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11:30pm on Tuesday, 27th November, 2007:

An Old Memory


I woke up in the middle of the night with a bout of acid reflux, which fortunately wasn't as acidic as usual. That didn't make it any easier for me to breathe, but did mean I didn't have a vile taste afterwards. If you've never had it, it's like whooping cough: not the sort of thing you want to have waking you up.

Anyway, perhaps because of this I later had one of my rare, unbidden dreams. All my unbidden dreams are highly exceptional, and this one was no different.

First, it was in reality-level detail. Things didn't look like imagined memories, they looked as real as the screen I'm looking at right now.

Second, it was set in the village my mother grew up in, Great Ouseburn, which I used to visit as a child to see my grandparents. All the houses and everything looked as if they were in the 1920s, as did the occasional vehicles and the way people were dressed. I knew I was dreaming (I almost always do), and knew this was a special effect, and indeed was able to raise and drop it at will. I was a little disappointed when I returned to my grandmother's house, because that wasn't built in the 1920s so the illusion didn't apply where she lived.

Third, my grandmother (who died in 2000) was concerned about the contents of a box that used to belong to my grandfather (who died in 1989). I recognised the box, as it was of an unusual kind with a concave lid. In the dream, it seemed to be made out of some kind of rubbery wood rather than the real thing, but other than that it was as I remembered it. In the bottom was a drawer, and it was the contents of this drawer that was making my grandmother anxious. I had a look inside, and there was what looked like a coin therein. It was gold and it was big — it could have been a medal, although I think there was a reason it may have looked big (explained shortly). I could make out the image very clearly indeed; I only got to see the heads side, but I also sensed there was a cross on the other side.

OK, so this is where I woke up.

Now the thing is, my grandfather did show me such a coin once. I must have been very, very young though — less than 5, probably more like 3. That's why it looked so big: when I was shown it, it was big, compared to me. I had forgotten about it entirely because of this, until that dream last night. Then, I remembered.

Why my grandfather would have a gold coin, I don't know. He was a farm labourer, so he wasn't what you'd call rich... I do know that he once found a cache of roman coins while ploughing a field, which the farmer claimed in its entirety — my grandfather got nothing to show for his curiosity. He was a very honest man, so would probably have handed over any gold coins he found at a later date, unless perhaps he was fobbed off with some "well you can keep the next coing you find" by the farmer. I'm guessing that something like that happened, and that he kept it secret because he thought the farmer would renege on what he'd said if he saw what it was. It wouldn't have been given him by a friend or he'd have felt no need to keep it secret.

Needless to say, this morning I had a quick poke around the Internet for medieval gold coins, and found the one it was very quickly — not hard, given that I had seen it so vividly and in close-up. This is it, or, if you prefer, the middle one from here. It's a Henry III gold penny. Only seven of these are known to have survived.

I guess that means my grandfather had number eight.

I don't know what happened to the coin. The box it was in in my dream was probably thrown out when they moved house in the 1980s, but I don't think it would have been in there. My grandfather would either have given it to someone or kept it hidden somewhere. Unfortunately, because no-one knew to look for it, it no-one found it. It'll be in a landfill site somewhere.

So all in all, something of an interesting dream, but not as interesting as if I'd had it 20 years ago...

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).