How is your memory? If you are anything like me, it will be occasionally brilliant, sometimes sketchy and more often than not - selective. It is said that as you get older your long term memory becomes sharper and your short term recall more than a little hit and miss.
Happily, I have yet to reach the stage when I have to remind myself who I actually am - but, have occasionally suffered the curse of the over 50’s - that being, standing in my bedroom trying to work-out why I am there. Yesterday I was having a discussion with a certain female personage about the fact that we don’t have to even remember telephone numbers as your mobile does it for you. Before you shake your head and exclaim “Really Frank?” in a sarcastic manner, I just wonder how many phone numbers we would remember if we didn’t have this facility - not many, I’ll be bound. However, rather spookily, both of us could recall various phone numbers we had in the UK and she could go even further back than that, reeling off home phone numbers she had when she was a teenager. For my part, I reminded her that as a youngster, because my family were so poor my only communication facility at the time, was a large black contraption housed in a stand alone red box at the end of our street. Cue: Imagine me on a bike wobbling up a steep hill to Hovis music!
One of the most embarrassing side effects from an unreliable memory is the complete mental block. I hope I’m not the only person who suffers from this malady, because it can cause insufferable trauma. Think of the Trigger character in Only Fools and Horses, constantly referring to Rodney as “Dave” - unfortunately, I do that all the time. Then there is one of those bizarre conversations you have when you are telling friends about the wonderful film that you saw whilst on holiday in Blighty. The trouble is your mind goes blank at that very moment and you can’t remember its name, who was in it and the incredibly famous director who er, er, directed the bloody thing - all this done whilst clicking your fingers and saying - “Come on, you must know.” Unfortunately, for about a year before my daughter married a chap called James, I got it into my head that his name was John - this being the name of a previous boyfriend. A simple, innocent mistake you would have thought wouldn’t you? But, oh no, we had tears and tantrums and accusations of cruel and malicious behaviour on my part; indeed, she did reveal to me that she considered having me “sectioned” if I persisted.
Sometimes I think that people turn up at quayside cafes and supermarkets, with the sole intention of making me feel bad for not recognising them. Take the other day, I sat in a cafe just behind an attractive young woman, who on seeing me sat there engaged me in a pleasant conversation as to how I was keeping, what I was doing with myself and was Julie keeping well? Panic! You try and continue a coherent, conversation, with someone you have not a ‘scooby’ as to who they are. I found myself asking stuff like - “Are you still working at the same place?” - hoping this might give me even a slight clue to who she was. Another ploy is to ask innocently - “What are you doing with yourself nowadays?” Nevertheless, this can and does go wrong on occasions, particularly when she says - “Much the same thanks - still your doctor.” To be fair, she did laugh and told me it often happens (with older patients!) and it’s probably all to do with context, as in no stethoscope, or white coat and severe, yet rather attractive glasses.
A friend of mine, many years ago, had similar problems with his memory, however he did tend to know who someone was - but, could never remember their names. It seems that he has developed a ‘word association’ system that he say is 99% foolproof, but it could go wrong with spectacular results. As he would always link physical attributes, or shall we say…outstanding features in his system, his most enjoyable faux-pas was when he hailed a friends wife, who’s name was named Tess - by quite a different sounding word not used in polite society.
So there you are, remembering stuff is a funny old business; however if you are cunning you can turn it to your advantage. Personally I find a selective memory most advantageous, this being you only remember what you want to remember - a mental quirk only found in mature men apparently. This can range from forgetting to do irksome chores that you never intended to do in the first place, to absent-mindedly failing to remember a birthday of someone you don’t like.
Memory is a funny thing you know; it enables you to immediately travel to a specific time and place the moment you hear the first few chords of a pop song of your youth. It can conjure up for you the little blue coat your daughter wore on her first day at school and can remind you of how you felt when your dad died when he was eleven years younger than your age now. I can also, if manipulated properly, cause you to accidentally forget large parts of a shopping list that you don’t like or never eat. “Where’s the couscous, it was on the list I gave you?” I always rely on the following - “God is that the time already - it’s half-past three darling!”