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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 3 (June 1, 1938.)

A Memory Medley

page 44

A Memory Medley

Remembering and Forgetting.

It's great to have a good memory; it must be satisfying to say, right off the jump, “Certainly, darling, of course I remembered to buy the fish”-and get away with it. It must be great to remember where you put your other sock and where you left the hammer after you repaired the hen house last Saturday week.

There is nothing like the gift of memory-unless it's the gift of forget-fulness. Sometimes I think a perfect memory is a perfect pest. It keeps you constantly on the up-and-coming trying to catch up with the things you remember to remember. On the other hand, when you forget, and then completely forget you've forgotten, you save yourself wads of worry.

Of course there are pettifogging purists who strive to remind you that you've forgotten to remember; but a proficient forgetter has no difficulty in remembering to forget. There will be repercussings and “mournings after” but, with a no-parking notice on your brain, and a one-way track from ear to ear, memory need hold no horror. Your life will be as varied as an ostrich's breakfast; you will flit from job to job with the celerity of a fly in a jam factory. You will spend more time on the mat than a professional clutch merchant and be on the rocks as constantly as a barnacle; but you will enjoy the perfect peace of the mangel-wurzel without the danger of being bitten by a cow.

Wizards of Recollection.

Nevertheless, one must admire those recollective wizards who can remember, word for word, such important things as what Caesar tipped off to Brutus, without resorting to the American version, “Sez U, Brute.”

One must envy the man who can go up to a six-by-four policeman and say, “Hullo, Fish-face! I remember you in the fifth form at St. Swelter's. I remember how you swiped the can of ice-cream at the Sunday ‘School picnic in 1903.” It must be nice, too, to approach Throttler Grapple, the wrestling cyclone and resurrect the careless days of boyhood with such words as, “Squirt Grapple, I believe? Do you remember how I used to twist your arm at school and rub onion in your eye? What a miserable wart you were!”

But, no-perhaps it wouldn't be so nice. Memory has its dangers as well as its joys.

Cultural Cracks.

One cannot but envy and admire people who can nonchalantly quote such cultural cracks as the population of Pernambuco, the weight of Carnera with, and without, socks, the number of legs owned by a centipede, the inventor of Wellington boots, the girth of the earth measured in postage stamps, and “Lincoln on Liberty” in the original American. One wonders why such people do not become professors instead of bores. But the strange thing about professors is that they forget entirely without effort. Whether they are subsidised by the funny papers to do so is a mute point. But it requires genius to forget so thoroughly that you can eat your hat in a restaurant and go out wearing a pie. Forgetfulness which enables you to chain up the baby and put the dog to bed borders on the sublime. It is the final victory of mind over what doesn't matter.

Pecuniary Lapses.

But memory has its blind spots. I knew a man who remembered historical facts so sickeningly that he could ring off the dates upon which every king was crowned, whether with a symbol of sovereignty or a brick, from the first king of Scotland to the last king of Ireland (who got it in both ways)., He was an authority on crowns but his memory didn't cover half-crowns-notably the one he bor-
“The perfect peace of the mangal-wurzel without the danger of being bitten by a cow.“

“The perfect peace of the mangal-wurzel without the danger of being bitten by a cow.“

page 45 rowed from me, for a couple of days, on Armistice night. There were no half measures about his memory. But money has a peculiar effect on memory. A man with a memory so colossal that he can even remember his wife's mother's birthday, whilst deploring it, will often suffer complete mental dumbness regarding repayments. Yesterday be sang your praises in a fruity borrowtone. To-day he refuses to utter a note. Some say that money talks; he proves that it doesn't even whisper.

Addled Aids.

There are many excellent aids to memory. One of the oldest is to tie a piece of string round your thumb. When you look at your thumb, you are instantly reminded that there is something you should have remembered. Failing in this you try to recollect where you put your note-book in which you wrote why you tied the string on your thumb. Then you rack your brain to remember which suit you were wearing when you made the note in your book about the string on your thumb. Then you sit biting your finger nails until you remember that it's Friday, which is an unlucky day for nail-biting. Thought of bad luck reminds you that your aunt Tightwad is coming to stay for a fortnight. That reminds you that you have to meet her at the train at four-thirty-unless Providence intercedes. And that reminds you why you tied the string round your thumb; which proves how efficient this aid to memory is.

There are other methods just as reliable. You can remind yourself by wearing only one sock. When your foot becomes so numbed that you can't feel it you're sure to see if it's still in your boot. If that doesn't do the trick, you'd better have your foot amputated at the ankle. Other methods are to wear your coat inside out or your trousers upside down. In extreme cases you can go to business in V's; by the time your relatives have bailed you out you will have had plenty of time to remember.

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

“Chain up the baby and put the dog to bed.“

“Chain up the baby and put the dog to bed.“

Involuntary mental suggestion is a valuable aid to memory. The sight of a haupuka in a fishmonger's show-case may remind you that your cousin Blott is getting married on Thursday. The five o'clock siren may prompt you to remember the baby's medicine. A pneumatic road drill may remind you of an appointment at the dentist's, and an advertisement of The Prisoner of Zenda that it is your wedding anniversary on the thirteenth.

Science has supplied many memory aids. I received a letter the other day from a man who offered an absolutely reliable and unavoidable contrivance with which you couldn't forget even the things you hated to remember. He offered it at absolutely no cost or obligation, except that you buy a memory course in seven volumes at twelve pounds ten, by instalments. But I figured that if I could remember to pay the instalments I wouldn't need the course, and if I couldn't remember to pay the instalments the course wouldn't be any good. So I wrote offering to sell him a course on how to forget. He probably knows, for he hasn't replied.

There used to be a little book entitled “Where is It?” in which you noted where things were. But it failed because it was only in one volume. There should have been another entitled, “Where is the ‘Where is It'?”

The Tyranny of Memory.

It's difficult to understand why so much attention is paid to memory. You never forget to collect your salary; you never forget to buy your cigarettes. You never forget the things you want to remember. It looks as though this memory stuff is just a gag to make you efficient and thoroughly unhappy. There is an old song entitled “Tis folly to remember, ‘tis wiser to forget.”

No wonder the old songs never die.

page 46