Sunday 28 September 2014

I dreamed of the city of the hotlands

When I was a boy, I dreamed of a city.
I don't know now if it was a recurrent dream, but even if I only dreamed of it once, it was so vivid that I can still bring it to mind today, 40 years after the fact. 
The city was tall and elegant, crystalline and clean metal spires reaching for a shimmeringly hot blue sky.
My view of the city was from a distance, and around the base of the spires, and covering all the hectares leading up to it was green tree-clad plains. 
When I awoke that day I was filled with dread, and sense of loss, that it was only a dream, and this marvellous city was not there, it was not so close I could reach out and touch it. I couldn't walk the clean hot streets and byways of this wonderful place. 
Instead I was awake once more in my dread world of parental abuse and freezing streets of my home town Bathurst.
Not that Bathurst is an unattractive place, but as I've written ad nauseum, I was abused there and thus my view of the town will always be coloured as night.
However, some time after that I had an experience that not many of us get, when that vision from my dream was made real.
I went with my junior soccer team, Red Tops, for an exchange, billeted weekend with Kogarah Junior Soccer team in Sydney.
The cold of my home town was emotional and climatic.
As we passed over the Blue mountains we got our first view of the eastern plains, and there was my city, turns out it was Sydney.
The view through the bus window was almost exactly as I had seen in my dream.
I had been to Sydney before on family holidays with my parents, so I'm not making out this was some majorly telepathic event that had brought the city of the hotlands to my dreamscape, nothing like that, however rarely have I experienced such a powerful mental experience.
Although I am and always have been very much a cynical, hard-nosed type, having no truck with discussion of dreams and what they mean, that dream did create a change in me.
Having seen the city in my dreams, I was filled with an all-consuming desire for escape from my town and live in this wondrous city.
I played for Red Tops until I was ten or eleven years old, I know that, and so the dream occurred when I was younger than that.
I have no idea when of course, not now, but looking back, I see that my dream showed me that there was a world away from my horrendous parents, and I made a pact with myself that one day I would escape.
And eventually I did, some ten years later.
I can thank my parents for few things, but one of them was the gift of intelligence.
I know it's 'cool to be a fool' at school, but already the clock was ticking and my only means, as I saw it, of escape was to do well at school and thus be able to go off to uni in Sydney.
Some of you who went to school with me may possibly remember this, but particularly in primary school, and to a lesser extent in high school, I would cry if I made mistake at school.
Mostly this was to do with my father's terrifying rages.
He demanded with brutal terrifying screaming, that his children do well at school.
So crying when I made a mistake was largely to do with fear of my father, but a small part of it was that my waking dream of escape from Bathurst was all tied up with good marks at school.

The Chrysalids

Another part of this was my enjoyment of John Wyndham.
Wyndham was an author, most famous for Day of the Triffids, but his other novels are very good as well.
I find it hard to read him today, as he was very sexist.
He couldn't control his furious hatred of women for being stupid.
He wrote in the staunchly conservative fifties, and may have been seen as enlightened for his views on women taking their place as equal to men in intelligence, but take it from me, if that was enlightened, I would hate to see misogynist at the time.

Anyway, another of his books was The Chrysalids.
This book is set in the north-east of Canada some generations after a nuclear war has laid waste to the Earth.
The people of this area, Labrador, have reverted to an brutal 'christian' ultra-orthodoxy, with genetic mutation the sign of the devil.
The central character in the book is David Strorm.
His father is a frankly evil man, who kills anything, human, beast or plant, deemed to be mutated.
Early in life David and others of his age develop telepathy.
This wondrous gift has to be kept secret at all costs, as they will certainly be cast out to the wastelands if the christian elders of their community find out about it, as they would certainly deem telepathy a mutation, and an invisible one at that.
I mention this book, as it starts with David describing a dream.
I can't remember now when I read the book, but it was certainly long after I had my dream, but my experience was so similar to David in the book, that I felt The Chrysalids had almost been written in the hope that one day I would read it.
I struggled for a while to understand what the 'shiny fish-shaped things' were, but of course they were futuristic air- and space-craft.
Without wishing to be a full spoiler for those who may now decide to read the book, the city David dreamed of turned out to be Auckland, New Zealand.
Tucked away at the bottom of the world, New Zealand had been the country that best escaped the direct affects of the nuclear winter that the weapon-mongers had brought to the Earth.
The country had survived, and David was picking up visions of the city at night in his dreams, due to his telepathy.
And like David in the book, I found this vision of an elegant city of the hotlands, comforting, and as it turned out, it was of greater benefit than I could realise at the time, as it lit the fire within me to escape.
One other thing that was part of my dream was shimmering heat.
The picture at the shows Sydney in the sun, but in my dream this city gave the impression of baking, shimmering, almost untenable heat.
Despite the description, this made it more attractive to me.
Again, I'm guessing it was something to do with the cold of my home town, and I fully understand that dreams are not explicable, they have no quantifiable meaning, but I longed for the heat of that city.
Perhaps there was some correlation between the desired heat and the emotional cold of life with my parents, who can really say?
The city of the hotlands in my dream.
Anyway, I did do well at school, despite the bone-crunching pressure my parents put me under, and eventually aged 21 I escaped to the city for good.
Of course it wasn't the utopian metropolis of my dreams, Sydney has its problems like any other place, but it rapidly became my real home, as twenty years later Byron Bay would displace Sydney as my real home.
However I quickly found a place there, away from my parents, and learned to live.

