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Thanks for the memory?

May 26, 2017

There’s no point in beating about the bush; my memory is slowly declining. I don’t mean the frightening descent that is evidenced by Dementia or Alzheimer’s, but a gentle deterioration that is brought about by a combination of a daily addition to the brain’s almost brimming filing cabinet together with a slow general deterioration in the rest of the body.

We are currently looking after my daughter’s Border Collie called Zac (I must finish writing that book!), and this morning we set off to the local woods. It was a lovely morning, sunny but crisp in that very April sort of way; white fluffy clouds scudding across an azure sky, and all of that. Anyway I parked the car and set off, full of the joys of spring (literally) and basking in the dappled sunlight.

I’d been walking for about a quarter of a mile and had just finished whistling my second song from Carousel which we’d seen the night before, when it suddenly occurred to me: ‘Where’s the dog?’ Very good question – and I pretty rapidly realised that poor Zac was still in the back of the car and was mightily pleased to see me when I returned!

To continue this selfless act of excoriation; I recently drove my car to the local refuse tip and when I arrived a rather burly attendant appeared in front of me and asked if I would like any help to unload; and I duly accepted his offer. With him standing at my side, I then opened the back of the car, and was rather mortified to notice that the only content was a pair of lonely and rather muddy wellington boots. My first reaction was one of embarrassed shock, which was rapidly matched by the look on the face of my burly attendant, which can only be classified as the familiar: ‘You’re having a laugh aren’t you?’ Although I must confess that I really wasn’t; in fact on the contrary. I then tried to explain how, unfortunately, I had omitted to load the rubbish into the car before I started out, but I’m afraid I was getting myself deeper and deeper into a rather humiliating hole. As I kept digging, the attendant’s face slowly transmogrified into another familiar expression, you know, the one which implies ‘Whatever is the world coming to?’ I would further add that my situation was not improved when, with a wicked grin he turned to me and said: “Anyway let’s get these wellington boots unloaded.”

The average adult brain weighs about 3lbs (1.4kg) and is the most complex organ in the body. Through a multitude of neurons it stores information that essentially represents the sum total of your life. It’s quite remarkable really, and yet when I come out of the bathroom after my morning shower I’m never quite sure whether or not I’ve applied deodorant, so I go back in and do it again. Mr Coleman always said that he made his money out of mustard that was left on the side of the plate, and I’m sure that manufactures of deodorant must similarly benefit from incipient memory loss.

Apparently ‘the human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops working until you stand up to speak in public’. It is surprising - and it is a fact – that the subconscious part of our brain continues to work even when we are asleep and it’s obviously the reason why, if you have a problem, it’s better to sleep on it. Sound advice, I believe.

Ever forget somebody’s name? They come up to you; you know them; you can’t remember their name! The mind is peculiar, you knew it this morning. To make matters worse, they can remember yours. We have a problem, we use a substitute name: ‘There’. “Hello There.” Crikey I’ve got a problem, if somebody comes up and I have to introduce them, I’m in deep trouble. They do … You faint! Don’t worry I’m just being mischievous here. But do you know what? ‘There’ knows that you have forgotten their name. So what happens? Towards the end of the conversion, unaccountably, you suddenly remember that elusive name. At this moment, all subtlety goes out of the window, because you want to show them that you knew their name all along and as a result you use it to excess, and loudly - almost every other word. ‘Listen to me I know your name; I’ve always known it; I’m so pleased with myself; let me find somebody to introduce you to!’

So anyway that’s memory for you. But let’s not dwell on this too much because memory lapses are really a normal condition of the mind. You often hear people using the term ‘within living memory’. Well at least if our memory is living then we still have hope and of course we never know what a good memory we have until we try to forget something.

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