Friday, July 29, 2011

"if I remember correctly... "

I have a pretty poor memory. I THINK that’s always been the case (but perhaps I can’t remember?). When I was being interviewed for the school job six years ago, I was asked if I had any concerns and I replied: "remembering pupils’ names" (and I was largely right!).
I’ve just finished reading two books which highlighted various aspects of memory. The first is essentially a travel book ("A Time of Gifts" by Patrick Leigh Fermor) about the first part of his trek to Constantinople in 1933/4. To pass the time while marching, he recited aloud "a great deal of Shakespeare, several Marlowe speeches, most of Keats's Odes" as well as "the usual pieces of Tennyson, Browning and Coleridge"! I appreciate that times were very different then but, as someone who had severe difficulties remembering a mere SIX lines in a nativity play some 15 years ago (Mary Ayers will have an absolute field day if she reads this!!), Fermor’s feats leave me feeling totally inadequate! The second book ("Remind Me Who I Am, Again" by Linda Grant), written in 1998, is about the author’s account of her mother’s dementia - an illness which I think we all fear. This is an extract towards the end of her book: "Up to the beginning of the twentieth century in Europe and America people who could not read relied on memory... Now the world is full of artificial memory: books, newspapers, films, television programmes, video-tapes, computer memory. The storage capacity of technology is illimitable. It mocks us with all we have forgotten. And we understand too the importance of forgetting lest we go mad with all there is to remember".
I struggle with remembering all sorts of stuff - names, book titles, authors, celebrities, characters from books, foreign languages, jokes, telephone numbers etc etc (the list is endless!). I know very little about the science of memory or recollection, but I suspect that I have a "visual memory". I can describe a book cover, but I’m unlikely to remember its title or the author; I can’t recall the names of characters in books, but think I recognise the names by the shapes of words and use this as a kind of visual shorthand.
No doubt, in my case, much of the "problem" is sheer laziness! People will doubtless be quick to offer advice (memory games and such like) but, unless I really felt I had a worrying medical condition, I’m happy to muddle on in my own sweet way.
One does learn to adapt, of course. Very many years ago, for example, I realised that making lists was a really good way of avoiding worrying about forgetting things – and I used to make daily lists in my filofax (I still make lists, but perhaps not so obsessively!).
In the meantime, where would I be without Google?

No comments: