Diarmuid Breatnach

          I awoke from a dream, unsettled.

          I and another man had been burgling a building, one which I later recognised as bearing a resemblance in part to a place in which I had once worked. My dreams are often located in scenarios reminiscent of my working life but usually they are of the industrial period, factories, vast or small and dilapidated. The building in my dream was in part from a later period and the office space was reminiscent of a hostel for the homeless in London, where my job had been that of the Deputy Manager.

That hostel had been of course in 24-hour operation, with staff on rota throughout all those hours but, in the dream, it was open only during the day (like some facilities for the homeless whose management have the confidence to tell those who run 24-hour operations how they should manage their establishments and whom they should not exclude).

In the first scene I remember I was in an alley outside the target building and my accomplice appears to have been inside already. The building’s doorway was near the mouth of the alley, which opened on to a main road. I shrank back into the doorway as someone left a nearby building, either at the corner or just around it, calling out something to whoever he was leaving behind. Then the door was opened by my accomplice and I stepped inside.

Having closed the door, I saw that somehow he was already in the office while I was in the entry passageway. Looking at him through the glass of the reception office, I saw he had the safe open already but was awkwardly keeping the office door open with an outstretched foot. He beckoned me in with an impatient gesture.

Entering the office, I kept the door open while he emptied the safe of money. I knew that if the door was allowed to close it would set off an alarm (yes, I know, crazy and why did we not just wedge it open?).

Soon, I was further down the corridor and opening up another safe and taking out bundles of currency notes. Closing the safe, since our intention was to delay discovery of the theft, I brought the money up to the reception office. Now, at this late stage, I began to worry about concealed video recording cameras and drew a scarf partly across my face.  I mentioned my fear to my accomplice, who commented that if CCTV cameras were installed, they already had our faces so why worry?

Of course, that was not very reassuring. I began to regret the whole operation.

“So what do you want to do?” he asked.

“I know what I feel like doing,” I replied. “I feel like leaving the money here and leaving. But I am not sure what I really want to do.”

“Leave the money, after all we’ve gone through to get in here?”

“I know, I know. OK, let’s just finish the job.”

“Just keep denying it and they can’t prove anything,” he replied and that is about when I awoke.

***   ***  ***

(Image source: Internet)

As noted earlier, I felt very unsettled by the dream and could not get back to sleep – so I switched on the bedside lamp to read awhile, a novel by a Cuban writer called Leonardo Padura.

Sometime later, I switched off the light and was soon back asleep. And dreaming again.

***   ***  ***

There is only one scene from that dream I remember: a plain room, perhaps a kitchen, a rectangular table, at my long side of which one woman sits on a chair, another on the other side and yet another on the short side, both also on chairs. There is another chair in front of me, empty, into which I am ushering a youngish and tall man I know to be my Irish cousin.

The woman to my left might be my mother but if so, much younger than matches my adult age. The other woman nearest is to my right, sitting back somewhat from the short side of the table and is in her early to mid-twenties. On the opposite side of the table to me, is a somewhat older woman who appears to be in her thirties. Again improbably, I think she is the mother of the younger woman.

I seat the young man on the empty chair and then go to the youngest woman, whom I now know to be a cousin also. She bends towards the older woman and whispers something to her but I take her by the elbow and steer her towards my male cousin, reflecting while doing so that maybe I should have done this the other way around.

As I reach him, I say to my male cousin that “I wish to introduce the delectable S—-” (I am uncertain about the exact adjective I used but it was something like that).

I think they shook hands and then she sat down again.

***   ***  ***

The mobile alarm woke me but I was tired, so reset it for another hour and was soon asleep. And dreaming again.

The scene this time was similar to that of an Asian buffet in Moore Street, Dublin, that I frequent from time to time. But the man behind the counter was Latin American, not Asian. I asked him about the Mexican Bay Tree – were its leaves used for flavouring as with the bay tree with which we are more familiar here in Ireland?

He seemed puzzled and asked me where I had heard about this tree.

I replied that it had been mentioned in a book by a Cuban author, Padura. He burst into scornful laughter and exclaimed something like “Ni vive, ni siquiera estuvo nunca ahi!” (“He neither lives nor was even ever there,” i.e in Cuba). And he called out in Spanish to another staff member of the restaurant.

I said then that I was not surprised, for Padura’s main character Conde comments quite negatively on the state of affairs in Cuba, which reflects badly on its management and I felt he could hardly continue doing so if he actually lived there.

The reset alarm went off and I awoke with the rapidly-fading memory of yet a fourth dream (now gone completely).


          I would have loved to take these dreams to my mother for analysis but she is dead a dozen years now. She followed the Jungean method and had done some amazing analyses of dreams for members of the family and also for some close acquaintances. Amazing, in terms of perceptiveness and apparent relevance to the individual concerned.

The basis of the Jungean system is to recognise that everything in a dream is from the subconscious, which speaks to the conscious mind in symbols. Therefore things, words and people dreamed of tend to be representing something else and people in particular, whether male or female, young or old, known or unknown to represent parts of one’s subconscious.  Carl Jung also spoke of archetypes, representations of events, figures and motifs which he believed all humans shared from the earliest beginning of the human race but which are also overlain with their own specific ethnic and period culture.

The Burglary

          So what would my mother have made of the burglary dream? She would of course consult the known archetypes but would also interrogate me about some of the dominant aspects, asking what they represented to me, personally.

