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Laterally SpeakingHumphrey Walwyn 10/11

Humphrey Walwyn 10/11

So, I’m sitting here at my computer with a cup of coffee and a bag of sweeties by my side. My hands are raised over the keyboard and I’m about to start typing but… I’ve now completely forgotten what I’m supposed to be doing. Am I writing an email to our plumber about the dripping tap or a thankyou letter to Cousin Catherine for my nice new pair of blue socks (wrong size, but it’s the thought that counts). No? Well then, I’m sure I’ve been asked by a local councillor at a party to pen a poem in praise of the new Dorchester-Weymouth Olympic dual carriageway. Er… I don’t think that’s needed today. I’m still racking my brain but nothing clicks in my head—this is getting ridiculous. Perhaps I’ll concentrate better if I thoughtfully nibble a pink marshmallow…
Ah, of course—that’s it! Marshmallow immediately reminds me of the Marshwood Vale magazine and I now recall it’s time to write my article for October! How could I forget such a thing?
Perhaps this happens to you too. Do you sometimes go upstairs and then have no idea what you’re doing up there? You even have to go back downstairs again to try and remember what it was you wanted to do. Or do you occasionally open the larder door, look at a shelf or two and then close it again because you can’t remember what you were looking for? Yes, I thought so. You see, we’re all doing it!
Part of this forgetfulness is possibly due to my advancing years, but I think I’ve always been a bit absent minded. I remember completely forgetting the time of my train when going back to school for the new term which resulted in a firm ticking off from the Headmaster. I lost school books, my tennis shorts and rugby boots with predictable regularity (sometimes willingly I have to admit). Later on in my twenties I remember being in a complete panic when I lost my car keys—not just once but nearly every week. It became an embarrassing habit and I tried everything such as tying them round my wrist with a bit of string or hanging them up on a large red hook right in front of my nose by the front door, but nothing worked—they still went AWOL. I swear they moved by themselves secretly at night just to annoy me. I eventually bought a special radio remote key ring so I could press my bleeper and the keys would whistle in reply wherever they were hiding. Of course, I then lost the bleeper which rendered the entire exercise useless. It got so bad over the years that for a time I stopped driving anywhere—not because I couldn’t find the keys when setting out, but in the certain fear that I’d lose them when I reached my destination and be forced to take an expensive taxi home. Like from Yorkshire back to Dorset…
I have over the years discerned several theories on forgetting things. One is that ladies lose more things around the house than men. Yes, girls it’s true, but read this whole paragraph for a more balanced view. Perhaps it’s because men have the advantage of shoving everything into their pockets (which then empty their contents all over the floor when we hang up our trousers resulting in complete loss of coins, cufflinks and credit cards). However, before any angry ladies swipe me over the head, I definitely believe that girls are much better at finding things than boys. Females retrace their steps carefully and work out logically where the lost item must be while men lose their patience and their cool, stamp their feet impatiently and go out and buy a new ‘whatever it is’.
And then there are people’s names at parties, on the phone or—and this one’s particularly awkward—those little chance encounters in the street. It is most embarrassing… I know the face, I recognise the voice and the accent. I might even recall instantly the name of his dog and their awful spotty child, but I have no idea who he is. Did I meet him on holiday in Cornwall ten years ago or was it only a fortnight ago at a drinks’ party in Devon? Of course he knows exactly who I am, but I can’t let on that I don’t know him from Adam. Whoever Adam might be…
All I can do is just smile a lot and utter well meaning pleasantries in the desperate hope that some sort of clue will arise during the conversation. I venture forth into unknown territory:
“And so how is…” I pause.
“Dorothy?”, he interrupts. “Oh, she’s very well, thanks”.
Bother! This doesn’t help me one little bit. The only ‘Dorothy’ I know starred in the Wizard of Oz and this guy (whoever he is) is much too young to be married to Judy Garland.
Of course much of this forgetfulness can be selective. I can choose not to remember many things because I don’t really want to know about them. These include dental appointments, boring town hall meetings, writing to my bank manager or having tea with my aged Aunt to discuss her cat’s sciatica. However, don’t be fooled. I can recall instantly the facts that really matter such as the dates of every battle fought by Napoleon or the number of soldiers and elephants who crossed the Alps with Hannibal. I’m also good at local knowledge like the locations and permissible dates of all dog friendly beaches in Dorset and Devon and the number of lamp posts at Crewkerne station. I missed a train there once and spent two hours counting them. I could possibly make a lot of money by joining a local pub quiz team and helping them win every national trophy by correctly answering all questions featuring my specialised subjects. These include such diverse topics as military history, fishing, history of computers, horror movies from 1955 to 1995, the geography of Malta and lists of ingredients used in Thai cooking. So, I really know what’s important in life! If only I could find my car keys, I could drive to the BBC Mastermind auditions in Bristol…

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