Our Fickle Memories:

I think of memory as such a fickle thing – always playing tricks on me – but maybe I do that to myself? Perhaps we all do? 

We choose what to remember. Bad memories we push down, right to the bottom of the barrel. Pleasant ones, interesting experiences, even cautionary tales, we hold on to them, put them in to long term memory and mark them ‘Do Not Destroy’.

At the moment I’m writing Wheatbelt Stories, which has brought home to me just how much memory depends on what we choose to retain. What interests us, intrigues us, seems important to us at the time. An example of this happened just yesterday. My husband, Peter, is not and never has been interested in the weather. And although we have lived here for forty years, he has no memory of the September squalls, even from just twelve months ago. Every year they come in from the ocean, driven by a strong westerly wind, dump 15 to 20 mills. of rain on Scarborough and are gone in about ten minutes. Then the sun comes out and you think it’s a beautiful day. But just when you’ve hung out the washing, another squall comes along and sends the rain pelting down again. Peter looks at me in despair and says, ‘What’s going on? Sunny one minute, bucketing down the next?’

‘Don’t you remember? This happens every year.’

‘Does it?’ he says, looking genuinely puzzled.

Peter’s brother, however, loves fishing. He has a small boat and he knows the weather patterns along this part of the coast intimately. Even if he’s not planning to go fishing in the next few days, he still looks at the sky, reads the clouds and knows which direction the wind is coming from. Like a wheatbelt farmer, he is vitally interested in the weather. He probably even has a special compartment in his long term memory labelled September Squalls. Peter, on the other hand can tell you every last detail of The Complete Works of Shakespeare. He is an actor and writer.

‘It’s only July 23,’ he complains bitterly, pulling on another jumper. But  hey, what difference does a couple of days make in a whole year? Maybe King Neptune woke up a bit early and decided to send our September squalls on the 23rd of July. Some of us remember them. They come every year.