My Mind’s A Blank

The Arts


A friend praises my ‘phenomenal’ memory’ this week, but I have to disagree. Why?

The news that this year’s BAFTA TV awards went not to any cutting edge shows or new format channels but to ‘Panorama’, ‘Emmerdale’, Ant & Dec and Steve Coogan not only confirms what deeply conservative times we’re living through, but also creates another problem; namely, I realise (and this is not some strange version of humble-bragging) that I haven’t the faintest idea who Ant & Dec actually are.

A quick brain-wrack produced these crumbs; they are TV presenters, they have northern accents, their names are always coupled, they’re married (not to each other) and (I think) they live next door to one another. After that, zip, nada, zilch. So what is it that they do? They don’t seem to be comedians, have musical skills or any other discernible talents. Presumably they’re good at whatever it is they do, though, as they win lots of awards. Nobody else from the North seems to be allowed a look-in on television. It’s as if we can only have one celebrity northern duo at a time.

The same blankness descends on me when I try to conjure up anything at all about Pippa Middleton. I imagine she’s Kate’s sister, but after that – nothing. I should read the Daily Telegraph more often.

To balance this, can name every character in ‘Bleak House’ or recite forgotten old films line by line. When I’m researching say, London architecture, I can recall every last detail of every building I’ve read about. While I was working on the timelines for my upcoming pseudonymously-written thriller ‘Little Boy Found’ I knew exactly where each of my characters was at any given moment. What’s going on here?

I think my brain preserves what I need to know while I need it, then dumps it as soon as it’s surplus to requirement. It also recalls what I enjoy, storing it somewhere in the back of my brain to be called upon for future enjoyment. The pleasure-memory gets periodically recalled and refreshed, while the need-memory is available for a limited time. This would explain why Ant & Dec don’t make the cut – they fit into neither category. And why Gilbert & Sullivan do – they fit both. In short, ‘I know the kings of England and can quote the fights historical, from Marathon to Waterloo in order categorical’. But I don’t care who’s dating who and who’s presenting what on telly.

Selective memory – it’s the way forward. I think I’ve turned into Arthur Bryant.


14 comments on “My Mind’s A Blank”

  1. Steveb says:

    Like Sherlock Holmes and the Earth going round the sun…
    It’s another effect of becoming a highly networked society I think.
    Well, keep looking for the Stolbuns Road, Arthur, maybe one day you’ll find it in the fog. Paradise lost…

  2. Steveb says:

    By the way, which TV adaptation do people prefer? For me the Arthur Hopcraft with Diana Rigg is pretty unbeatable at every level, one of the best TV ever

  3. Steveb says:

    And another PS the book The Attention Merchants is well worth reading. It never occurred to me to wonder who created the comnercial break before.
    Ok enough from me hello from sunny Frankfurt

  4. Bill says:

    Why would anyone remember anything that one thinks devoid of interest? We worry when we can’t remember those things we treasure. I will say I know more about Kim Kardashian than I would like to know, all of which I can count off on four fingers of one hand.

  5. Vivienne says:

    Have to say I do know of Ant and Dec, although don’t actually watch their shows. They live near me so I have met/encountered one or the other – maybe both at different times – at a pub or two nearby. He or they do seem pretty unassuming and friendly which I believe is their forte on TV.

    You memory, Admin, does seem quite unusually good I hazard that you do not believe that notion that our strongly remembered childhood memories are inaccurate – I’m sure mine are genuine – and the habit of revisiting memories seems only to strengthen them.

  6. Martin Tolley says:

    Which is Ant and which Dec? I’ve often wondered. On second thoughts, no. Don’t tell me. I’ll only forget.

  7. Colin says:

    How about The Christopher Fowler awards! Always enjoy your film and book recommendations

  8. Carol says:

    My mother always said I have a mind like a steel sieve. Some of the stuff sticks there, some leaks out. (Like, where are the car keys.)

  9. Peter Dixon says:

    antandec n. the showbiz ability to put one and one together to make zero. ‘I had an idea for a gameshow but its all gone antandec’

  10. David Ronaldson says:

    Martin, I believe Ant is the one who has dark hair and looks faintly ant-like…

  11. Michelle Spencer says:

    Ant always stands on the left , Dec always stands on the right.

    I disagree about Emmerdale being a conservative choice. It hasn’t won a BAFTA for fifteen years and the last two Producers and writing team have worked hard for the last three years, transforming it from a TV show people talks about in vague terms because “isn’t it about farming?” to being written about in the broadsheets.

    The long running dementia storyline has just come to its conclusion and was written with accuracy, intelligence and authenticity.

    There is a huge follow for the characters of Aaron and Robert , gay and bisexual, dealing with their relationship, and a current storyline domestic rape is a powerful and important story, uncomfortable though it may be to watch.

    It’s easy to dismiss on-going serial drama but it pulls in an average of 6 million viewers a night, which is nearly always more than the “grown up” dramas do, indeed, they would pull teeth for such ratings.

  12. admin says:

    That’s me told. And a fair point to make but – and this is entirely personal – I like my fiction fictitious and my reality very real, and don’t understand why soap serials should work so hard to incorporate family issues. Maybe they do good for people who don’t get out and can’t communicate, but is it meant to be entertaining or instructive? Then again it’s not aimed at me. When I was growing up with confused sexuality, would such a show have helped? I honestly don’t believe it would have at all.

  13. Tim Beaton says:

    Hmm. I remember a comment from some years ago, (but i’m damned if i can remember who said it) which went…

    “Why… are Ant and Dec?”

    Said it all.

  14. Martin Tolley says:

    Michelle & David – Thanks. Now I know. Not sure it’ll improve my street-cred, but every little helps I guess.

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