Memories are made of this

If my failing memory serves me correctly, most of the following is true. It is not mis-remembered.

Peter Warland

If my failing memory serves me correctly, most of the following is true. It is not mis-remembered.

It was a tad cruel of the press to publish cartoons of the well-known NBC anchor, Brian Williams, who has been mis-remembering his past. Lots of older people have false memory problems; it goes with the territory.

However, being old myself, I don’t think that I ever have false memories. In fact, if someone corrects me on some trivial point when I am recounting some incident in my past, I become offended, agitated even. As for bad memories, I have to admit, I’ve forgotten them.

The business of life, wrote someone, is the acquisition of memories and I agree. However, I don’t see the point of storing up bad ones. Forget them as I must have done.

My ancient friend Pete and I both seem to have only fond memories of the war years in Britain. Nothing horrible happened to either of our families. At first, we were both too young to be enlisted and to fight but, when the time came to don uniforms, we had fun. I recall fondly the couple of years in The Royal Air Force in which I did nothing useful. Most of the time was spent in playing badminton, chasing girls and getting away from camp as often as was possible. It was all very jolly; if anything bad happened, I don’t recall it.

The cave in Cheddar must have been frightening at times. After we’d crawled in mud for hours in Stygian dark with only spluttering lamps to see with, we ended up in a dead-end cave. We sat on what appeared to be skeletal remains and waited the last of the party. Stout Harry, however, got himself thoroughly stuck, unable to move, and we were trapped. I have absolutely no memories of what our thoughts and worries must have been but I do recall my wife asking in aloud, clear voice, “Isn’t it about time for a diet, Harry?”

Harry eventually extricated himself and so did the rest of us.

One night that I remember vaguely was spent with two friends, John and Robbie, in a frail tent on a wild night in the mountains. We had very little sleep as we were battling the elements and trying hard not to lose our shelter. In a couple of lulls we read part of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and my fondest recollection of that episode was the sound of John Muir reading the part of the Lady Ophelia. “You are as good as a chorus, my lord,” he read in a squeaky, broad Scottish accent, “You are keen, my lord. You are keen.”

It was probably on the same trip when John was keen to murder me with a huge rock. He had been under the impression that it had been I who had loaded his already heavy pack with that boulder and had caused him much pain and suffering on the long march down the mountain but, as I fled and dodged, I was endeavouring to explain that he and I had been together all day and that we had left our packs while we went exploring and that, maybe Rob….?

Strangely, I also recall playing the villain in a Christmas pantomime out at Fort Steele many years ago. At one time, as I was making threatening gestures towards Daisy the Cow, a small voice in the audience piped up, “You leave her alone; that’s my Mum!”

Only last summer there were three of us and two large dogs lying on a sunny ridge of the Rockies with ravens circling over-head. My memory fails to drum up what it felt like as I had dragged my ancient body up those slopes that seem to get steeper and rougher each year but what stays clear and sharp is my thinking ‘Where on earth did the poet Poe get the idea that ravens croaked ‘Nevermore’. It’s more like a death rattle’ and the recumbent Jane remarking, “I expect they’re wondering if we are dead enough yet.” We moved on with alacrity.