Something has changed with my dreaming since the beginning of the year. This may be because I am on the wagon, but I doubt it. I have picked up a subtle shift these last few months, something has come to a head and passed. I do not know what.
This dream has the historical context of a matrilinear involvement in mining since the mid-1800s. The men of my family worked, first in the copper mines of Beddgelert at Sygun, then the slate mines at Blaenau Ffestiniog and then coal in the Rhondda. I joke that I am physically suited to shifting large weights in enclosed surroundings, playing front row rugby or Judo. My arse is close to the floor. You could say that mining is in my DNA.
In the dream I am talking with a man above ground in a kind of depot. He is wearing a flat cap and is some kind of foreman. He is dirty and covered in coal dust. I am clean and dressed in modern clothes. I am asking him for a job. He doubts that I have the stamina or the inclination to work at the coal face deep underground. He thinks that the men will not accept me and that I may have to have a fist fight or two to establish my place. I explain to him that I come from a line of miners so there is possibly some potential there.
He takes me over to a schematic on a wall in a portacabin. In the schematic the various seams of the mine are portrayed. He says that the seams on levels 1-3 have all been worked out. The men are working levels 4 and 5. He says that 5 is a rich seam but that it twists and turns. Five is very deep and there are occasional problems with gas.
To get me started he takes me over to the rail trucks coming out of the pit. There are some with pure coal and others in which coal is still mixed with bedrock. He suggests that I work separating the coal from the bedrock. I start and the pieces of rock are heavy. I pick them up with my gloved hands and break the coal from the rocks. I chuck the coal on one pile and the rock on another. The foreman is pleased with my work and suggests that I come back the next day.
When I return, he kits me out with a Davy lamp and a pickaxe. I join the other men in the lift going down. We stop at level 4 and most of the men get out. The rest of us continue down the shaft to level 5. There is a handful of us and the foreman. We are by way of an exploratory party. I start to work on a part of the seam which turns out to be wide and very rich. I am easily separating large chunks of best quality anthracite. One of the other workers wants to take over my position. The foreman says that we should fight for it. The man runs at me and knocks me to the ground. We brawl. I get him into a choke hold and he passes out.
I have earned the right to work at this section of face and the respect of the other miners. I work my guts out and load the small rail wagon near me.
At the end of the shift we go up the shaft in the lift and the foreman says that I have done well but will be extremely full of aches tomorrow. He says that usually it is the third day which is the killer. The first day is easy, the second day very painful. The third day is very hard and difficult. By the time the full shift comes on the third day, the body is close to crisis, it struggles with all the aches and pains to complete the third shift. Day four is less difficult. Usually after the weekend the second week is no problem. If I can make it to the second week, then I will be fine to work there.
When I am coming to, I wonder if this is some kind of a racial memory which I am tapping into in the dream.