I dream endlessly of a man who lives alone and finds himself persecuted by the presence of uninvited people whom he know to be mirages – ghosts. He orders them out. He throws things at them, but still they arrive, men and women, all types, ordinary people as well, but they are not invited and he is slowly driven mad.
Then I am at the university. I want to make contact with Joan from my writing class. ‘Old Joan,’ I want to say, because Joan must now be nearly eighty. I wander around the University of Melbourne from my youth. There are pieces of plaster left sticking out from a position on the wall upstairs and I stand in front with another girl trying to prise them off. We watch them fall to the ground. I know that these traces of plaster are part of an experiment, a research project to establish the fate of this plaster – will it fall of its own accord, will students pick it off, or will it stay?
We prise it all off, large shards of concrete and watch it fall, worried that it might hit someone below. It does not. By the time we have scraped the wall clean and walk away, I hear one of the nuns, the reverend Mother say to her colleague,
‘We hope the students leave one wall intact’.
It is too late. We have peeled the concrete lumps off both walls.
This dream reminds me of Italy, the land of render. Two weeks ago as my husband and I walked through the town of Teolo we watched workmen repair walls. They mixed a red brown paste pitted with bits of broken tile to fill the holes they had unearthed behind a layer of render, presumably peeled back because of rising damp. Then they rendered over the lot in white plaster.
To me, this could be a metaphor on life.