What would she have made of the fact that the representation of my accomplice was an Irish “dissident” Republican known to me, along with my fear of discovery? The man could represent dissidence, disobedience of authority (in the conscious world of reality, both of State and of some party leaders) but also honesty, dedication, courage. And my fear? Maybe a real one, of danger from the repressive apparatus of the State. Nothing new there, however.

Then there was the reception office door that must not be closed!  I must be open to receive something?

The building in part represented a place in which I had worked once and had been treated very badly as an employee. In the course of my work there I had to take two separate grievances against my manager on the grounds of his impeding my professional development, in both of which I succeeded in gaining access to the steps I sought (training and practice). My manager had taken out two disciplinary procedures against me, both of which turned out to be unsuccessful but which naturally, caused me a lot of stress.

The background was that he had wanted another candidate to succeed in the interview procedure in which I had come highest and he had objected to the decision of the interviewing panel; subsequently they had announced that no-one had reached the required level. I sought feedback on this, seeking the scoring in my case and a senior manager ordered another round, this time with a union rep and an Equalities rep on the panel with the manager in question. Although, as I learned later, I had come highest again, due to the sitting manager’s insistence on another candidate, the panel recommended an isometric test to decide between the two top applicants and I had come out on top of that procedure too.

I was appointed to the post.

When I first met my manager-to-be some days later to discuss starting work at the hostel, he told me he had not been pleased with recruitment procedure. I replied that there were some aspects that had not pleased me either but that we had best leave all that behind us. It was subsequently clear that either he was unable to do that or did not wish to.

But a building in dream analysis often represents one’s own head or, more precisely, one’s brain ….

And stealing from it? I don’t know.

Ma! Are you there? Ma! Ma!

The Cousins

          The lack of detail apart from the figures in that dream is striking, forcing one to concentrate on the actors, without distraction.

In reality, on the Irish side of my antecedents, only one siblin of my father had children (six, five brothers and one sister, also just like ours). In the real world, my female cousin is actually named S— but although she might well be considered delectable, is not tall and fair-haired, as she was in my dream. And ALL my Irish cousins are siblings, which made the introduction of one Irish cousin to another ridiculous. In the real world, ridiculous yes – but in the world of symbolic representations?

There were three women in the dream and one male, other than myself. Two of the women played observing roles while the third seemed somewhat reluctant to be introduced to the male cousin. It seems to me that this represents a need for some female parts of my brain to come to greater ease with the male parts. The female represened is family, so is close but as a cousin, slightly distant; the mother figures, one very close (mother) and the other (aunt) slightly distant, observe rather benignly. The male cousin, willing to be introduced, would be a representation of a male part of myself.

The Cuban Author

           The book I had been reading was indeed by Padura and in reality I had been wondering about this “Mexican bay tree”, making a mental note to ask the Oracle (Google) about it. And I had wondered about Padura’s comments about Cuba (through his main character). Although I was sure Cuba was no paradise and had heard of a decline in revolutionary standards of the leadership and in society, I wondered whether a) things were as bad as Padura’s character Conde thinks and says and b) how or why Padura lives there if that’s how things are.

So, a straightforward carrying through of waking questions into a dream? Perhaps. But why would they be of such importance as to be dreamed about? It seems one should dig deeper.

The scene presented in the Asian buffet was familiar and yet exotic too, in the food on offer. Cuba is exotic to me as would be, I presume a Mexican bay tree, whatever that is. But the bay tree with which I am familiar has fragrant leaves and I use it often in cooking.

And that’s as far as I can get.

Ma! Are you there? Ma! Ma!


Mexican Bay Tree
(Photo source: Internet)


According to Wikipedia

Leonardo de la Caridad Padura Fuentes (born on October 10th, 1955) is a Cuban novelist and journalist. As of 2007, he is one of Cuba’s best-known writers internationally. In his native Spanish, as well as in English and some other languages, he is often referred to by the shorter form of his name, Leonardo Padura. He has written screenplays, two books of short stories, and a series of detective novels translated into 10 languages. In 2012, Padura was awarded the National Prize for Literature, Cuba’s national literary award and the most important award of its kind. In 2015, he was awarded thePremio Principe de Asturias de las Letras of Spain, one of the most important literary prizes in the Spanish-speaking world and usually considered as the Iberoamerican Nobel Prize.[1]

The reference, mostly about the writer, has some passages which are critical of the regime. And yes, Padura does live in Havana, Cuba.

According to one site, the Mexican Bay Tree (Litsea glaucescens) is an uncommon shrub:

A small, evergreen tree growing to 15-20 feet. Leaves are leathery and elongated in shape, growing up to 3″. They are distinct in having a blue-green coloration to their undersides. Flowers are small, white-green in color. Fruits are small, at most 1/2″ across and ripen to a deep purple-black. There are supposedly a handful of varieties or variants of this species, though minimal attention seems to be given to propagating select types.

According to Wikipedia,

It grows in the mountains, on the banks of rivers and is planted in the garden of houses. It is used as seasoning. It is in danger of extinction,[3][citation needed] because it has been used extensively for various uses, medicinal and culinary purposes even religious during the celebration of Palm Sunday. The species is one of the most important non-wood trees of Mexico. This species has been exploited for different purposes: religious,[2] dietary and medicinal, where the young branches and leaf tissues are used. This has resulted in a considerable exploitation in virtually all their range.

Of course, these aspects of the plant would have brought a whole lot of other aspects into the dream analysis, except that I didn’t know them then.

Or did I, subconsciously somehow …..?

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