The first was the famous play ‘Lettice and Lovage’ starring Felicity Kendal (who I have always wanted to see in person having been an avid fan of the ‘Good Life’ - and she is even tinier than I had imagined, and Maureen Lipman, another brilliant actress who normally plays Jewish matriarch roles. In one scene, they both get drunk (Maureen’s character supposedly for the first time) and they both act at getting steadily more inebriated extremely well. As the alcohol has its effect, Maureen loses her rigid façade and starts to tell all sorts of home truths – and not all to her own advantage! As she fills her glass once more you could feel the audience wishing – no more, no more! It was great fun, but unlike real life, the lights went off and when they came back on it was a completely new scene and both ladies were totally sober.
In the evening we went to the Royal Institute for an interesting lecture on dreams, followed by a ‘mid-summer night’ event situated throughout the historic building, and based on dreams, our perceptions and interpretations of reality. There were all sorts of experiments and science demonstrations to get involved in, and I particularly liked the ones aimed at confusing the senses. For example, you could wear headphones that swapped your hearing so you heard someone talking to you on your right hand side with your left ear, glasses that reversed your vision or made you see upside down, tricks you could do with your hands so that you believed you had two noses or that made you move the wrong fingers when prompted, and many more. It struck me how easy it is to confuse the brain even if you know what you are seeing and doing is a trick. There was another exhibit where you could try drinks of different colours and rank these by sweetness. Everyone put the red drink as sweeter than the blue. In fact, all the drinks were plain lemonade and it was just how your brain is programmed to expect richer colours to be sweeter that led to the confusion. It made me think of how alcohol confuses the brain, and how our brains are programmed by advertising to believe that alcohol makes you relax, and is somehow good for you and relieves stress. Sometimes you need to stand back and look at what is really happening when you have a drink. What actually is this stuff you are drinking and why are you doing it? What is the massive hold this chemical has over you and how did things get so bad? And, why is it sometimes so hard to imagine life without this stuff?
As for the dream lecture, apparently we dream all night long, not just when we have rapid eye movement (REM), and much of our dreaming is our brain sorting out and compartmentalising what has gone on that day. I know I have much nicer dreams now I don’t drink, I never have nightmares and of course I sleep much better. Perhaps the huge lack of stress in my life makes it easier for my brain to sort out the day’s events. I would have liked to ask the speaker about alcohol and dreams but there were too many other questions being asked, and things were getting somewhat bizarre with people wanting to talk about their dogs and cats dreaming, out of body experiences, dream predictions of the future and the like. And I could tell that some of these people had been taking unfair advantage of the free wine prior to the lecture starting!