Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

“Monarch” by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873)


Many old people are concerned that more and more they’re forgetting things. Of course in the past we had never heard of Alzheimer’s disease, and forgetfulness was just considered part of growing old. In actual fact most old folk remain mentally alert and we shouldn’t worry too much about the odd “senior moment.”

I’ve been remembering that earlier this year I wrote a piece on this subject for another of my blogs, and I’d like to give other people a chance of reading it. So here it is -
One of the great eccentrics of the last century was Sir Thomas Beecham (1861-1961.)

There are a host of amusing stories about this orchestral conductor and many of them concern his poor memory.

My favourite one tells of the occasion when he meets a very well-dressed lady at a function; he is convinced he knows her, but can’t remember her name; he vaguely recalls that she has a brother, and, hoping to elicit a clue, asks, “And how is your brother keeping? Is he in the same job?” To which she replies, “Oh yes, he’s fine, and he’s still King.” The lady was Princess Mary, sister of King George VI.

I must admit I have problems with names. In the course of my work with the local council and my musical activities, I met many people over the years. They still remember me and my name, but, though I feel that I know them well, their names escape me.

I’m reminded of the two old ladies who had known each other all their days and who used to meet every Wednesday morning for coffee and a chat.

On one occasion one of them turned to the other and said “Now I don’t want you to be offended for we’ve known each other for a long time. I’m really very sorry, but please excuse me asking this - what’s your name?”

Her friend looked at her in some astonishment, thought for a moment and replied, “How soon do you need to know?”

Of course, among the many accounts of forgetfulness, there are probably more about absent-minded professors than any other trade or profession.

Some of these stories seem a bit far-fetched, but research has shown that indeed many members of that learned group have poor memories. Some of the early examples tell about the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus (624BC-546BC.) Plato records that Thales was out walking one day and, looking up into the sky and not looking where he was going, fell down a well!

Two more “professor” stories.

Irwin Edman, a professor at Columbia University, was visiting a colleague one night, and the conversation must have been interesting for it continued well past midnight. Edman’s colleague eventually remarked that, since he had an early class next morning, he wanted to go to bed. Edman jumped to his feet and exclaimed, ”I’m so sorry, I thought you were in my house!”

I found many tales about Charles Lightbody of Saskatchewan University. I liked this one. Driving home one day, he saw a woman ahead of him crossing the road. The paper bag she was carrying burst open and the contents scattered on the ground. He stopped the car, got out and helped the woman gather up her groceries. Then, forgetting all about his car, went home by bus!

When I was a church organist, I used to worry that I would forget to turn up for a wedding. Thankfully that never happened, but I remember hearing about a wedding where everyone was present - except the minister! One of the ushers was despatched to the manse where he was found, digging his garden!!!


So the question is - what can we do to combat loss of memory?

A friend of ours goes now to a memory clinic. When she was asked what they did there, she couldn’t remember, but she did say that they were given pictures to colour in, and that there was a prize of a box of chocolates for the best one.

As usual, when I need an answer to a question, I consult Google. I typed in “memory loss cure” and the result was 3,140,00 answers.

I don’t think I’ll bother!

The final item this week is a collection of photographs showing Scotland at its best. The music is “The Wild Mountain Thyme” by Lark and Spur.

Thanks to for the cartoon images.


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