strange but excellent dream
I used to have a lot of these, but I haven't had one for a while. But last night's was brilliant! I shall write it down in the hope of remembering at least some of the visuals for art purposes.
For some reason, I was sharing a house with a couple who had recently moved in. The house was not my actual house, or any house that I recall ever seeing, but I can see it clearly. It was a grey-painted house with large sash windows, at the bottom of a gravel-surfaced lane surrounded by tall trees beside a river. The couple seemed pleasant enough.
I was returning to this house one day with Rosie, when I came across the new couple, who suggested that it was a long walk to the house from Plymouth and therefore we should take the train. This struck me as a pleasingly novel idea, so we all got onto the train. Not a steam train, but the carriage was a rather elderly one, with wooden fittings and battered old seats. I think I remember trains like that on the Barnstaple-Exeter line when I was a child in the early 80's.
We were all chattering away happily — I no longer remember what about — and suddenly realised that we had been talking so animatedly we had missed our stop, and were being carried on past Launceston (which is odd, because Launceston has no railway.) Dream-Launceston is magnificent! Far larger and more imposing than Real Launceston. It has tall dark Tudor-ish houses, menacing allyways, rusty balconies and dark-stained brick towers, and a spectacular castle on a hill above a magnificent landscape of lakes filled with white pleasure-boats, some of them made in the shape of swans. I don't think Real Launceston castle can ever have been so tall and fair, with white walled towers and doors and shutters blue and gold that reflected in the lake. There was a park around the lake, full of green lawns and pleasing trees, and I thought I must take Rosie there one day.
Because we were all admiring the castle, we missed the stop at Launceston as well and were carried on past. So I suggested that we should get off the train as soon as possible and walk back to Launceston. The train stopped almost immediately, outside a stone building that was clearly a school, with playgrounds fenced with chainlink that went up the hill in several walled terraces. We got off the train and were hailed by a dodgy-looking sandy-blond teen. Nobody I remember meeting in real life, but he was one of these kids that somehow manages to make a dark blazer, shirt and tie look far more disreputable than any jumper and t-shirt ever could. It was a sunny day, but he was standing in the shade of a horse-chestnut tree, I remember clearly the light slanting through the hand-shaped leaves.
He offered to sell us home-made cigarettes, which we refused firmly, and with some amusement, and went on past the school. My initial impression of it was that it was a somewhat run-down place, but as we walked past the playgrounds where children were running about, I could see that they were bigger than I had at first realised, and there were several great pools full of clear green water. The sun shone through the water and in it were shoals of tiny silver fish that caught the light as they turned and swam. Suddenly, all the tiny fish bunched and fled to the corners of the green pool, and a huge grey seal swam up through the middle of the pool, threw itself out onto the cracked concrete paving, and began to sunbathe with a big grin on its face.
I can remember thinking stern thoughts about the cigarette-trading youth, who was at a school full of fish and seals, and yet concerned himself with smoking :-D
So we wandered back along the path of the railway line towards Launceston, still chatting away (I have no idea who these people were, or at least, where I found their faces in my subconscious. But I clearly found their company congenial.) It was a pretty path through green fields, and at one point there was an Informational Sign about the founder of the railway, a pointy-bearded Victorian gentleman with a fierce expression.
Somehow, though, we took a wrong turning, and instead of ending up in Launceston, we found ourselves in Crawley. Which would have been a long walk in real life, but fortunately this was a dream. None the less, we felt that we had done enough walking, so we went to a café for a restorative cup of tea and a sausage roll. The people I was with seemed to find Crawley quite a pleasant spot, and declared that they would explore it further before they went home. But I was less impressed with Crawley, which was basically a very large shopping mall, and decided that I would prefer to head back, since I had been planning to be home long since.
So, I went back to the station, where I found a very handy timetable. It proved to be possible to catch a train that would go to every British station beginning with 'L' in turn. Since I wasn't sure exactly how I had ended up in Crawley, this seemed ideal. I could get the train to Launceston, then change onto the Gunnislake line.
So I got onto the train, which this time was a rather larger vehicle, equipped with a buffet car. There were some very spectacular stations beginning with 'L'.
One was set midway down a vast gorge, which had houses all the way down it, hundreds of feet vertically, and connected across the gorge with ropes to swing down, and narrow spindly bridges. There was a station in a village beside a blue-green sea, full of small white cottages with red roofs and white beaches. There was a suburban landscape full of madly-elaborate late-Victorian looking mansions, where the trees had clearly got out of hand, and there were people cutting back the overgrown shrubbery with chainsaws. There was a low white-walled station in the middle of an autumn landscape of upland birch-trees, filled with spectacular mushrooms of every shape and colour.
This was all very entertaining to watch from the window of the train, but finally we came to a low wooden station festooned with pots of geraniums, and a voice announced that this was the last station beginning with 'L' . I realised that somehow I had missed the Launceston stop again! Never mind. I would stay on the train, and when it went back to the other end of the line, I would watch out carefully for Launceston, and get off at the right place this time.
It felt like I had not been on the train for very long, and for the first time, I wondered how it worked, to have a train that travelled so quickly through all the places beginning with 'L'. I and Rosie stepped off the train, and asked a helpful person working on the railway about this. She explained that the train was actually a time-travelling train, and time on board was compressed, which time outside flew past. This was worrying news, since it meant that probably I had been missing for much longer than I had realised, and possibly was now assumed dead.
Still, all we could do was try to get home as quickly as possible, so we got back onto the train. By this time, Rosie and I were both hungry again, so we went to the buffet car where we had a very fine meal of delicious pastries and various fruits.
Unfortunately, it turned out that the meal had not been intended for me, and I was just wondering if I had been on the train for long enough that interest would have accrued on my bank account that might pay for the meal, when the alarm went off and I woke up.