, I was able to pull forward my plans to upgrade anyway and build myself a new box, Nena (which I continue to use to this day).
I began to write a blog post about my experience of building a computer using only local shops (I was too busy to be able to spare the time to do mail order, as I usually would), but I was unfortunately too busy building and then using – in an attempt, ultimately successful, to meet my deadline – my new computer to be able to spare time to blogging.
But I did learn some valuable things about buying components and building a mid-to-high spec computer, in Aberystwyth, all in one afternoon:
Daton Computers are pretty much useless. Actual exchange:
“Hi, I need to buy [name of component], or another [type of component] with [specification of component].”
“Well, you’ll need to bring your computer in for us to have a look at.”
“Umm; no – I’m building a computer right now: I have [other components], but I really need a [name of component] or something compatible – can you help?”
“Well, not without looking at the PC first.”
“WTF??? Why do you need to look at my PC before you can sell me a [type of component]?”
“So we can tell what’s wrong.”
“But I know what’s wrong! I only took the shrink-wrap off the [other components] this morning: all I need is a [type of component], because I don’t have one! Now can you sell one to me or not?”
“Well, not without -” /Dan exits/
Crosswood Computers are pretty much awesome. Actual exchange:
“Hi, remember me? I was in here this morning.”
“Yeah: how’s the rebuild going?”
“Not bad, but I’ve realised that I’m short by a [type of cable]: do you sell them?”
“We’re out of stock right now, but I’ve got some left-over ones in the back; you can have one for free.” /Dan wins/
It’s possible to do this, but not recommended. The local stores, and in particular Crosswood, are great, but when time allows it’s still preferable to do your component-shopping online.
Title: Child Porn Unpublished since: April 2009 Unpublished because: Never finished; too much work in writing this article
I had planned to write an article about the history of child pornography, starting well before Operation Ore and leading up to the present day, and to talk about the vilification of paedophiles (they’re the new terrorists!) – to the point where evidence is no longer as important as the severity of the alleged crime (for particularly awful examples of this kind of thinking, I recommend this article). I’m all in favour of the criminalisation of child abuse, of course, but I think it’s important that people understand the difference between the producers and the consumers of child porn, as far as a demonstrable intent to cause harm is concerned.
Anyway, the more I read around the subject, the more I realised that nothing I could write would do justice to the topic, and that others were already saying better what I was thinking, so I abandoned the post.
Title: 50 Days On An EeePC 1000 Unpublished since: May 2009 Unpublished because: By the time I was making progress, it had been more like 150 days
Earlier in the year, I’d promised that I’d write a review of my new notebook, an Asus EeePC 1000. I thought that a fun and engaging way to do that would be to write about the experience of my first 50 days using it (starting, of course, with reformatting it and installing a better operating system than the one provided with it).
Of course, by the time I’d made any real progress on the article, it was already well-past 50 days (in fact, I’d already changed the title of the post twice, from “30 Days…” to “40 Days…” and then again to “50 Days…”). It’s still a great laptop, although I’ve used it less than I expected over the last nine months or so (part of my original thinking was to allow me to allow Claire to feel like she’d reclaimed the living room, which was being taken over by Three Rings) and in some ways it’s been very-recently superceded by my awesome mobile phone.
Title: El De-arr Unpublished since: September 2009 Unpublished because: Too waffley; couldn’t be bothered to finish it; somewhat thrown by breaking up with Claire
Over the years I’ve tried a handful of long-distance romantic relationships, and a reasonable number of short-distance ones, and, in general, I’ve been awful at the former and far better at the latter. In this blog post I wrote about my experience so far of having a long-distance relationship with Ruth and what was making it work (and what was challenging).
I’m not sure where I was going with it in the first place, but by the time Claire and I broke up I didn’t have the heart to go back into it and correct all of the references to her and I, so I dropped it.
Title: Knowing What I’m Talking About Unpublished since: October 2009 Unpublished because: Never finished; got distracted by breaking up with Claire
On the tenth anniversary since I started doing volunteer work for emotional support helplines (starting with a Nightline, and most recently for Samaritans), I wrote about a talk I gave at BiCon 2009 on the subject of “Listening Skills for Supporting Others”. It was a little under-attended but it went well, and there was some great feedback at the end of it. I’d helped out with a workshop entitled “Different Approaches to Polyamory” alongside fire_kitten, but strangely it was this, the workshop whose topic should be that which I have the greater amount of experience in, that made me nervous.
