Last night I had the weirdest dream. I was captain of an office football team, and we were about to play an important match.
I had been chosen as captain because I was the youngest, and I was to be the main player in midfield, because I was the quickest. This would be fine if in my dream I was once again in my twenties but no, I was exactly as I am now.
The rest of the team were, well, ancient. Our goalkeepers name was McAuley. I know that because it was printed on the back of the violently pink padded anorak that he wore as a jersey. Above that he wore an ordinary plain tweed cap. I can still picture all of the back four. They had a combined age of infinity. One of them looked like Eric Sykes, the rest looked much older. Their hair was grey but their skin was much, much greyer. As they gathered at the changing room door they still wore jackets and ties. Indeed, I noticed that all of us were in street shoes and had our trouser legs rolled up. There were eight of us.
“Where are the three new guys?” I heard myself asking. “They said they’d meet us in the bar,” I was told. Sure enough, the dressing room led out directly into a crowded and very smoky bar. The three new players stood up, cigarettes and whiskey glasses in hand. “You can tell this was a long time ago,” I said rather bizarrely, explaining the lack of a smoking ban to my sleeping self.
We all headed out onto the pitch, my team moving with a quiet and dignified air of fatalism that was painful to watch, and be part of. The pitch suddenly became a rather small indoor hall, and I realised with a sigh that our ball control in our street shoes was not going to be tight enough for this pitch.
Our opposition were a type rather than a collection of individuals. They had a football strip that matched, in a smoky mustard yellow. All of them were blond. Their captain made his way towards me. I extended my hand towards his, having removed the fingernail from my middle finger like a thimble before I did so. At the last second he held out his left hand instead of his right, because his right hand now held a large railway sleeper, for no obvious reason.
The referee tossed a coin and I called heads. The coin clearly landed as heads, but the other captain said “right, we’ll kick off “. This left me with choice of ends. We were indoors with no wind and no slope, so there was no advantage to playing either way, but I was annoyed by having been cheated out of the toss, so I opted to change ends, making each goalkeeper walk to the opposite end of the pitch. “I’ve always wanted to do that”, I said to the referee. I looked at his face (he was ancient too) and realised that this had been a mistake. I could expect no favours from him now.
The ball was placed on the centre spot, my team moved slowly and painfully into position and … I woke up.
I woke up panting with fear, yet also almost sobbing with relief that we would not now have to play the match. I just knew that awful, gut-screwing humiliations would have befallen us had the dream gone any further.
What was it about? Who knows. We’ve all had the walking-into-an-exam-having-done-no-study dream, and I’m particularly partial to the waiting-to go-on-stage-in-a-play-without-having-learnt-my-lines dream, but this was somehow scarier. In this one I’d done nothing wrong, and indeed neither had my team, but I could tell that this fact was not going to help us in the slightest.
As I wrote that last sentence I realised that perhaps it was suppressed anger and helplessness at how we ordinary citizens are being fucked even though it wasn’t us that did anything wrong. Perhaps it was the fact that I read last week that the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank reckons that it was the fault of small shareholders that they lost all their money in the banks, and his brazen denial that the banks have been bailed out in any way, or that it was his job to have prevented them from acting irresponsibly (if it is well known that the Government will not let any bank fail, then it is the job of the Central Bank to make sure that the banks do not risk this happening. Antone who doesn’t see that as self-evident should not work in the Central Bank).
Perhaps it’s the fact that this twit still has his job, when so many other people have lost theirs. Perhaps it’s the fact that, less one year after the banks ran screaming to us for protection, they are now putting up interest rates for ordinary borrowers, because they’re losing money through writing off loans to big borrowers. Perhaps it’s the fact that not one senior person in either the banks or their supposed regulators has been fired over what has befallen us (being allowed to resign on a large pension does not count).
If this really is what the dream was about, then the sleeping me is a lot more deep than the waking one.