I am standing outside my childhood primary school, near the front gates and the teachers’ car park. It is a bright sunny day and I am surrounded by my classmates. There must be more than a hundred of us.
I have a dim feeling that some of my teachers are nearby, but my attention is on two adults, neither of which I recognise. The man I see in lurid detail – from the slick shine of his hair to the golden lenses on his sunglasses. He holds up some kind of device that emits a piercing shriek. I drop to my knees with my hands against my ears. My schoolmates are all doing the same. The man is laughing maniacally.
I had that dream nearly 40 years ago, but I can remember the details as if it were yesterday. Ask me to relate anything from a dream I had earlier this week, however, and I draw a blank. If I have been dreaming – and biology would suggest I most probably have – nothing has lingered long enough to remain in my waking mind.
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For many of us, dreams are an almost intangible presence. If we’re lucky, we can only remember the most fleeting glimpse in the cold light of day; even those of us who can recollect past dreams in astonishing detail can wake some days with almost no memory of what we had dreamed about.
There is little ethereal about the reasons this might be happening, however. Why we have dreams – and whether we can remember them – are both rooted in the biology of our sleeping bodies and subconscious mind.