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You win some, you lose some

Henry Elkins rages against the dying of the light

As a senior citizen, I’m surrounded by reminders of the vagaries of growing old. I live with a range of aches and pains – both long-term and random – that arrive and then depart without ceremony.

When I meet with pals I haven’t seen for ages, they tend to look very different [translation: older] from how I remember them and then we take all turns to tell each other about our ailments.

Other people I know of get serious diseases and/or die.

The newspapers are full of new research findings and surveys telling us how many old people there are going to be in 2035; how they become decrepit; what signs to look out for as they travel gradually on the last miles of life’s short journey, lose their minds and are then subjected to systematic ill-treatment, abuse and beatings when they finally disappear into their retirement care homes.

My capacity to remember the past is famously limited, possibly partly by my own election.

I’ve written about this before. I used to write a diary on the theory that, if I recorded my doings on paper, I would then be able to go back and remind myself of them if at any time in the future I desired this. As it happens, I haven’t ever done so, but at least the opportunity is there.  Further, I figured, in the meantime I could wipe my brain’s hard-drive of those memories and thereby free that ‘mind space’ … the better to enjoy my present activities in ever-improving high-definition and quadraphonic technical quality.

Stop me if I’ve told you this one before, but if people around you – e.g. as in my case, your kids – keep wrongly accusing you (often and long enough) of losing your memory and going ga-ga, after a while, when you do forget something, you begin to suspect they may be correct.

Whether or not, in fact, they are.

handsOne thing in this life surely  leads to another. Once you accept the possibility that you may be suffering from provable forgetfulness, it is only natural for you to relax and put any subsequent instances of personal memory suspension or loss down to your advanced age and state of disrepair. Why shouldn’t you? Everyone else is.

Which, in my view, is another – on this occasion, as it happens, self-imposed – staging post along the path to personal extinction.

By now regular readers may be wondering why I have chosen to blog on this theme today and, indeed where I am going with it.

The fact is that, during the course of yesterday, I experienced both a ‘gain’ and a reverse, each of them small but important.

The ‘gain’ came on my current WW1 research project, tangentally connected to an Edwardian rugby player I know well. Last week a colleague working on it recommended a commercial picture agency to me, on which he had found a cache of potentially relevant photographs.

It was only yesterday that I found the opportunity to trawl through the picture agency’s index and peruse said snaps. In doing, I noted in particular two – of five officers sitting outside a dugout – dated ‘May 1915’. All these men were familiar to me and one of them (the commanding officer) was the individual who presumably had subsequently left his collection to the agency.

However, another man in these photographs was my rugby player. If the annotation ‘May 1915’ is correct, given the images were taken in daylight, they can only have been taken between 1st and 4th May. I mention this for a reason. My rugby player was killed at 20 minutes past midnight on the morning of 5th May, in pitch blackness.

It also means that – as far as I am aware, and certainly from my own researches – these images are the last taken of my man whilst he was still alive.

despairMy ‘reverse’ yesterday was an abject failing of memory.

About a fortnight ago, an organisation with which I am connected – as was, indeed, a long time ago, my rugby player – invited me to attend a ‘heritage’ meeting to discuss ways of celebrating its 150th anniversary in two years’ time.

I had been staying away at the coast this week and, on Wednesday evening, on a whim, opted to stay-over rather than return home that night. Yesterday morning I had some domestic chores to do at the coast … stayed for lunch and then tea … and travelled home last night.

When I awoke shortly after 2.00am this morning and rose to make myself a cup of coffee, I suddenly remembered that the above-mentioned ‘heritage’ meeting must have taken place yesterday at 4.00pm. Despite being written in my diary, and me noticing the entry there several times this week, I had completely forgotten about it!

At 4.30am this morning I wrote a grovelling apology to the meeting organiser.

I shall be spending the remainder of today looking up secure retirement homes on the internet, with the intention of booking myself into one on my next birthday.





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About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts