Saturday, April 22, 2006

Where do they go?

OK, so there you are. On the way, lets say, to the kitchen. There's your brain, eyes & various nerve endings shipping a myriad of information to your brain. Laying down memories in layer upon layer of feeling, nuance and emotion. Ready for immediate recall at a later date... or perhaps not.There's this alcohol thing. How do you tell, after the consumption of a good deal of the solvent, what on earth will constitute a viable memory the next day? Or perhaps become at least a component of the "Do you know what you were doing last night?" function of the human memory recall system.
We're sat here drinking absinthe. At least, I am sitting here drinking absinthe. Claire is a beautiful, gently snoozing heap with woolly, white socks akimbo. In the pose of a 1950's film actresses whose idea of what you should do to convey the idea of "fear"is left arm raised to the top of the head, palm open and facing outward. Left arm bent to bring the left hand below the chin, palm outward and fingers, like the right hand, in open spread like they are guarding against some unspoken horror. She is not fearful of course. She is merely involved in the occupation of "drunken semi conciousiosity" we often aspire to whilst in front of the telly on a weekend evening.Now, Claire has obviously bailed out of the discussion. We're thinking about the memories laid down in the inebriated state. And by her very unconsciousness she is not one to quiz (at least on this occasion) about the subject in hand. I'll start a whole new paragraph, as I often seem to do at the end of an overlong sentence, to start to pin down the problem here.
Lets take the here and now as an example. I'm in no state to do otherwise really. The here and now seems pretty damned fine to me and if you have a problem with that then I will take you outside and we can sort this out like men..., meet you outside and... ahem.. sorry.. that's another subject. Lets move on. Let me buy you another beer, I seem to have spilt that one. No! Your mother is a lovely lady! Not that I know her, I never met her. Here! Here's your pint... No! Honestly.. never met her mate.. ahem..
Right, deep breaths all round. I'll get back to the thread by asking you a question. Have you ever, whilst totally mashed, looked about and thought "I wonder if I will remember this in the morning?" I just went to the kitchen, found a lump of mouldy cheese in the fridge and trimmed off the mould (manchego for the curious) and consumed a chunk. Will I actually remember doing so in the morning? I've been through the experience, felt the resistance of the cheese to the knife, tasted what I carved off the block, felt what it was like to "be" in the kitchen and at the moment can recall all those actions, feeling and memories. But I'm going to sleep in a bit. It's already a little past midnight. What would throw these memories into the pit of blackness that haunts us after a night such as this?
It has been postulated that to recall a memory, you need to be "in the same state" as when the memory was laid down. If you learnt something whilst stoned then you'd need a spiff to recall it. This could explain those huge and embarrassing gaps we all have had in the morning after a splendid night out. We'd need to go through 12 pints of crap lager and a kebab to attain a state of "remembrance". If true, then I'm stuffed! The chances of me buying another bottle of Absinthe (and not getting told off for it!) is pretty slim in the near future. So the only record of these words will be online! But this memory quirk could open up a whole new possibility. I'll need to talk about scent first...Have you ever gone back to an old school? Or perhaps wandered in to your parents house and been confronted with a smell from the past? There is no other way of releasing such a flood of memories! There is something about smell that links directly with memory. Disinfectant mixed with overcooked cabbage? Junior school! Rotting seaweed and factor 8 suntan lotion? Summer holidays! A simple smell can cause a cascade of memories. This leads on further...Lets join these two things up. The point that to achieve perfect recall you need to be in the same state as when you learned it. And the fact that smell can cause a cascade of memories seemingly unbidden. Suppose you scented your study literature. Lets say patchouli for science, ylang ylang for biology and after shave for media studies. Each study book laced with the assigned perfume. You could use this idea of the olfactory system being linked to memory. At exam time you could merely scent your sleeve with the appropriate smell. You'd be in the same state (straight with a scant in the air) and would be open to the slick memory recall induced by smell. (I think I should patent the "Scent, memory cascade, learning technique!.")
All this has a bearing on my current dilemma though. I'm as mashed as a .... erm ( similes never my good point) very mashed thing! I should remember what I did every time I've been as mashed as this. But many of those nights escape me. This is strange seeing as I am in much the same state as when the memories were laid down. But it may well fade away. As will this, tonight. I'm here typing and in the morning Claire will say, "Do you know what you wrote last night?" and I will say "No! What?" And suffer that awful sensation as the previous evenings debauch comes slowly top mind. I'll stick to the "Don't remember that!" gambit. It's kept me safe till now :o)

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