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I call this blog ‘Mind Bursts’ for a reason.
A decade ago, curating thoughts and ideas and putting them online to share and simply to store it struck me that I was simply assembling things that had ‘gone ping’ in my brain. There are few greater such moments that a vivid dream … however vacuous, passing and potentially ephemeral they may be.
After many years of getting nowhere, in my late twenties, at a guess, perhaps early thirties, I go to three auditions and am quickly offered three parts: a musica, a play and a film: all require singing, each is a ‘breakthrough’ role and in the case of the film, as the female director who ‘discovered me’ tells me ‘is worth £35,000’ for the first weekend alone. This person offers the suggestion that I get an agent and manager, especially when I let slip that I have a major theatre piece to consider too. It is the producers of this piece who ‘take me in hand’ running me around in a frenetic whirl of introductions before making it to a read through. It is here that a crack begins to appear, not least I haven’t resolved that fact that I can only do one of these productions, but everyone at the read through smokes and for health reasons, whoever well managed my asthma, I don’t want to say. I try to talk this through with the director thinking that maybe we’d take the read through outside, or people would not smoke, but instead she offers me the remains of her joint – which at first I refuse. I then take it, pleasing her, and becoming relaxed, light headed and more accepting of the circumstances. I wake as a form of running away, as I know the only solution is to leave. I wake and leave the dream world knowing that wanting it all I will get none of it.
It is years since I cared to work with a dream, but they are a ‘mind burst’ of the purest form given that they are the creation of the subconscious. I have a way to work these through as a dream never means what it appears to be. They rarely even have narrative form, but are an expression of immediate feelings, sensations, experiences and thoughts. I want to be after watching two contrasting films of ‘Great Expectations’ – the moody, memorable black and white version of David Lean and the moodless, forgettable, muddy, messy and forgettable recent version by Mike Newell: wrong cast, wrong settings, wrong approach, wrong music, lack of tone, pace or mood. Dreadful script, clumsy acting, misdirected in the purest sense of the word. Had that anything to do with my dreamworld?
“Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day.” — C.G. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections)
1: Who are you in the dream?
Still me. Though single. ‘Unsettled in London’ – so in a job, but not following my heart. At a guess 28 … and between relationships or floating away from yet another failing one.
2: Who are you with in the dream?
Alone, but quickly befriended, or adopted by each director in turn for the productions I’ve auditioned for: a musical, a film and a play. I think. Or two films and a musical? Does it matter! All my age, a male director, then two female.
3: What details stand out?
Being in a theatre in the morning when there are no members of the public about: the wonder of that and being behind the scenes and stepping away from the throng of a busy city street.
4: What do you feel about these details?
Nostalgia for involvement in theatre performing in my late teens and early twenties.
5: What are the various actions in the dream?
Attending auditions, or even turning up to hear the result of an audition and in each case, most unexpectedly, being the perfect person for the role. All things being equal it appeared to be my singing voice that the wanted – that clinched it.
6: How are you acting and behaving in this dream?
Bemused, enthralled and caught up in each director’s enthusiasm for their production.
7: What relation does this dream have to your personality?
Hankering after performance. A love for ‘doing’ theatre and play acting, rather than the watching of it. i.e. behind the scenes, in dressing rooms, going through read throughs and rehearsals, the other worldliness of it … the thrill and relief of being able to ‘join’ this merry throng of creators. The joy of being part of a big team under professional direction.
8: What does the dream want from you?
9: What are the various feelings in this dream?
Thrilled. But knowing, if the answer isn’t obvious, that I will have to let two people down. I want to go with the film. Each director is likeable. I know none of them. I prefer the film director. Like a young Virginia Makenner. Very practical, persuasive and supportive. She is the only one who suggests and wants me to get an agent or manager involved to bother with my life so I can concentrate on the part. I ask, as if I can’t quite believe it, if there are other skills they need that I don’t have such as dancing or tap dancing even? She laughs. It is very reassuring: I am what and who she wants.
10: What relation does this dream have to what is happening right now in your life?
For a period life really was a series of auditions – both for parts in plays and musicals, and job interviews. You do anything creative and there comes a time, whether as a singer, performer, artist, writer … or director that you have to be interviewed, show you work and even perform. I hanker after it still. Probably because I so loved the early days of a production and the natural progression to the first night … in this respect far preferring theatre to filmmaking which is very bitty, and for an actor involves a good deal of sitting around, the real ‘action’ being behind and around the camera.
