Christine Grahame: Our memory can play tricks on us

Our memory can play tricks on us writes Christine Graham
Our memory can play tricks on us writes Christine Graham
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It all started a few weeks ago when the hall had been redecorated and I had to apply myself to hanging pictures and bits and bobs back onto the walls. There were only four items to remember: the picture, the picture hooks, the hammer and the pencil.

I wore the pinny with the front pocket, all the better to retain the picture hooks and pencil, then placed the various pictures in an orderly fashion propped along the skirting. I was really pleased with myself having found a pencil – the house is awash with pens – and set about holding the picture in the desired location, marking with a pencil the exact spot for the hook. Off we went.

Christine Grahame MSP

Christine Grahame MSP

After several successful hangings, I was getting into my stride, a proper rhythm, and was pretty pleased with myself as I am hopeless at anything requiring just a modicum of practical skills.

Of course that self-congratulatory moment was always going to be temporary. First I lost the pencil, found it, then lost it again. Next it was the hammer. I searched high and low and finally used the wooden rolling pin from the kitchen to complete the task. The hammer will turn up, sometime, especially when I am not looking for it.

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This follows a common trait of misplacing or forgetting why you are somewhere in the first place. There can’t be a soul who hasn’t gone up the stairs only to wonder what they came up for, or if there is I will shake them by the hand. It’s only when you are downstairs again that from somewhere deep in our memory we realise what our original mission was for.

Supermarkets are another memory trap. You enter for bread and milk. You buy cauliflower because it’s down in price and you suddenly have a craving for cauliflower cheese with a crispy bacon topping. You see that in BOGOF you might as well have a double helping of blueberries and, while you are in, buy some reduced ice cream to ram into an overstuffed freezer. Only, and only, when you are in the long queue do you see the milk and bread in someone else’s trolley and you remember what you came in for. A quick “do you mind watching my trolley” and a dash around the aisles and all is put to rights. In the meantime the till receipt and the checkout lady helpfully tell you have “saved” 30p, never mind you have spent £35 when all you needed was milk and bread.

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There are of course the long descriptions to colleagues of someone whose name is on the tip of your tongue. You claim it begins with a “T” to discover, when collective minds are applied to the problem, that the name begins with a “D”.

Of course, and thankfully in some instances, Google comes to our rescue and our wandering memory can rest in peace, till the next time. Now, not being a spring or even summer chicken, some would add autumn too, it will inevitably be asserted that as part of the ageing process, garruphing (is that a word?) – when you raise or lower yourself into a chair – is par for the course as is forgetting things. I deny that. Now where did I put that biscuit tin? Ah found the hammer!

Christine Grahame is the SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale