On the contrary

Not long after Dad died, I dreamt about him tackling a deluge that came through the house into the garden

I dream a lot, but am one of those people who, almost as soon as I wake, will have forgotten it by the time I get downstairs. If I do remember anything, it will be a vague recollection without very much detail.

It’s such a shame, because they often seem so vivid and very entertaining, and yet come dawn, I can barely remember a thing. I do, however, recall the odd one from over the years that for whatever reason has stuck in my mind.

The randomness of my dreams baffles me, because often I cannot fathom why I have dreamt about a certain thing. About ten years ago, I dreamt about a classmate, Julie, who I’d not seen or heard of for at least 25 years. She wasn’t a close friend of mine, nor had we ever had any kind of memorable interaction in school. She had not been on my radar at all since we left and I had never had any reason to think about her. And yet, here she was appearing in my dream. I can’t remember any thing specific about what happened except that the dream was not related to my school days. So why was Julie there?

It is very tempting to look for meaning in those instances, and for the following week I was on the alert for anything in the news or in every day life that might be connected to Julie. Nothing occurred and as the weeks went on, thoughts of Julie retreated once more, and there they stayed, right up until I began to write this column. It is still a mystery as to why Julie popped up, and one I am never likely to be able to answer because, I suspect, there is no answer.

There are occasions, though, when we know exactly why we dream about something. Not long after my dad died, I dreamt that a huge torrent of water cascaded down the hill opposite my parents’ house, went straight through Dad’s study, through the kitchen and out the other side of the house into the garden. It was all hands on deck to try and save our belongings, and there, right in the middle of it all directing proceedings was my dad. He looked so vibrant and healthy, like he was before he became ill. He was delighted to see me, and we had good old chat, his voice very clear and distinctively his (I don’t recall what we said). When I woke up, of course I felt his loss acutely, and yet at the same time also felt a deep sense of comfort that I was able to have one last conversation with him, even if it was only in my imagination.

Dad mentioned dreams in his column from 5th December 1981 after a reader had contacted him to ask if he knew how to interpret them. He declared no expertise on the topic, but did discuss the popularity of ‘dream books’ in the days when much significance was attached to what our mind’s eye saw during sleeping hours.

At one time, it was believed that dreams held the power to predict the future, and so there was a yearning to be able to understand what they meant. Thus a market in ‘dream books’ evolved, where explanations were given for a whole plethora of subjects. They were aimed at the masses, and many were not genuine interpretations but instead were filled with flaky nonsense and published simply to make money from a popular trend.

Suggesting that a dream may mean something prophetic was, of course, subject to the possibility of being wrong. So the way the interpreters got round that was to introduce ‘contraries’. If, for example, you dreamt of a wedding, then that could also mean a death, or if you dreamt of pots of money, that could mean you would go into debt.

In 1800, Christian writer Hannah More published a cautionary tale about the devious activities of unscrupulous dream interpreters called ‘The History of Tawny Rachel’ in which she declared: “When (Rachel) explained a dream according to the natural appearance of things and it did not come to pass, then she would get out of that scrape by saying that this sort of dream went by contraries.”

Well you know what? I would never dream of of doing such a thing.

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 3rd and the Gazette & Herald on 1st December 2021