The dog ate my brain

…would be a perfect excuse for a certain amount of mental malfunction recently. The only minor inconvenience is that I don’t possess a dog.

The children long ago came to realise that when I’m slightly distracted bad things happen. Very distracted: worse. Although generally I can manage to keep 5 things on my mind while doing three others, when the 6th cuts in, the available space inside my brain is inadequate. Inevitably an idea falls out and gets temporarily mislaid. On an everyday basis this usually manifests itself in the cooking becoming quite deeply brown. This was lowlighted on my daughter’s 21st birthday. I had produced a plethora of completely normal looking puddings. Bar one. My godson Alex peered at the small area of excessive browness in a sea of golden crumble topping and muttered, “I bet I can guess who made that one.”

Apart from the culinary lapses, I thought I was getting away with these tiny mental lacunae until recently when my 13-year-old son asked me to buy some batteries of a slightly strange size. Not only did he text me to say that it was LR 44s he wanted, but he sent two photographs to my phone. One was an aerial view of the battery and the second a profile. Not slow to recognise such heavy prompting, I arrived home triumphantly brandishing the LR 44s.  He looked at them sadly. “I got it right,” I pointed out. “Yes. But I asked for three.” So buoyed up by my efficiency in buying batteries which looked exactly the same as the aerial and profile views, I had neglected the tiny numbers fact, the fatal flaw, which means that his little machine still doesn’t work.

I can hardly hide behind the term senior moment as this has been happening for years. I used to play Real Tennis on a regular basis with brilliant, organised Felicity. In this game you have to note where the ball bounces for the second time if you fail to get to it. This is called a chase. So if it lands on the 4 yards line it would be announced as ‘chase 4’. Or if it bounced on the line between 4 and 5 it would be ‘chase 4 and 5.’ Simple enough, you’d be forgiven for believing. Players only need to remember the chase for a handful of minutes until after changing ends they immediately replay the point. This is critical to the game; therefore being of importance should help it to remain stored in our brains. Wrong again. If the chase had ever made it as far as being stored, it resisted all attempts at retrieval.

We tried various methods of provoking recall, including writing on a small chalkboard at the midpoint of the court, but this became tedious. We then wore T-shirts with blackboard paint on them but it’s difficult to store a piece of chalk while playing. In celebration of our failings Felicity had two T-shirts printed. Hers read ‘Chase 4 and 5.’ Mine read ‘I thought it was 5 and 6.’ Eventually we settled on having a default chase so that after a few minutes of amnesia, we played chase 4. Since the score was generally arrived at by tenuous recall, inventing a chase made little difference to the flow of the game nor the outcome. Or maybe it did, but neither of us can remember.

Sometimes disaster is averted by a combination of good fortune and forward planning. The children are currently playing in a weekend squash tournament which is only three streets away. Yesterday, tourni day 1, we arrived at the court 40 min before Sophie’s match, to discover that they were playing miles across town. The result was a zoom to the correct courts, screeching in with seconds to spare. It’s lucky that my mini has got used to these situations and doesn’t even sigh as she’s wrenched around corners and scrambled along country roads. This latest life lapse could realistically be blamed on the court location being written on the team sheet in the tiniest of fonts, perhaps only a 12 or 14.

So at the moment I have to stick to my fallback excuse of tiredness or overwork. All of this brain sag would immediately be resolved if the children took a step backwards into the Victorian era and worked as house serfs, with substantially more plugging in and significantly less bugging out. Repeated discussions on the subject appear to have had little effect. So I have just ordered my copy of Brainwashing for Beginners and I expect to be starting the program soon, soon, soon, very soon. Feeling sleepy yet?

While you fall under my hypnotic spell I’m going to go and watch the kids play in the tournament finals. Luckily it won’t take long to get there as it’s only three streets away.

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About alisongardiner1

Writer of YA series of books. Broadcaster/podcaster Litopia After Dark.
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2 Responses to The dog ate my brain

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