Let’s face it, some of us just don’t have a good memory for faces - Susan Morrison

I’ll never forget what's his name – though I do remember Being John MalkevichI’ll never forget what's his name – though I do remember Being John Malkevich
I’ll never forget what's his name – though I do remember Being John Malkevich
​Dwam. Great Scottish word. That meditative state when you just coast in neutral, brain disengaged. That was me, drifting along the city, not entirely aware of my surroundings, or the people around me.

​Reverie suddenly shattered by an extremely elderly but remarkably nimble chap popping up before me shouting ‘Hullo! How marvellous to see you!”

Brain crash-lands back to Earth to confirm that I have no idea who this is.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This happens to me all the time. Terrible memory for faces, especially when people are out of context.

Once it was a woman who swam at the same session as me. She just appeared in a full-length ballgown. Well, not at the pool, obviously. They’re very easy going at Leith Victoria but even they’d draw the line at lane-swimming in floor-sweeping taffeta.

It was at a charity thing. My brain scrambled for ages to identify this person I usually saw in a one-piece cossie and swimming goggles.

Also, I think I have prosopagnosia, or ‘face-blindness’. Well, Brad Pitt thinks he has it, so it must be a thing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

My brain just forgets people’s faces. Also, I took a test online. If that’s not scientific I don’t know what is.

Like a lot of people with this, I have coping strategies. I am very good at making ‘uh-uh’ noises during conversations while my brain ransacks my memory banks.

I ask mild and wide questions, seeking clues in names and jobs and children and the like.

It’s what I was doing when the old gentleman boomed out. “You are looking very well!” There was a lady behind him, perhaps his wife. She was looking at me very carefully.

“And so are you! Both!” I cried, awash with bonhomie.

He was very chuffed. She relaxed a little.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Now, the astute among you will have noticed that I have passed the point of no return in polite conversation. I cannot deny them now, and like all well-brought up Scots, I would probably rather snog Nigel Farage than embarrass someone by saying ‘you’re wrong. I don't know who you are.’

“Are you keeping well?” I asked, solicitously.

“Yes, yes, we are,” he answered “And you, Annette?”

Whoops. The bottom fell out of the world at that moment. His wife tensed

Well, I thought, in for a penny

“Yes,’ I said, breezily, ‘Just grand’

"And you’ve left Hemel Hempstead,then?”

Minor hitch, no problem, I can busk this, “Yes, thought it was time for a change.”

“And Brian, is he still at the bank?

“No, no, he’s got a new job,” I said, fighting the mischievous desire to announce he’d become an astronaut.

“And the children? “

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Tricky. Hadn’t factored that in. Numbers, genders, ages, too much detail there, so a simple “They’re grand”

“Well, we mustn’t keep you, Annette, but it's lovely to see you, and you are looking very very well.”

“Thank you,” I said, “and so are you.”

He barrelled off at remarkable speed, but she stopped, leaned towards me and said ‘His memory’s a bit wonky. He does this now and then. Thanks for that.”

“Oh, no worries” I replied, feeling slightly let off the hook. “Is there an Annette?

“Yes”, she said. “Such a shame. She died ten years ago.” She gave me a sideways look and smiled and said, “So, you are looking well.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.