This blog post was supposed to be an exploration of my personal development over the previous decade and an examination of what was different about giving this talk to giving countless presentations at helpline training sessions for years that made me apprehensive. I think it could have been pretty good, actually. Unfortunately a lot of blog posts started around this time never ended up finished as I had other concerns on my plate, but I might come back to this topic if I give a similar presentation at a future conference.
So there we have it: a big cleanse on my perpetually unfinished blog posts. I’ve still got about eight drafts open, so there’s a reasonable chance that I might finish some of them, some day: but failing that, I’ll wait until another decade or so of blogging is up and I’ll “purge” them all again, then.
And if you had the patience to read all of these – these “17 blog posts in one” – well, thanks! This was more about me than about you, so I don’t mind that plenty of you will have just scrolled down to the bottom and read this one sentence, too.
Had another strange dream a few nights ago (my blog posts are being published with a bit of a delay on them, at the moment, for reasons I might discuss in another blog post!) that I thought I’d share, before waking up early and being unable to get back to sleep.
Dream – Putting a Cap on Liz and I
I was out at a pub with my friend Liz, her partner Simon, and a load of other people, mostly the old Abnib/”Chess Club” crowd. The pub was noisy, and I felt a little claustrophobic, so I excused myself and went and sat in the deserted beer garden at one of the wooden benches. I was also hoping that Liz would pick up on something I’d said earlier in the evening and come and join me where we could talk privately, and sure enough, she did – she came out and sat next to me on the bench.
A young man we didn’t know came and sat on the bench opposite us, asking only half-politely if the seat was free (despite there being many completely free benches). We ignored him and tried to make it obvious that we were involved in a private conversation which he was not welcome to join, but he didn’t take the hint: he just sat there and lit up his cigarette.
Liz and I reminisced about our flirtatious evening together and talked about it. Realising that neither of us wanted to make anything more of it than had already happened, we decided that “that was that”, and we’d put and end to whatever romantic inklings either of us might have had. We hugged, and there was a brief moment during which we looked at one another, undecided about whether or not we should kiss, but then we didn’t, and instead exchanged a glance of agreement, and walked back inside to our friends.
The kisses and snuggles with my friend Liz happened only in the dream, in case anybody’s unclear. Not that I wouldn’t – Liz is hot! – but I think Liz represents any number of other things going on in my life right now, as discussed below. Just thought I’d clear that up, not least because she’s likely to read this!
The pub was reminiscent of The Cambrian, in Aberystwyth, but the beer garden (accessible through a door where the door to the toilets ought to be in The Cambrian) was very similar to the one that nobody seems to know about out the back of The Fountain.
I was recently in a pub in which it was too loud to reasonably talk. I was told at the time that the noisy groups near us had only first appeared right after I did.
I recently crossed paths with somebody with whom I once (well, okay, perhaps twice) had a brief sexual fling, after which I insisted that that would be the end of it, and there was no chance of a relationship of any sort other than “just friends” thereafter.
I’ve also recently spoken to somebody (else) with whom I’ve always been somewhat flirtatious, and who has once or twice reciprocated, but of which nothing has ever come.
I was quite horny when I went to sleep.
I have no idea what the table-slot nor the stranger on the other side of the bench are all about.
Sometimes sharing what I’m dreaming about with you guys leaves me with the maybes. I record virtually every dream that I remember, but I only blog about the ones that I don’t think will make anybody who reads my blog feel uncomfortable. When I first wrote about this dream, I thought twice. Let me know if I thought wrong!
Right, now I’d better get on with some of that work I’ve been doing too much of!
I didn’t sleep well; I woke up several times throughout the night. On the upside, I have a strong recollection of three distinct yet inter-related dreams:
Dream I: Alex and the Accident
I came into work as normal and spoke to Alex, my co-worker. He’d been in some sort of car accident in which he’d hit and killed a man in an electric scooter. There was a lot of ambiguity about whose fault it was – the man had apparently accelerated his scooter right out into traffic… but Alex had been driving too fast at the time.
My mum’s partner’s son, I recently learned, was in a car crash a week ago.
