The fugitive octopus, suicidal goldfish and other living manifestations of my dream world

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When I lived in Poland, the strangest thing happened.

I dreamt one night that I was on a tram in central Warsaw. Three teenagers got on, one boy and two girls. The boy was brandishing a baseball bat and came towards me, wielding the bat menacingly in my face, whilst the girls stood behind him laughing.

The next day, in my waking world, I was on a tram in central Warsaw when three teenagers got on, one boy and two girls, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the three teenagers in my dream. They didn’t have a baseball bat with them but they did spot an AIDS ribbon on my coat and spent the rest of the journey staring, whispering and giggling at my expense.

It wasn’t the only time an AIDS ribbon met with an odd response like that in Poland. It also isn’t the only time that something in my dreams has manifested itself into something in my subsequent reality.

Thankfully however, I haven’t yet, in my waking world, had to protect myself from a nuclear bomb by climbing into a hostess trolley, nor hide an octopus from a gang of kidnappers in a drum filled with red water. Nor have I climbed up Mount Ararat to find goldfish throwing themselves out of fish tanks onto the path in front of me.

I’ve also been quite relieved to realise that, in my waking world, I didn’t serve customers in the petrol station naked, nor walk down the corridor at work naked, nor indeed, sit through a meeting with senior college staff naked.

However. The strangest thing happened to me last week. Whilst at a conference in Southampton, having just had a bath in my hotel room, getting ready to go down to the conference dinner, I was drying my hair and didn’t yet have any clothes on, when the hotel room door opened and another guest was standing in the entrance.

For a moment, I was utterly confused and bewildered. Where the hell am I? One minute I’m quietly drying my hair, the next I just stepped inside my own vulnerability nightmare!

Then panic and horror. I can’t quite recall how I reacted but given that it was a moment of high stress and anxiety there are two possible alternatives. My voice may have risen to a high-pitched and abnormally posh squeak, I may have been extremely polite and apologetic for my presence in his hotel room and for not wearing clothes OR I may have sworn loudly and profusely and tried to ram his wheely suitcase down his throat.

I can’t recall. It might have been somewhere between the two. Swearing politely and squeakly whilst running over his toes with his wheely suitcase as I rammed the door shut.

Anyway, it turns out that a screw up by the hotel over rooms and keys meant that another delegate was given the same room as me. I had to endure a night and a day and the presentation of a conference paper knowing someone in the vicinity was a living, breathing manifestation of one of my worst recurring nightmares.

And I’m hoping that’s the one and only time in my life I experience that as a reality.

Brrr… shudder… Give me a fugitive octopus or suicidal goldfish over that anytime!

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