Do Androids Dream of Fluorescent Sheep?

I just thought I was being clever, messing about with the title of the Philip K Dick novel featuring a post-apocalyptic San Francisco human who aspires to possess a real animal since most of them are dead from radiation poisoning. I never thought there were real fluorescent sheep. Real life edges ever closer to the horror story. What are we doing? And cats as well? Sacred, wonderful cats injected with jellyfish DNA. So wrong.

If you don’t believe me, here is a cat, and a baby monkey and… so, so wrong.

flourescent

Why don’t they do that to humans, huh? There’s a prison near me. Why not inject the prisoners with this glow-in-the dark stuff in case they escape? No problem picking them out from the helicopter then. Why not infants? Just imagine, if baby happened to crawl out into the garden through a back door carelessly left ajar. No problem. The thing’s fluorescent. Here, baby baby…

Anyway… I was going to write about my dreams. I expect you always wanted to hear about my dreams. No? Ah well, I’ll keep it brief. Maybe.

Do you dream the same thing over and over? Perhaps I’m the only one. I have always dreamt about cats. Not so often now, since they had to do with the emotional segment of my life and that’s more or less over. It started just before I got married. I dreamt a black cat sat on my mother’s fridge. I had poisoned the black cat. The black cat didn’t know it yet. Any minute now it would start to die. I was filled with shame, and horror. I wished I could undo what I had done.

At intervals after that, more and more cats. And I was always terribly upset about them; they were never just curled up asleep wearing top hats and false moustaches or whatever.

Once I was in America. (I have never been to America.) Dream America was a big, empty place. There seemed to be no people in it, only mile after mile of prairie. It was so big, I could sense it stretching away for more millions of miles than I, as a tiny-island Brit, could ever contemplate. I was alone in this windswept place, in an empty room, with a cat, and the window was open. I saw the window but somehow I couldn’t get round to closing it. The cat jumped through, into that endless void, and was gone. Needle in a haystack.

Once I was sitting in an armchair close to a blazing fire. In the arm of the armchair, for some reason, was a cage, and in the cage, concealed, a cat. The cat was burning, frying, because my chair was too close to the fire. But I couldn’t seem to warn myself. Myself was oblivious.

At one point a cat was following me across a zebra crossing in single file – like the Beatles outside Abbey Road. The cat had followed me for miles, surviving city traffic. From home, wherever that was.

For a long time I didn’t know what the cats were. What did they symbolise? Being an over-complicated person I got books out of the library. Cats in a dream might mean… intuition. The health of the dream cat indicates whether you are heeding or ignoring your intuition. Rely less on intellect. That would certainly have applied. For twenty-two years I went on and on, stalwartly ignoring my intuition. But the book-explanation didn’t seem enough.

And then I had another dream. I dreamed that cats wearing parachutes were descending into a ploughed field. I ran to pick up one of the cats and found it had turned into a teddy bear. And in this way Mr Subconscious showed me absolutely directly, in his own picture-making way, what library books had failed to make clear. Cats, like teddy bears (and of course the children I had not been able to conceive) were something to cuddle. They were affection received and given. Something to love.

Mr Subconscious practices that Show, don’t tell thing they’re always going on about in How To Write books and writers’ groups. He sends a picture along with an emotion and then you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt. One of these days, I hope to speak subconscious with ease.

Last night, for a change, I dreamed of fluorescent sheep. I do not think sheep are Something to Cuddle. They are certainly woolly, but I have never been too fond of sheep, having helped to catch a runaway one in a country lane. Sheep are much larger than you think, and greasy. However… these sheep were invisible. They were being herded up an abandoned railway line and the only way the shepherd could tell where they were was because he had painted a fluorescent spot on each sheep. This morning I learned from my TV that British astronaut Tim Peake is going to be conducting an experiment up there in the space station. He is going to be remotely controlling a Mars explorer robot. He has to go into a dark ‘cave’ where round (sheep-shaped) boulders are littered around, and he will have to pick up the boulders and take photos of them. No easy task, so to help him they have daubed some of the boulders with fluorescent paint. Now, am I becoming a prescient in my old age? I mean, is this the first step? Not so much train-wrecks and plane crashes as Mars explorer vessels?  Not so much far into the future as… more or less straight away?

flourescent3

 

SNOW AND A SUPERMOON (Angels & Other Occurrences 4.1)

‘We’re lost, aren’t we? Why don’t you just admit it?’

