The Plane

I am a dreamer, and I don’t mean I’m prone to posing wacky what-ifs, like “what if a dinosaur and a spaceman had a baby” or something. I mean I dream every night and I dream hard, and they’re often disturbing.

Some people have mundane dreams about shopping or work. I have dreams about drowning in the bath, about hiding from strange men, and about a little cupboard that I was screaming too hard to open. It’s not always bad. Last night I dreamed I was introducing a bunch of people to each other and I kept getting Simonetta mixed up with Simonas, and Janic mixed up with Javik. Not pleasant, but not traumatic. Another time I dreamed I invented a card game called “Buffet” (pronounced “buff it”) and I can still remember some of the rules. Sometimes I dream I’m close friends with a celebrity, and for a few moments upon waking I consider sending them a text to tell them about this crazy dream I just had.

There are two recurring dreams. One is of outrunning a tornado and the other is of an aeroplane crashing. The tornado one is easy to explain. I saw Twister at the cinema and thought it was badass and also terrifying. I was 9, give me a break. I don’t get these so much any more, but they occasionally pop in to see how I’m doing, maybe once a year. Hey Ryan, you managed to get over the trauma inflicted by a shite film you saw 20 years ago? No? Cool, see you next time.

The aeroplane crashing, though? I don’t really understand that one, and I still get it every couple of months or so. I’m not scared of flying. Flying still makes me a little nervous because I’ve only been on a plane a handful of times, but it’s not something that keeps me up at night. What’s more, I’m not in the plane when it crashes. I see it happen from a distance. I’m out somewhere, I spot a plane in the sky, it starts wavering erratically, and it plunges into the ground. I run over to help, and I wake up before I get to the wreckage. The aircraft and location change. One time it was outside Prestwick Airport. Another it was in the south side of Glasgow, just past Silverburn, and it wasn’t a plane but a zeppelin.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a gif of a plane crashing, and it was stunningly similar to every one of these dreams. I’ve seen footage of planes crashing many times (they fascinate me, maybe because of my dream) but never in the exact same fashion as I’d imagined. This is the footage:

What interested me was that a few people had commented saying they’d had a dream just like this. I’m not the only one, and I think that’s fascinating. Sometimes you know where a dream came from. You remember having a conversation yesterday about fish, and you dreamed about fish. Maybe you watched Twister before going to bed and dreamed about tornadoes. My mum had a dream every Christmas Eve that she’d forgotten to buy her children any presents. Those all make sense in terms of how we see dreams, but there’s another kind of dream.

The other kind of dreams are the most private thoughts we have. They come unbidden, they can’t be controlled, and you absolutely cannot explain them to anyone. I might be able to relate to you how I feel about music, or what I think happiness is, and we might find some common ground, but I’ll be damned if I could ever explain what was so terrifying about that little cupboard that I couldn’t open.

In spite of this innermost form of consciousness, there are some dreams we all seem to share. There are some famous ones, like the one where you’re naked in public, or the one where you’re trying to get away from danger but you’re moving too slowly. There are others you find out are very common but only discover are common when you speak to others about your dreams, like the one where your teeth are falling out, or the one where you jump off a high place and wake up before you hit the ground.

And then there are some dreams that are extremely specific. Maybe like seeing an air crash happen in a certain way, in a way that you’ve never seen with your eyes. Dreams that are so specific that you assume they are a product of your mind and your mind only… and then one day you find out that a bunch of other people have had that exact same dream.

I don’t believe in dream interpretation of the prophetic sort. I can dig a series of unhappy dreams being a symptom of how you feel in waking life, or the crumbling teeth dream being indicative of stress, but not that a dream about a tree falling over means a birth in the family or shit like that.

Nevertheless, you’ve got to wonder why we’re all having the same dreams sometimes. Maybe being unable to escape from danger is some primal thing, some instinctual fear we’ve inherited from our ancestors. I can understand why we might all have that one. A relatively recent invention malfunctioning while we watch being a common dream, though? Well, that’s just a bit on the creepy side.

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Live from Crieff

I stayed in a hotel room in Crieff last night. Well, yesterday evening. I actually spent most of the night in the lobby.

See, my key card hilariously decided to stop working after closing hours, and also after “Rebecca goes into a sleep from which she can only be awoken by ancient Aztec magic” hours . There was no answer from Rebecca’s phone and there’s only so much you can knock on a door before you start imagining angry neighbours lodging complaints. The fear that you’ve forgotten your room number and are knocking on a stranger’s door at 1.45am also sets in pretty quickly. Left with little recourse, I decided to move down to the depressingly empty lobby and keep trying the phone while keeping a diary of my thoughts. What follows is the uncut live feed of my night trapped outside a hotel room.

