I can’t remember much these days. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I was thinking five minutes ago. So it would be really innovative if we could download the contents of our brains into a computer in order to rewind and replay.
It’s a constant annoyance to the Rt Hons that I (allegedly) tell them things ‘a million times’. It’s partly (I try to convince myself) because there are four of them, and I can never remember which one I told a particular story to in the first place. According to them, it’s because I’ve lost it. There is much sighing, eye rolling and gnashing of teeth. Also according to them, I don’t remember things they (also allegedly) told me five minutes ago. Sometimes I don’t remember which one of them told me something but I do remember what it was. And if it’s any consolation whatsoever to them, I do remember bringing them into the world. Most very definitely indeed and with loud hallelujahs.
The first thing I remember ever (I think) was being at Filey in England on a caravan holiday when I was about three or four. And the part I remember in particular was my Dad taking me into a milk bar and buying me a milkshake. The milkshake was pink, and was in one of those tall, fluted glasses with a paper straw. The top was frothy, with huge bubbles. It smelt pink, and I can still smell it even now. It was lovely. I don’t remember whether my Dad had a drink, or the pattern of the formica on top of the table we were sitting at, but I remember Ketty Lester was singing Love Letters on a jukebox. You don’t hear that anymore, and I wish we did. It would be nice to do a rewind and watch it happening and see whether I’d got it right; but we can’t do that, of course, and I’m wondering whether it will ever be possible.
What gets remembered and what gets rejected? I don’t remember the furnishings of the house I was brought up in – but a few months ago while crossing the street in town I had an overpowering memory of the smell of the dinner hall at a school I went to 45 years ago. It came wafting over the road and knocked me for six. Horrible stew and spotted dick? Wherefore art thou, banana junket, in the middle of the day in an Australian country town? Which brain signals conjured it forth when I was thinking about purchasing toilet roll, posting the Telstra bill and goodness me, how could I have possibly left the house still wearing my slippers?
It probably says a lot about me that most of my memories are food related. It has, after all, always been about the food. I remember little glass bottles of orange juice arriving with the milkman before school, and having to drink it even though it was covered in frost. I remember taking Peek Freans tick tock biscuits (the square ones with nursery rhymes iced on them, not the crappy pretender ones you get today) to school and having them nicked every day by a bigger kid. I remember the smell of the cardboard cover on my primer. (No, I realise the cover of a primer isn’t food and I couldn’t have eaten it … but hasn’t sniffing a book always been as good as jamming your nose into an open bag of Maltesers?)
I have no idea, however, what the Hunter Gatherer wore to work this morning, or indeed, whether he wore anything at all. Seeing as I don’t remember washing or ironing it, this is a distinct possibility. If he has spent the day in blissful nakedness, I doubt he’d either roll his eyes or gnash his teeth at me, considering he was the one who came to breakfast wearing new glasses 20 years ago, gazed at his offspring who were artfully arranged around the table, saying, ‘Who are these people and where did they come from?’
I wonder whether your life really does fast-forward before your eyes as you are departing … and where do all the memories go after that? And if it’s ever possible for us to download the contents of our minds and watch them on our computer screens, I hope there’s a delete function for the strange and evil stench of every school dinner anyone’s ever had the misfortune to remember …