The Midwich Cuckoos

And just a little further on John Wyndham, his most famous book was The Triffids.
After that he is probably best known for The Midwich Cuckoos.
In The Midwich Cuckoos a couple come home from a trip away to the coast and find their village blocked off, with no one allowed in.
They try to find out what's going on, but, as events are to show, no one knows.
Turns out alien ships have landed at various places on the Earth, including their village, and put out some sort of force field, within which everyone is unconscious.
The dastardly aliens then go about impregnating every eligible female within the force field.
The plot then moves on with the village attempting to come to terms with the 'day out', as it came to be known, and the sudden arrival of thirty odd alien children to live among them.
It's a good book, and was filmed as The Village of the Damned, first in 1960, and then a remake in 1990.
I mention it as you are probably most familiar with it, from, how did you know I was going to say this?, The Simpsons.
In this episode Homer and his pals go out on a wild bender and do a lot of drunken damage to the town.
Police Chief Wiggum then announces that, "there was a lot of damage last night, and so we're jumping to the conclusion that it was kids. Thus we are imposing a curfew on all children from now."
Thus, from then on all the kids of Springfield have to be home after dark.
However, Bart needless to say leads a rebellion, and takes the kids out to the drive-in to see the latest horror film, The Bloodening, and this is a send up of The Village of the Damned.
The glowing eyes by the way, represent the mind control that the children have.

The Kraken Wakes

And since the topic of John Wyndham has come up, it behoves me to mention his another novel of his, The Kraken Wakes.
This book follows the fortunes of a radio journalist and his wife, Mike and Phyllis Watson, and begins, as all good sci-fi novels should with the Earth undergoing inter-planetary invasion.
'Fireballs', as they're called, rain down out of the sky, and descend into the oceans of the Earth.
As it turns out these fireballs are bringing creatures from Jupiter to colonise our planet.
Due to the pressure differential between the two planets, the only place these aliens can exist in any comfort is at the very depths of our oceans, where the pressure is approximate to those of Jupiter.
To start with there is no problem with our species inhabiting the land, and the Jupiter lot in the depths.
However friction soon starts and we humans poke the bear by dropping a couple of nuclear bombs down into the depths to give these creatures a message.
They, unsurprisingly, resent this, and a war starts between the two races.
It is not a conventional war as we know it, no bullets fly, instead the creatures from Jupiter come up with a a variety of fiendish ways to attack the humans of the surface.
The most devastating of these is setting up atomic reactors under the polar ice caps, and melting the ice.
the seas rise, and the humans have to constantly scramble to higher and higher ground to escape the encroaching ocean.
It's as good a lesson in the effects of global warming as one could hope for.
London, where Mike and Phyllis live, is half inundated.
The ocean is not now at Dover, but in London itself, with the tide coming in up The Strand.
Mike and Phyllis leave London, by boat, needless to say, and go to live in their holiday cottage in Cornwall.
Not long after they arrive, the hill upon which their cottage stands become an island.
The book seems to be heading for a conclusion with Mike and Phyllis planning to gather up all their supplies, and every litre of petrol they have, and make their way south over the ocean to the tropics, where they can at least grow their own food.
However, just as they are planning this hope is born again.
A scientist they had previously worked with has found a way to kill the creatures of the deep, and so the ice caps are once again protected, and begin to refreeze.
The water levels stabilise, and there is hope for the future.
And the last page of the book has Phyllis contemplating the future.
it is a long hard road still, with many cold years of little food to go round, but she says:
“I’m coming to life again, Mike,” she said. “There’s something to live for.”
So as a literary analogy for us, it can't be beaten.
Currently we face the same fight with global warming.
The Abbott government, and others like them, are out to lead us to a drowning death with their desire for quick, dirty profit from coal.
However they can be beaten and sensible government can return to the lands of the Earth.
Many who know me well will be picking themselves up off the floor to read that, the internet's most prolific whinger [Whinge means constant complaining for my north American readers] being optimistic, however, I would bring a note of cautious optimism to the future.
Once I wouldn't have thought it possible to escape the terror of my childhood, but a random dream gave me some hope.
Likewise with a bit of effort Tony Abbott and the rest of those destroyers of our planet can be kicked to the curb.

Mind you, tomorrow another letter could arrive from the tax department, and then it will be back to full on moaning, but let's just enjoy this moment in time with the future ahead, and moaning, for a brief moment, in the past.


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