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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 4 (July 1, 1938.)

Dream Places

page 32

Dream Places

There are three kinds of dream places—the places you go to when you dream in bed; the real places you travel to in day dreams; and the imaginary castles you build in your mind. For places seen in my real dreams I have no affection. They are connected with being chased by bulls, a frequent dream of my childhood, falling from precipices, and finding myself in a position of acute embarrassment. It is perhaps a legacy of the days when, though I loved cricket, I suffered agonies in anticipation of going in to bat, that I have several times dreamt I was playing for my province. Seeing that I never made as many as thirty runs in my cricketing days you may imagine that I do not feel happy when I go to the wicket in a dream.

The bright death quivered at the victim's throat; Touched; and I knew no more.

In other words, happily I awake before the bowler becomes the executioner. Worse still is the frequent dream of being about to take part in a play in which I have not rehearsed, and of which I do not know a line. Before my trip to England made real a day dream, I dreamt several times that I was sailing off in a liner full of joy, only to find the ship taking to dry land and steaming up a road. The other night I found myself working a machine gun on a bridge in China, not an experience I care to remember.

The real places of my day dreams? I don't want to see all the world, but I do want to see a large part of it. In India the Khyber Pass, and the Aga Khan—I mean the Taj Mahal—by moonlight, and the Vale of Kashmir and the high country up to the Thibetan border; in America the Blue Ridge where Stonewall Jackson kept guard, and the rest of Virginia, and New England; in Europe, Vienna (though not so much now that Hitler has laid a heavy hand on its gaiety); and the Austrian Tyrol in spring, and the Illyrian coast, which must be odorous with the beauty of “Twelfth Night”; and Roncesvalles, where Roland blew his last horn; and Paris in springtime, not the Paris of red-hot July that I did see. These for a start. In England I want to visit places I had not time to see: Norwich and Boston and the Lincolnshire country of Tennyson; the Yorkshire moors; the Lake Country: Tintagel; Clevedon Church, where Hallam is buried; and Hadrian's Wall. I want to walk the whole length of Hadrian's Wall, from the Tyne to Solway Firth, taking my fill of history in the sun-drenched solitudes of the Northumbrian hills. And in Ireland, especially the west, where the unbroken Atlantic shoulders its strength against a maze of cliffs and bays. There I might meet ghosts of the Wild Geese —“For faith and hope and honour, and the ruined hearths of Clare”—and hear the speech of Synge's folk, and talk with J. J. Meldon.

Some of this may come to me. Meanwhile I must cultivate my garden. I have a dream garden. It lies in a composite spot, the sort of place I would like to live in when I retire. It is on a small secluded bay, a crescent whose horns are tipped by giant pohutukawa leaning over the water. Park land slopes up from the water through groves of pohutukawa and puriri with kowhai here and there to thick bush. From my house I can look out across my garden, over the water to blue hills on the other side of the harbour. Around me at Christ-mast time is the glory of pohutukawa in every shade from deep to brick red; the sky is brilliant above and the drowsing water is the heart of blue. In my garden the scent of roses mingles with the tang of tea-tree. There is very little tide; the channel is close to my shore; the sea-floor of hard clean sand shelves gently; I can bathe when I want to. And ships go by close in, coming and going, big ships and little ships; Home liners with passengers lining the rail to look at a land familiar to most, strange to some; cargo ships from ports not in our far-off geography books; tankers with funnels that look as if they were trying to escape over the stern; little coasters of steam or diesel that have tumbled over bars; scows whose combination of sails and engines prompts the question, which is the auxiliary, the sails or the engines? My bedroom faces the sea, and when I wake in the morning I can see the traffic go by, framed

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in my trees, and almost check my watch by some of it. The big brass bell of an historic coaster hangs on the verandah, and sometimes very early on a still summer morning I get up and ring appropriate “bells” on it. (I have the bell to-day). A bridge waves in reply.

Our dream house is built of stone. We are tired of wooden houses, with their decay and paintings. The stone is perhaps like the grey stone that mellows the Queenstown landscape, or the dark stone of Auckland, which is so little used. There is a wide and deep verandah, where we can live in all weathers. In my study, which is panelled in some dark New Zealand wood, puriri perhaps, I am surrounded by my books and pictures. There is room for everything I shall ever have—shelves for books, enclosed pigeon-holes for letters and manuscripts and all the miscellana of remembrance. Everything is reasonably in its place (by which you may know, especially if you know me, that this is a dream house) but there is nothing “faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null” about the room. It has an air of being lived in and loved. There is a fireplace big enough to take a log, and we have piles of rata, tea-tree and driftwood. About the room are great arm-chairs, padded with bright cushions. There I go at my leisure in the mornings—perhaps, like Malvolio, “calling my officers about me, in my branched velvet gown,” the said officers being a gardener-chauffeur—or in the afternoons if I like, to write the books I want to write. There is a postal delivery every day (and, of course, newspapers daily), and publishers write politely to know when they may expect my next manuscripts, and even suggesting an increase in royalty rates.

“I want to walk the whole length of Hadrian's Wall … . taking my fill of history.”

“I want to walk the whole length of Hadrian's Wall … . taking my fill of history.”

This is near town. My chauffeur-gardener drives me there when I so desire, in a modest car of respectable lines, not one of the bulbous nouveau-rich[gap — reason: illegible] things that leave you in doubt which is the head and which the tail. I go in occasionally to see a talkie or to judge whether Rugby to-day is as good as it was when I was young, or to sit in the shade of trees and watch cricket played on a really green oval drenched in sun.

My friends all live within easy distance. They come and see me when they wish to, which, so they seem to know instinctively, is when I wish to see them. There are no gaps in this old company. No bores bother me. No acquaintance drops in of an evening to tell me at length droll legends of his infancy, or to seek my support for the foundation of a Society for the Abolition of Tea-drinking. My friends come, and we talk, and talk, and talk. We talk about H—–, our master fifty years ago, and wonder what happened to him; of favourite books; of life and death; of the tries George Smith scored when Auckland beat Wellington in 1897, and the catch Richardson achieved at Eden Park, when?—of what Gladstone said in 1878 and what Mr. Eden, who may be Prime Minister, said yesterday; of the younger generation, our children and grandchildren. We compare these youngsters with ourselves when young, and the comparison is by no means all in our favour. They never stay too long, these friends of ours. I am always to bed in reasonable time, with a book—I am at last reading Boswell—thinking now and then of a long useful but unhurried day on the morrow—I'll miss the bus? No, I won't. There it is, just coming round the bend. Goodbye. What did you say you wanted in town? Tea and reels of cotton? Right-O.