One question which is often asked over the years is "where were you when X was born or Y died?" I recall walking through Dallas when someone asked that questioned with regard to when JFK was shot. It makes your mind race as you try to remember events to pin point your location, if possible.

My wife tells me that I can remember numbers – useful as a mathematics teacher – and this helps me to use days and /or times which give me a chance to put events in order. Then I can try to define where I was or what I was doing at that point in history.

How do you know where you were when asked such a question?

Sherlock Holmes, portrayed wonderfully on the BBC a year or so ago, used his Mind Palace. He could link events, words, scenes to recapture past reality.

I have been visiting someone recently whose memory is somewhat broken. Broken in that they struggle to put the memories together to build that sequence needed to form their view of history. What is amazing is that the recollection of those individual memories are so clear, crystal clear. They can hear conversations, see sights and even sense the feelings that they believe they experienced then. But link them together to see the bigger picture is failing, slowly at first but the pace is sadly increasing.

I can hear the scene being set, the people being described and then find that they can't finish off the story as the next scene doesn't link.

The disappointment, nay the despair, is palpabley evident in their voice.

How can we help?

I have found that using pictures has helped, as they prompt and give impetus to link snippets of their own history together to form that vital chain of events. I also enjoy looking to celebrate the clarity of their memories. Who else can remember an event in the 1950s?! I love how they can recall a news event from a distant decade, giving such detail, more detail than possibly can be gleaned from the news reels – oh does that date me?

Notice I haven't used a label to describe them. They deserve more than a label. They deserve respect for the ability to remember snatches from distant times. They deserve the hope we can all give to help us all reconnect events from our past : whether that time is from the 1960s, a year, a fortnight or 5 minutes ago. They are still amazing!

Picture of Dallas from and of Sherlock Holmes from

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