At work yesterday my boss was telling me about expensive repairs to his car.
I was a Western spy during the Cold War, attempting to infiltrate a Soviet University. With some difficulty, I was able to become enrolled at the University, but soon came under suspicion from the administrative management (all Party members, of course) after my luggage was found to contain a British newspaper. The newspaper contained details of Alex’s car crash, from Dream I, and this was later re-printed in the local newspapers, but with a suitably communist spin.
Later, after my cover was blown, I made plans to flee the country and return to the West.
I woke up, got dressed, and went to work. I discussed with co-workers Alex and Gareth a dream I’d had the previous night, in which Alex had crashed his car (as per Dream I) and about a film I’d seen the previous evening, about the infiltration of a Soviet University by a Western agent (as per Dream II). I explained that apparently the film was supposed to be about drugs, but maybe I’d failed to understand it because I didn’t see how it was supposed to be about drugs at all.
A client of ours paid a deposit on a reasonably-large job we’d quoted for, and I begun laying the foundations of the work as described in our technical specification.
Third dream references the first two dreams, but as different media: one as a dream, the other as a film!
I’m expecting to get started on a new contract within the next couple of weeks, similar to the one referenced by the dream.
It was quite disappointing to be woken by my alarm and to discover that I still had to get up and go to work. While I’m usually quite aware that I’m dreaming when I’m dreaming, I somehow got suckered in by Dream III and had really got into the groove of going to work and getting on with my day, probably because I’d so readily assumed that Dream I was the dream and therefore that the same mundane things happening again must have been real life.
I was prompted to wonder, momentarily, if I might still be dreaming, when an unusual thing happened on the way to work. Just after I passed the site of the old post office sorting yard, about a third of the way to the office, I came across a woman crouched in a doorway, reaching out to a blue tit which was sat quite still in the middle of the pavement. Still half-asleep, I only barely noticed them in time to not walk right through them.
The bird must be injured, I thought, to not be flying away, as the woman managed to reach around it and pick it up. I stopped and waited to see if I could be of any use. Seconds later, the little creature wriggled free and flew off to perch on top of a nearby fence: it was perfectly fine!
The woman seemed as perplexed at this as I was: perhaps we both just found the world’s stupidest blue tit. I double-checked the clock on my phone (this is a reasonably-good “am I dreaming?” check for me, personally, as is re-reading text and using light switches) – but no, this was real. Just weird.
Edit: changed “Callbacks:” to “Significance:”. This is the format in which I’ll be blogging about the dreams I share with you now, I’ve decided.
Faye was moving out of her family home and into a flat of her own, and as it was small, she wasn’t able to provide sufficient space for all of her many critters, so she rehomed a parrot (a Scarlet Macaw, although I’m pretty sure she only has an African Grey in real life). Having heard about this from my mum and on Faye’s blog, I visited Preston and met the parrot, who turned out to be a remarkably intelligent “talker,” – even for a parrot in general – capable even of understanding some particularly complex linguistic constructions like rhyming.
I was driving a moped, with Claire riding on the back (she commented that I was doing a better job of it than she would, reminiscent a real-life skidooing incident). We were travelling at speed around the hilly, cobbled streets of a distinctly-Mediterranean city. We were dodging traffic and in an obvious hurry when I was rudely woken by the telephone.
Antaŭ pluraj semajnoj, mi havis sonĝo. Mi sonĝis de mi parolas Esperanton. Neniu rajtas diri mi ne postiras mia sonĝoj, ĉar mi komencis lerni la lingvo!
(sed mi bezonis vortaron por skribis jenon)
Translation of my very rough-and-ready multilingual work, above: Several weeks ago, I had a dream. I dreamt that I spoke Esperanto. Nobody may say I don’t follow my dreams, because I’ve begun learning the language. (although I required a dictionary to write this)
That’s the short and long of it, really. Thanks to Lernu!‘s online “audiobook”-like tutorials and Project Gutenberg and a half-dozen other sites, I’ve now got a basic grasp of Esperanto. I can say who I am and how I am and ask the same of you, tell you what I do for a living, conjugate a variety of verbs (actually, any verb – the structure of the language is so thoughtfully put-together that the rules for using it are logical and exception-free).
