white tea-cup spilling
Family Life Personal

I Had A Recurring Dream … Once

Dreams about family events can really be a nightmare

I had a recurring dream once.

An old Sean Hughes line.

I had thought it was from Emo Philips, but I Googled to make sure.

So goodbye half-hour, hello “research” — and some cracking old Philips routines, like this one, when he appeared on the Joan Rivers show back in the day:

Emo Philips meets Joan Rivers

But I did have a kind of recurring dream the other night. And it was a once-off.

In it, I am standing up, and filling a large white teacup for someone seated at a large rectangular table.

All I can see is the bottom right-hand corner of the bare wooden table top. And the cup on it.

There are voices in conversational hubbub.

A typical family gathering. Like the Kris Kindle we do in my family each year, you know,  sibings, partners and over-excited children eat and drink too much and exchange presents.

So, everyone else is sitting at the table.

I  am pouring from a little red floral tea-pot – I remember now, the one we have in our own kitchen.

I fill the cup the first time, right to the top, and pick it up, only to splash a fair amount of tea from it on to the table. People titter, including a laugh I recognise as that of one of my brothers.

So I fill the cup again — dream magic at play here, the cup is empty again, and I am pouring from the top.

The same thing, I fill it right the brim, lift it up to give it to someone unspecified or by now forgotten, and it spills again. Not much, just a splatter, but annoying, and embarrassing.

So I go again, and the same result.

The dream moves on but I don’t. Yet.

Thinking about it, I am struck by a few things:

How I stubbornly — or stupidly — had to fill it right to the lip each time, despite the risk, and with everyone there watching.

There is the feeling of played down mortification, of being made fun of by all those present when the tea splashed into the surface, passing it off but actually really annoyed with them all. Furious actually. And they know it, really.

It also made me think of those anecdotes your sibs tell about you — and you about them — which can be both sweetly nostalgic, but also inserted, stiletto-sharp, into the chitter-chatter with unacknowledged malicious intent.

Put out there for a laugh, but also, you feel, to put us in our places, somehow, both in the original family constellation, but also letting others, like our partners or children, know that well though they think they might know us, we know the real you. And the juicy stuff.

Before you got all surface grown up, with your career, your own family, house, and all that baloney.

It’s like a weird version of that Paddy Power betting ad:

Enough of the nonsense: all that guff about how the kids are doing in school, and how difficult teenagers are these days, now we’ve had a few sherries it’s time to break out the Family Anecdotes.

Oh yes, telling tales in every sense, capturing something uniquely you, something only we were present for, or know about anyway.

Used before, and will be used again, and again, and …

‘Do you remember that time you fell off that big black pipe running across the river when you were getting the football? …”

‘What happened, Dad? A pipe across the river, where, when? …  ’ asks your son, who you thought was in the front room doing some communal phone watching with his cousins. His eyes are glinting …

You’re laughing with the rest of them.

‘Don’t worry, son’, you’re thinking, “Uncle Bollox over there is about to tell everyone’.

(You bastard, what age was I, only about seven, and at least I had the bottle to get on that fucking pipe and risk falling off it. And to pour that bloody tea, and spill it!)

You’re laughing along — the only way —  and then you remember when Uncle Bollox peed in his trousers on purpose because he was afraid to ask that horrible Sister Hildegard in his senior infants class could he go to the toilet …

And we laugh and we recall, and the bread and butter pudding is only divine with that twist of raspberry and reminiscence …

And we are the siblings who, to all the world, are as tight as ever, and we gather every year, all bonhomie and secret jitters.

How about those families where this secret knowledge has caused more sparks to fly than a Harry Potter spell, and just as much destruction!

If they are still talking.

Oh yes, here I am, man of the world … newspaper career, my own family now, yada, yada, but still the seven year old gobshite who fell off that pipe and managed to at least land standing up, even if his sandals, socks and long-short green trousers, the ones with the massive side pockets you could fit a Beano comic in, were destroyed.

And I got the ball!!!

Now another thought: I am the only one of my sibs who doesn’t drink tea.

Is it something to do with big mature adults drink tea, and there I was, away from the adult table, but still pouring tea, just the way I wanted to, even though it was spilling?

Not quite up to the job?

Or do I just hate tea?

So, I’m stubborn and a bit susceptible to how others see me, especially in my family of origin. Before Hollywood.

I can back out here, out of my dream and my own head,  and go universal … like who doesn’t feel they are not taken seriously enough by their siblings, or by their parents if they are still alive?

