Friday, 17 April 2015

The Heroic Legend

Last night's dream was, again, on the subject of music and problem-solving.

The tune that pervades the dream is a 16th century song that all of my generation of Irish people learned as a poem at school, Seán Ó Duibhir an Ghleanna, ("John O'Dwyer of the Glen") a dirge that mourned the decimation of the Irish oak  forests by Queen Elizabeth of England to build ships for her great fleets and left O'Dwyer "without game" and the emigrant ship beckoning him. The song turned out to be a parody on a much older song, a Sun Salutation that dated from the pre-Christian past.

My dream resolves the issue between the dirge and the joyful song of salutation. It presents a drama which commences with the tune playing joyfully while an ancient hero, in the midst of nature's Dawn Chorus, salutes the rising sun. Then there is the adventure in which the hero is overthrown by his enemies and slain. One of his faithful followers, who survives the final battle, retrieves his body from the battle field, washes it, embalms it and dresses it in magnificent (blue, of course) clothes, and lays him out on a stone table on a famous fairy hill. The people of Ireland file by his resplendent dead body, while the tune plays in its mournful version. The end.

Let's treat it, (shall we?) as being exactly what it appears to be, a creative result of juxta-positioning two polarities of one tune. Not to mention, at all, that the dressing of the hero in blue might refer back to my Blue and Yellow dream of a few night's ago, where it was I, myself, that was dressed resplendently in blue!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


I wake to find that I have been rehearsing in my dream some new tunes I am learning on the tin-whistle.

My subconscious is doing its job, reviewing and organising the experiences of the day.

For most of my life, I have played the tin-whistle rather aimlessly. My father bought me and my two brothers tin whistles one Christmas when I was about 10 years old. I never went to tin-whistle lessons, but played away to myself. Learning tunes from sheet music would be a chore, so I made up my own tunes and played them to myself. There were a few favourite tunes I liked to play, and it was lovely to break the connection between waking and sleeping with a few tunes in the evening before bed.

Forty years later, I met one of the boys next door at a funeral. He laughed and he said: "My mother used to say you always know when Frankie is at home, because you will hear the tin whistle."

I never considered myself a tin-whistle player, since I never learned any proper tunes, except those that came to  me by accident. At a party or music-session, I would recite an outlandish poem or sing a comic song..

Then, twenty years ago, some musicians of the Land Registry mentioned to me that they were forming a "sessions" group and I joined them. Now, I had to discipline myself to play in rhythm and learn the tunes the others wanted to play - tunes from the vast store of traditional Irish session music and ballads. We called ourselves "The Chancers," which was in line with other social groups in the Land Registry, situated on Chancery Street, Dublin, such as the Chancery Players, (with whom I went on stage in drama) and the Chancery Art Society, which I founded.

Soon afterwards, playing music for the old folks in the sheltered accommodation of Clareville Court Daycare Centre, I joined up with other "amateur" musicians to form The Invincibles.

I had to learn, in double-quick time, a selection of tunes from the vast repertoire of Pat O'Neill, our semi-professional accordionist.

So, a new experience for me, over the last 15 years, is the repeated learning of new tunes. This happens mostly when I have the house more or less to myself.

Yesterday evening my wife went out to a committee meeting. My media-editor son was out watching a movie and my artist son was up in his bedroom-studio painting, so I switched off the television and rehearsed a few new tunes. These are the tunes that continued to play in my brain when I was asleep.

I am not sure that rehearsing of tin-whistle tunes in my sleep is helpful. A professional golfer will tell you that it is not a good idea to rehearse the faulty swings you are trying to eliminate. I fear that in going over the tunes in my sleep, I am rehearsing the errors I make in trying to figure out the notes, rather than the perfected tune. The only rehearsal of value may be the actual playing of the tune, in which the fingers learn to automate the movements necessary to bring the tune into reality.

Waking from such a dream brings a reflective mood.

My wife, last evening, was out at a committee planning another commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery. How many hours went into the last one I participated in, with the Invincibles, our commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce during the First World War.

