In September 2012, during the E17 Art Trail, I part exchanged some climbing french beans for a copy of, The Interpretation of Dreams, Vol.4, by Sigmund Freud. My paperback copy is published by Penguin Books and is the 1991 reprint of the edition published in Pelican Books in 1976. Some of the translation and editorial matter copyright is attributed to Angela Richards. I don't wish to breach copyright so in order to introduce another episode in the rambles of Field Study's Man in E17, with a reference to one of the great psycho-analysts, I shall point you in the direction of page 473 where a connection is made between dreams of wooded hills and genetalia. Perhaps something is lost in my quoteless interpretation. My copy, of The Interpretation of Dreams (4), is an 871 page forest of symbols into which I have made only a few very superficial excursions and quite how such latent meanings are derived is quite a mystery to me. Here then is an account of a dream that began in Walthamstow Forest, for your interpretation.
Thursday 10th January found ‘Field Study’s Man in E17’ walking eastwards along Forest Road up to Waterworks Corner and Walthamstow Forest, to make a twilight trek through the forest to Highams Park Boating Lake, where he would survey a stretch of the River Ching. The rains had abated so how had that affected the Ching?
The forest paths were exceptionally muddy, flowing with covinous depths of squelch, slip and sludge. The paths often disappeared into more expansive and troublingly deeper quagmires. Those ponds of sticky arboreal ooze waited to suck the footwear messily off any foolhardy clod-hoppers who dared to cross directly. The field student deftly bypassed the fermenting brews of sodden mould and mineral, and made remarkable progress to reach Highams Park Boating Lake before dark. What an intrepid adventurer he!
He tried to convince me of his fearlessness in the service of psycho-geographical curiosity. I countered his conceit by reminding him of some flutters and tremors in a moment of the walk when he, ‘Field Study’s Man in E17’, was more goose than man fleshed. We carefully retraced the puddled remains of his steps and located the site of the hair on end, knocking knee moment and peered into the watery shallows of a boot print memory and listened.
Rubber tyres rushed on tarmac and their noises flowed collectively over from the ravine that was the nearby North Circular Road. The din intruded, he recalled, into what would otherwise have been an enchanting and tranquil place. We ‘tutted’ in agreement and, by some strange coincidence, the invasive drone of the A406 stopped immediately. As suddenly, an eerie welter of new, less voluminous noises prowled and crept around the spot into which he was gradually sinking, horrified and (I heard) wishing for the return of the reassuring road noise. A dog barked and the waves of the highway returned to drown the murmurs and sibilance of his mysterious assailants. He did not want to elaborate on the nature of the voices, if that was what they were. He mumbled incoherently and all I could discern were the words, ‘uliginous’ and ‘chthonic’.
I tried to reassure him the forest was a relatively safe place and that he should not let his imagination get the better of him; a remark he scolded me for. I persuaded him to continue walking the memory of the trek and so I followed him as he returned to the boating lake.
He recollected the ethereal pulsing sounds of ghostly swans that traversed the lake trying to launch their selves from the surface of the darkening water into the evening sky. The Ching, we observed by his mind’s eyes, flowed deep though not so deep as to overflow or breach the brutal ‘ditchification’ of the rivers course. The water was a disappointing swill of tea coloured silt made all the more moribund by the fading light.
We completed the recollection of his lakeside circumambulation when we emerged onto the street light splashed darkness of, The Charter Road. Behind us the swans continued traversing the lake, though with an increasing desperation and discord in the rhythm of their wing beats. The field student told me the swans were tethered to the lake by the weight of their reflections in the leaden water. He added urgently, ‘don’t, whatever you do, look back!’ I did not ask why.
We started walking towards Higham’s Park. A man, walking by us in the opposite direction, took us by surprise when he stopped and asked us if it was safe to go into the forest. He pointed to the forest whence we had come. ‘It’s very dark and muddy’, the field student told him while refraining from sharing anything more of the disturbed immersion in the boggy glade. The field student pointed to my mud caked shoes and splattered trousers. ‘That’s ok, I’m a gardener’, the stranger replied, pointing to his immaculately polished black leather shoes that glinted in the douche of street light. The stranger’s trousers were similarly immaculate in their cleanliness and sharpness of their crease. I wondered what sort of gardener he was. He went on to explain he had gotten lost in that part of the forest until, that is, he found himself out of the forest and in the open space of a large park. ‘I don’t remember the name of the park’, he sighed.
Suddenly I realised Field Study’s Man in E17 was lost for he had gone back into the forest and was trying to find his way to the park the stranger spoke of. I stood at the forest edge and heard the perplexed cries of the field student. “What park?” “I can’t find the park!” “There is no damned park!” His cries faded and drifted in the torrent of sound emanating from the North Circular. I had lost him between Epping Forest and Walthamstow Forest.
I turned around and saw the stranger heading off in the direction of the statue of Winston Churchill at Woodford Green. I shivered at the thought of his destination and walked away down Handsworth Avenue into Highams Park. Along the way I looked over towards the dark mass of the forests looming over the suburban streets. I wondered if I would ever retrieve my imagination from Walthamstow Forest.