Sunday, January 12, 2020


I haven't visited this page for a very long time. I have been busy with other kinds of writing. I was doing an online course which took up a lot of time. I also went back to a novel I started a few years ago when I belonged to Paul Mason's writing group. This novel was to be a response to  a prompt Paul had given us. He read us a piece in three parts each in first person but each in a different voice. While part of the group, I wrote the first part of my story, which was set in the seventies, in the time of the first wave of student protests. The second part was to be set in the eighties and the third in the nineties. Coming back to it, I am struggling with the second part and actually considering making it the third and final part. It is taking shape,but very slowly.

Working on a story set in the last century  has made me revisit my own past, the kind of life we lived then, the conditions in which we lived and the emotions and attitudes belonging to that time which can now be considered historical.  Now in my eighties, and turning a critical eye on my younger self, I am surprised to find that I have to revise my opinions on a number of matters.

Firstly, my self-image. Already in the previous piece I about living with mental illness, I am in the process of changing my opinion of how I coped with that particular problem. I have always been filled with regret that I had not been able to help my daughter more. I felt guilty too. I accused myself of being impatient, of often losing my temper of not making more of an effort to understand her, Looking back, I am actually surprised at how well I coped. Instead of seeing my inadequacy, I am appalled at the inadequacy of the Health Services.  All a patient gets is a monthly injection and a packet of pills and the rest is up to the long-suffering family. So, now I no longer  think of myself as weak but as actually rather strong, battling bravely on my own with almost no help in an almost impossible situation.

Another idea about myself that I have had to revise is my estimate of my mental capacity, I have always taken for granted that I was born with a high IQ. I had such a highly intellectual family so  I thought I should be as gifted as the rest of them. Lately IQ tests appear regularly on Facebook. I have taken one or two and found them rather challenging. This makes me wonder if my brainfar from being  exceptionally bright, is actually very average after all.  Not that I take Facebook  tests like this seriously,( I find them so boring that I seldom finish the) but I have felt in the past that I was inclined to under-perform and have sometimes been disappointed in myself. Perhaps there was no need for disappointment. Perhaps I am just not able to do any better. One might think that this would be a blow to my self-esteem, but in fact it is quite a relief. I can lower my expectations. I don't have to go on trying so hard any more.

A third consideration is my poor memory. Living in an old age complex, forgetfulness is something of  general concern. We are all afraid of the bogie Dementia and are constantly aware of lapses in our ability to recall names and faces. Now I make allowance for such lapses. Knowing that I may forget to go to them, I now write the dates of every appointment in my diary. I am amazed to discover that in old age I am more reliable at turning up to events than I have ever been. This makes me wonder if I always had a memory problem. None of my  school-mates used to get into trouble for bringing the wrong books or doing the wrong homework the way I constantly did. I was always writing out lines or staying in after school because of something I had forgotten to do. My memory for book-learning was normal, even above average. I can still recite most of the poems in my school poetry books and even today, I can tell you the capital cities and chief exports of dozens of countries, but it was the things I was supposed to do that I forgot. A poor memory for faces is a recognised disabling condition known as prosopagnosia,.Could I suffer from something similar. No doubt this condition has a  genetic cause. My father was famously absent-minded too.