Why am I learning a language that I know no other speakers of? Well, it gives me something new to think about on my lunch breaks, but I’m afraid the best reason is the one detailed (bilingually) above: I dreamt I could, so I wanted to find out if I was able to. I’ve always been particularly bad at picking up human languages (programming languages, by comparison, I’m tend to learn very fast), and as I’m not quite mad enough yet to learn Lojban, I guess Esperanto‘s the next-best thing.
Perhaps Vanilla Sky wasn’t the best choice of film to finish Troma Night last night on, based on the dream I had:
I dreamt that I was dreaming, and that during that inner dream I became lucid [not so hard, actually, and something I periodically do normally]. In the inner dream, I’d broken my phone while snowboarding, and needed to replace the battery, and so, in a test of dream control, I simply made a new battery materialise and installed it. However aware I was that I was in a dream, however, I didn’t come to realise that I was dreaming that I was dreaming – I was convinced that I was aware of my waking life as the one that I had in the first-level dream – until I “woke up” and, a few minutes later, achieved lucidity again.
Strange, but not really unexpected: mixing my head with films that have themes of altered states of conciousness almost invariably gives these kinds of results.
We’ve got a letter here addressed to Bryn – it came through the letterbox yesterday evening at some point. If you’d like to pick it up, Bryn, we’ll be around all morning and then we’re disappearing (see below).
Claire and I are off to Preston this afternoon to visit my family before moving on to Manchester tomorrow, where we’re seeing Foo Fighters. We’re back late on Monday night/early Tuesday morning. I gather that Geek Night B is taking place at Rory’s tonight, if anybody’s that way inclined, but I’m afraid you can’t have Pandemic, because I’ve promised to play it with my family. Next week!
Last night I had a particularly vivid and unusual dream:
JTA and I were homeless and living on the streets of some foreign city (it was somewhat reminiscent of London, but most folks spoke French, so I guess it wasn’t); jobless, hungry, and generally sleeping in the central railway station, except when the police or station staff moved us on.
In order to make some money – and as much to give us something to do with our time and to keep our spirits up – we decided to put together a piece of musical street theatre. For some reason I was carrying a concertina (Claire‘s?) and was quite able to play it, and JTA had a reasonable singing voice, so we began to put together a cautionary tale that we would perform, telling the story of JTA’s life and how he got into the unfortunate position that we were now in.
In our story, JTA was bullied into going out and getting a job by his mother and sister in order to bring money into the family house, but he is lazy and he cannot hold down a job. Looking for a quick (and easy) solution, he turns to crime, and, after he accidentally murders a man he intended to rob, he flees the country to escape arrest.
Later, we went back and made some artistic adjustments to the story, in order to hammer some extra morals home – our adaptations included JTA’s introduction to a life of crime being through a shady character who accosted him on his way back from his first stable job (a cleaner at a zoo), and tempting him with “easier work,” and a change to the story of his family to make them seem less demanding and more tolerant (making his inability to support them comeacross as more shocking).
Through a variety of makeshift costume changes, I would play a number of secondary parts – JTA’s mother (who didn’t look anything like his mother actually does, and even less so when played by me), an employer, the shady character – and narrate his downfall, while JTA would play himself: initially a cheery but lazy “country bumpkin” character who feels wronged by his bad luck and eventually comes to resent the world around him.
At the point I woke up, we were still tweaking songs and hadn’t actually performed it. But it had cheered us up no end.
There was a particular song I’ve been trying to remember a line from all morning. Early on, after JTA has “lost yet another job” and is walking home, we had a line that made a clever pun on English pronounciation of the French word emploi (employment) -much of the play was done bilingually – but all I can remember is the time signature of the song and the general theme. I remember that when I woke up, I knew what it was and thought “Wow; that’s brilliant – when I blog about this dream, I must include that!” But by the time I got to a computer I’d forgotten it. Ah well.
Went out last night for curry and beer to celebrate Paul‘s birthday (yes, we’re all well aware that Paul’s birthday was almost a month ago, but this was the first chance we’d had to really get together and make an ocassion of it). It was great to get together with a handful of folks rarely seen in the same place outside of Troma Night – and in some cases, recently, not even then – and have a good night out.