Sepp sighed. ‘OK, I admit it, we’re lost.’

‘Here’s me about to give birth any day now and here we are together, alone, in an ice-cream van, in the middle of winter, somewhere in Norfolk or possibly Suffolk, and night’s coming on. Typical man, too proud to stop and ask directions…’

‘Well, who would you have me ask? I mean, there’s the sheep in the field over there. I do believe we might have passed a donkey or two half an hour back. Would you like me to reverse all the way back up this lane, because it sure enough isn’t wide enough for a three-point turn.’

Sepp glanced across at Marie, twisting uncomfortably in the high passenger seat of a vehicle never designed for pregnant ladies. She was close to tears, he realised.

He reached across and took her hand.

‘Sorry, sweetheart. I forgot about the hormones. Of course you’re worried, and I admit I’m worried too. I’m desperate to get you and… junior there… to a safe place. I’m sorry I got us lost. You know me – East End boy – find my way around the East End, no problem, but East Anglia’s a whole different ball game.’ He was trying to inject some humour into the situation. Trying to reassure her that he was still capable of looking after her. Except he wasn’t sure himself.

‘We’ll be OK,’ he said. ‘Whatever happens – and even if we are lost – you’ve got me. And the baby’s got us.’

They had been forced to leave the city in a hurry, four hours ago. Beppo had lent him the ice cream van. ‘I’m only thinking of myself, Giuseppe. If you’re going to come into the business with me once all this flooding business is over, we’re gonna need the van. Selling ice creams from a bicycle – not so good.’ This was the first Sepp had heard of joining Beppo in his business ventures. Ice cream was only one string to Beppo’s bow – there was the hot-dog stand, the baked potato franchise, the… he sometimes found it difficult to keep track of it all. Beppo was a business wizard, a real East End boy, on his way up. Sepp understood that Beppo was making him a very generous offer, in a roundabout sort of way. He gave his cousin a hug. Once the present danger was over, it might be a life-saver. A week ago he had been laid off from his job as a joiner on a building site. ‘I don’t want to let you go, Sepp,’ the boss had said, ‘but the housing market’s going seriously downhill at the moment. Just can’t afford to keep you on.’

He had not told Marie about this. She had enough to cope with at the moment, without getting all steamed up about how they were going to cope financially. Now he wouldn’t need to tell her. Beppo had saved the day.

But right at the moment he had to focus on finding them somewhere to stay the night. They were obviously not going to make it up to Beth and Zak in Yorkshire before nightfall, and the baby might come any time now. If only the Thames Barrier hadn’t decided to fail right now. Why couldn’t it have waited for a few days, till after the baby? The barrier was supposed to protect Londoners against flood tides and now… Now the weather people were announcing a tidal wave on it’s way towards the capital. The barrier, they said, whilst it might delay serious flooding for a while, was not going to be adequate this time. It was an unprecedented high tide. Those in lower-lying districts should evacuate to higher ground. If possible Londoners should evacuate the city altogether. At this point the News programme cut to a map, panning slowly over it. Sepp looked, but he didn’t need to. Their ground floor Council flat was just a few short streets away from the river. You couldn’t get more low-lying.

‘The young, the old, the sick and the vulnerable should go to stay with relatives in other parts of the country,’ the news-reader said. ‘Government advice: set out now. Evacuate now if you have the option to do so.’

Within minutes a text arrived from Zak:

Sepp come to us bring Marie. Beth so worried. Throw few things together get moving. Spare room ready. Come now.

The van was far from ideal. It had been sitting on Beppo’s driveway since the autumn and the battery had gone flat. Beppo had jump-started it and, hopefully, it had recharged itself by now. Hopefully. It wasn’t too reliable at the best of times. Something wrong with the electrics. Sepp just hoped the van wouldn’t start treating them (and any bystanders) to impromptu performances of its ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’ jingle, as it tended to do when its ‘electrics’ were on the blink.

MetempsyCOWsis

In my previous life, I believe I was a cow.

So this is a step up, really. I get to vote for one candidate or anudder, listen to mooooooosic, watch TV eating chocolate digestives or cheese-and-onion quiche – luxuries unavailable to me, as a cow.

And I get to talk. Woah…talk! What shall I say? What would someone say, who had recently been a cow?

I rather miss my field, particularly the nice juicy bits between the thistles. And the green. This place now is not-green, and there’s stuff careering about hoooooooting at me. I seem to be in the middle of… what is this? A not-field, with high-things, and zooming-items.

