Dream Homes

Created 27th December 2007

The last episode of 'To The Manor Bowen' was aired yesterday on Living TV, a channel that has been top of my favourites for a couple of years now. My viewing diet is menial and consists almost entirely of Living TV exclusives, including CSI Miami, CSI, Criminal Minds, Boston Legal and occasionally Most Haunted. This will be of no surprise to the channel's programming executives, for I'm certain I am a perfect fit to their audience demography.

I've always liked Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen, undoubtedly the most successful celebrity designer of the 1990s and first half of this decade, when Makeover TV was the viewer's choice before it abdicated to dreadful 'reality' programmes and opportunities for everyone to take a bite at the apple of fame. DIY, interior design and gardening hasn't gone away, but no-one wants to watch it 'as it happens' these days.

It can't be easy to uphold one's lifestyle in the face of such movements and congratulations are due to whoever came up with the idea of combining makeover and reality to produce 'To The Manor Bowen'. There were times during the series when Lawrence's desperation to remain celebrity (financial or otherwise) were very evident and yet he never appeared to be 'selling out' as such. Needs must be met; Lawrence came across as a father and husband who was determined to provide for his wife and children.

In the event that I am ever able to employ an interior designer, it would be Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen's services that I would purchase. Changing Rooms often saw him accused of over-indulgence, ridiculous flamboyance and producing designs that were too ambitious for the programme's remit. In the making, his designs were often dreadful, with no makeover greater than the sum of its parts - the final reveal.

The ultimate outcome of 'To The Manor Bowen' was a presentation of a family who appear comfortable with each other, with the presence of the media and would do what it takes to keep what they have worked so hard to accomplish. Much of what was shown was a presentation of the daily hassles of normal people doing family life, and one imagines that they can be much more normal than that.

The end of the last episode saw Lawrence 'waking up' from a dream that they had moved to a house in the country - a fitting conclusion on the family's move from London. Their new house was essentially complete, designed of course by the man himself. Even as an admirer of his work, I was a little concerned that he lacked the sympathy required to renovate an old country manor house. I was wrong: his sensitivity to time and context were perhaps the greatest demonstration of his artistic genius.

Whatever the remit or medium, artists can't help but express themselves through the works they create. Every novel, painting, design, song and poem in existence presents an element of its producer's psyche. These are places where we can safely explore aspects of the self in ways that are no more threatening to us than dreams, and are equally open to misinterpretation, by both ourselves and others.

The places we create in our dreams, according to Carl Jung, are indeed a direct representation of the self, with revelations of things we did not know depicted as newly discovered rooms. With this premise in mind, I imagine the hotel I visited last night is me on holiday from normal life. The dream fascinated me sufficiently to deliberately memorise its content.

I started in a narrow road, steeply inclined towards to coast, walked down this road and onto a balcony, perhaps the third or fourth storey of a white building with an octagonal courtyard that had been enclosed conservatory-style. Beyond the glass wall I could see the coastal road, on a slightly lower plain than the hotel, and beyond that the sea. I couldn't see a beach, but knew there was a small cove when the tide was out. There were no stairs from the balcony, but there was a streetlamp in front of me, against the middle of the three sides of the octagon occupied by the balcony.

The streetlamp was red and cream and curved at the top and I descended it as if it was a fire station pole. Unfortunately, it was old and brittle and bent under my weight, and as I reached the bottom, I crumpled the small arm of metal extending from its base. Now at ground level, I was aware of two women in a room on the first floor. I couldn't see them, and could only see the dark corridor leading to the room, behind a closed door. One of the women, the owner of the hotel, had a Jack Russell dog. I turned back to repair the damage to the lamp-post, something which was easily achieved and in fact left it in a better state than it had been to begin with.

As I headed away towards the front wall, I was aware of the Jack Russell dog watching me and looked down, urging it not to bark. It did not seem surprised that I was there. At this point I awoke and decided to memorise the dream, as it is part of a much broader landscape that my subconscious has been building over the past few years. Within the series of dreams, there are cliffs, beaches, a large hill that I am to hike up with a group of people, a one-way system around a shopping centre and many narrow, short streets with houses close together.

The hotel has appeared in the dream before, but not as a hotel. In the past it was a large building with dark corridors and many rooms, and I am usually in the basement, so it is new to be upstairs.

I still have my doubts about the validity of dreams as a gateway to understanding the human mind. Like all creations, their beauty and mystery is largely in the eye of the beholder. However, I have documented this, for a little psycho-analysis of dream content is entirely in keeping with this somewhat egoistic blog. What Freud and Jung lacked in their dream analysis was a refusal to accept the interpretations of others. Any who wish to offer an analysis of what is written here is more than welcome to do so.

Why journey from Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen to dream analysis? It strikes me that those of us who claim not to be creative are selling ourselves short. Anyone who dreams (and everyone does) creates mysterious and beautiful portrayals of their inner-most self. The difference between interior designers, writers, painters etc. and everyone else is one of confidence. We are prepared to put ourselves on display, refuse to heed our own doubts:

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint', then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh


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