Who was the bully? The tattle-tale? The funny one? The noble one who bottled everything up but paid for it later in therapy and stomach trouble?

Back in the day, I studied psychoanalysis and obviously dream interpretation figured strongly.

I am not good at remembering my dreams, but the links and connections linger, and I am fascinated by the stream of associations that fan out from even the smallest dream fragment. 

These associations are endless, in fact, which is why so many people can fall into the wormhole of permanent, and expensive, analysis.

And end up knowing lots of stuff about themselves, but getting no closer to “solving” the endless riddle of self.

And maintain the notion that one day they might stand nonchalantly at the table at a family gathering and pour that tea. Without spilling a drop.

And what of it if they did?

  • Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed what you have just read, try another one! Try them all! Seriously, follow my blog and you won’t miss out again. 
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After The Playground



52 comments on “I Had A Recurring Dream … Once

  1. Visiting you from the mix it up linky. Happy New Year. laurensparks.net

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a weird one alright. I hardly ever remember my dreams. Thanks be to god!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not sure if dreams really do have significance. That is a strange one! Every family does have their stories they like to tell over and over, don’t they? Our family certainly has our share.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been having some weird dreams lately but I don’t think I’ve been pouring tea. I don’t really get together with family now so they don’t have any opportunity to embarrass me although I’m pretty sure we all have an Uncle Bollox though, that did make me giggle. Of course, an overflowing cup can be a sign of good fortune, but I’m not so sure about spilling the tea yourself actually being the same.
    So may your cup always overfloweth 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lots to reflect on regarding dreams. For me, this took me back to how my late Mum used to tell the story of 3 steps at the back of our house and how I would jump off the lowest and then the middle but always bottled jumping off the highest for fear of falling/failing Hated her telling the tale – always made me feel it reflected how pathetic I was/am in terms of taking risks in life generally. Not sure whether she knew this or whether she would have stopped telling the story if I had asked her too. She was half Irish, very good with words which she could use for good or ill. You always make me think and/or feel – sign of a great writer for sure #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mums can be tough, Kate … I often think, with daughters especially, there can be an unacknowledged jealousy of their youth and potential, and this impulse to take them down a peg or two, to stop them getting “uppity”. But say that and you would be the worst daughter in the world!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dream interpretation is on my list of things I’d love to learn more about! Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales. Do come back next week.


  7. Oh goodness we love a bit of dream interpretation in this house! Well my daughter and I do anyway! As I was reading yours the association was of repeating something and not adapting as in not learning from your mistakes. Sorry couldn’t resist a bit of psychoanalysis with the night time tea. I did laugh about the family scenario and the group humiliation – oh my goodness my teens love it when we get together with my family as there is always a good old dose of “when your mother was young ..” stories circulating which in my 50 year old head serve no purpose other than to humiliate. There was a time I would bite my tongue for fear of starting an argument but actually now I just serve it straight back. Rest assured it happens everywhere. Great post as always Enda. #TweensTeensBeyond


    • Oh I know it happens everywhere, Jo … and I put in there that I engage also!!! Of course only in retaliation … And it’s true I look at my grown-up siblings and think of them in terms of defining vignettes from when we were young. You’re probably right about the repetition thing, I do think it is evidence of being stubborn, foolhardy, and not learning enough from mistakes but there is a positive side too, maybe not giving up on certain things.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. mhm didn’t Lacan have this thing about the repetition being the return of the repressed? brings back college memories…. (great article by the way) 🙂 #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post! I think that I will pour that tea right in front of the person it was intended for so that they could spill the drop, not me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My dreams are a bit wierd at the moment, sometimes I can’t recall them and other days they stick with me all day. I am suffering with depression and on a couple of different meds at the mo, they might affect my dreams a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Everything effects your dreams, or at least provides material. I actually don’t tend to remember mine very well, they seem all over the place, or maybe I don’t want to!! Thanks for commenting


  11. Interesting recurring dream! Google interprets it as having a full life! Nice! My recurring dream is about my teeth falling out… the Internet says that I’m afraid of growing old…#blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that’s a common one, and the usual interpretation. Like who wants to gwt old, eh?. But consider the alternative!!! Maybe its okay after all!!! Hrhe thanks for commenting


  12. I’m always interested in dream interpretation. Whether they really do have meaning or not, I don’t know! That was certainly an interesting one you had. I could really feel the embarrassment and frustration as I read it. #ThatFridayLinky

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Laura … I think you covered it there: embarrassment and frustration. Thanks for reading and commenting. Always appreciated


  13. I was tempted to analyse your dream too Enda, I could even double check with my hubby if you’d like as that’s his area of expertise! Out of that list you described, I recognised myself as the one who bottled it up and I also had a bit of a snort over the all too familiar collectve teen phone watching session. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into famliy gatherings, the type I’m sure most of us can identify with.#tweensteensbeyond

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh … scary that. No sure how deep I want to go, Liberty. Certainly publicly!!! He he. As I told my sister who asked about this one, it’s partly truth and partly fiction, and I wouldn’t tell her which is which!!!


