It’s not until you do something like actually start writing your ruddy memoirs that you realise that there are a lot of absolutely unbelievable things in your life that you have never really thought about, or that you have taken for granted, because you have believed them for so long. The thing is, that there is a reason that some of those things are unbelievable. And the reason is because they probably never happened.
Memory is a funny thing. They say that when you get old, your memory starts to play tricks on you. But I’m not so sure that your memory isn’t playing tricks on you all your life. It’s just that when you get old, the tricks become a lot bigger.
My Uncle Lionel died at the in 1987. In his final years, his memory had him believing all kinds of nonsense. Half the time he thought that it was still the 1920s and he was a young man working as a motor mechanic for Rolls Royce. He used to get into a panic every morning when he noticed the time and believed that he was late for work. You could get him to snap out of it by pointing out that he was in his late eighties, and he didn’t have to go to work because he was retired. He would smile and relax and go back to snoozing in his armchair. But woe betide you if you reminded him that he had never been a motor mechanic anywhere, and that he had never even learned to drive a car, and that for most of his working life he was an odd job man at a sewage processing plant. He wasn’t having any of that, and he might get so cross about you putting such ideas into his head that he would give you a clip around the ear. Or worse. He once got my sister Pearl’s husband George into a headlock. He was surprisingly strong for a man of his age, and he didn’t let go until George’s body went limp.
Any road. I’m not talking about stuff like that, I’m talking about remembering the details; Names, Dates, Ages, Maybe even who said what to who and when they said it. Think back to a conversation you had ten years ago. How clearly can you remember it? Where were you? Who else was there? Who said what? What were they wearing? Are you sure that you really experienced it the way you remember? Are you sure that you really experienced it at all?
Ruddy Nora. Some conversations I had with my Raymond, he couldn’t even remember the details of them even ten minutes later, let alone ten years. He would swear blind that I sent him to the shop to buy a large roll of greaseproof paper, when I had sent him for a jar of piccalilli. What on Earth would I have wanted a roll of greaseproof paper that big for anyway? Apart from to hit him on the ruddy head with for bringing the wrong thing!
Then again. Did I ask him for greaseproof paper after all? One of us must have had a trick played on us by our memory. Or maybe both of us did. We can’t both have been right unless there was a rift in the fabric of the multiverse and two parallel universes (call them the piccalilli universe and the greaseproof paper universe, if you will) somehow got mixed up. I suppose that’s possible in an infinite multiverse. I wonder what the other Doris did with my piccalilli.
You might think that it might all become clear on the other side, that your memory would return to full strength and it would all come flooding back in. In Technicolor or something. But it doesn’t. In many ways you are no wiser than you were before you passed over.
I’m not sure what happened to Uncle Lionel. Perhaps he got swapped with some other Uncle Lionel from a parallel universe, who did actually work for Rolls Royce and was pleased to recover his real memories after suffering a sewage works delusion for his final few years. I really don’t know. It’s making my ruddy head spin just thinking about it.
Any road, if you want to know, I have edited my memoirs up to about 1911, which is more than my ruddy useless nephew did in the four weeks previous. Not bad going seeing as I wasn’t born until 1914.
I still haven’t heard from the Oxford University Press though. The ignorant So and Sos