When is a dream not a dream but a nightmare? I suppose when it disturbs you, makes you cry out, wake up in a sweat or stays in your memory for a few days? Yet, we all have surreal dreams that disturb us and we would not call them nightmares. I’m thinking of the anxiety dreams that we have. Like the ones I sometimes have about running down endless corridors in large, unfamiliar houses. The ones where you are walking up the stairs and the ceiling is coming down to meet you. There are also the ones where you are out in the street in your underwear, the one where you are trying to run but your legs won’t move or you are trying to shout or scream for help but no noise comes out of your mouth and the one I have quite often of my teeth falling out of my mouth and spilling across the floor like a broken string of pearls. I always seem to loose far more teeth than can possibly be in my head though. These are all unsettling dreams but I wouldn’t call them nightmares.
In yesterday’s Guardian there was an article about Samuel Johnson’s famous dictionary. It was, apparently, published 250 years ago this month.* His definition of a nightmare was ‘a morbid oppression in the night, resembling the pressure of weight upon the breast.’ This morning I woke up with a ‘pressure of weight upon the breast’, a paw patting my cheek and a purring in my face, not to mention cat breath - perhaps best not to, good old Max, he knows when it is time to get up.
*funnily enough I’ve just finished reading “According to Queeney” by Beryl Bainbridge. A wonderfully atmospheric account of what Dr Johnson’s last years may have been like. How can an author “get inside” a time in history with so much atmospheric accuracy as to make you feel it is one hundred percent real. A truly wonderful piece a writing.
Highlight of the day – if it’s Sunday it must be The Archers – off to listen now.
Today’s Gripe – being woken up by cat-breath – but I love him really.