Photo by Arvydas Venckus on Unsplash

One of the unexpected benefits of these pandemic “shelter in place” months has been access, via Prime, to various British “police procedural” video series, from New Tricks to The Last Detective. The computer screen offers a window into London and environs I quite enjoy.

How does that old saying go about England and America? Two nations divided by a common language? Never more apparent than reading English police-procedural novels. Long may the writers willing to write them last.

They almost invariably are a treat, describing everyday life in the scepter’d isle. Where the protagonists’ remit is to sort the straight gen, undeterred by bonehead programmes laid on by the guv. To discover the telling point missed by the SIO. And pursue the investigation beneath usually grey but occasionally blue skies, with persistent offers of tea and biscuits from witnesses and suspects.

Closest I’ve ever been to England is flying above it a couple times in a 707. But invariably English police-procedural novels produce a recurring dream, set in England with a police backdrop. It usually opens with a straw-haired blonde woman in a diaphanous peasant gown in a small warm cottage, expressing longing for — well not exactly me, the male in the dream whose space I seem to inhabit. Whose duty involves police matters he must attend to soon. But who reciprocates her longing with soft words.

There are peripheral glimpses of British police cars outside something like precinct houses, meetings attended, cases discussed and to be discussed. But for now he (I) has off-duty time to dally…The rest blurs, until she and I are standing in shadows in a large room, watching a well-lighted erotic scene in one of those underground London clubs. A pale nude dark-haired woman lies on a wide bed, eyes closed, lips parted, trembling with repressed excitement as several men at once pleasure her.

This is no crude “gang-bang.” There is no coercion. One man kisses her slowly and sensually. A man each suckles at her breasts, the nipples engorged with passion. A fourth is between her spread, bent legs, carefully and sedulously applying lips and tongue and fingers to her Mons. The woman appears entranced, a sleeping beauty not quite wakened by the ministrations of her four princes. The straw-haired woman watches with fascination, and murmurs it is a fantasy come to life.

It reminds me of a scene in Behind the Green Door, where silent women gathered to prepare the nude blonde Marilyn Chambers for the arrival of the giant black man. Leaving her soft and open and aroused for his penetration. Back when the Mitchell Brothers tried to infuse pornography with art.

Why this particular image inhabits my English dream is beyond me. It varies from time to time in shape of bed, color of bedclothes, and being surrounded by darkness or with a window showing a bleak winter city-scape.

The straw-haired woman always expresses something like envy for the woman on the bed. The protagonist, who is me and not me, sometimes is amused by her envy. Sometimes feels hurt he is not enough for her. There is a version of this dream where she assures him (me) gently that’s not true — it’s just the scene played out is so erotic…

The scene always bleeds into a third image, a third woman, olive-skinned, wearing of all things a linen guayabera shirt and nothing else. The straw-haired woman no longer is there. The olive-skinned woman tells the protagonist it’s her turn with him, and leads him to a bed beneath windows with sleet rattling on the panes.

“We have all the weekend,” she tells him — me — “before we have to be back in the City.” The City meaning London in this dream. Where I have appointments to consult with police agencies. But not for some reason at New Scotland Yard. I never remember what I’m supposed to consult about — just the sense of urgency. And a vague image of a shop selling fly-fishing tackle on the banks of a Scottish salmon river that is suspect in something, and figures in the urgency.

“You’ll sort it, come Monday,” she says quietly as we settle into the bed…

And I wake up. Damn it to hell, it’s like those old Hollywood movies of my childhood: fade to black, and use your imagination. I guess my subconscious used my imagination all up, and is done for the night.

The order of appearance of the three women varies from dream to dream. But I always recognize the shape of the dream at once. Sometimes it opens with the olive-skinned woman in the diaphanous gown in the cottage. When we reach London, we find the straw-haired woman living her erotic fantasy with four men on the stage. And the pale dark-haired woman I first saw on stage takes over, leads me to the bed beneath the wintry window before I wake up.

Strangely in all versions there is a sense of peace and inevitability. Only disturbed by urgency of the pending police matters, never clear, to which I must attend. And an occasional twinge of jealousy when my companion wishes she were the one being pleasured by four diffident lovers on stage.

The dream only appears after reading English detective stories. Never at any other time. My brain sometimes astonishes me…



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Bill Burkett

Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.