Last night I dreamt that I had somehow overcome my horror of being fingerprinted and retinally scanned, and was visiting New England. Specifically I was in a large house in the country, somewhere on the border of Delaware and Connecticut (Delaware in my dream was only the size of Romsey, and I wondered why they bothered making it a state). The house was the ancestral place of sovay and rushthatspeaks, and we were all there for a gathering of their extended family.
I began by making rather awkward conversation with them. “You both teach?” I asked. “Yes, at Yale,” rushthatspeaks replied. I felt a little ashamed of my own humble employment, and in fact after that everything I said sounded whiny, although my hosts were graciousness itself. In particular, I seemed unable to stop myself from making self-pitying comparisons: their huge house, obvious wealth and it’s-just-the-oxygen-we-breathe comfort with same, versus my teeny tiny home back in Bristol and general inadequacy.
They began to show me around that house, the real size of which only now became apparent. (I think nineweaving’s recent inheritance may have had a hand in this.) Not only were there many rooms, but each was vast, built in the days when firewood was plentiful and air-conditioning not yet invented. Everything was very high. sovay was a head taller than me, but even she was dwarfed by those rooms, the ceilings of which were at least thirty feet above my head. The furniture was large, too: massy oak tables, cavernous fireplaces, odd pieces of former agricultural equipment (whether bought for show or simply left over from a previous generation I was uncertain), scattered about the flags. The walls were whitewashed stone, or bare flint – and on one I saw a mural (obviously contemporary with its subject) depicting, in a naïve, folk-art kind of way a group of redcoats, some kneeling, some standing to fire their muskets.
There were at least two other people in the house. One, whom I didn’t actually see, was a kindly but remote paterfamilias, the other a lively young cousin named Magnus, who came in and out a couple of times and was, maybe, thirteen years old. I was given to understand that we would be spending the afternoon keeping “Daddy” company: sovay apologised for the imposition, but I was quite looking forward to it.
Finally, we came to a room in which we found that an antique cup had been broken – evidently a favourite of sovay’s, because she became angry, and called out her cousin’s full name (it turns out that Magnus was only the short version), demanding he explain himself. “Magnitude!” she shouted. “You come here right now!”
And I awoke.