I’ve got a public service job.
I’m supposed to get to the office every evening at 7 o’clock.
So I leave my house around 6 o’clock and catch the 141 bus which I believe goes to where my job is. It’s an open-back/hop-on bus, like the old London Route Masters, so I jump on and claim a seat. The bus is packed with students who are, for some reason, travelling to college. As the bus moves off along the street, I suddenly realise I’ve not been asked for any money for a ticket. I think to myself, “Oh well, I’ll just sit here and see what happens.”
The bus motors along familiar routes, but then everything changes and it definitely isn’t familiar anymore. In fact, it’s bizarre – a cross between a hilly Welsh landscape and somewhere like the village of Tarporley in Cheshire. I wait until the bus goes into the next available town because I don’t know where I am. The town we come to is a cross between Chester and Leicester. It has good qualities and not so appealing qualities and, even weirder, it’s got elements of some towns in India to it. I make up an imaginary name for it: Englandia.
In the centre of the town, as I pass by on the bus, I see a number of carnivals going on in the streets. It’s a celebration day for the town, but I don’t know what they’re celebrating. The roads are very busy and there are people, cars, cyclists, entertainers everywhere.
As the bus takes a bend, I see ahead along another street. I see what I can only describe as a flattened Segrada Familia – Antonio Gaudi’s amazing spired church in Barcelona – but the spires have been squashed to the ground and the whole thing looks more like a giant pancake. Actually, it looks like someone has taken a pancake and then created lots of little tunnels around the edge to get to the interior – which is the middle of Gaudi’s church. It’s complicated and messy.
The fact that I’m thoroughly lost is more pressing. I start wondering if there’s a train station nearby, so as I leave the bus and step down into the street, I ask the conductor if he knows where the train station is, but he says “sorry I don’t know this route particularly well” which really surprises me. I walk a few paces and lo and behold, I see a train station, which surprises me even more. I watch the bus driving off into the distance.
The town now feels more like Liverpool. There are grand parts, but also less savoury parts. Like the real city, it’s an interesting mix. So, I walk into the train station and look around, but none of the trains or signs make any sense whatsoever. They’re all leading to places I’ve never heard of and the trains all take routes I’d never have considered in my life. But then I spot a familiar London Underground map and I get this warm feeling inside. I rush to ask a ticket officer if there are any London Underground stations and he says, disappointingly, “not within 30 miles of here,” which is super weird. I frown at the map on the wall like it deceived me, then I look down at my watch and see it’s already way past the time I was meant to be in work. It’s a disaster. I don’t know my work’s phone number or where I am, so I’m unable to do anything to mitigate the situation. Plus, it’s late on a Sunday and all the train time boards are beginning to slowly blink off into darkness. The station is closing down. The platforms grow quiet. The people all disappear. No one is waiting for trains anymore. I wonder if, maybe, everyone but me is at the carnival outside.
I decide to talk to a lady who is doing one of those train station survey things. I ask her if she can recommend a train that will take me to the place I live, but her response is even more concerning than the late hour and the empty station. She tells me in no uncertain terms that I need to organise my journey quickly because there will be no trains that way at all very soon.
I run out of the station and try my luck at a taxi rank, but all the taxis zoom past. I see one with a light showing in the window and I think it’s free, but an old, miserable lady in the back waves the driver on so I can’t catch it. I look for car hire places and find one near a roundabout. As I’m walking towards it, I hear, somehow, the radio advert for the car hire shop and an advertising woman sings, “Car hire companies are setting up in those areas where lots of people are on short-term mortgages and they are looking for reliable, one day hire customers, but are doing increasingly more and more security checks on people!” It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard.
Anyway, my situation is dire. I’m utterly lost. I think I might have to walk back to my house, but I don’t even know which direction to head in. I even consider sleeping in the train station and trying to catch a train again in the morning. I also consider hitching a ride, but something tells me it’s not a good idea. What’s worse is that any people I see seem to know exactly what they’re doing. So, I wander off and try to find some street signs that make sense. I go off in a purposeful direction, opposite to the setting sun, which is weird in itself because – and I check my watch – it’s 11pm now and it’s still a little bit light. Which means I’ve been in the station four hours at least, another shock. I realise I will have to sleep in the city somehow, somewhere.
I walk around aimlessly, getting more and more worried, then I see an open doorway – a nice inviting goods warehouse entrance – and I realise there might be some comfy packaging boxes stuffed with foam that I can sleep in. So I walk into the warehouse with confidence. The workers are busy finalising orders so they can leave and go to the carnival. I hunt for a good place to rest and discover, under the stairs, the way down to a nice dark cellar, but it’s damp and looks crap, so I’m not going to sleep there. A man calls out and I realise, in a panic, that they’re locking up the warehouse so I have to leave immediately otherwise I’ll get locked in. I rush back to the entrance, just in time for these two men dressed in black overalls to slam the doors and padlock the big yard gates. I just about make it. As I squeeze past, I wish them goodnight.
And wake up.
Wow, it was a tiring, busy dream. It was the night after pancake day when I had it, too, so that’s an obvious connection to the flattened Gaudi church pancake thing right there. It’s also important to note that I ate ricotta cheese in two of the three pancakes (and a lot of it), so that could explain the weirder elements to the dream. (Well, if you believe cheese affects dreams, that is.) On another more philosophical note, I have to admit I do feel a bit lost at work at the moment. A job I thought would be very creative has become a touch robotic and I received the mother of all spreadsheets this week to decode, and I hate massive spreadsheets. I think it’s cool the way dreams kind of give out clues about stuff we don’t like in life and, believe it or not, this mad subconscious stuff might just prompt me to make a few changes.