It is odd to have memories entirely at variance with those of the people present at the same moment.
There was only one time from which the memory could arise, the autumn half-term of 1974. Ken Booth was at Number One in the pop charts with “Everything I own;” he would be succeeded by David Essex singing, “Gonna make you a star.” Were the days not susceptible to such clear recall, the clash of memories would not be so odd.
Lunch with a cousin from Gloucestershire before Christmas brought reminiscences of silly times. “Do you remember the time when my sisters and I took you to the youth club?” she laughed.
It was not a moment to disagree and to point out that they had invited me to go to the youth club, but they were altogether too cool and too intimidating for a rustic fourteen year old and that he had refused the invitation and then spent the evening wishing he had had the confidence to go. It was simply the case that she had misremembered the evening and there was no need to revisit my recall of the time.
This week one of the other sisters recalled the same moment. “Do you remember the night the twins and I took you to the youth club?” She laughed at the question.
Clearly there was a consensus between the three of them about the evening. It would have seemed discourteous to have challenged what was obviously something that was a cause of humour. “I have repressed that memory,” I said.
I don’t believe I have repressed the memory. It would be illogical to have a lucid and unhappy recall of the evening if psychological repression was taking place. But why, then, would my cousins have a shared memory of me being somewhere I believed I had never been?
The disparity of our respective accounts of the evening is not just a matter of nuance or interpretation, it is a question of mutually exclusive facts, one cannot be at a place and not at a place at the same moment. On our next meeting, there will be a chance to ask how our memories became different.
If four cousins can have such diverging accounts of a simple matter forty years ago, then the misremembering of complex events in controversial circumstances is not surprising. Quickness to criticize public figures who seem not always to be truthful needs to be tempered by awareness of the fallibility of memory.