Those sheep in the next door field. I quite liked them. Wonder where they all are now, those sheep? Have they all moved on to their next existences or are some of them still there, still wandering about in white woolly bunches, sheltering by the hedge when rain’s on the way, checking out the clouds for smiley angel faces. Yes, I miss those little ol’ sheep.

And only one stomach; that’s not so good. Should I consume a plethora of pizzas or – less likely, I grant – a surfeit of lampreys, where am I going to put them? Where’s my storage?

Moooooovement seems to be fluid, though somewhat vertiginous. Could have done with another leg or two. Stabilisers, as it were. No doubt I’ll get used to it.

Now, where would someone walk, in this brave moooooo world of mine?

(Don’t ask me – I just started writing and…out it came)

ruminate

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts

There are almost as many ‘explanations’ of ghosts as there are ghosts themselves. One day, all ghostly phenomena may be explicable in scientific terms or, one day, we may become aware of a parallel or interfused reality in which they, and other such inexplicable things, have their existence. Here are just some of the possible explanations:

  • A ghost could be a folk memory of an ancient tragedy. For example the crying child ghost heard at the Roman fortress of Reculver, in Kent. In 1966 the skeletons of several babies were discovered beneath the foundations. Could the crying ghosts be ‘memories’ of a ritual child sacrifice some 2000 years ago? At Richborough, sixteen or seventeen miles from Reculver, a ghostly Roman cohort is sometimes seen, its phantom soldiers marching into the sea.
  • Ghosts are not even always human beings. Phantom ships have been seen sailing towards shore, leaving the water and continuing to ‘sail’ for a considerable distance overland. In Cornwall ‘corpse candles’ were said to foretell a death. These small blobs of yellow light would process along the street and stop over the house where a death was imminent. This is a strange, parallel – Cornish lights hovering over a house of death; the Star of Bethlehem hovering over a house of birth.
  • In some parts of Britain there have been reports of spectral coaches drawn by headless horses. This could be a ‘memory’ of the Norse invaders and their god Odin/Woden – whose Wild Hunt was said to cross the night sky in Winter followed by baying hounds. To witness the Wild Hunt was to be carried off to a distant land. To speak with the Huntsman meant certain death. Spectral dogs could be a folk-memory of Odin’s fearsome hounds.
  • Many ghosts are said to be those of famous or royal personages. It may be that we just cannot let go of the idea of these individuals – that they are so vividly alive in our imaginations that we cannot accept the mundane fact of their deaths. Think of Elvis Presley and all the rumours that he did not die, that he has been sighted walking past a window at Gracelands and so forth.
  • And then there is the legion of Grey Ladies, Brown Ladies and other nameless ghosts, whose original purpose for remaining has faded with time, but who still walk the corridors of country houses, or haunt the cellars of castles, apparently manifesting some long-ago instense emotion – love, hate, fear, the need for revenge or a final farewell – leaving some kind of pattern in the fabric of time for sensitives to pick up on.
  • Animals react to ghosts in different ways. Horses sweat and shy, and dogs bark in the presence of a ghost, but cats enjoy the company of ghosts and are said to purr when they are around. The farmyard cockerel could banish ghosts and avert the evil eye, at least in the Hebrides. A cock crowing at dawn told the farmer it was safe to rise and begin his day’s work, for the spirits of darkness had all been banished. It was said that a cockerel could frighten away the Devil himself – one reason cockerels appear so often in church weathervanes.
  • Many of the old customs around the time of death and in connection with funerals, were not so much to honour the dead as to make sure they could not come back and haunt their fearful relatives. Touching the dead person, gently and respectfully, prevented the toucher from being haunted by the ghost of the corpse. It was also a way of proving that goodwill existed between toucher and corpse. A murdered man’s body was said to bleed if touched by his murderer.
  • Fairies were once believed to be the ghosts of those that had died before Christianity came to Britian, and of the stillborn and the unbaptised.
  • The festival of Samain or Samhain (pronounced sahwin or sowin), the Gaelic festival marking the end of harvest and the beginning of winter (31 October/1 November – the origin of our Halloween) was a time when natural laws were suspended and ghosts and demons were free to roam. Samain was the beginning of the celtic calendar and signified both death and new life. This was the time for animals to be slaughtered to provide food for winter, and for sheep to be mated for next year’s flock.