On the up? Or slipping down?

Last night my dreams returned to one of my recurring themes: returning to school.

I am a university dropout. Not just once but twice. As a straight A student at school who saw myself as an academic, these experiences shook my very image of myself and, almost twenty years later, I have still not mad peace with this.

I frequently dream that I have returned to university or secondary school. Often I have lost my timetable and am unable to remember where I am supposed to be. On other occasions I am retaking my A Levels before remembering that I have already completed them and couldn’t really improve on them. If it is university I am dreaming about, it is usually about the accommodation. I am often lost or having to share chairs with random people instead of having a room.

Last night, however, I found myself at my village primary school, back when it had still had the “temporary classrooms” that had been temporary since at least the 1960s. Wooden equivalents of Portacabins that were cold in winter, hot in summer and starting to leak. By the time they were finally replaced, it was the early nineties and I had moved on to secondary school.

But back to my dream. There I was at primary school, a fully grown adult, wearing a ball gown. It was approaching home time. As a junior, you left the school through the car park, a roughly circular patch of mud surrounded by trees. To reach it from the main building you had to walk up two slopes and along a path. I was carrying multiple items, which seemed to include a bag of books, a hockey stick, a cornet (a brass instrument I used to play) and music, plus my PE kit. Weighted down and tripping over my long dress, I was struggling to make it up the slopes, my feet constantly slipping backwards on the knobbly surface. When I finally reached the top of the first slope I had the second to tackle, with the same issues.

Eventually I made it to the car park, which was now deserted and so I began to trudge my way home along empty country lanes under green, leafy trees, still carrying my burdens.

The meaning of the bags seems obvious: with the preparations for this major move, there is clearly a lot on my mind. Having looked up the meaning of the ball gown, it apparently represents revealing or hiding something of the self from the world. Isn’t that something we all do? And the slopes are striving for better things. Pretty appropriate I would say.



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