Saturday, 24 May 2008

Distant memories

If there's one part of my body I'd like to improve, it's not my nose or biceps or bum, it's my dreadful memory - and the constant embarrassment it causes.

My father had a photographic memory, he could recall every detail of something that happened twenty years ago (quite mortifying when I desperately wanted him to forget some reckless or nasty action of mine). But I'm the exact opposite - if you asked me about a conversation I had last week, it would already be a hazy blur.

So I'm constantly forgetting people's names and jobs, whether they have children, where they live, that problem they asked me about a few days back, that difficult medical condition. I'm surprised I manage to retain all the thousand and one vital details of my own life, like bank accounts and holiday bookings.

It's not just early senility. I've always had a bad memory, even as a child. My mum would reel off all the little incidents from a seaside outing, and all that came to me was a vague image of sun, sea and sand.

So I rely heavily on bits of paper as memory back-up. Lists of Things To Do, notes of important conversations, downloaded news stories and reports, Notes To Self left in strategic places, and Questions To Ask when I talk to the doctor or podiatrist.

Which sounds pathetically gormless, but it's better than being totally flummoxed when Jenny asks me how much our hotel room's going to cost, if it has a bath or shower, and if it's air-conditioned. If I didn't have a Note, the details would have fluttered away like autumn leaves.

I really admire people with jobs that call for a prodigious memory - actors, singers, doctors, pilots. I'm always amazed that they can instantly recall exactly what they need so effortlessly.

I can just imagine the scene if I were a doctor. "That's a nasty-looking lump, Mrs O'Reilly. It could be a symptom of er, let me think for a few seconds. Would you like a cup of tea while we're waiting?" (That is, if I could remember how to boil the kettle)

I don't think Mrs O'Reilly would be long for this world.

We all love bananas, don't we, boys and girls? Well, I read that we won't be enjoying them much longer, as they're being rapidly killed off by a lethal fungus - Panama Disease.

In five to thirty years' time, that delicious creamy taste could be a thing of the past. There are disease-resistant bananas that could be grown instead but they have a completely different taste - like lemons or apples. Perhaps we could readjust our taste buds?


  1. Haha . . Nick we have a shocking short term memory in this family. Take heart. None of us can leave the house without cranking up the car and then remembering that we forgot something (is that an oxymoron?) Adam got half way down the road yesterday with motorbike in tow before he turned tail - he left his fuel behind! (and he's only 21!) What makes it worse, is I don't have the discepline to write a list!

    As for bananas, don't fret pet, we've got plenty here, grown in the Queensland sun, we'd be happy for a new export market, I'm sure!

  2. Baino - Remembering we forgot something. Excellent, must remember that. Better still, I'll write it down. And I must remember 21 year olds can be just as bad.

    Ah, you might have plenty of bananas but are they still disease-free??

  3. Seeing as I meet most of my new acquaintances in the pub, I NEVER remember the relevant details about them.

    My best friend at the moment, I must have met him half a dozen times and had lengthy and deep conversations with him before I was able to remember what he did for a living.

    (and no he wasn't a barman..)

    and...for the 2nd comment in a row I have to say, Bananas scare me. Good riddance.

  4. xbox - Good to know I'm not alone - though of course a few jars of the amber nectar aren't the world's greatest memory aid. Bananas scare you? Whaaaat? How can anyone be scared by a long yellow thing? This isn't something Freudian is it??

  5. If you saw the same live 'show' I did in Amsterdam 7 years ago, you'd never go near one either.

    Plus, they are all squishy.

  6. A live show in Amsterdam? Say no more, nudge nudge, wink wink. Very naughty of them to put their customers off lovely nourishing foodstuffs chocabloc with vital nutrients.

  7. Indeed, I wince every time I pass a German sheperd too as a result.

    Why can't they be distant memories...

  8. AND German Shepherds? This is getting too dark and tangled for me to fathom. Is this the dog species or an actual German sheep-herding person? Does this shepherd visit Amsterdam at all?

  9. Ever feel that you came in at the wrong stage of a conversation and are in danger of getting the wrong end of stick or banana or German Shepherd lol (?).

    I now feel I have led a very sheltered life.

  10. Hulla, don't mind him, he's just working through a few tricky psychological issues. From what I can gather, I very much doubt if you've led a sheltered life....

  11. Mr. M will be depressed when I tell him about the bananas.

  12. You should never catch the wrong end of a German Shepherd.

  13. Luckily you remembered to come and pick me up at the airport today, AND you remembered who I was after one whole week away! So things aren't that bad!! But who was that blonde woman I saw running in the other direction as we turned into our road?

  14. Bananas are a silent killer... eat four in a row, and you're a gonner from a potassium overdose!

    Good riddance I say. I hate overhearing somebody eating a banana.

  15. Medbh - I didn't realise Mr M was a big banana buff. Me too.

    Xbox - So which is the wrong end?

    Jenny - I had no idea who you were, but you looked kinda lonesome so I thought I'd take you in. The blonde? Just some blog groupie who's been hanging around the house for days. I told her to get lost.