11: Why did you need this dream?
A reminder that all forms of writing are potentially a blueprint to a performance of some kind? The joy of thinking about casting choices made when you compare how the same story is told.
12: Why have you had this dream right now?
Much of my time is spent thinking about the performance of a fictional character and the need for him to be taken up and loved by others. I suppose a fictional character, unlike a real one, could appear in the play, musical and film all at the same time as he can after all be played by anyone. It is refreshing, if not disconcerting, to have a dream as if I were 25 years younger – yet I feel that ‘things’ are as possible now as they have ever been. Though perhaps I am reminded that ultimately isolation is not my desire.
13: What relation does this dream have to something in your future?
It is about acceptance and recognition, even a kind of adulation and ‘must have’ desire in a team of creatives. I empathise with that moment an actor is courted and slowly embraced by a ‘company’ – it is a courtship. I know that my own mistake is or always has been, to try and have or do all three .. that I can never be happy with the decision I make, and that compromising, or leading others on without being realistic is a mistake. Maybe I need to have that agent making some decisions for me if situations like this are to come about, let alone if I am to settle, succeed and thrive.
14: What questions arise because of this dream work?
At some point the ‘art’ becomes bigger than you. Whilst an actor is a corporeal expression of a role, the role is bigger than them. Other actors can and would be found. You can enjoy the ride. It needs others to carry the tune, or to take up the story and to fuel it in the way they see fit?
15: Who or what is the adversary in the dream?
Me. Letting a problem develop. I cannot do all three. It is chance that on the same day I am offered three parts. It is very clear I cannot do all three. The fact that I share my dilemma with the film director is a kind of cry for help that she answers by saying that there are professionals to turn to. I know though that I don’t need to a professional to tell me I want to do the film, and not the play or musical … and the cast of smokers should have emphasised that. Who knows? An agent may say the film is unfunded, the musical struggling because lead players keep quitting … I am not to know and am too enthralled by that day of feeling as if you have won the Lottery.
16: What is being wounded in this dream?
The spoiling of the joy of saying “I’ve got it” – because by ‘getting’ three parts a significant dilemma presents itself.
17: What is being healed in this dream?
The idea that I might never again have that joyous feeling of being welcomed into a ‘team of players’ – I have always been thrilled by that moment.
18: What or who is the helping or healing force in this dream?
I don’t question the support and influence of others, in this case the two quite different directors, who happen to be female: one provides advice, understandably believing that she ‘has me’ – and when I admit to her there is another part I have been offered she pragmatically suggests a third party coming in to help me make the decision. The second director is so gung ho, takes me off to see people in her car with her co-director or producer and has me in a read through before I’m aware I’ve even said yes. I guess, if as young actor were offered three ‘dream’ roles after a career has been languishing each producer/director would naturally assume that they have their man?
19: Who or what is your companion in this dream?
Whomsoever I allowed to be … or no one.
20: Who are your helpers and guides in life as well as in your dreams?
Whomsoever I allowed to be … or no one. I am so bad at taking the right decision, or ignoring advice and doing the opposite, that I frankly relish that actors joy of being told what to do … just so long as it is a ‘good’ part rather than ‘man with spear.’
21: What symbols in this dream are important to you?
Behind the scenes in a theatre and at a read through. Being part of a ‘troupe’.
22: What actions might this dream be suggesting you consider?
Learn how to say no politely? If you can’t do that have someone else do it. Keep questing after the sensations that came from the dream: being welcomed into a throng of fellow performers and creatives.
23: What can happen if you work actively with this dream?
