Yesterday they took me in for questioning:
"Have you ever met Lord X?"
"Are you sure?"
"Well, in my lifetime I've only ever met a few members of the House of Lords. I can tick them off on my fingers ..." And being the sort of person who likes to show off a bit, I did just that. Lord X's name didn't get a ticking.
Then they Googled in front of me.
It took seconds to find the photo which shows me standing beside Lord X. Just him and me. I recognised the steps behind us immediately, even before they told me to read the accompanying text. 31 October 1989. Seems I had organised a three day conference on Discipline in Schools. And invited Lord X to speak. I had no doubt set up the photo too.
I have absolutely no memory of this event or meeting Lord X. It is unnerving. I am afraid that now I will invent a false memory of having met Lord X, just to cover up my embarassment.
In the past, when I read newspaper reports of politicians claiming Not To Remember events, I was scornful. Of course, they remembered! Lying scoundrels! Now I am not so sure.Maybe they do forget. They lead much busier and more stressful lives than I do.
Trying to find an excuse for forgetting Lord X I hit upon the thought that my marriage had either just begun to disintegrate or was about to do so. That the conference may have been very dull would not (to my mind) be sufficient explanation. Nor is it likely that I committed some terrible faux pas with Lord X. I tend to remember my faux pas (well, I think I do ...).
The implication of this absence in my memory must be that there are other holes too. Maybe bigger and more important ones. Most of the time, nothing reminds us of those holes. Occasionally, someone writes and claims to know you, but even when they give a date and a context, it doesn't jog anything. Nowadays, as my example illustrates, Google can hold in memory what we have forgotten.
I was always good at remembering facts and figures and so I was good in Quizzes, except for characters in novels and films whose names I always forget. My own life has always been a bit more problematic and I've known that for years. I don't remember my Birthdays. And I can remember struggling even when much younger - say in my forties - over things like past girlfriends. Did I sleep with her? There was one in particular who caused me much anxiety. Clearly, we had seen each other on several or even many occasions. I could remember her name and her circumstances. But I couldn't remember having sex with her. But surely we did, I kept thinking. Was it so disastrous? But then I would have remembered that (just as I remember my faux pas). To this day, if asked, I would have to reply "I am Afraid I Don't Remember" even though I can imagine my scornful self scorning such a pitiful answer.