A few years ago I was invited to London to preach in the chapel at Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, located kitty-corner across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament. At the time, being a fairly fresh Anglican, I was not aware this was an honor many Anglican clergy would dearly love to have come their way. Honestly, I can remember almost nothing of the day, not even what I preached on. I took a cheap flight to Heathrow, ran into town for the event, and was back home in Amsterdam by evening.
It was only when the service register was brought for me to sign and the other clergy started pouring over it to see which Anglican luminaries had been there recently that it occurred to me, “oh, this is apparently a big deal”. That’s what stayed with me about the day.
Memory is an odd thing. This morning, having woken early, I found myself calling to mind the only traffic accident I’ve ever had. Last year on Good Friday, while driving a friend’s car, I made a left turn onto a provincial highway without noticing an older blue Volvo station wagon speeding at me from the right. Both cars ended up with considerable front-end damage, but fortunately no-one was hurt, including two small children tucked snugly into their car seats in the back of the Volvo. Oddly, this 3 second event occupies vastly more volume in my available hard disk space than the day at Lambeth. I can recall every detail of my sensory perception, thought, and emotion, as if the event took hours to accomplish and I had a High Definition camera crew there to record it for me.
I don’t have a very good memory for people’s names, dates – unless it happened during a soccer World Cup – or academic type stuff. I have to take notes to help me. More than once I’ve read a book or seen a movie on TV and only near the end come to realize I’ve already read or seen it before. (I know!) However, when it comes to numbers or locations. and how to get to them, I have good memory. I rarely get lost or disorientated. Renata on the other hand almost always remembers all the lyrics of any song she has sung or heard. I manage till about the fifth word, and then start making it up.
Two years ago I started keeping a journal in a fairly serious manner. Is that ever a good aid to memory! Already, even though it hasn’t been very long, I love getting out my journals and reading what I was doing two years ago, or a year ago. I also have my desk diaries going back about 15 years but, even though they help place dates, they are much lest poignant about the events themselves. They were, on the other hand, an invaluable source of information when I was applying for a Canadian residence permit. Those silly Canadians wanted to know every single instance, in the last 10 years, of when I had left my present country of residence. Presumably the people who came up with this requirement were thinking most of us live in countries the size of Brazil, Russia, the US, and the like. People who live in the Netherlands find they have left the country almost every time they turn around. My list of travels for the Canadian Immigration office was three pages long!
The only other time I was at Lambeth Palace, while standing in the garden at a reception, I was mistaken for and addressed as Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer and now Prime Minister. That’s a memory I won’t forget.
(Please see the note I’ve tacked onto the end of the last entry. What I wrote became the subject of a dinner-time dispute (not heated) about how well I remember things.)