Advancing years and oncoming forgetfulness rush headlong toward each other. Like a mediaeval knight I depend on the lists* to keep them far enough apart in the hope of merely receiving a glancing blow rather than suffering a head on collision. Staying with the metaphor, the armour of willful forgetfulness served me well throughout much of my working life: ” Oh, I can’t tell you how sorry I am, I just completely forgot to ..fill in the applicable” The supposition would be that this “applicable” had, of its own accord, willfully hidden itself in some dark recess of the labyrinthine maze of alcohol fogged grey matter, that was my contemporary mind, without my knowledge or consent thus rendering me blameless for any consequential impact my apparent forgetfulness might have caused. In that “best of times”, when forgetting, smoking and swearing were socially acceptable and PC meant Pretty Cool, my omission would undoubtedly have been temporarily annoying but that very annoyance, at whatever I had feigned to forget, would have quickly faded into the mists of lunch and was as soon forgotten by the annoyed as it had been by me. It is therefore surprising to me that in this leisured time of my life, when I have less need to remember things than at any previous time, the more conscious I am of forgetting them. Forgetting a meeting with the bank, forgetting an important client’s name or just forgetting that I should be in the studio rather than in the pub were serious “forgets” that I forgot and are but an unseasoned and minuscule hors d’oeuvre from the catalogue of my willful forgetfulness, none of which concerned me at the time and most certainly did not inspire me to write a list to prevent their recurrence. But now, when both profession and professionalism are in the past, I do.
I write a lot of them, too many; some of them are absurdly detailed yet remain the subject of continual editorial crises when critical additions and deductions are quickly made, the reasons for which are as quickly forgotten. Very often I forget that I have made the list at all and find that I need another list to remind me to refer to the list that I’ve forgotten. The result is a litter of bookmarks, computer reminders and notes clipped into crocodile faced fridge stickers: yet I am able to avoid, miss or blindly walk past any of these aide memoires. They have become like a walking stick to a man who does not have a limp yet, being accustomed to its presence in his hand, without it becomes unsteady. What I do remember clearly is a time when I wasn’t concerned with either forgetting or remembering. That time in my life when I knew exactly what I wanted at any given moment…I wanted to get laid, to have a drink, to be rich, to be somewhere else, to be someone else: I knew exactly what I wanted. There was spontaneity and carelessness. And now it’s lists; lists to remind me of what I want or at least what I wanted when I wrote the list but which want shifts as slowly and surely as the sands of the Kalahari or, less dramatically, as a smiling man with an unnecessary walking stick….
The ‘lists’ were barriers which defined the battlefield in a tournament.