Generally I don’t remember my dreams, and to judge by the few that I do remember I am rather glad that I don’t. Nor do I believe, pace Freud, that they are the royal road to the unconscious, still less that they are auguries of the future. On the contrary, I think that they are the effect on the brain of the digestive products of heavy meals taken too late at night. However, I have to admit that this opinion may be the consequence of selection bias: the few dreams that I remember tend to be those that follow such heavy meals. Physiologists tell us that we all dream every night, and so these dreams may not be representative of all my dreams.
In general, the dreams that I remember are unpleasant without giving quite the full horror-film nightmare treatment. For example, the other night I dreamt that I was at Baker Street Underground Station in London. Why I was there my dream did not vouchsafe me: someone to whom I told it afterward pointed out that I had been wearing my deerstalker hat that weekend, and of course Sherlock Holmes lived at number 221B Baker Street.
Furthermore, I was accosted (in my dream) by a tall upper-class man of Sherlockian bodily habitus who, however, was drunk, which as far as I am aware Holmes never was in all the canon of his exploits. And for some reason this pseudo-Holmes insisted on speaking to me, putting his face right up to mine and talking the most terrible incoherent drunken nonsense. (I could smell his stale alcohol breath in my dream.) By his insistence he prevented a friend of mine, who edits a magazine for which I write on occasion and who had come to Baker Street to meet me, from speaking to me. He, my friend, wanted to explain Gaullist economics to me, in which the figure of 5 per cent was very important, though 5 per cent of what the dream also did not vouchsafe me. The budget deficit? The interest or unemployment rate? I cannot say; but in any case my friend had very little chance to explain himself because of the almost jealous ravings of the drunken man, who refused all my hints that I wanted him to go away.
I was polite even in my dream: or was it pusillanimous? I didn’t so much as raise my voice to him. Even asleep I wondered whether this was pusillanimity rather than politeness. I don’t in the least mind upsetting people by what I write, but when confronted by someone in person, even someone whom I dislike, with whom I disagree profoundly and to whose views I have a profound aversion, I suddenly become anodyne and emollient. I can pour scorn on any number of writers, but not upon a single individual in person. In a way this is not surprising: I have never had any problem with public speaking. It is speaking in private that I find difficult.
Suddenly the Baker Street drunk vomited copiously and I just managed to avoid the stream. Abandoning my friend without a moment’s thought for his situation, I ran down the stairs and caught the first train I encountered, without the least thought of where it was going. And then I woke.