The problem with sitting kicking one’s heels, waiting for a new term to start, is that there is no structure, no order. Days run into each other, things get forgotten.
My memory is not what it was. My capacity for forgetting names has become worse. Only by constantly greeting students by name in the corridors and classrooms do I retain their names in my memory.
Sometimes, my brain seems like a computer drive that has become fragmented. Chunks of data are lost and appear where they shouldn’t be.
The experience is not a new one. It started with Joe Corrigan and has continued since.
Attending football international matches at London’s Wembley Stadium in the spring of 1978, they were moments that left a deep impression in the mind of a seventeen year old.
There was no doubt in my mind that Joe Corrigan had been the England goalkeeper in England’s 4-1 defeat of Hungary in May 1978 and that Peter Shilton had been in goal for the 1-1 draw against Brazil a month previously. Had it been a question of standing in court and affirming that Corrigan had been there at Wembley on that May evening, wearing the No 1 shirt, I would have declared that I was present and would have had unwavering confidence that it was Joe Corrigan I had watched.
Except, Corrigan had kept goal against Brazil; a month later, it was Shilton against Hungary.
In my fragmented memory, the result of the 1994 FA Cup final is listened to on the car radio as we drove through Blackrock in Co Dublin. Except, it wasn’t.
We lived in rural Co Down at the time, south of Downpatrick; a long way from Dublin. It would be five years before we would have been driving through Blackrock. In 1994, we would hardly have known the whereabouts of places in south Co. Dublin and, had we been driving through Blackrock, would probably have been unaware where we were.
Footballing memories differ from most others in that they are easily verified, or disproved. Even before the days of the Internet, there were dozens of books of footballing facts and statistics. There were annual publications that were filled with nothing other than the sort of details that would enable you to correct a mistaken recollection.
At least the footballing facts were verifiable, not so the question of whether or not I attended a youth club in October 1974
October 1974 was only one time from which the memory could have arisen, 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.
A lunch with a cousin from Gloucestershire more than forty years later had 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 had 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.
Yet not three months later, 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. Unless one exists in the world of theoretical physics, one cannot be at a place and not at a place at the same moment.
I realize that these are among the plainly remembered facts that are plainly wrong. I am troubled at what other facts might not be factual.