Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Just remind me

I've always had a terrible memory. My past is but a sketchy outline, shorn of all the specifics and minutiae. I struggle to recall convers-ations I had a week ago, or who I had them with. The plots of films and books evaporate within days. Faces and names vanish rapidly, unless they're very distinctive.

This failing has obvious disadvantages. Someone will insist they met me on a previous occasion (or several), though I don't remember them at all. Someone will ask me what a book was about, and I frantically rack my brains. Someone will remind me of a decision we made last week, and I'll ask them what it was.

I'm well used to all the embarrassment, confusion, panic and vagueness this brings about, and the crafty attempts to feign memories and knowledge I don't actually possess. Sometimes if it's just too much to admit a total memory-blank, I'll find a way of skimming over it with some ambiguous remark.

But a bad memory also has its benefits.

Nasty experiences are soon forgotten, and I don't waste time dwelling on them and nurturing grievances. My head isn't clogged up with irrelevant detail so it's easier to get to the heart of something. If the plot of a book I've read escapes me, I can read it again with just as much pleasure.

I've forgotten all the absurd, pretentious and ill-informed rubbish I've written in the past and can confidently carry on writing as if my opinions are brilliantly astute. All the mindless tripe has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

But my inability to recall past events in any depth makes me wonder if they happened at all, or if the scrappy, threadbare images are entirely imaginary. No, that way madness lies....


  1. Yes, Nick, and life is all but a dream.

    The mind is a wonderous thing. It will block out memories. Though, in your case, I sincerely doubt it has [blocked out memories]. You are chewing on them.

    That you don't remember names is regrettable (obviously, your age allowing). The psychologist says that people who don't remember names are those who refuse themselves. Who don't wish (for whatever reason) to make a connection.

    To summarize: Let's not, coquettishly, praise ourselves on our shortcomings.

    And to ram it home: My name is Ursula. Think "bear".


  2. The scary thing is all the stuff the wife remembers but I don't.
    I remember song lyrics I heard decades ago but I've no idea what I had for dinner last Wednesday.
    Unfortunately there's always a few things I wish I could forget but can't....

  3. My husband reckons that one of the unsung advantages of Alzheimers is that you won't have to keep buying new books...you can enjoy the ones you have over and over again.
    If that is the case we shall be making significant economies.

  4. Ursula: My theory has always been that this life is but a dream in yet another life. Neat, huh?

    I fancy the psychologist is talking nonsense. I think the main reason I don't remember names is that so many are unmemorable. John Smith is easy to forget, while Ludwig Beethoven is impossible to forget.

    No humble bragging on my part. There's nothing commendable about having a crap memory.

  5. Dave: Same here. Jenny remembers much much more than I do, and is constantly filling me in. My sister has a photographic memory and often reminds me of misdemeanours I'd totally forgotten.

    Helen: Me too. When I re-read books, very little is familiar. Most of it is as fresh as the first reading. Again, Jenny can remember plots and characters in great detail.

  6. Nick you have me speculating on how connected you are to people and events. And yes sad, too. But then again you're not so that's all that matters in the long (short?) run.


  7. My memory is still fairly sharp. I may forget a book cover, but halfway through the first chapter, I will remember if I've read the book or not.

    Most things I don't remember are things I never really memorized to begin with, such as phone numbers, addresses, or strangers' names.

  8. Andy and I remember different things, which comes in handy. :)

  9. www: I'm probably TOO connected to world events and all the horror and anguish involved. It gets me down. As for people, it's easy to know them at a fairly superficial level (partner, children, jobs, where they live etc) but connecting to them on a deeper level is much more difficult (it is for me anyway).

    Bijoux: I think that's a relevant factor about people's names - if I'm unlikely to meet them again, I don't pay much attention to their name and it's easily forgotten.

  10. Jean: Yes, very handy! Jenny and I do that too to some extent.

  11. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on one's point of view, I am blessed with a strong memory and while it was very handy duding my student days, it has not been a great advantage in my older years as I find it difficult to forget somethings that are best forgotten.