The preparation was quite onerous. First, there was, of course, the collection of the material: a task that fell to the National Library and the Cemeteries Museum, who collected and organised a substantial volume of war memorabilia during the course of last year. Then there was the task of selecting material from the collection and other sources (letters from the front, snippets of historical fact, outpourings of poets in the front lines, songs and tunes of and relevant to the period), in consultation with the  museum staff, and combining them in a narrative; then the editing of the text to reduce it to a targeted performance time of one and a quarter hours, and obtaining permission to use copyright material. After that all the members of the band had to learn the tunes, then come together and rehearse them. Then a musical arrangement was generated. Keys were chosen to match the voices. As tin-whistle player, I had the privilege of leading into one of the songs, while a mouth-organ introduced another. Even though the whole band had learned all the tunes, it was discovered that best  effect was achieved sometimes by just the mouth-organ introduction and a female unaccompanied voice on the lyric. Poignant, touching!

Next comes a full, timed, rehearsal, and an additional edit to ensure that the performance comes strictly within the allotted slot.

The material is sent to the printer, and the band rehearses again and again.

Then comes the actual performance in the little chapel in the graveyard on Christmas Eve. Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the First World War, so the chapel was full of people whose parents or close relations were touched by the war. For example, one neighbour told me his father had been on sentry duty on Christmas Day, 1914, during the unofficial truce. On both sides of no-man's-land, the soldiers were celebrating Christmas. High spirits on the German side caused one German to throw his comrade's helmet out onto no-man's-land. The boy jumped out to retrieve his helmet, and my neighbour's dad shot him. Of all the horrors of the war, this was the incident that haunted him to the end of his life.

 I had the privilege, at this gathering, not only of tin-whistle playing, but of reading letters and poems from the front.

It was a once-off performance, and we have not repeated those songs and tunes in any subsequent performance. Now the question has arisen, not only of reprinting the booklet, which is out of print, but of recording the aural performance. I have a doubt whether the quality of the live performance can be repeated in a studio. When I read in the chapel, for example, Thomas Kettle's sonnet from the front: "To my daughter Betty, a Gift from God," the emotion that filled my voice was a reflection of the emotions of my audience. I suppose, in the studio, I can imagine myself back in the chapel reciting to that very real audience.

The editor had suggested that the poem be cut back (as one measure to keep the performance within 1.25 hours) and only the most relevant lines read, but I felt that the whole poem was necessary, and I got my way:

"In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud, as was your mother's prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You'll ask why I  abandoned you, my own,

"And the dear heart that was your baby thrown
To die with death. And oh! They'll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it with a knowing tone.

"So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,

"But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor."

As I retype the poem, the emotion comes back, and I must cease.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Blue and Yellow

Just as I was falling asleep last night, my wife said, "Have you enough shirts and jumpers. etc., for the holiday?" I said yes, for my wardrobe is full of clothes. However, as I drifted off I supposed the real question was not had I enough, but had I suitable, fresh clothes and not just worn-out old stuff. Images of shirts and jumpers floated before my eyes in a slide show, all blue, whether striped, patterned or plain. I saw myself dressed in vibrant blues, as I pranced around like a professional model. Then the images changed to blue flowers; blue, blue blue. Suddenly the slides changed. Now it was yellow flowers. Yellow, yellow, yellow!



Blue and yellow flowers in my garden today!

Blue is the colour of the intellect, of thinking, of detachment from the passions. I obviously like to see myself as intellectual and cool. Maybe I do prefer blue clothes. Now that the daffodils have faded, blue is beginning to dominate my garden. Soon it will be utterly dominant with the arrival of the blue geraniums, in June. Yesterday, to fill the spaces pending the resurgence of the blue geraniums, (and after them the red geraniums), I planted some fresh blue and purple senetti in the garden, so blue was already on my mind. Yellow is the colour of spring, of resurgence and energy. So here there is a "get up and go" message, to add to my cool intellectual pretention!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Significant Dreams of Secret Rooms and Rivers in Spate

In this post, I recall some significant dreams of my past.

The Hidden Room

I dream there is a hidden room in my house (actually my chalet as I was living in a chalet at the time). The dream was so real that I actually examined the chalet from top to bottom next morning to make sure that there was no such room.