At the end of the evening I was quite tipsy; a direct result of the fact that or a few hours before the curry I’d been “warming up” with ales in the Ship & Castle with Matt P. And, as you may have noticed by now, there’s a strong correlation between me going to bed drunk and me blogging about particularly unusual dreams. I skipped a dream that I couldn’t be arsed to blog about, near the end of last month, under similar intoxication. I’d made some notes on it, as I try to with everything I dream about, but never found time to write it up to standards of internet legibility (whatever that can be taken as meaning).
In any case, last night was a classic example of me dreaming within-a-dream, which I gather is something a lot of people haven’t experienced (for me, while not commonplace, it’s not terribly rare, either, for me to “wake up” within a dream, or to remember previous dreams as dreams within the one I’m currently ‘in’). Note the double-indentation to ease understanding of which dream I’m referring to:
I had been hosting a house party of some variety, in a somewhat larger (and significantly tidier) version of The Cottage, and it was beginning to wind up – most of the guests had gone home, except for a few small, scattered groups in different parts of the building (I mentioned that it was bigger than The Cottage usually is, right? – there are times that the word “mansion” could have come to hand). JTA, Claire and Ruth were somewhere upstairs; Bryn was talking to Andrew Rawlins (!) in a kitchen reminiscent of my dad’s house; and I was in the living room, talking to Penny.
If I remember rightly we were talking about oral sex technique. So, just a regular conversation for me, you’re probably thinking. And that’s about the time that we kissed.
We hid that we’d been kissing from Bryn and Andrew as they came through the living room, said goodbye, got their coats and left. And again, when Gareth, Penny’s partner, arrived by car to pick her up. And then I went to bed.
And then I woke up. I don’t specifically remember waking up, but I remember having a moment of realisation that everything that had just happened was a dream. It was an unusual dream, sure (although not entirely unpleasant: Penny’s pretty hot), but just a dream, and so I got on with my day. Leaving Claire in bed, I went to work, and I remember thinking about the fact that I would undoubtedly blog about the dream I’d had, and that I hoped I wouldn’t alarm or embarrass Penny by doing so!
And then I woke up. Actually, this time, and there was a moment of confusion as I remembered that it was Ruth I’d spent the night with last night, not Claire at all, and I spent the first few minutes of the morning trying to work out where the dreams began and ended. Perhaps more confusingly, I discovered when I woke up that I’d somehow, in the night, managed to cut my hand and I was bleeding all over the place. I snapped the following photo after I’d cleaned it up a bit.
Ruth theorised that she attacked me in my sleep because she was jealous that I was kissing Penny in my dreams, going on to add that she wanted to be dreaming of kissing Penny. But I’m not sure if she’d approve of me blogging that, so you should pretend that I didn’t.
Do you or anybody you know routinely dream that you are dreaming? Or wake up from a dream with an unusual injury? Or have dreams that involve your friends cheating on their partners with you?
Two more particularly strange dreams last night, probably owing at least slightly by the amount I drank at the SmartData Christmas meal, beforehand… and perhaps owing more to the phase I’ve been going though of consistently remembering what are usually quite trippy dreams. I’ve not been blogging them all (I had a dream the night before last, or thereabouts, in which both my grandfathers [actually already dead] died in quick succession, which was a bit odd) because I’ve not had much spare time in which to blog at all, but I can’t really not share the unusual stories my brain was telling me last night.
The Company Picnic Dream
The first of these dreams I remember because I woke up parched at about 3am, having not had quite enough water between stopping drinking alcohol and going to bed. It’s very obviously inspired quite heavily by the SmartData Christmas meal:
Simon, Alex, Gareth and I – everybody present at the Christmas dinner earlier in the evening – were having a picnic on the Aber promenade. We’d laid out a picnic rug right at the edge of the prom, where the drop-off to the beach begins, and we were eating soup from bowls. The tide was in and it was getting dark, and occasional waves would crash against the prom and splash us, so we all got off the picnic rug and dragged it further away from the sea. We were still getting sprayed and our soup was getting cold, so I suggested that we go to Paul‘s flat, nearby, where we could re-heat it.
When we got to Paul’s flat he wasn’t there, but Ruth was. She said that Paul wouldn’t mind us using his oven [!] to re-heat our soup, so we put our bowls in the oven and turned it on. Paul’s living room had distinct elements of The Flat and The Cottage to it, but the staircase downstairs was the one from my dad’s house. After a while, people started to arrive for Geek Night – just the usual people one would expect, but also two women I didn’t recognise. I went down the stairs to collect a box full of board games, and the stairs looked a lot like those at my dad’s house, but with the carpet we had when I was young.