I do wonder sometimes how it is that I can end up, in a series of steps, so far away from the only world I wanted to be a part of since I was a kid and how despite on a number of occasions being embedded in such a world that it turned out to be so fleeting. I remember being on the stage for the first time and my love for the audience. I remember the joy of singing, even to a group of friends. I remember the pleasure of showing a drawing that thrills the sitter. I remember in wonder being on a film set for weeks. And casting actors. And directing them as they say many words. And being the one all turn to recreating a traffic accident where we had actors, extras, all the emergency services, flaming cars, make-up, film and video … Maybe I am so angry at how poor the Mike Newell film ‘Great Expectations’ is compared to David Lean’s version. Having recently re-read the book, seeing these back to back allows me to see all the joins, faults, and decisions. The wrong script, a poor understanding of the book … no ‘theatricality’ in the production beyond the costumes, even Ralph Fiennes being more of a Fagan than a Magwitch, the ham acting of David Walliams … or perhaps the familiar to have all the ‘characters’ played by character actors?! I’ve viewed with a critical eye every film or TV series I’ve seen since … forever. But I am, and have always been someone who never wants to be in the audience: I want to be in the thick of it. I’m not a spectator despite appearances or circumstances. I have seriously set about making myself available as a extra again … just to be on set.
24: What is being accepted in this dream?
There are still things I can do, or should do, that will have value to fellow creators? That I am repeatedly in denial of what makes me exceptional – not meant to be expressed in a big headed way, but rather sometimes none of us necessarily know what are skills are as we smother them by doing what ‘is expected of us’ or by the understandable drives of human nature: we marry, have and raise kids as a priority.
25: What choices can you make because of having this dream?
There is hope for me yet. I’m not that far away from aspects of this dream being a reality. I wouldn’t expect to be the performer, but I could imagine an actor taking a role that is my creation, that other ‘creatives’ latch on to and make into something. I did have the sense that all three of these productions were a similar thing.
26: What questions does this dream ask of you?
Get out there. Be part of a troupe. Be part of a creative team. Be with actors, directors, producers, artists, performers, stage hands, camera people ….
27: Why are you not dealing with this situation?
28: What do you want to ask your dream spirits?
Is it merely a compensatory dream? How can I sustain that joy of having or creating something that others want and are thrilled by? I got a kick from singing. I got a kick from people seeing my work in a gallery. I got a kick from being super fit and doing crazy things on a mountain!!! I am fed up being stuck at home, or ill (and ill). Despite the above, or it is part of it, I hanker after being on the ocean and under sail! Another team activity too. It is one thing to have a thrill on your own, it is quite another to share it – to have others enjoy your good fortune or to enjoy how thrilled you are about a thing.
Fig.1 Dunstanburgh Castle from Beadnell Bay at dusk this morning
Fig.2 The tide coming in across The Point, Beadnell at sun up.
Fig.3 Something I never knew about The Point where I played as a child.
Fig.4 The sea pushing in through fissures between the rocks and pools
Fig.5. The low cliffs, fingers of rock and pools where I scrambled.
Fig.6 A drain that intrigued me age 5, or 6 or 7. In a storm the waves came up through it.
This was my playground until the age of 11 or 12. Easter, Summer and even half-term and weekends were spent here. Just two walks forty years later and the smell of wet sand in the dunes takes me back to being a boy – easy to scrambled around the dunes when you are seven. The rocks, the different textures under foot, the mesmerising waves that approached closer along the rocks as the tide came in, the birds and occasional seal, the Longstone Lighthouse always flashing its presence in the distance.
The foghorn lulled me to sleep. The noise of waves constantly crashing on the rocks changes from the loud chatting of people before the curtain goes up, to a jet coming into land … it rumbles gently, or angrily according to its mood (and yours).
Yesterday I had the briefest of conversations with someone who had a deep Northumbrian accent that sounds like Norweigian spoken with an English accent.
Somehow had left two unfinished cups of coffee and a big of a burger on the stonewall above the rocks. I carried it for 15 minutes until I found a bin. The flotsam is different to forty years ago: red bull and a body board.
Four activities remaining to complete. A touch more academic than some. I guess this is undergraduate English Literature, but third year. Or is it pitched at postgraduate level. I have had to spend more time with the reading than I expected in order to grasp the main thesis relating to ‘Theory of Mind’. It is proving complementary to ‘Start Writing Fiction’ as it shows how we conceive of, and follow imagined and real characters in a world, in our heads, that is always part factual, part fictional.
Weird ways to learn
Bit by bit I am consuming the hefty 2013 tome – ‘The Origins of the First World War: Diplomatic and military documents. Edited and translated by Annika Mombauer.
