Tuesday 12 August 2008

Remember, remember

Ever had a memory triggered because of a certain smell? It’s very common apparently.
Let’s start with a nice bit of science for you… hmmm, actually scrap that – I was never very good at science and all I can find on Google is a lot of complicated stuff that I don’t get. The long and short of it is that when you smell something, your brain often links it to the situation you were in when you smelt it – for example chlorine may make you think of school swimming lessons, curry – university, cheese – your first boyfriend’s feet… etc etc.

Now, while smells do trigger some memories for me, it’s actually sounds that trigger the most – more importantly, music. Weird huh!

Take the other day for example. There I was, driving back from London Aunt’s house when Hazard by Richard Marx came on the radio – something of a regular occurrence if you listen to Heart I think.

Anyway, it catapulted me back, as if by magic, to the early 90s when it first came out, and all these images flashed before my eyes of me and Jenny M, my favourite red jeans from Tammy Girl (they were the height of fashion… kind of) and the last Christmas disco before I changed schools.

It was amazing, it could have been yesterday, and for the remainder of the journey, I reminisced with a big grin on my face.

Then, at work, there’s a song that always comes on the radio – the name of which I don’t know – but it was on a Rosemary Connelly workout video that I bought when I was a teenager. Now, whenever I hear it, I can visualise me dancing around my Rents’ old living room in cycling shorts and a granddad top (the 90s were not great for fashion – Fab Friend did a good line in Lumberjack shirts and leggings apparently). Anyway I can still remember the arm movements and found myself absentmindedly doing them at my desk the other day.


It’s not just about what sounds trigger memories either, it’s my memory of sounds! I can remember the sounds of things that I can’t hear anymore such as an old music box I had as a child, cats meowing and phones ringing. If someone tells me that a sound is occurring, I will often hear it in my head once I know what it is. But seeing as I last heard a phone ring in the 80s and it was an old bell one, I hear the brring, brring of a circular-dial telephone for even the most modern-looking phones.

I guess in many ways, my memory isn’t deaf even though I now am – how cool is that? It’s like I can sidestep into it and hear things again. When I play my flute, my teacher often plays the tune an octave lower so I can hear it, commit it to memory and then transpose it up an octave in my head – my memory does that! It remembers the pitch, the order and the rise and fall of the notes.

Phew, thank goodness I remembered to collect something good before I was born… I may have been busy collecting my ‘taste for expensive handbags’ instead of my hearing and sight senses but I clearly remembered to get memory, too.


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