Dyslexia and Me: Remembering Norwich

Something that has stuck with me for years now is the guilt of not remembering Norwich. I feel so bad about it that I haven’t been able to ask questions to this massive black hole in my memory. But even when we visited Norwich in July 2007 there was nothing that struck me as familiar which I would have expected if I had been there before. 

Short-term Vs Long-term

My short-term memory has never been easy for me. It’s one of the key things highlighted in my report written by the educational psychologist who assessed me for dyslexia. It was my main weakness out of all the areas she assessed. However, my long-term memory is actually pretty good. I can remember a lot of things that friends and family have long forgotten such as the seating arrangements in primary school.

Examples of my short-term memory is forgetting where I’ve put things such as keys, wallet, bag. I forget instructions, why I went into a room, phone numbers, names (and sometimes faces too). It can be extremely frustrating when I meet a new person and I can’t for the life of me remember what they said their name was and can be very embarrassing too.

Examples of my long-term memory is remembering waiting in for my mum getting home when I was 2-3 years old while playing on the floor with my wooden chicken and a thunderstorm outside. I can remember the shelf with the tin of Lyle Golden Syrup from my nursery when I was 3 and the climbing frame outside. I can remember the pieces of pasta that were shaped like a flower with a hole in the middle that we used in art in primary 1, the shape of the classroom, the way the tables were set out, where my friends used to sit. I remember the boys from the big school that tried to get us to leave the playground to go and ‘see puppies’ with them and reporting them to our headteacher.

I remember going on holidays to Peebles with my parents before they split up when I was 7, especially when we went around Christmas time and I was sharing bunk beds with my sister who was sleeping on the bottom bunk. I remember sneaking through because I couldn’t sleep and Up Pompeii was on TV (though I didn’t actually watch it, I just remember seeing Frankie Howerd dressed up). I remember the Tweed being so high that the little white bridge we used to cross was closed off for safety reasons. I can remember going to the swimming pool there, feeding the ducks and getting our bread to feed them from Presto’s (which doesn’t exist as a supermarket chain anymore), and I remember in later years revisiting to feed the ducks, playing cricket, fishing for tiddler fish and the bacon rolls from a cafe (which I’m sure was called Shelly’s and was blue too on the outside, but I can’t find it on Google).

I remember our holiday in Blackpool too before my folks split up with my cousin there too and I remember the table that had a ladybird version of Pac-Man on it. It was before the big fire they had in the 1990s where a lot of the rides were damaged.

Walkie Talkies

I remember when I was about 9 or 10 going on holiday to Skye with my mum and sister and my mum’s friend and her son, who was the same age as me. We bought black and red walkie talkies on our way to Inverness where we stayed for a few days. I remember that we were playing with them through the house when some of the local kids in the cul-de-sac came out to play with their walkie talkies. They picked up the same frequency, so the son and I both decided it would be hilarious if we pretended we were aliens that had tapped into their walkie talkies. We watched the kids screaming and running inside thinking they were about to be beamed up into space. If those kids are reading this now, I am so sorry (but it was very funny to watch)!

I can remember going on holiday to Wales for the first time to visit my grandpa’s side of the family. I remember getting the train and playing the travel games my gran bought. I remember her not believing I suffered from travel sickness. I can remember the little train station we went to and waited for someone to come and pick us up and take us to the holiday shallies on Barry Island (which are no longer there). I remember the funfair there and the amazing ice cream we got in a cafe. I remember getting so excited meeting family I didn’t know, eating far too much and being very ill during the night.

But I don’t remember going to Norwich to visit my aunt and uncle.

Norwich and the Guilt of Forgetting

In 2007 my aunt passed away a few days before my birthday. It was a traumatic time for me. Two days after my aunt died one of my friends had an accident at work and passed away from his injuries the following day. To lose one person is hard, to lose two so close together was heartbreaking.

We drove to Norwich to support my uncle and to attend my aunt’s funeral. It was a lovely service and it was wonderful seeing just how many people came along with such kind words about her. She was a well-loved lady.

Pitlochry

We didn’t grow up living near my aunt and uncle. They lived in a little town in Scotland called Pitlochry which we visited with school to see the salmon ladder they have there. It’s a pretty wee place and had a really nice sweet shop the last time I was there. I think we only visited their house once. I certainly only have one memory of visiting their house.

They used to visit us at all the important holidays in the year. I have many fond memories of my aunt and uncle. I remember singing The Grand Old Duke of York while marching around my gran’s old house to my aunt and uncle. I remember singing Christmas songs with a twist about the Three kings playing drums, guitar and stuffing their faces with a Twix and a Yorkie Bar to my aunt, who laughed heartily at the silliness.

But I don’t remember visiting my aunt and uncle’s house in Norwich.

Apparently I did, according to my family. When we went to see my uncle before the funeral, I had absolutely no recollection of being in the house. I remember being snapped at by family members when I asked if I had been there before. There is a complete black hole in my memory. It’s made me feel very guilty for years, especially the way I was snapped at.

I remember speaking to my mum about it after trying to piece together the jigsaw of where this lost memory could be. My mum said she couldn’t remember if I had gone or not. I know it was around the time where I became an awkward teen and for some reason I think it was a trip that I didn’t go on, but my family insisted I was there.

I haven’t dared to bring the topic up again. I felt so bad about it, it almost felt like I was ungrateful in not remembering being there… But there are a few things that make me feel uncomfortable with just accepting that I was there and I’ve just forgotten.

Normally, if I’ve been somewhere, I have some sort of recollection in pictures in my mind of where we were. Every other holiday we’ve been on, I can remember in the pictures in my mind of streets or buildings. If I go back to that place again, I often reinforce the images that were already there. But when we were in Norwich there was nothing there that looked familiar. I don’t remember the house, the layout of the house, the streets. Nothing. I remember them all now though from visiting my uncle in 2007.

I’m hoping that at some point we will look through family photos and find that I wasn’t there at all on that first visit. The thought that I have a black hole in my long-term memory really scares me (which is a reason I am not too keen on drinking alcohol). I really don’t like the idea of forgetting precious time spent with my aunt and uncle that I will never get back! My aunt was a wonderful woman and I’m sure I wouldn’t forget spending time with her and my uncle.

I find it very confusing and heartbreaking that I can’t solve this mystery of the lost memories of Norwich.

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Posted on June 2, 2015, in Personal Experience and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I can’t pretend to know how you feel but I do know the guilt associated with having such a bad short term – mid-term (?) memory that you don’t recall important events that matter emotionally. It’s a loss to you and the person who is wondering how you cannot care enough to remember. I think you have to trust that the people who know you will know you struggle with this and it’s not a reflection on your empathy skills hon. Our brains can only store AND THEN RELOCATE so much xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I’ve said to a few people, normally if I go back to somewhere I’ve been before there’s usually some sort of recognition but I never had that when I was there in 2007. I’m pretty convinced I wasn’t there :/

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  1. Pingback: Re: Remembering Norwich | Dyslexia and Me

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