A mysterious extra room to a house often refers to an area of one's psyche that is undeveloped or neglected. Mine, at that time, was a sense of an area of government policy to which I could make a contribution.

I was working at the time in the Gaeltacht Department of the Government. Gaeltachts are areas where the Irish language is spoken, and we had programmes to try and improve their economics so that people could live and prosper at home. Working against these programmes were other government programmes, for example small farmers' dole, or, rather, the conditions attaching to small farmers' dole. Charlie Haughey, as Minister for Finance, had extended unemployment benefit to  farmers below a certain income. Our problem was that it was only payable to those engaged in traditional farming. We wanted to expand our farmers' activities into potentially profitable areas, such as pig or chicken farming, language and cultural tourism, agri-tourism, horticulture, craft work, cheese-making, and so on. But when a person had more than one pig, or acquired a glass house, for example, he was no longer a traditional farmer and his dole was in geopardy. When you lost your dole, you lost your "book," a collection of miscellaneous benefits, including health card and fuel allowance, so you were a lot poorer.

There was, in each county that had a Gaeltacht, a Gaeltacht sub-committee of the County Council, which was composed of delegates of the various government services working in the area as well as the County Manager. My boss, the Gaeltacht Department representative of this committee, showed me a draft document the committee was preparing to better integrate conflicting programmes to eliminate the negative motivations and produce a more positive outcome. One District Electoral Division was to be chosen as a pilot area, where the new policies would be implemented.

The idea was that a tally would be taken of all people, cattle, pigs, salaries and enterprises in the area, such that an estimate could be made of the annual economic contribution of the area to GDP. An estimate would also be made of the total annual subsidies going to the area. A programme would be put in place, in consultation with the local population, to specify targets for increasing the area's economic performance, and flexibility would be allowed in the application of doles, i.e., dole would not be cut off from self-employed people, including small farmers, within the pilot area, until a substantial improvement in income was achieved and sustained over a period of years. We hoped that the programme would show that forbearance in cutting dole would help improve economic performance and actually reduce the state's subsidies as a  proportion of the area's economy. If successful here, it could be expanded to other areas willing to set up similar local development structures. IN essence, enterprise was to be rewarded and people encouraged into profitable enterprise.

The document I was shown emanated from a committee. It had multiple good ideas, but lacked coherence and structure. I offered to do a redraft that would elaborate it, hopefully, into a coherent and persuasive whole. This was my extra room! Having been given the task, I drafted a comprehensive booklet, with chapters on Background,  Purpose, Outline,  a chapter for each proposal, Conclusions  and Executive Summary. The committee were happy with my draft and sent the document up for consideration.

Nothing ever came of it, regrettably. Since then, I have wondered whether the document would have fared better in its original rough, tentative format. Higher ups like to consider that good proposals emanate from themselves or under their control. It is better, perhaps, to ask them vague questions like "Do you think something could be done about X," so that they can come back and say, "Let me have your suggestions," which they can then take up and promote as their own, rather than give them a finished document, with everything worked out, which they routinely relegate to the shelf.

As to the dream: it told me I had an area of interest to elaborate, which resulted in my draft.

Another Lost Room

Years later I had another lost room dream. By this time I was back in Dublin, working in the Land Registry, and married with a family.

This time the circumstances were the introduction of computers to the Land Registry. What is a Land Register? It is essentially a database of information concerning the ownership of land. A paper system is complicated and cumbersome, and a computer system can be so much more efficient and effective and allow multiple avenues of access to the data. It is an ideal subject for computerisation, and I had advocated this for several years before it was commenced. But when it was brought in, it did not set out to achieve its potential. Instead, the plan was to automate the existing paper system - "to pave the cow-path" in effect! I mentioned to the architect of the system that data independence was essential, and he replied that data independence was not on the list of objectives at all. They were not about to computerise land information, they were about to computerise the documents of the paper system!  What a waste of money and effort! (Essentially, a Land Register would, instead, hold information on Parcels of Land, information on Persons, and Index linking the two. Simple, uncomplicated and capable of answering multiple questions).

My voice could not be heard on the matter, because I was an Examiner of Titles, not a manager or computer expert.

