Mind games

The last but one posting was entitled ‘Forgetfulness’, and it attracted a lovely comment from my very true friend Shay (who is forgiveable forgetfulness personified). But it was really a point about the mind’s incredible ability to delete lots of recent pretty useless data yet recall deep memory material as we get older. I guess it’s nature’s response to the brain cells dying off and having to prioritise. The human mind is just beyond awesome don’t you think?

Anyway I mentioned there were a two or three topics I had in mind for a posting but I had forgotten them. One I’d recalled – about fancying a pasta – and yesterday I recalled another. It was about trains. Our eldest daughter R lives near us in an apartment in Twickenham which happens to overlook the rail lines. It might sound horrendous but it’s a lovely place. Now I was there the other morning for some reason and, whilst my daughter was busying herself, I heard this noise that was redolent from my youth; a train sound but not something contemporary. It was a throw-back noise. I couldn’t quite place it but for a fleeting second or two I was an 8 year old again sat on the side of the local rail line collecting train numbers. Then the strangely memorable sound became real as a bloody great big green-coloured and beautiful steam train flashed past. It was that chuh chub sound which had gotten to me and re-ignited boyhood memories. I watched fascinated as the Pullman coaches headed past us en route to the coast no doubt. Brilliant. A sound memory had lingered in my mind and hadn’t been stirred in over 50 years, yet its uniqueness had lain there dormant until this evocative steam train had stirred my boyhood memories. And for a moment I was sat there with Rick, Graham, Barry and David, my boyhood friends and fellow train number spotters. Doesn’t stuff like this move you a bit?

Then yesterday I was walking with my grandson in his pram and for no reason I started thinking about the the brilliant TV series 7 Up directed and produced by Michael Apted. It’s about a group of kids he first started following and documenting at the age of 7 when I was 12-13  and it had a profound effect on me. I’ve followed every series avidly as Apted’s documented their development every 7 years since. Now I swear to you that I hadn’t conscientiously noticed any pre-publicity. But yesterday I just started thinking to myself about the series for no reason and supposing that it was probably near the time for the next in the series – would it be the 8th or 9th? – to be covered. Well frig me, my wife C and daughter R went out for dinner tonight on Twickenham Green, dropped R back at her place, returned home, switched tv on and what’s on? No not Pete Waterman’s steam train restoration programme but ’56 Up’ the latest in the ‘7 Up series’. Now I’m absolutely sure I neither saw nor heard any stimulus info on the show beforehand. I’m fastidious about data inputs; I just remember stuff I take on board. I promise you.

And yet there it was on TV tonight. A huge frigging delightful surprise. How the frig does my brain do that when I forgot to get the one thing I went out for when I went to the shops earlier, but bought four other things instead? My body clock was working on a 7-years-to-the-day cycle and had sent me a little alarm call the day before? I don’t know. I think the mind is just incredible – not mine (clearly) but man’s. Mine is like a TfL lost and found office. It’s full of mundane and incredible stuff but the cataloging system is fu**ed and the old fellah who finds the goods had a couple of glasses over lunch and can’t focus on the ‘finder’ button.

But I tell you what I’m constantly amazed by the games the mind plays with me.


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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

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