Sunday, 3 April 2011

Anecdote atrophy

Sal calls to thank me for supper. I tell her about my atrophied cam belt putting paid to my first bit of gainful employment.

‘Are you allowed to do that?’ she asks.

‘What, ferry old ladies to Candlebury and back? I’ve got a clean licence. Well, apart from three points for going through Nether Mistle at 37 miles an hour.’

‘Oh I’m sorry. Giles is always getting caught there. They hide behind the telephone box and jump out at you with their guns. No, but I mean, does that make you an unlicensed taxi or something? Is that legal?’

‘Oh God. I didn’t even think of that. I thought as long as they were wearing their seatbelts and couldn’t sue me for treading on an atrophied banana skin I’d be all right. Anyway, it’s irrelevant now since I don’t have a car.’

‘Well, assuming you get the car back, I’d check with your insurance. You don’t want it invalidated, the way people drive on these country roads. I’m always taking to the hedge.’

I tell her about the old ladies and their memories. ‘The amazing thing is, they seem to take it for granted that they can’t find the right word or remember what they were going to say. Lavinia was funny. Muriel said to her... oh God! It’s gone. My anecdote. Wrested from my grasp! A horrible example of life imitating life.

‘I have to write down funny things now,’ says Sal, ‘or they’re lost for ever.’

‘I didn’t write it down because it was so simple. It was something like, “the name has flown out of my head,” and the other one said, “Well, when it flies back in, let me know.” Or, “It’s in the back of my mind,” and, “well, when it comes to the front, let me know.” It was quite a common expression, but what struck me was the way neither of them missed a beat. But here am I doing exactly the same. I’ve completely lost the plot.’

‘Well, when you find it, let me know.’

‘That was it! That was it!’

‘There you see. I don’t worry about forgetting things, because it always comes back if it’s important.’

The trouble is it doesn’t always come back if it’s important. I don’t just forget trivia. I forget really important things like whether someone’s mother or father has died. I went to stay with a friend once, knowing her mother had died. On the second day, we drove past a pretty cottage and she said, ‘That’s my mother’s house,’ and I said, ‘Oh, who lives there now?’ and she said, ‘My mother.’

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