I don’t know how it all began. I’ve been told where it happened, and I can easily work out when, through a simple, cursory glance at my passport. But I remember none of it.
My earliest recollection is of me as a five year old, being lifted into my Uncle’s fire engine, sitting in the world’s biggest seat and grabbing the world’s largest, roundest steering wheel. I remember I was unable to see out of the windscreen and I remember wearing an oversized helmet (yellow). I also remember being lifted down. It all felt very special.
And that’s it, my first memory. What happened in those intervening five years between being born and being in the fire engine remain a complete mystery to me. I wonder if every one of those days are still logged and filed away somewhere in my brain? Am I just struggling to retrieve them, or have the actual memories themselves been lost or overwritten? Is it an access and retrieval issue, or a storage/capacity one?
And my second memory? I couldn’t tell you. I remember playing out a lot, I remember special occasions, I remember holidays, I remember mandarin oranges and carnation creme, I remember my schoolmates, I remember hot summers and snowy winters, but I can’t piece these together into any kind of coherent narrative.
And I’m not sure if that’s good or bad? To have perfect recall would be quite handy, but it also feels like hard work. It would be quite intensive too I’m sure, having some huge rolodex your brain has to rifle* through every time you want to recall something.
“You said you didn’t like cheese?”
“I never did”
<rifles through my Rolodex memory to Saturday 14th May 1973, Philip Harrison’s party>
“Yes you did, at Philip Harrison’s party in 1973, Philip’s mum placed a cheese and onion cocktail stick on your plate and you screamed”
Hmmm, it could be quite annoying too, especially if you’re the only one. You’d probably have a nickname like ‘Rolodex Man’. And I imagine friends would get well annoyed. You’d win virtually every argument, but at what cost? Almost certainly at the cost of all friendships.
Admittedly it would be nice to remember nice things with more clarity – that family holiday to the south of France in 1972, I’d love to be able to sit back and rifle* through those pages, yeah that would be lovely. Although I wouldn’t want to recall that time I soiled myself at infant school. The fact I remember soiling myself is alarming enough without torturing myself with the detail. I can only imagine I must have been quite anxious at the time.
So yeah, no, yeah – recalling that ‘spin the bottle’ game at Susan’s party when I was 14, maybe, being sick on my shoes after downing a bottle of Pomagne in Majorca when I was 17 – probably best forgotten.
I do quite like the imperfections of memory. I quite like how a memory may pop up seemingly from nowhere, prompted perhaps by a song on the radio, or the memories evoked by the smell of freshly cut grass, or the aroma of cooking.
Meeting up with old friends and remembering days gone by together – that’s a lovely memory in itself isn’t it? That certainly feels much nicer than rifling* through a Rolodex.
Nah, total recall is not for me, I say let’s leave that to AI Robots.
Pub quizzes would be ace though …
* Rifle or Riffle?