Carl Jung does some Liverpool dreamin’

In my previous post, I wrote about being invited to the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun by Allan Williams, “the man who gave away the Beatles.” To forestall disappointment, I should say that I never took up his offer. If you want a detailed account of what went on in that fabled and possibly ribald institution, let me know, and I’ll make something up for you.

What I can tell you is that the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun was situated, rather disappointingly, in an old fruit warehouse. The man who started the club in 1974, Peter O’Halligan, had decided that this disused industrial building on Mathew Street was the site of Carl Jung’s dream about Liverpool.

There aren’t a lot of famous dreams. I’ve never been able to generate any buzz about my nightmare involving myself, Dick Cheney, and a saddle pony named Poppet. But Jung’s dream is famous, so let’s take a look.

“I found myself in a dirty, sooty city,” wrote the famous psychologist in 1927. “It was night, and winter, and dark, and raining. I was in Liverpool. With a number of Swiss, I walked through the dark streets.”

So far, I’m with Jung all the way, except for the Swiss and the fact that he only dreamed about walking through Liverpool’s dark and rainy streets. I really did walk through them, many times, and blimey, did I get wet.

“I had the feeling that we were coming up from the harbour,” Jung continues, “and that the real city was actually up above … in the centre was a round pool, and in the middle of it a small island. While everything round about was obscured by rain, fog, smoke and dimly-lit darkness, the little island blazed with sunlight.

Magnolia tree
Magnolia tree

“On it stood a single tree – a Magnolia – in a shower of reddish blossoms. It was as though the tree stood in the sunlight and was at the same time the source of the light.”

Okay, so Carl gets a bit a fanciful here. Of course, it was a dream. A dream, he says, that represented his situation at the time. “I can still see the greyish-yellow raincoats, glistening with the wetness of the rain. Everything was extremely unpleasant, black and opaque – just as I felt then. But I had had a vision of unearthly beauty, and that was why I was able to live at all.

“Liverpool,” he concludes, “is the ‘pool of life.’”

Moments that make everything worthwhile

You either feel that way about Liverpool or you don’t. Alan Bennett famously doesn’t. Liverpudlians, he says in Writing Home, “all have the chat, and it laces every casual encounter, everybody wanting to do you their little verbal dance.”

I love Writing Home, but I also love the Liverpudlians’ little verbal dance. I’m guessing that Eddie Izzard does too. “I was walking past a building site in Liverpool,” my favorite “action transvestite” comedian and actor told James Rampton of the Independent in 2004, “and a brickie [brick-layer] shouted at me from the scaffolding, ‘Hey Eddie, where’s your lippie?’ I said I’d left it at home, and he replied: ‘Wanna borrow mine?’ Moments like that make everything worthwhile.”

I had lots of moments like that in Liverpool. Like Jung, I can still see the greyish-yellow raincoats glistening with the wetness of the rain, but I also see Pier Head and its trio of beautiful buildings, the Three Graces, past which the Mersey River flows into the Irish Sea.

And I see myself riding back to my flat in Mossley Hill one night on a bone-rattling train, looking out at the sky, still some light in it at ten o’clock, a dark pale blue (a contradiction that is somehow very Liverpool), with skeins of dark grey clouds laid over it and one bright star; and in the foreground, tall brick houses with rows of chimney-pots.

The light, and the source of the light.

Too square for the school

I didn’t go to Peter O’Halligan’s club because, like Betsy Ray, “I could never be a Bohemian.” I suspected that in addition to being the School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun, the club at 18 Mathew Street might also be a School of Drink, Drugs, and Unbridled Licentiousness. Even at 30, I was a one-glass-of-wine-with-dinner girl, and too square for that scene.

But maybe I was wrong. Or maybe I was right and I’d have enjoyed myself anyway. So thanks for the badge, Mr. Williams, and I wish I’d given the place a try. It’s part of the history of a city I love, commemorated now in a plaque on the building. And on this page too.

(Image of Magnolia Tree, Enterprise, Florida, by A.F. Styles, 1832-1910, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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2 thoughts on “Carl Jung does some Liverpool dreamin’

  1. Hello, mini-girl.

    I came across your travel blog quite by accident, and having read your posting about the Liverpol School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun, it intrigued me. It’s a shame that you didn’t take up the opportunity of going to visit it [as invited by Alan Williams] as it was so important within the counter-cultural scene in Liverpool during the mid-1970’s. Did you know that he once played the part of “Howard the Singing Dolphin” in Ken Cambell’s Science Fiction Theatre’s production of “Illuminatus” at the School! And to slightly correct you, it wasn’t anything to do with drink or drugs – it lived on the visions and energy of Jung’s Liverpool Dream which, by itself, was pretty powerful stuff. We held a special anniversary event to mark to the 30th Anniversary of the Golden Scarab Festival at the Liverpool School back in 2007 [you can watch a video of it here :

    Finally, although the plaque itself was initially planned to go up on the wall in Matyhew Street, it’s been since donated to go on permanent display at the new Museum of Liverpool Life down by the Pier Head as part of the “Creative City” gallery.

    Keep dreamin!


  2. Larry, I’m so pleased with your comment. I actually found and watched the video while I was writing this post, so your name is familiar to me in a “dreamin'” context. I’m happy to learn that my American-Puritanical suspicions about the School were unfounded, and you’re right, I should have gone. I was in Liverpool in September and was told about the new Museum of Liverpool Life, but didn’t get a chance to see it — next visit, next year, I hope. Thanks for taking the time to write to me. And yes, we must all keep dreaming, now more than ever. “I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours” — Bob Dylan. Cheers!

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