2:28

its half two in the morning and I have been locked out of my hotel room. I have called Rebecca probably about 30 times. no answer. Can’t blame her, only an idiot would be awake at this time. Playing games and refreshing Facebook, bored. Spar?

(Note:  At this point, I left the hotel in search of snacks at a Spar ten minutes away)

2:40

very nice houses here. Thought one might’ve been a graveyard, interesting place to check out. wasn’t. Someone’s monstrous garden. Lifeless out here. This is what they mean when they say safe streets.

2:45

all the houses have names here. “I am a home not a number.” They have names like Rosemary Cottage and Fernbridge but one of them is called One Tree Hill I swear to god.

2:50

spar is closed. Of course it is. I’m fucking freezing, only wearing jacket. Starving. I’m lost and I hope someone isn’t looking out their window at some wretched fool on the corner typing into their phone.

2:55

I’m pretty sure I passed this church on the way here. I think I’m safe. But it’s silent here. There are ghosts in that church. Keep moving.

2:58

the only thing that could cut my nipples right now is other, colder nipples. That’s a reference to diamonds and I’m not sure anyone will get it. My nipples are cold. I hope the ghosts from the church aren’t following me.

3:03

I have made it back to the hotel on gut instinct. If there are people watching on cctv they must be very confused by the twat who knows the front door code but sits in the lobby. Rebecca still isn’t picking up her phone. I am facing the increasingly likely possibility of spending the entire night sitting in this chair. At least I won’t die of exposure.

4:22

fell asleep in chair. sort of. lying on couch now. left shoes on fuck you hotel

6:37

success.  back in bed. sleep

I awoke 2 hours later to a delicious breakfast of sausages, bacon, black pudding and a fried egg. Since then, I’ve had a pretty great day, which just further proves that there’s nothing a fry-up can’t cure, not even a night spent alone in a hotel lobby with nothing to do.


Bread

I can’t quite remember how I started baking bread. I know my brother visited for Christmas a couple of years back and mentioned he’d been baking, even offering to do a loaf for Christmas dinner. That was my first indication that the making of bread was not some mystical craft one must be born into. I wish I’d taken him up on his offer, I might’ve got started sooner. In March last year, I came across a video of Paul Hollywood making a simple white loaf. “That seems do-able,” I thought. He was using oil to knead, too, which eased some concerns I’d had about how much flour to use and how easy it might be to ruin the dough early in the process.

But as to why I watched a video of Paul Hollywood making bread, and why I decided to actually try it, I have no idea. My only previous attempt at baking (a jam sponge I made when I was 9) had been a catastrophic failure. Cooking is something you roll with, but baking has to be perfect before it goes in the oven. There’s no fixing it, and I think that discouraged me for a very long time.

I gave the white loaf a try, and it was a failure. Quelle surprise. Here’s what I find interesting, though: it was a failure, but not a catastrophic failure. Rebecca insists the loaf was edible. I disagree, but the point is that I saw what I’d made and figured I could easily do better next time. It might have been less of a loaf and more of a baked dough lump, but it wasn’t too far off the mark for a first try. It looked sort of like a loaf, it sort of had the structure of a loaf… it wasn’t enough to make me throw my floured hands in the air and say “fuck it, baking bread isn’t for me”.  Worth a second look, thought I, so what’s the harm in another try? It came out like this.

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Now, you’re probably looking at that loaf and imagining how it tastes. I’m going to tell you that you’re probably giving me too much credit. That is a very attractive loaf of bread up there, but the picture doesn’t accurately reflect how it tasted. It was leagues ahead of the Baked Dough Lump, to be sure, but it was too soft, didn’t have enough salt, the crust wasn’t right etc. In spite of what amounts to two failures in a row, I found myself even more committed to getting that damn white loaf right.

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Bacon and cheddar loaf. Like having a bacon and cheese sandwich with everything.

This, here, is what I love and find so addictive about making bread. It’s something you work on slowly, tweaking and improving every single time. Try a little more or less water, try proving a little longer, try shaping it differently, using more salt, deeper slashes on top. You learn something every single time, and what’s more, you get a fresh loaf of bread for your efforts. It’s not an abstract reward, you don’t have to imagine or estimate at all what effect your tweaking is having – it’s right there in the loaf you baked yourself. It’s a wonderfully immediate response, and wonderfully delicious too.

I’m currently working on my ciabatta, which is pretty good but doesn’t have a great shape (a problem with extremely wet doughs), and I experimented with a roasted garlic loaf recently which was tasty but could be better. My next loaves are going to be a garlic tear-and-share style bread and a focaccia. After those, I might try some other non-bread recipes such as muffins. Who knows. It’s an exciting, bread-y world out there. If you’re looking for something to do, you should get involved.

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Yum-yums aren’t baking, but they’re sold in Greggs which is all the excuse I need.