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  • I used to have this recurring dream.

    In it, I was wandering the streets of a Brussels suburb (Ixelles, incidentally where Audrey Hepburn was born. I bet you didn't know that) looking for this house, the one in the picture. It was always at night, so this picture, though poor, is appropriate.

    Sometimes I would find it. I would go into the house, which I used to own, but left in 1986, and wander around, noting the changes made in the intervening years.

    Eventually I would find a door, which I remembered led to a completely separate wing of the house (it didn't exist in the real house), old and neglected and badly in need of someone with DIY skills. You had to be careful where you walked, because there was a danger of falling though the floor. It was grey, and dusty, and there were holes in the walls.

    Many years later, I started to write, properly, in my own voice (I had been scribbling for years trying, in vain, to be James Joyce.)

    I was accepted on a BBC funded writing course through a competitive process. I knew I was incredibly lucky to have this opportunity. The day I got the letter, I cried uncontrollably, sitting on the loo, reading it.

    That night I had the dream again. This time, when I wandered into the neglected wing, I met a man, ironing the tatty curtains.

    "I didn't know there was anyone here," I remarked. (I always open by being polite in a potentially tricky confrontation situation, even when asleep).

    "Oh," he said, "I thought, as no-one was bothering with it, I'd move in and do it up a bit."

    Several years after that, I actually went back to Brussels for the first time in over twenty years. And I found the house. It had been beautifully renovated since my time. It was weird, being there, because all the adults I'd known at the time had left my life for various reasons. Divorce, adultery, that sort of thing. The only person I still knew who'd been there with me was (is) my son, who was three when I left. So all my memories are completely uncheckable. It's scary. If I remember something, that's the way it is... even if it isn't.

    Thank you, Jean Luc and Kathy, for bringing these two things together and making a story. I think it means that dreams are more reliable than memories.

    But I could be wrong.
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