This is when I had my dream, and it galvanised my intention to study computers and get the expertise to design a system. So, I went back to college in my spare time, studying Information Technology in a correspondence course. Emerging with a first class B. Sc. in Information Technology, I then proceeded to M. Sc.,  producing a thesis on "A Model for Land Registration in the Information Age."

The thesis had some impact on the real Land Registry, but was never wholly taken on board. After my "early" retirement from the Land Registry (the subject of my next dream described below), I became s Land Registration Consultant and wrote a book (unpublished) on "Simplified Land Titling (Simple, low-cost protection of all land rights)."

The River in Spate

I dream I am, with my wife, on a bridge spanning a wide river in spate. My wife suddenly slips through the railings into the river and is carried away by the flood. I consider jumping in after her, but realise that I, too, would simply be swept away. I come off the bridge in distress, to find my son, to whom I say: "This is dreadful." But then I add, "But no! it is not. It's fine."

I mentioned this dream to a neighbour who is into dream-interpretation. He told me that the theme of my dream is quite common, but that the woman in the dream is usually the dreamer's mother, not his wife. The river in spate is the stream of life. The subject is about to depart from the shelter of his family to find his own way in life, and the stream of life sweeps his childhood world away from him.

This was not my position. I was not a young man about to set out on life's adventure, but an ageing person contemplating "early" retirement from a job I held for almost 40 years. My wife represented the job I was leaving. There is, of course, much to regret about leaving an environment you have enjoyed for many years, but, no, it is not regrettable. Do it, forget about the past and get on with your new adventure.

The Furnished Attic

After completing my thesis on "A Model for Land Registration in the Information Age," (mentioned above), it was open to me to proceed with the studies to the level of doctorate (Ph. D.). Then I had a dream that I was in my house and was thinking of converting my attic. I opened the attic door, pulled down the attic stairs, switched on the light and peered in. To my amazement, the attic was already fully converted and wonderfully furnished.

The dream told me that, in completing my thesis on "A Model for Land Registration in the Information Age," I had, in fact, completed the mission I had set out on and had no motivation  to proceed to Ph. D. in the matter. I pursued this supervised study no further.

Mountainside Car Park

I dream I am in my car in a sloped mountainside car park. With me in the car are my wife and another very self-opinionated lady. I back out of my car space, with my wife warning to watch the car on my right and watch the car behind me. As I emerge I turn the car sharply left to best avail of the limited space available. The opinionated lady volunteered that she would take a broader turn. This is quite normal, since I am aware that females have a different spatial view than men - in genera, they require more space in which to manipulate a car. We emerge from the car park, tightly squeezing between the other vehicles and emerge onto a mountain track. Now there is a sudden change, for we are no longer in the car but on foot. The knowledgeable lady has gone ahead and reached the top of the mountain. My wife is struggling up a cliff behind me. She gets stuck. My best course is to go on ahead and throw her a rope from the top, in order to pull her up. I know I have a rope in my garage at home. Now, I have the rope at the top and go to throw it down, but she has slipped back to the start of the track and the rope may not reach. I get preoccupied with making a noose in the rope, which she can fit under her arms, and wonder if the rope is too rough for the job, but it is the only rope available. I wake up.

Interpretation: I really don't know what to make of this dream, if anything. Certainly, I was driving before going to bed, and maybe this was the subconscious way of rehearsing the driving experience - parking in a car park and emerging. Coming out of a church car park, where I and my wife and sons had been at a memorial service, there was a long line of cars. Then I had observed two lanes marked on the ground and moved into the inner, left-wise lane, only to discover that the reason why all the cars were in the right-hand lane is because everybody, on emerging from the car park, were turning right, as were we, so I indicated and pressed my way back into the right lane, thus effectively skipping a number of cars. Wife and sons were embarrassed and amused, but I thought nothing of it. This could explain my experiencing criticism for my car-parking skills in my dream, but the rest is a mystery. Usually, characters in a dream are all part of the dreamer's own psyche, so the wife and the opinionated lady are, no doubt, aspects of myself, one hesitant, the other adventurous.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Dark Side of God

Several nights of dreams: The Dark Side of God; The Garden Slide Show; The Bladder Adventure; The Gumboil Oil Boiling. Dreams are forgotten very quickly, if not recorded, and I can't now recall one or two others that occurred since my last Dreams post.

