I have had strange experiences all my life. When I was younger my dad worried I might be schizophrenic. His concerns were actually raised by a conversation we once had about my drinking. I’d never been in trouble with alcohol as I am a very responsible person not given to recklessness. But I could put away vast quantities of wine in the safety of my own home.
A string of lucky business ventures allowed me to buy a rather nice home in London’s stockbroker belt before I was thirty – my wife’s dream home, at that time anyway. In return for allowing her full control over decorating and furnishing the place, I insisted on a den of my own, to which I could retire with a good book and a bottle of wine. I also made a space of own at the end of the large back garden, hanging a hammock between a pair of conveniently spaced cherry trees. This was where I spent much of my free time – often with a bottle. And it’s where my dad found me one evening after one particularly “lazy sunny afternoon.”
Dad hadn’t come to lecture me. He even acknowledged that I didn’t seem drunk at all – just happy. But he was worried that I made such a habit of it. I reminded him of when he sat out in the his garden on summer nights, trying to tune into his favorite radio station and having difficulty from all the other radio stations crowding that part of the dial – especially French-language stations from across the Channel! And then there were the annoying whining and buzzing sounds from all the electromagnetic flotsam and jetsam in the atmosphere. I told him that my mind was often crowded with such interference – and that when I drank, the background noise quickly faded out leaving one station coming in loud and clear – the station I really wanted to listen to.
Dad talked with Mum, and she talked with her sister and a close friend, and it ended with me being urged to see a doctor – which I did, as I am not inclined to be uncooperative with people who care about me. And I had a serious of psychological and psychiatric assessments which turned up nothing conclusive – although I was encouraged to think about quitting drinking. I never did. And my family left me alone to enjoy that radio station.
I had lots of recurring dreams. In my teens I dreamed of Cornwall a lot, even though we never once went there on holiday. I like painting and I painted several pictures of an island that I kept seeing in dreams. I was amazed when I saw it on postcard of Pentire Point on the north coast. In my late twenties I kept seeing a pony with a white star on his forehead – shaped perfectly like a diamond. My pony-obssessed daughter was always begging me to paint pictures of ponies for her – and I always painted the one with the pretty white star.
In my mid-thirties I suffered a nervous breakdown and spent a couple of months in a psychiatric facility. In one counseling session I was asked if I ever heard voices. I was about to say no – but I paused – and then burst into laughter. I wasn’t hearing voices as such, but in my dreams I kept hearing interchanges that were hilariously funny and had me laughing during my after-dinner nap. There were several regular characters, my favorite being a rather colorful character called Opal. I drew a picture of her to show my counselor and I attempted to impersonate her manner of speaking. She was American and had a daughter called Jenny and they both lived in a rooming house with an even more colorful lady called Myrtle. Almost every day I had an update about Opal. She broke up with her boyfriend Sam when he confessed to being in love with daughter Jenny, after which she pulled herself together and ran for a vacant seat on the Pine Valley Town Council – and I was discharged as fit for human life again!
Over the next fifteen years I threw myself into my work and enjoyed my family. I worked long hours and drank a lot, so sleep was often more about unconsciousness than dreams – although I do remember repeated appearances of the same little MG sportscar – and the view from behind the wheel as I drove it along a highway in America. I did enjoy alone time with wine in my hammock at the end of the garden and I took to reading Mark Twain.
Like most successful English businessmen, I eventually bought a small country home in France. My wife didn’t care much for France and bought herself a condo in West Palm Beach, Florida – so we started taking holidays apart – which was fine by me. I never felt alone in my French retreat. I always felt I was going there to meet with a secret, special friend.
And in 1999, I found out who she was.