I have a recurring dream, or at least a recurring theme. There are elements that recur, in different settings, but there is always at least one house and at least one staircase.
The stairs are often frustratingly Escher-like, with impossible turns and doors that I knew I could go through earlier but can’t seem to manage now. They often lead to attics, sometimes to underground corridors.
Sometimes I’m viewing the house, looking for somewhere to live. I remember a dream about house-hunting in Leeds, where we decided to live in a house chaotic with piles of books and papers. I am rarely alone in these expeditions, but I don’t know who the other person is. Sometimes there are already people living in the houses, and I know they will have to leave.
Some of the houses seem familiar, or I know my subconscious is basing them on places I know. The main model is the family house in Grasmere, with its dramatic staircases and disappearing doors. A Victorian Gentleman’s residence, the house was carved up 40 years ago. My great aunt still lives in the front part of the house, and for a while my grandparents owned the east wing, so I can remember glimpses of the changes, particularly a plastered up doorway that would have connected the wings, at what is now the top of the cellar steps. A huge wooden staircase was installed at the back of my grandparents’ part of the house, and the corridor must have been sealed off. In my dreams the house is whole, and sometimes I discover passageways and rooms I have never seen before.
I’m now living at my 29th address in 40 years, and I’ve had two periods of living in a hotel. We’re coming up to our fifth year in this house, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever stayed in the same place for such a long time.