The Dark Side of God
I see a lightning-bright triangle in the sky. After a while it flips over and I see its dark side, a black triangle, with illumination around its edges.

Interpretation: This may be a migraine aura rather than a true dream. Medieval nun, Hildegarde, famously described her migraine-auras as visions, so maybe I might as well. Ancient peoples adored the sun as God, and why would they not, as it appeared every day to give them life. The sun-bright triangle is a  symbol for God, the triangle representing the Blessed Trinity. When it flipped over, my subconscious was telling me that God has a dark side!

The Garden Slide Show
I had been in the garden during the day. In my dream, the internal picture-house projected a slide show of plants and flowers.

Interpretation: Prompted as a review and filing of my day's experience, it ranged far outside of the range of plants actually seen. It is a reminder of the many tasks still to be done to bring my garden up to scratch for the Summer months. Mental slide-shows are not unusual for me, with a wide range of paintings, mountain scenes, sunsets, architectural forms, etc., stored, and/or created, for internal projection in dreams or "oft when on a couch I lie" in wakeful reverie.

The Bladder Adventure
My companions and I are to attend a conference. I need to empty my bladder, and I have 3 minutes to do so. No bother! I will find a toilet in the building. I search and I search, but can't find one. No bother: I know where there is a public toilet just outside. I go out, but it is closed. I know where there is a public house, but the toilet is out of order. I know where there is a lonely alley, where I can, surely, unload; but, when I go there, I find the area has been re-developed and the alley eliminated. I wake up.

Interpretation: Just a call of nature waking me up, and one of a type often experienced before.

The Gumboil Oil Boiling
I wake up with the old childhood tongue-twister riddle in my head: "If a gumboil could boil oil, how much oil would the gumboil boil, if a gumboil could boil oil." I also have in my head the idea that the riddle would make sense if we changed "gumboil" to "gum-buyer" and "boil" to "buy."

Interpretation: This is a sample of how the subconscious mind keeps working on old riddles until it finds a solution, particularly if the solution is relevant to the present time, which, of course, this one is, and acutely so, as I exploit in my comments blog: Buy Oil Now.

Monday, 6 April 2015

A Balanced Psyche

I dream I am in a large room. There are four other men and one woman in the room with me. It seems to be both a dormitory and an office. Each of us sits at our own desk, working on some common project. The woman is bright, intelligent and attractive and seems to give invisible support and encouragement to all the men. I see a mat on the floor, and I wonder if there is un-swept dust under it. I turn it over to see all is nice and clean, but there are four round black spots on the back of the mat. I tip a spot with my finger to see if it will brush off, but I realise it is an insect (a big,  flat, black, round beetle?). It scampers off into the middle of the floor along with its three companions. I wonder if I should try to kill them and look at my four companions, who are detached and neutral. Then the woman says, "What harm are they doing?" so I get on  with my work and leave them be. Eventually, each of the four men get up to leave. I have to have a shower and go out as well, but the woman is still there. I start to take off my clothes anyway, because it is time to be going. She notices and says, "Oh, I should leave!" But I reply, "I don't mind if you stay, but I have to get ready."

The big room no doubt represents the whole of my psyche, where I myself am the ego, or conscious self. Since the room consists of both working space and sleeping space, it also represents the whole of life. The four other men are the "four corners" of my unconscious mind, four representing completeness or totality. So these are the totality of my unconscious mind. The woman is my anima. Since we are all working in harmony, there seem to be no unresolved conflicts in my psyche. The black beetles represent death, and since there are four, the totality of death. "What harm are they doing?" the anima advises me. Death is part of the cycle of life. It comes to us all. There is no point in living in terror of death. We should just accept that it will come at some time, sooner or later, and in the meantime, we all just get on with life. Leave it our of sight under the mat. The fact that I don't feel embarrassed stripping off in front of the woman, indicates a sort of acceptance between my conscious mind and my anima - my female side, soul and conscience.