I picked up the blue plastic box of board games [the same one that, in real life, has been used for months to transport games to and from Rory‘s place], but it was overfilled and hard to control, so I asked JTA to carry some of the games, which he did. Later, I persuaded Claire to carry some, too, although she objected to having to help. The box for the Friends & Foes expansion pack to Lord Of The Rings fell open, and I had to pick up all the pieces.
The Animated Cat Dream
The second dream of last night is far more weird and convoluted. It’s all-too-easy to find meaning in it relating to my life and the people in it, but I can assure you that if that appears to be the case, it’s coincidental – large segments of it are from a recurring dream I’ve had several times in the last seven or eight years. This doesn’t help my case for not being a fruitcake, though, I suppose. In any case:
The dream is told from a perspective in which I am an observer – like watching a film – rather than something of which I am part of with which I can interact. During the dream, I was aware that the story I was following was something I had seen before (previous occurrences of dreaming this, which is one of the far-less-frequent recurring stories I find in my dreams). Like previous times, however, I’ve had a sensation of "seeing more" in it this time around than any previous time [another common theme in several of my recurring dreams is a feeling that I’m being told a story in fragments, seeing a bigger picture every time]: a clearer picture, a more-understandable plot, and a longer and better-planned tale.
The dream is also always told through the medium of animation, and the animation style in itself is worthy of mention. It has a particularly hand-drawn feel to it, uses very strong blocks of colour, a slightly-too-small frame rate, and it is animated entirely without outlines around the characters and their features. It’s very slightly glossy, like poster paint. Those "common" bits aside, here’s the dream:
An anthropomorphic black tom cat walks up a stairwell, as seen from a "floating camera" ascending the stairs ahead of him, in a grubby, run-down old house. He has a cheeky grin on his face as he reaches the top of the stairs and enters what appears to be his bedroom, and makes the bed, while we hear his voice as a voice-over monologue. He’s trying to impress a woman he lives with in order to sleep with her. He gets into the bed.
Later, the woman comes home. She’s tall with long unkempt blonde hair, and she’s wearing a black dress, and she’s animated in the same style as the cat (although she’s the most human-looking character in the entire story). She goes to the bedroom, and it becomes apparent [from the voiceover? I don’t remember] that it’s her room, not the cat’s. She appears to be angry that the cat has crept in to her bed, and she sternly demands that he returns to his own room. He slinks out, and she follows him, watching him skulk back to his own room, where she insists that she must punish him for his impertinence. A series of kinky games ensue, and it’s obvious that what I’m now seeing is the true nature of the relationship between the cat and this woman: one based on cheeky misbehaviour, control, sex, and sadomasochism. She threatens him, and slaps him, and makes him sit bare-bottomed on a hot radiator, and as the camera pulls away from the scene we see some text appear that for some reason tell us their "safe word" (well, a "safe phrase", really): it begins "I wish I knew the name of…" and finishes with a monicker by which we know the woman. [but since waking, I don’t remember what it is]
The dream shows another two inhabitants of the house [only one of which I can recall well enough to describe] – one of these has distinctly pig-like features. He’s excitable and slightly nervous and talks with a stutter, but he’s likable and gets on well with the other people he lives with, including the other one in this scene. The two talk [but I don’t recall about what] as the opening credits begin to appear (large, serifed white letters) and the view explores the house, seeing a great deal of filth and squalor and a generally disturbing level of decay. At one point, we see an ill and dying rat bite off and eat the eye (and surrounding face) of a dead and decomposing rat.
Some time later [there’s a huge plot hole here, and I’m convinced my brain simply hasn’t seen fit to fill it in yet], a black bakelite telephone rings at the house, and the woman answers it. We hear the voice on the other end of the phone threaten [perhaps blackmailing] her, and she appears genuinely scared. She tries to respond, boldly, to hide her fear, but the voice on the phone is being played from an old-fashioned record turntable in a car parked over the street, connected to a car-phone. The cat, the woman, the pig-man, and the fourth housemate gather to discus what to do about this threat.