  12. Ramana: I know what you mean. My father had a photographic memory and he was forever reminding me of objectionable things I had done umpteen years ago! He also found it impossible to forget them.

  13. I have family here, and we are amazed at how different our memories are of events we shared. I wish now I'd kept a journal or diary and am happy to be blogging now, which gives me a sharper focus on events of the past 10+ years.

  14. I remember things very clearly until they cease to be relevant. Then they fade away. But perhaps that is how it should be. I hope so anyway!

  15. Hattie: It's like that old truism about witnesses to a crime. They'll all give different versions of the event, even though they all saw the same thing.

    Jenny: That's how my memory works too. It seems quite logical to me that you only remember what's important. Especially when you're my age and my memory's already full to overflowing!

  16. I don't remember many things lately so before I forget Nick, I want to wish you and Jenny a happy and peaceful Christmas.
    Greetings Maria x

  17. Thank you, Maria. And a very Happy Christmas to you too. If there's one thing I can't forget after months of festive advertising, Xmas jingles and general Santa-related hype, it's Christmas!

  18. I have a very good memory, but it's funny, because I can remember some things further back than some things that are more recent. However, I think it can be good, as some things are not worth remembering and can actually affect us in a negative way. Such as being hit by a car, etc. Merry Christmas to you, and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

  19. You are a funny one, Nick!!
    Anyhow, Happy Easter..... or whatever it is....

  20. Linda: Only remembering things from way back is supposed to be common in older people. I see you're 60 so maybe you're following the trend! As you say, some things aren't worth remembering and we're better off without them.

    I haven't been to Montreal, but I've been to Toronto, Quebec City, Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary!

  21. Scarlet: I'm a funny one all right. Normality has always left me well alone. And a Happy Whitsun to you too!

  22. All the studies say that memory of events is completely unreliable and sometimes not just unreliable but false, as in made up completely so I dont think our memory for events matters a whole lot, given the inaccuracies.
    Memory for facts etc doesn't matter like it did, with google able to take over the work.
    All told, it's not really necessary to have a fantastic memory so why worry

  23. Kylie: Most of the time I'm not bothered by my poor memory, but there are some occasions when it's embarrassing. Like when I'm watching complex TV dramas, and I lose the thread of the plot (and numerous sub-plots) pretty early on. Though there again there are usually recaps in the media to fill in the blanks.

  24. I have a pretty good memory for the minutia of my patient's lives, but I virtually never remember someone's name unless I've been told it on a few occasions. I'm not sure what psychologist said the strange thing about someone refusing themselves, but that's not how I see it. Some people just aren't great at remembering names.

  25. Agent: No, I didn't understand the idea of refusing ourselves either. As I said above, most names are pretty ordinary and made for instant forgetting - mine included. It's only the unusual ones like Benedict Cumberbatch that stick in your mind.

  26. I do adore benedict Cumberbatch.
    especially as Sherlock.
    three great names!
    I like the saying...
    we're the best of friends.
    and if I get senile we'll be NEW best of friends!
    happy egg and nog nick!
    or have I already said that?
    I can't remember. xo

  27. Tammy: I'm indifferent to Benedict Cumberbatch but I love Bill Nighy. There's something so cool and laid-back and laconic about him. I also love Tilda Swinton.

    Yes, if we get senile we'll be brand-new friends! We can get to know each other all over again!

    Happy egg and nog? I've never heard that expression before. So what does it mean?

  28. I forgot about bill nighy! I adored him in 'love actually.'
    that's a great movie.

    I made up that expression one year and have used it ever since.
    it sounds happy and festive to me.
    I just liked the sound of it.
    I sometimes make up words too just because I like their sound.
    rather juvenile probably!
    now i'm going to have some REAL egg nog. I have no rum. wonder what a little dash of kahlua would taste like? LOLOL.

  29. Tammy: I've never tried kahlua. Never heard it mentioned over here. Can't say I'm keen on rum. I used to be very fond of Baileys at one time, but I went off it.