Tuesday, 29 December 2009


As children, my cousin J and I were always the 'naughty ones' and slightly older than our brothers, who we used to torment with practical jokes and what we thought were clever mindgames.

One of the stories that my Auntie and Mother take great glee at recounting during each and every family gathering is how J and I once painted my Uncle's car simply because we 'didn't like the colour.'  We got into big trouble and "that time when B and J painted Dad's car" is always sited as the perfect example to illustrate what little shits the two of us were back in the 1970s.

Last New Year's Eve, my little cousin T (now 40) confessed to my old Partner-in-Crime that, in fact, it was he and my own brother who had painted the Ford Consul an unsightly shade of yellow and put the blame on us: we'd had nothing whatsoever to do with it!  We must have pleaded our innocence at the time but our previous childhood pranks pointed towards us being the culprits and we have always stood guilty.

Until now!  Now, no-one mentions the incident apart from my cousin J, who, I think, wants forgiveness and/or retribution:

"The bastards even had me believing that we'd painted the car for 32 fucking years," he lamented on Boxing Day. 

Family memory had convinced us of our culpability!

What is memory? And who puts is there?  Is yours compartmentalised or is it random? How is it triggered? Do you have involuntary flashbacks or do you sit and recall events purposefully? Have you  remembered something for years that you later found out to be erroneous?  How did you discover the truth? How did you feel?

Share with us your memories....


  1. My sister recently discovered that her long held memory of seeing Princess Diana in a blue and white spotty dress was completely inaccurate. I have memory loss following illness and have several parts of the last 10 years I can't remember at all, which makes me all the more fascinated with ideas around memory and I refer to it a lot in my work.

    Sorry this is incoherant and short, I need to do some thinking and remembering.

  2. I have some interesting memories. For years I remembered being outside my naval home in Maryland petting the entire set of Santa's reindeer. They towered over me, and the smell!! I can even remember the feel of them. This memory, which was pointed out to me as a young adult, did not happen!! I realize that it was a dream triggered by a visit from the Naval base "Santa" which is ordered by parents to visit. (We've talked about my crazy dreams). I was quite upset to find that it was not real and my memory had been so fooled.

    I now deal with memory issue with my children, who remember events completely different than I do. We have big rows that begin with "That's not what I said!" I am now contemplating recording all conversations from now on.

  3. I think it was Bertrand Russell, commenting on Berkeley's metaphysics, who said that we can't prove that we haven't just been created, and that memories could be part of the illusion of reality. I don't buy this. The reason isn't the memories themselves. If they were just like films, he might have a point, but it's the emotion related to the memories that make them so much more than a series of images playing in the mind.

    When I remember some of the things I have done I can feel myself physically squirm. Other memories invoke an enormous sense of nostalgia. It's the personal attachment to the memories, as though there's a physicality to them that invokes these feelings.

    My earliest memories are from my first day at primary school. They're "still" images of situations, rather than the movies of recent memories.

    I experience things with my 3 year old son, which he obviously remembers vividly, because he keeps mentioning the experiences, but I know that these memories, like mine will either become abstracted into still images or fade completely and that saddens me. I don't know why I feel like this though - maybe I'm projecting my own desire, in my progressing years (I'm only 40!), to cling onto the past, onto him.

    Something else that interests me is the difference between my "synoptic" memory and my specific memories. I tend to recount my childhood as being a bit dour - a strict father and always having to be quiet because he worked shifts. My individual memories of this time, though, are like something from Swallows and Amazons - long summers spent on my bike or floating about on a lilo at the weir on the river. The problem is, I know that while both of these memories have an element of truth about them, I also know that there's an element of post-modernism and constructionism in both. What I don't remember is which of the memories is nearer the truth. Does it matter? I guess not.

  4. Memory it seems, like many other mental processes, seems stronger in some than others. People have often been astounded by my own vivid memory. Having said that, they have been equally astounded by my inability to remember names.
    I am also aware that a memory can be inacurate. In my mother's soon to be published memoires, she gives a both humorous and moving account of how she met my dad. Speaking to dad about it, he seemed to suggest she had got it wrong. My late mother had a remarkable memory, my dad, who is 90 next week, is renowned for scrambling several historic events together and coming up with a remarkable story which everyone else knows only holds an element of accuracy.
    I once read something which mentioned the 'memory palace'. I love that expression, suggesting that you remember everything, and it is all there in your memory palace. Is it possible to search our memory palace to find something which may have been stored long ago in the dark corner of a tower.

    Then there is the computer analogy, thousands, possibly millions of files stored away in our mind. Some years ago, and yes, I remember it like yesterday, I was compering a singalong at a pub, the Carters Arms on Northenden Road in Sale. A lady sang, and her voice reminded me of someone, but I could not remember who it was. I even offered a free drink to anyone who could remember, because I knew that if someone said the right name, it would open a door in my 'memory palace'.
    It never happened, well, not until I got home. I was standing in my utility room having a cigarette before I went to bed, still pondering about it. I suddenly thought, was it a singer I was trying to remember, or was it an actress. As soon as I thought 'actress' I remembered who it was. Back to the computer analogy. When I was trying to remember a singer, it was the wrong file, as soon as I thought 'actress', up it came. I had been looking in the wrong file.

    By the way, it was Fennela Fielding x

  5. Memory is a strange one. I've always had an excellent memory, able to remember things & numbers & names, recently however I have real trouble recalling people's names & the names of everyday things in general conversation - quite scary really as I'm only 43! The trouble is, as with most things, the more you try & remember something, the worse it gets - you just have to give your brain a little thinking time & not stress out about it!! I think my earliest memories are preschool - out & about with my mum, learning to swim & shopping in the first Sainsburys when it opened in Walsall. I remember Nursery school & my first day at infants - I say remember, but all these memories are brief episodes - things that lasted at most minutes - but they put me back in those situations & give me the impression that I remember those times. It's interesting to analyse how long your memories of things actually are - most are just seconds recalled of memorable episodes and I find most early memories are just as vivid (if not more so) than recent ones - do we lose our capacity for remembering or are the pressures of modern life squeezing it out of us?