Do you daydream? I suspect you do, just now and again. Many of the people whom I know seem to meet with the temptation once in a long while, though they don’t all admit to it, let alone confess that they ever give way to it. But me – if truth be told, I must be some sort of a peculiar record holder. The plain fact is that for most of my eighty-odd years I have daydreamed, regularly, intensely, and with the greatest enjoyment. Not that I have anything against day-to-day reality – life has so far been very good to me – but just as some persons periodically light up their pipes in order to float away in clouds of tobacco smoke, apparently feeling all the better for it for a while afterwards, so I can lean back on a cushion or even up against a pillar on an overcrowded bus and slip away for a little while into a world of my very own. I can be back in a flash when I need to be, wide awake and refreshed, and no-one will realise that in my thoughts I have been so far away, in a world that I made just for myself.
I can still pinpoint the moment when it all began. I was in elementary school when it happened, building much of my view of the world on the late Arthur Mee’s Children’s Newspaper. There came a day when that venerable journal reported that a new island had just popped up out of the sea, somewhere (I believe) in the Arctic Ocean. That set me thinking. And when, later that week, a none-too-fascinating geography teacher had the class pondering on the endless emptiness of the South Pacific I readily put two and two together. If a new stretch of land were to pop up down there, might it not be vastly bigger than the one in the north? I pictured it clearly in my mind’s eye – a tremendous expanse of new untrodden land, with hills and valleys, all empty except for the occasional stranded whale or a long sunken galleon, a land just waiting to be sensibly and sympathetically developed. In a Latin lesson that came a little later I named my new land Respublica; and from then on there was no stopping me.
In my imagination time was not of the essence: less than anxious to see myself traipsing forever across sandy wastes, it took me only a matter of weeks to leap over Respublica’s initial decades so as to position myself in a land that had already found its feet; a land with prairies and jungles, snowy mountains and sandy beaches, newly populated by pleasant people of whom I was one.
My role? Now that is where the joy of my daydreaming really comes in. When I dream at night I am no more than a mere observer of the passing show; there may be demons there, driving me to despair, or dancing girls to delight me – I just have to accept whatever the night brings. But in my daydreams I am firmly in charge, in any situation that I choose to make my own. So what was I to do in Respublica? Politics are not in my line, nor do I see myself meddling with sports, wielding police powers, or engaging in Big Business, but if one seeks to mould society to one’s liking there are alternatives in plenty to be exploited. For a while, cherishing journalistic ambitions, I chose to be Editor-in- Chief of the respectable and highly influential Respublica Post; in thundering editorials I wielded the power of the pen, dictating the direction in which the country must move. Tiring finally of that, I spent a while managing the environment, building a population of spectacular but friendly wild animals and a flora to delight the eye of any beholder.
Just now and again, Respublica has faded for a time from my view. At one point I found myself cultivating an alternative daydream set in a medieval environment where a dictator, a bishop, a level-headed housewife and a remarkably intelligent horse struggled to co-exist. But these were mere passing fancies, and I was soon back, savouring the virtues of Respublica.
In more recent years I confess to succumbing to a longstanding fascination with trains, leading me in my daydream to assume the challenge of developing and directing Respublica’s National Railways which. I assure you, are quite the best in the world. And so, dear reader, should you ever find yourself wondering about the cost of a first class return ticket from Pacifica to Journeyman Road, all you need to do is to ask me. Come up close when you see me leaning against a pillar or a pillow with my eyes closed, then whisper your enquiry into my ear, I promise you a quick reply. Unless, that is, I have moved on to yet another Chapter in my daydream.