A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Hooptedoodle #217 – Julie & Steve – where do dreams come from?

Thoughts over coffee on a foggy morning.

I awoke this morning with a tune running in my head – not an uncommon occurrence, in fact, but sometimes puzzling. This morning’s tune was familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it, so I tried to concentrate. It was obviously the bridge from some well-known standard song or other, and I knew the song, if I could just identify it. Bad news with bridges from standard songs, of course, is that many of them are interchangeable – you can substitute the middle section of a different song, and a lot of people will not notice. This is common practice for an ageing pianist friend of mine, whose memory is not what it was; these days, bless him, he is still working – he does a solo spot on Monday nights in a vegetarian restaurant – and his unorthodox musical arrangements are all right in such a context, but the combination of his fading memory, his increasing deafness and his growing reluctance to listen to what anyone else is doing makes him a dangerous man to do a gig with. That was a digression.

Back to this morning.

The words “a cottage for two” seemed to belong with this fragment of tune, and after some more runs-through [correct plural form?] I convinced myself that I could sort of imagine Julie London singing it, in a slightly breathless way, but I still couldn’t work out what it was. Eventually, after breakfast, before I lost the thing altogether, I dug out my Julie London CDs (and there are a few) and I found it. It seems I had woken up humming (in my head) the bridge from “Give Me the Simple Life”, which is a so-so sort of song – the only recorded version I have is on a middling (and little-known) album called “Julie at Home”, and it’s probably one of the less memorable tracks on that album.

So it is a song I have not heard in 12 years, I would guess, and have not thought about during that time. If someone wanted to play it, and gave me the key, I could probably busk my way through it, and I would probably remember the bridge when we got there, but otherwise it doesn’t mean anything to me. So why was it on my mind this morning?


I am reminded of an occasion a little while ago when I woke from a dream in which I was having a conversation with a chap named Steve Platt. Nothing worrying or threatening about that, but Steve Platt in my dream was about 15 years old, and wearing the same blazer and spectacles as he was the last time I saw him, at grammar school in the 1960s. Strange? – Steve was not a particular friend of mine, I had very little to do with him – after age 15 or so he went off in a different class, to study Arts subjects, when I did Science. We never had any fallings out, played no sports together – hardly any interaction at all – I didn’t particularly admire or dislike the kid. If someone had now shown me a photo of my school class at that time he might be one of the half dozen I couldn’t remember a name for. So what was he doing, in such clear focus, in my dream half a century later?

It doesn’t matter, of course, but it’s kind of interesting. Somebody told me once that the human brain does a lot of re-organising of itself while you’re asleep – this is a healthy and necessary activity, and dreaming is part of this. People who do not dream are liable to develop mental and nervous disorders – prolonged reliance on sleeping pills can result in such a condition. The reason we cannot remember our dreams is, apparently, because they do not use memory in the same way as our conscious thoughts do – it also occurs to me that it would drive us all crazy if we could.

I suppose I dream most nights – most of us do. I don’t know how long I dream for, but I must have spent many thousands of hours of my life humming tunes and meeting ex-school chums during adventures which I could not remember the following day. OK – if that’s how it works I have no problem with it, but the nightly defragmentation job (or whatever it is) must get to some pretty dark corners if it comes up with Steve Platt or the bridge from “Simple Life”. Idly (of course), I wonder about it.

I have the impression that sometimes I have recurrent dreams, or bits of dreams – especially in terms of finding myself in a town or a place which I recognise, and do not like, though when I have woken from the occasional recurring nightmare I have been fairly sure that they were not real places I remembered from real experience – they were some synthesis which I recalled from previous dreams – or maybe I just dreamed that I recognised them.

Anyway – that was this morning’s pointless ramble, over my coffee. These things intrigue me, in a casual sort of way, but surely you must have something better to do than read this? Have a good day, whatever it is.


  1. Well, I, for one, wake often enough having had similar experiences and left with only fragments of thoughts ('memories' seems too string and certain a word) of what went on the night before during sleep. The mind is, indeed, a funny (yet wonderful) thing.

    Best Regards,


    1. Hi Stokes - it certainly is - dreaming involves a hefty amount of time and mental energy over our lifetimes - maybe we should pay more attention!

  2. My brother used to suffer from horrendous nightmares when he was young and wanted to know what caused them. In a flash of inspiration my father told him that it was 'Just your brain getting rid of all the rubbish'. He is probably not far off the truth

    1. Nightmares are particularly scary for kids - it's a shame - I had a friend at school who went through a phase of being frightened to go to bed - he used to read until he fell asleep, and get a telling off for leaving the light on all night.

      If the brain does sort out the rubbish during sleep, I'm not so sure my brain keeps the correct bits - is there any way of checking this...?

  3. AdV emailed to suggest that iTunes (or somebody) sends me playlists at night - he asks do I get adverts between the songs - he also wonders whether we remember our PayPal passwords when we're asleep.

    I'm really worried now.