This is while away from home on a ‘reading week’ – ehem, impromptu exploitation of amazing snow conditions in the French Alps. From 9h30 to 17h00 I ski – guided by the Ski Club of Great Britian. Shattered and exhilerated and needing nothing more to eat after food ‘on the piste’ I start to read.
Old School, appropriate for a hardback book, I mark passages with a Postit; when these run out – I came with 16 or so in the book, I stop, take out a pack of Rolledex cards and write these up. The book comprises an introduction, then a set of documents, in chronological order, leading to the various declarations of war. Reading the infamous notes that Kaiser Wilhelm II left on the despatches he received is revealing, as are the multitude of exchanges between the Foreign Ministers of the key players: Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Great Britain and France and their respective ambassadors, and national leaders: Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kaisers and Tzars. My interest is our Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey, the cabinet and his plenapetentiaries, and his direct dealings with key ambassadors. These documents cut through and explain or reveal the obfuscation and spin that started in 1914 and continued for many decades afterwards.
A ‘country’ cannot be blamed – a geographical space is inanimate and its people too disenfranchised and indifferent; we can however blame specific people for aggitating for war and then failing to prevent its outbreak – where I adopt this approach I mean in each case one, two or a handful of people in that country who held, managed or influenced the decision making and therefore had a lot or a modicum of power. Britain was a cabinet with Grey the key player; France was an array of people in the Foreign Ministry and the President; Germany had to be the Kaiser and military rather than civil leaders, Austria-Hungary not the Emperor, but ministers and military, Russia the Foreign Ministes, ambassadors and military with the Tszar largely acting to please while Serbia, most democratic of all (?) was the President Pasic who at this time was distracted by election campaigning. Christopher Clark is wrong to suggest that the leaders of the six major players were ‘sleepwalkers’ : Great Britain was dragged, Russia mobilized, Serbia froze and crossed its finger, Austria-Hungary was up for it and being egged on by Germany. This is at the micro-level: telegrams and conversations. At the macro-level Imperialism in its differing manifestations and geographical locations is collapsing (Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and beyond into the Middle East), the British Empire as an established, civil-service and military managed Goliath with a constitutional monarch and influential cabinet, while France and the USA (not yet featuring in the world affairs of 1914) were still in the business of acquistion – Germany also, but with billigerant military leaders and a kaiser who held power who was determined that he should be front of stage in world affairs whether as a great peacemaker or a great warlord. At the macro-level the equally powerful force of nacent nationhood inside or at the edges of these empires is causing multiple fractures under techtonic plates that are already sliding: emerging from the first and second Balkan Wars, Serbia is the catalyst by 1914 that brings in first one, then another ‘Great Power’ – Russia ostensibly to defend slav brothers, and Germany to back an ally Austria-Hungary that didn’t know which way to move for certain until given a few shoves by a couple of people in Germany.
Why did war break-out in 1914? The hawks in various camps tore at diplomacy with gusto while the doves cooed and at no time could or would the right hawks and doves meet. In this respect one of the Kaiser’s marginalia was tellingly accurate when he cried off any kind of conference – committees play into the hands of the most timid. The conferences proposed by Sir Edward Grey may well have prevented war, or delayed and localised the conflict. But for how long? And should such speculation be used in any historical arguement anyway?
We can narrow it down: had Wilhelm II been of firmer and more consitent mind rather than tipping from war to peace his words would have left Austria-Hungary to deal with events on its troubled borders. It wasn’t for Grey to either keep his hand close to his chest visave acting with France and Russia or declaring it – an absolute commitment to act would have goaded a paranoid and largelly prepared Germany sooner while neutrality far from pasifying Germany would have told them that the field was theirs. Grey was caught between a rock and a hard place and in the privileged position of sitting at the top of the decision making tree in an established, stable and still sucessfully expanding empire.
I fall asleep at 18h30 and wake two or three hours later my dreamworld infested by these characters, these players in a Shakespearesn tragedy that instead of seeing the blood on the stage, decimates and maims a sizeable part of the audience that like the Globe on a summer’s evening is made up of people not from six countries, but from 36. The bloodbath is in the yard not in the gallery.
Fig. 1. A moment to reflect
This by the by was the title of a TV screenplay I submitted to the BBC – rejected otherwise you might have seen it on the box by now and I wouldn’t be sitting here.
