Jayne Dawson: I am not alone, he can’t remember anything either

AN HONEST MAN: Actor Michael Gambon.
AN HONEST MAN: Actor Michael Gambon.
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Crikey, what a relief for the rest of us.

I mean, I know it’s a sadness for him, but just to be selfish to my rotten core for a minute, the news that actor Michael Gambon is giving up theatre work because he can’t remember his lines anymore is... oh so comforting. We are not alone.

Because we all worry, don’t we? This business of forgetting, it’s a constant little tug of anxiety at the edges of our brains. Is this normal, we think, or are we losing it?

Michael Gambon isn’t losing it. Not in the Alzheimer’s sense of the word. He has had himself tested twice and come up trumps on both occasions. But he just can’t remember lines anymore.

Frankly, I don’t know how he ever did. I don’t know how any actor does. I am full of admiration for that hidden grind in their glam jobs.

Although I was once told a story about a Corrie actress and how, long after she had left, other actors were finding her old lines taped inside the oven, on random shelves, stuck to the sides of chairs, anywhere she could glance and read them out of camera shot. That’s what is known as a coping strategy, I believe.

I have my own coping strategies for many aspects of life - what do you think my tea drinking habit is all about? That mug is the adult version of my childhood teddy bear.

But I’m losing my thread. Back to memory: let’s share. I have, obviously, forgotten just how much I have forgotten in this life, but I believe it to be mountain high, ocean deep.

I am just one of those people. There are those who, decades later, have perfect recall of holidays, of people, of their children’s milestones. I am not amongst them. It is a great regret to me that huge chunks of my children’s childhoods have slipped through my brain and out the other side.

It does not make me feel like a good parent that I haven’t a clue when they walked their absolute first step, or read their very first word. My defence is that it was all such a long time ago, and I was just so caught up in the business of making it all work. I’m hoping I’m not the only one, but maybe it is just me.

We think that all the time, over big things and small, don’t we? Is it just me? Maybe Michael Gambon coming clean will help us all.

Here’s another example: basically, the most effective exercise I get is looking for my glasses. Every task begins with searching for my specs. It drives me nuts. Nothing is ever easy because, first, I have to traipse upstairs and down, in and out of rooms, to locate the objects that will enable me to see clearly. I have done that thing of buying loads of cheap pairs and sprinkling them round every room. It matters not. I just end up with ten pairs on my bedside table. It is one of life’s mundane irritations, along with walking into a room and not knowing why I am there, or knowing there is something else I need from this supermarket but not being able to remember what, or knowing there was something I needed to hand over before that person left my home... (it was the blackberries from the freezer, Mother).

My husband is the same. He needs his specs to drive, so every journey begins with him leaving the house, and then coming back in again to find his glasses. Everyone knows this will happen every single time - except him. He just forgets.

So my coping strategy is to make lists. I am a list fan anyway, there is little more satisfying than crossing something off a list, it is an activity of perfect beauty - but I make lists every day to stop me forgetting.

It works to a limited extent, though there are some things you can’t factor in. This weekend, my mother momentarily forgot my sister’s name. I’m reluctant for us to start wearing name badges.

But the really important thing is...yes, you’re right, I’ve forgotten what the really important thing is. Good on Michael whatsisname for his honesty, though.

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