Sunday, 21 November 2010


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I don't normally blog on a Sunday, but I have angst, and typing helps me quell it. When I am angst-ridden, I need the clack of the keys under my fingers and the mild concentration of summoning a train of thought. Otherwise I just say: 'For God's sake', out loud, over and over again, as I relive the crushing moment. (Then the baby looks at me, very very sternly indeed, and says: 'TANIA, do not say For God's sake', and I have to apologise, once more, with feeling.

It's a memory thing. I have these terrible lapses. I waltz into the house of an old friend, someone I was at school with, and say: 'What a glorious house, just look at your beautiful house', which is of course true, and has the added advantage of making me feel that I am being complimentary and charming, and she stares at me and says: 'But you have been here before'. NO MEMORY OF IT. And it's a memorable house. The window frames are painted the colour of forget-me-nots at dusk. There is a sofa as yellow as a jar of sherbet lemons. A carved silver gilt looking glass takes up the whole of one wall. It is not the kind of house you just forget because it's two a penny. It's a one of a kind, stick in the mind sort of place.

I managed to come back from that one but then I made an even stupider and more unforgiveable act of forgetting and that is why I found myself in the kitchen at six thirty making tomato salad for the children's tea and saying For God's sake out loud, while the Two-Year-Old chuntered in disapproval. Even my cousin's perfect carbonara could only take my mind off it for so long. So: the typing.

It's not as if I can blame it on age and be done with it. I used to do this when I was box fresh, in my twenties, with a brain trained like a greyhound from my history degree (three essays every fortnight, with at least eleven primary sources at the top of a three page reading list). Once, I was having a happy party picture taken at a rather swanky cocktail by another of my cousins.

'Stand closer to George,' she said. I can hear the voice in my head now, as if it were yesterday. I can also hear just what I said next.

'I'm not sure if George would like that,' I said, thinking I was making a bit of a jolly joke. 'After all I've never met him IN MY LIFE BEFORE.'

Small pause.

George shifted his feet.

'Actually,' he said, 'we sat next to each other at dinner last week.'

Not just happened to be in the same room, or were briefly introduced, or ran into each other on the top floor of the Number Fourteen bus. Oh no. Sat next to each other.

I blame my father. He has famously never remembered a thing in his life. He struggles with his children's names (he often muddles up my sister and me); he still calls my stepmother by my mother's name, even though they have been married for almost forty years. He used to take me round Newbury Racecourse when I was young and introduce me to forty-three people called 'John Bllllaallbalbla'. I think he figured that perhaps one in five of them might be called John Something at least, so he had a faint chance of being right a small percentage of the time.

I suppose I shall have to buy one of those stupid brain training machines that Terry Wogan and Nicole Kidman keep advertising. Because if I keep going around with my angst, I shall keep saying FOR GOD'S SAKE out loud to myself, and if the Two-Year-Old hears I shall be put in the corner for ever. Which I probably do deserve.


Pictures of the day are some of the things of beauty my eyes have fallen on in the last two weeks, to take my mind off the Terrible Gaffe and idiotic memory lapse.

London flower stall:

21st Nov 3

21st Nov 4

21st Nov 5

Trees at Westonbirt:

21st Nov 6

21st Nov 7

21st Nov 8

Red onions at Cirencester:

21st Nov 8-1

Mackerel at Tetbury:

21st Nov 12

The Lake District:

21st Nov 10

The inordinately nice blanket I bought in the Lake District, even though I had no excuse whatsoever, because I never, ever can resist an inordinately nice blanket:

21st Nov 11

And (my heart skips a beat) the darling old ladyships, waiting, patiently, patiently, for me to return:

21st Nov 1

21st Nov 2 

(Actually, since dogs have no sense of time, and anyway they are being spoilt rotten by the dear mother and heavenly stepfather, they are not waiting at all, but basking in their new billet.)


  1. Surely she should have just graciously accepted your nice words about her house? I wouldn't have pulled you up on it. Then again, I'm surrounded by people who have terrible memories for names/places/words so tend not to take offence when they forget my name etc.

  2. I always forget faces though I am very good at roads! And do you think the dogs would have forgotton you. when I return the dogs come clamouring but after a few minutes they just go about their normal business so I always thought they don't miss me!

  3. To restore the health in you...

  4. You know what? I don't think it's your fault in any moral sense, so you can immediately cease beating yourself up. Isn't this what Oliver James, if I've got his name right and god knows I may not, has recently written about? It's a Syndrome. It's a blip in your DNA. It's a Known Problem. Lots of people have it. You could probably join a help group.

  5. I really love your blog. I mean it- every single post marks a positive moment in my day. And I particularly share your appreciation for Rachel Maddow.

  6. Alex - lovely to know I am not the only one with the useless memory.

    Mystica - oddly, I too am good at roads. Perhaps that is a thing.

    Jo - brilliant, fascinating article, thank you.

    Lilyanne - so relieved it is a KNOWN problem. If it is DNA I shall definitely blame my dear old dad.

    Jonathan - what a very kind thing to say. Am I right in thinking you are a new visitor? If so, welcome. Anyone who loves Rachel Maddow is extra welcome here. :)

  7. Oh Tania, you must get back to those gorgeous gals soon. Those faces!
    And I have laughed out loud reading this. I so understand that squirmy feeling you get when your memory lets you down. No recovery really...

    (Glad you are able to find some beautiful green things down south too.)

  8. Tania, I'm more on the ball today (recovering from an op, hence previous woolliness) and have looked up this condition. It's talked about in Oliver Sacks' new book, 'The Mind's Eye', and this is a para from a review which briefly outlines it:-

    The Mind's Eye would have been a disappointment had it looked no further for clinical material. But there's a redeeming fifth case: Oliver Sacks. And when the author steps into the clinical spotlight the book comes to life. His well-documented absent-mindedness, "what is variously called my 'shyness', my 'reclusiveness', my 'social ineptitude', my 'eccentricity', even my 'Asperger's syndrome'", can, he thinks, be put down to lifelong face blindness. A rare consequence of brain injury, it is now understood to be quite common in the general population, varying in severity from habitual misrecognition of acquaintances to not recognising one's own children. Sacks's problem seems to fit at the more severe end of the spectrum, among those who are discombobulated even by their own reflection. On one occasion, he finds himself grooming his beard in a restaurant window only to realise that "what I had taken to be my reflection... was in fact a grey-bearded man on the other side of the window, who must have been wondering why I was preening myself in front of him".

    There you go! It's got a name: face blindness. That will probably help - naming problems always helps me and I hope it does you, too.


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