I Don’t Remember…

I don’t recall. I got no memory of anything at all.

This bloke (albeit with his band) kicked off my blog (https://fiftyyearsandcounting.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/hello-world/), way back in 2012, and he was there at the launch of my year-long music project in 2014, so I suppose it’s fitting to have him here again.

I think I prefer the version from the album, so let’s have that as well.

The point is, my memory is failing.  Not quite to the level in Mr Gabriel’s little ditty, but it is failing.  Probably not to a level which should cause me or my doctor any particular concern, but it is failing.  The repetition is deliberate.  Once or twice… not a chance, but if I write it a third time, the chances of me remembering something increase exponentially.

Unless it’s Chinese, more of which in a moment.

Anyway, I was sat on the train the other day when it struck me that it was 105 years since my gran was born.  I wrote about her at the outset of this blog, but I found myself thinking about how little I know about her life.  Indeed, that led me to reflect on what little I know about my family.  Ancestors, parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I hardly know anything, and even the things I do know are as nothing compared to what I have already forgotten about my own life.  Thus, as my 55th birthday approaches I’ve realised that I should do some more writing, if only to remind me what I was doing and thinking when/if I reach the next big one five years from now.

Actually, I rather hope that it will be something my children will find.  Yes, my children.  Plural.  In truth, I never imagined I’d ever have a son.  I certainly never imagined I’d have a daughter.  All things being equal, I am expecting to meet my baby daughter towards the end of September.  This delights and terrifies me in equal measure.

Did I mention that I am nearly 55?  George Clooney or Paul Weller I ain’t, but I’m going to be a daddy again at 55.  Frankly, I can’t really remember much of the last 6 years, simply doing my best to raise a boy in this crazy world, so I will try to retain a little more this time around.  Perhaps regular writing will help.  I never managed to sustain the urge to keep a diary, but periodic entries here seem like a good idea.  If I start to slip, please give me a nudge.

I forget.  I think I may have mentioned Chinese?

I’ve lived in Taiwan for more than 4 years.  I have managed to get by.  Sort of.  However, last year, I succumbed and enrolled on a beginners’ Chinese class.  Christmas Day, 2015, I was actually in class.  10am until midday, on Christmas Day.  Boy, was I motivated, eh?

Perhaps I’ll come back to that later, but for now let me conclude with the key theme.  Memory.  I really enjoy trying to learn Chinese.  Not so much the speaking of Chinese, if I’m honest, but I am determined to learn to read and write (and I do try to listen when I hear people talking, unless they’re speaking Taiwanese, in which case I’m screwed).  Herein lies the problem.  The only way to learn is to memorise the words.  That may sound a little obvious, but for a man of my age who struggles to remember what happened yesterday, this is a real issue.  Allow me to try to illustrate the reality of the problem.


TAA 193P

Austin Maxi 1750 HL


Ford Cortina Estate141 DBK

Some of my dad’s cars, the registration numbers of which I still remember, among others.  Yes, he really did buy a beige Austin Allegro Estate.  To be fair, my big sister did her level best to write it off, but we still had to be carted around in that thing.  TAA 193P.  How could I forget?

I remember my National Insurance number, even though I need it no more than once every 12 months, thanks to the support of HMRC.  Conversely, I cannot remember the number of my best mate’s house, even though he’s lived there for donkey’s years and I have visited countless times.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes.  Chinese.  This is my wife’s name (well, the abbreviated name we use) and the Pinyin spelling:  (Ming, meaning bright).  As you may notice, it is a combination of and .  The Pinyin for 日 is ri and for  is yue.  There is nothing to link the pronunciation, although the combination of the sun and the moon would be bright, so there is a little help there.  Meanwhile, the road on which we live includes the word for sea (Hai), which bears a remarkable similarity to the word for each/every  (Mei), differing only in the absence of three strokes on the left hand side.  However, there is absolutely no connection between the two in terms of sound or meaning.  There is no phonetic alphabet to help buffoons like me.  I note that this character  (yan?) appears at the beginning of many words (not to mention elsewhere in many characters), but do they all begin with the same sound?  Do they fu… nnily enough, no. Yes, I know English is a daft language (and I’d hate to have to learn it now), but I shed a tear as I tear up my recipes for mince pies and reminders to buy beef mince, when I live in a country that doesn’t have live cricket on the telly.  Trust me, however.  I am struggling to learn a new vocabulary.  Some words I have now written down well in excess of one hundred times.  Seriously.  Here are just a couple of pages of hundreds like this, and I still cannot recall either the sound or the meaning or the tone (did I mention tones?) of many of them.  Genuinely.  I cannot remember the bloody things.


I have realised that there is an opportunity here.  If I could simply devise a foolproof system to allow people to easily memorise all 600 billion Chinese characters, I’d be set for life.

Just for the record, I have had a few minor successes.  Here’s an example.  This word (chang, 2nd tone) means often.  In this character I see David Bowie’s face.  He had a song, Changes.  I’ve heard it very often.  Simple, innit?

This is going to take some time, methinks.


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