  14. Tracey Carr

    Wow where would we be without our families eh? Probably in a far better state of mental health that’s for sure! Honestly I don’t know where I would be without my husband – he counsels me regularly and I do for him on our relationships with our siblings. If I didn’t have him I honestly don’t know where I would be because I am the one who smiles and bottles it all up. It looks from your dream that you still have residual thoughts floating about from Christmas (as do I), but it’s probably inevitable after being forced to spend concentrated amounts of time together. I think it takes a bit of time to get it all out of your system, and your head! We should be fine by the Spring! #triumphanttales

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, maybe it will all be filtered through by then, hehe! Yes our siblings do give us plenty to think about, but plenty of good stuff too. Luckily!!! Thanks for reading and commenting. Much appreciated


  15. mackenzieglanville

    I usually remember one or two dreams every morning from the night e=before so I end to not analyse them or I would spend my entire life trying to figure out what my dreams are trying to tell me lol, I love dreams though. I actually have a rarer ability to know I am dreaming in my dreams and if something is happening I don’t like I can reassure myself I am dreaming and even sometimes manipulate it to change. Apparently a few of us have this ability, I don’t know how I do it, just that I do. Thanks for sharing this with us #ABlogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like real magic powers … if you could do that in real life, you would be magic!! Obviously you have a great imagination and use this in your writing!


  16. I enjoy looking into dream meanings, but sadly I don’t deem very often! Thanks for joining in with #ThatFridayLinky

    Liked by 1 person

  17. diynige

    Dreams are weird I have some well weird ones I have no idea of the meaning behind them or in fact they have any significance. I take quite a lots of meds and I’m convinced that’s what makes my dreams weird. Fab read as always mate Thanks for linking to #Thatfridaylinky hope to see you next week

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do believe ypou are right Nige, they are influenced by what has gone on during the day abd what you might actually eat or drink too. Especially medication. Sit back and enjoy the show!! Hehe

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I often have very vivid dreams and do have a recurring one every few years starring a wolf from my childhood book of the 3 little pigs. I also dream about wobbly and crumbling teeth which is supposed to mean worries that need to be addressed. You don’t like tea?! Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging


    • Hi Laura … that must have been scary, the wolf one! The teeth ones are very common, supposedly referring to feelings of self-doubt and powerlessness in certain situations … in other words, normal!!


  19. Notes from the wormhole here.
    I never knew you dident like tea!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I used to have a horrid recurring dream about a plane crashing… eventually we determined it was when they used a different runway at heathrow and that put pay to my dream analysis!! It is funny with families that we all seem to have our roles that we fall back into as soon as you are all together no matter how old we all get. Thanks for joining us in 2019 #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Daydreamer mum

    That is an odd dream. My dreams get more crazy the more stressed I am. Definitely something in families feeling the need to keep everyone in roles that are decades passed. I’ll forever be the goody two shoes in our family to my sisters rebellious teenager . Don’t think we’ll either of us shake it off and even worse we start to play up to them ! #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, the old roles die hard!!😀that’s the really interesting bit that we end up acting out our family stories


      • Daydreamer mum

        We do , behave like caricatures of stories told !!!


  22. It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ during REM. Agh! #blogcrush xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  23. HEy Enda, back at you again, just like that dream! This time, I arrived from #ablogginggoodtime xox


  24. Daydreamer mum

    Back from #Blogcrush


  25. I have very vivid dreams like that and I always remember them. They don’t make sense half the time though so I’m usually perplexed by it the next day to the point where I am trying to analyzed every detail to understand my own subconscious. As the oldest of 4 though my family dynamic with my siblings hasn’t always been great but man does my younger brother love to tell funny stories about me. #ABloggingGoodTime

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Michelle … I rarely make any sense of my dreams (when I remeember them(, but I find ther associations that comne up revealing!! Thanks for reading and commenting

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Finally, back at you, from #dreamteam


  27. Like your dream, I keep coming back! #triumphanttales xo

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Happy Groundhog day, from #thatfridaylinky xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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