What do you think about when you daydream?
Sometimes questions flow in an interview that I would never ask a person, let alone someone I had just met minutes before. But interviews create a sense of urgency. You want to capture the essence of a person, quickly. So I asked Alexander McCall Smith, best-selling author of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and lover of tea, what he thinks about when he daydreams.
It wasn’t a Lindsay Cameron Wilson original thought. W.H. Auden famously connected daydreams to meals, and I knew Auden was one of McCall Smith’s favourites.
“A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.”
Did McCall Smith swallow daydreams down whole, absent-mindedly with little relish?
I thought not, but either way, the question would be an interesting portal into the mind of a man who has written dozens of novels.
“Daydreams, let me think, I don’t sort of think of myself doing something really dramatic, I sometimes think if I’m watching something that requires a lot of skill, such as a rugby match, or tennis, I might think what would it be like if I were in that competition, so if I watch Wimbledon, I sometimes imagine myself going on to centre court, and suddenly discovering a tremendous talent for tennis, and thinking how impressed my friends would be.”
A few months ago I shared that I was about to interview Alexander McCall Smith in this post. I wrote that his books, particularly the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, are an escape for me, especially when life doesn’t feel safe. They themselves are like a cup of tea- soothing, refreshing and comforting. And it’s only when we’re in this space – one of calm comfort – that daydreams can flow. Walking does this too for me, or folding laundry, not in a rush… This is why, McCall Smith says, he includes tea scenes in his novels. It gives his characters the gift of time – “something people complain, quite vociferously, they don’t have enough of,” he explained in the interview. Serving tea is like pressing the pause button. It allows time to breathe. To reflect. And, to imagine you’re on centre court at Wimbledon.
Thanks for listening!