    K8 - No way, I've eaten four in a row before now and lived to tell the tale. It might be the cause of my warped and twisted mind though. Funny, Jenny doesn't like the sound of me eating either. Not just bananas, anything at all.

  16. Any end that could lose you a finger I reckon.

  17. I think Xbox should take over your blog, Nick. Losing fingers in Amsterdam with German Shepherds and bananas? Very exciting if a little depraved.....
    My memory is woeful also, I write everything down. And sometimes I have to write down what to do with the thing I wrote down, I know you get what I just said.
    I feel bad hanging around people with photographic memories because it forces me to whitelie stuff, like I remember when I don't....
    As to the bananas, I'd read this four years ago that we only had 10 years of bananas left and no one believed me.....ha ha now they will.

  18. Xbox - We're getting a bit off-topic here. Any connection between fingers and bad memory? Or fingers and bananas? At least I can remember how many fingers and toes I've got, there's hope for me yet.

    www - Ah, whitelying, that's a good point. The number of times I pretend I can remember what someone's referring to, just to avoid the embarrassment of asking them to refresh my memory. There, my secret's out.

  19. my apologies, a bad habit I have.

    I have a serious problem remembering the names of people I've just been introduced to, I focus so much on the handshake the name goes in one ear an out the other.

  20. Me too :(

    Is there a FAS course one can do to fix this? It gets awkward sometimes.

  21. Xbox - With me, I have to admit the name failure is more because I'm focussing on the other person's smouldering sexiness (if female) or ill-fitting, badly-creased suit (if male). Or sometimes the man's smouldering sexiness. Goodness, that's another embarrassing secret that's slipped out....

    K8 - Had to look up FAS, since I'm north of the border! I've never heard of memory courses, only those laughable adverts in the paper that promise a phenomenal memory in 21 days. About as likely as having fluent Estonian in a week.

  22. I'm there with you. I have a terrible memory also. It's why I can't lie. I can't ever remember what I might have said as a lie!

    We should have a little exclusive club just for us and exclude all those who remember everything like it happened yesterday.

  23. Liz - That's true about lying, we never remember what the lie was supposed to be. Plus, I find it hard to lie anyway, I'm a bit precious about honesty.

    Yes, a special club just for us sounds good. But wouldn't we forget where and when it was meeting?

  24. I wish I had a photographic memory, would have helped in all those balsted memory tests.

    Banana disease? That's because the bananas we eat in the "west" are one species of banana. No wonder a disease can run rampant through the plantations.

    I have eaten a banana that had orange flesh and pinkish skin. No jokes , puh-lease. Why can't we get these here?

  25. Muddy - I wonder if that banana you describe is one of the disease-resistant ones. And if so, did it taste like a 'normal' banana or did it taste different? It could be the solution!

  26. I have terrible memory recall especailly with names to the point it`s embaarrassing - people I met a day ago I will forget their names and people I worked with a year ago the same thing. It`s like some sort or premature senile dementia

  27. I also have a terrible short-term memory.. My long term one isn't much to shout about either. Luckily, most people are quite forgiving. :)

  28. Quickie - So many people seem to be the same way! Maybe it's just that life today is so complex it's simply impossible for the human brain to process so much information.

    Chani - That's true, people are very forgiving, probably because a lot of them are equally forgetful. But even if they don't seem to mind, it can be very embarrassing to forget something really important!

  29. Having a good memory isn't all it's cracked up to be, either. Can lead to grudge holding. Or maybe that's just me.

    And what's this about bananas? No bananas with my cereal? No banana pudding at holiday celebrations? What's the world coming to?

  30. Hi Nick,

    I know EXACTLY how you feel! The last couple of years or so my short term memory has gotten so bad that I've even wondered if I might have early onset Alzheimers or something... Seriously.

    But speaking to other people, it's quite a common thing. A combination I think of higher stress levels, tiredness, increased exposure to electricity/radiaition (mobile phones, microwaves, flying, etc), multimedia saturation and the fact that our lives are so much more complex and crowded and multifaceted than perhaps ever before.

    Things I have found to help? Meditation, fasting, hydration, rest and good nutrition. And relaxing more! Difficult but you gotta try...

  31. Nicole - You're right about grudge-holding. My father was terrible for grudges and not forgiving things people had done way back (including me).

    According to Muddy, pink bananas could be the answer!

    Shelly - I think all the factors you mention are involved, except that I'm not sure about the radiation. It's the same sort of radiation that comes out of TVs and radios so is it really harmful?
    I'm okay on rest, good nutrition and relaxing but not the others. Must mend my lackadaisical ways!

  32. I have near total-recall of every moment of my life as well as both a photographic and phonographic memory.

    It's pretty crowded in my head.

    This helped me to get through school with very little effort, but it really is a mixed blessing. Sometimes I could do with a little blessed forgetfulness.

  33. Heart - Photographic AND phonographic memory - that's amazing. I'm not an envious person, but I must say to have those would save me an awful lot of problems. I don't think you'd really prefer a bit of forgetfulness!