As the round up to my final, final MA ODE module H818: The Networked Practitioner it is suggested that we prepare a timeline drawing on possible blog entries, as well as ‘appearances’ in the OpenStudio platform we’ve been using.
I’ve posted some 80 times since H818 began. I’ve posted some, I don’t know, 1000 times here since February 2010?
The surprise is to find a dozen references to H818 from 2012 and when contemplating how I got to the ideas that I delivered for H818 where these may have emerged from. This in turn takes me as far back as a visit to the Science Museum in 2010. Then all manner of things, from the launch of Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ and attending seminars in Bristol on ‘curation’ and earliest indicators that I may take an MA in First World War studies having tried to write on the subject for … well, 22 years ago another failed TV play optioned by Tyne Tees Television called ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’ – which is what my late grandfather said to me while we watched the local news featuring a private in the Durham Light Infantry out in Saudi Arabia. He was 96 in 1992 and had joined the DLI in his teens in late 1915.
And all of this for my very, very, very last EMA ever.
And what did I just jot down
‘Word counts in an EMA are anathema to the culture of open education’
My first draft, I haven’t ever dared look, will run to anything between 6,000 and 12,000 words.
Talking of writing … never one to say never, I have committed to a week long ‘retreat’ with a dear friend and writing tutor. My goal is to work on … ‘The Angel of the North’ a story set in the era of the First World War about a woman who flies over the Western Front.
(Actually, I’ve just thought of that. She does fly with an RFC pilot/instructor … and in the final pages is about to set off to attempt to fly the Atlantic for the first time in the wrong direction. She does, as a couple of women did, impersonate a soldier to get herself into the Front Line …)
Oh boy. And I thought I was done with writing. Thought that getting 5,000 words finished was a challenge. It is, but the OU provides the parameters and schedules, the kick up the arse and the carrot that no other kind of writing has yet provided. Except for once.
Meanwhile I must get the kids to school, must walk the dog and must prepare for an online conference I madly volunteered to do a few weeks ago as if I didn’t have enough on … which will include sitting with a veteran of the Second World War this weekend, he was in the Polish Resistance during the Warsaw Uprising. I have a Sony Flip camera and digital sound recorder in my pocket determined to interview him as I did my grandfather …
Onwards to … more of the same I should think
p.s. yes, it is my ‘brian’ – the idea of the brain is so ridiculous.
As a child whenever I was going to be sick I dreamt of bobbins drifting through the sky like clouds, as if my head was upside down in a brightly lit drawer of the things.
I saw bobbins yesterday and my mind took me back to the 8 year old who felt unwell – it turns out that my system can’t abide certain things: too much chocolate icecream might have done it, or just a Cadbury’s Fudge Finger and a Coke.
Curious is it not how the brain first constructs such an image and then tags it?
As a teenager my bedroom walls became covered in Roger Dean posters. It is the mid–1970s. Pocet money was spent in the ‘Kard Bar’ in an arcade that wadsubsequently consumed by the Eldon Square complex, Newcastle on Tyne.
Forty years later at the other end of the country I am driving around East Sussex looking for furniture. I stumpledupon Trading Boundaries at Sheffield Park courtesy of a road close between Haywards Heath and Newick. I find several pieces and also learn that Roger Dean, the rock artist and sci–fantasy illustrator is putting on an informal show of his work: originals and sketches from drawing pads and signed posters.
One image takes me into my childhood bedroom where I first put up a Roger Dean poster. Another image takes me into my teens, into the larger guest bedroom in the house and a growing collection. I must have recognised a dozen. I’d need to check my diary entries for that time to get an idea of price. £4 or so in the 1970s?
I was reading the likes of ‘Time Enough for Love’ Robert Heinlein. The teenage boy fantasizing about ‘the world beyond … ‘ I even have my efforts age 13 at writing science-fiction that became Blue Lagoon in space I called ‘Adam & Evie’.
My son joined me. He is interested in urban art and graphic design. He’s always loved designing fonts so perhaps this would inspire him. He puzzled over untangling the e from ‘Yes’ – the many logos, album sleeves and posters Roger Dean created for the band. We saw a 2010 cover for Cliffe Bonfire Society which explains his presence in this part of the world – Lewes attracts artists.
I need some of this. Though the view from the helicopter is preferable to skiing the mountain. Done that and not dead so never again!