New aspects in this dream since the last time I had it include: a great deal more clarity on the animation style of the cat (and the woman, to a lesser extent), the discovery that the woman and the cat have a "safe word," the dead rat (the other rat has always featured, but it’s new to see it being cannibalistic), and the woman’s face while she is being threatened (previously, I’ve "been looking at" the record player at the time).
So, that’s another episode in one of my more-unusual recurring dreams (and not a common one; I’ve only had that particular dream about four times so far, as far as I can tell). Interpretations, as always, welcome, but if you’d prefer to just sit quietly and think, "wow, that guy’s fucked up," that’s cool too.
I was in a small aircraft (one aisle, two seats either side, about 80 seats in total, two jet engines, for those who feel the need to identify the aircraft in my dreams), sat by a window on the left hand-side, when the right-hand engine caught fire. The plane was forced to make an emergency water landing somewhere off the coast of India. The other passengers and I were all instructed to put on our life-jackets, fasten our seat belts, and brace for impact, but as the plane went down, I suddenly came to an understanding that we were all going to be okay. I took off my seatbelt and stood up moments before the plane hit the water, and (despite a little juddering) I was perfectly okay. Around me people were panicking, but I was completely calm.
Read into that whatever you like.
Suppose I’d better start my Christmas shopping, today.
I visited the house of Simon [my boss] to collect £49.97 which, in my dream, he owed me. He and his wife, Jill, were there. Simon gave me a £50 note, but I didn’t have three pence in change, so I have him a five pence piece and he gave me two pennies.
Another unusual dream last night. I’d meant to blog about it earlier in the day, before it faded, but it’s been a ludicrously busy day with one thing and another and I didn’t get a chance. I slept kind-of fitfully, I think, and I’m pretty sure this dream came to me in two distinct chapters, because I remember details that I’d become aware of after falling asleep a second time, even though they applied to the dream I’d remembered after waking up for the first time during the night. Strange.
Claire and I were at Gregynog, just as we were last month, to help out with the Computer Science Department away weekend. Unusually, though, the majority of the guests were accommodated in tents scattered around the grounds of the hall, rather than in bedrooms in the building itself. We’d arrived early in the day, and had trouble persuading the staff that we were supposed to be there, and when we were finally able to drop off our bags we decided to wander into the nearby town [there isn’t actually a town for miles and miles around] and look around.
In need of some lunch, we got a taxi and asked for a lift to a cafe we’d heard about, but he took us to a beach. We walked along a rickety walkway (which had evidently been replaced recently, but not very well) laid over the beach, and it was hard to follow because it was becoming covered in sand, but we just about found our way, despite protests from Claire that we should try a different route. The beach opened up to a series of villas and some kind of tourist resort, and we realised that the taxi had dropped us off far further from the cafe than we had imagined.
We took a shortcut through a dry ski slope, and I remember walking across a very high open-sided bridge, which Claire again objected to.
I’m sure there were significant other bits to the dream, but I don’t remember them now. Strange stuff. Perhaps I need to relax a little and think less.
Strange dream last night. I only remember fragments of it, but here’s what I do:
At some point during it, I left work at lunchtime to visit my dad and my sisters (who lived, conveniently, within walking distance of work). I bought a bag of sherbert along the way, but I was disappointed with how clumpy it was. I met my sisters – Sarah and Becky – on the way to my dad’s house, and Becky told me that she’s just got a job working at a chain bakery (a Greggs-like place) conveniently situated at the end of my dad’s road. Sarah teased Becky about the low level of skill required to do her job, and they argued. Oh, and both Sarah and Becky were black – I’m not sure how that’s relevant, it wasn’t important in the dream, I don’t think, and in fact it’s only now, thinking back over the dream, that I’ve noticed that that’s a little unusual.
In any case; when we got to my dad’s (and I’d almost finished my bag of sherbert) he tried to persuade me that I needed to start running up and down a hill in order to get into training for some kind of event, but I pointed out that I needed to get back to work, so I left.
When I got back to work, the caterers were carrying some kind of large soup pan and a ladle along the corridor to the kitchen on our floor.
The creepy bit of this is that when I got to work this morning and popped my head into the kitchen opposite our office, there is a large soup pan in there. It’s a fair bit smaller than the one in my dream, but it’s in the same style. Weird.
Interpretations welcome, as usual, but don’t expect to make sense of me.