“I had Transient Global Amnesia,” I said to Augustus Sly.

This was in answer to his question: “What are you doing in this dump again?”

The dump to which he referred was Shallow Assets, the former country seat of my relation Sir Featherington a la Blague and his daughter Alicia and currently a care facility for the mentally frail. I have been sent back here.

“It’s not so bad,” I said, vaguely.

“Give me details of your Transient Global Amnesia,” he said. “First and foremost, tell me, was there the sound referred to by the great Paul Jennings:

“The moment they actually see the great framework, they hear in their heads the sound that is always associated in films with attacks of amnesia – a kind of bloy-oy-oy-oynggg in a rising scale…” [Oddly Bodlikins: Paul Jennings: published Max Reinhardt: 1953: p 31]…

“Was there the kind of bloy-oy-oy-oynggg in a rising scale?”

“Don’t be persistent,” I said, “and I will try and tell you all, as it happened.

“One minute I was in Hammersmith,” I said, “and it was lunchtime. The next I was in University College Hospital and it was time for supper. This turned out to be fish and chips. Fish tasty: chips on the limp side. As I learned later, someone had turned me in to the police in the Tottenham Court Road, and the police had delivered me to University College Hospital.”

“The Tottenham Court Road!”

“I must I suppose have been acting strangely. It may not of course have been the Tottenham Court Road itself; it may have been some shop or other place on or indeed off the Tottenham Court Road. It is distressing to think that I may have been wandering vaguely in the traffic like Yvette Mimieux in Where the Boys Are [MGM 1960]. The policeman had gone long before I recovered my wits and of whoever delivered me to him there is no record.

“I had tubes in my arm, and they were asking me searching questions, like, ‘Who is the Prime Minister?’.”

“But was there a kind of bloy-oy-oy-oynggg in a rising scale?”

Augustus Sly was taking notes. There might be a chapter in this, in his thesis.

“No,” I said. “There was no bloy-oy-oy-oynggg, rising or falling. There was no moment of coming to. There was no seeing the great framework. It was as if I had known everything all along, except of course that I hadn’t, because I’d forgotten it. Finding myself in the hospital did not feel exceptional.

“It’s the same, I read once in some magazine of popular science, with Black Holes. When you pass the event horizon on your way into a Black Hole you don’t notice what is happening to you; it doesn’t feel like encountering a Black Hole; you think that everything is exactly as it always has been, but it isn’t – you’ll never get out.”

“Except,” said Augustus Sly, “into another universe, if the theories of some physicists of the Heisenbergian persuasion are to be relied on. And in that case the same would apply as regards the event horizon, going out – leaving the Black Hole – just as you say but even more so.”


“Yvette Mimieux. Black Holes. Would you say that you are trying to prove to yourself that there is no long-term damage to your memory?”

“Pft,” I said. “Paul Jennings, yourself.

“So they did some tests,” I said, “with the tubes in my arm and some scans. They said that I hadn’t had a stroke, that I probably wasn’t epileptic and that it was all perfectly normal. They asked me if I was stressed in the Tottenham Court Road. Then they tried to check my identification of the Prime Minister, using Google, but unfortunately their connection was down. Finally they released me into the Community at four o’ clock in the morning, accompanied by my excellent son. The better half has become agitated ever since whenever I go anywhere near the Tottenham Court Road, and finally decided that I’d be safer in here.”

“No wonder,” said Augustus Sly, “that you haven’t written much on your blog recently.”

“What blog?”

He looked at me sharply.

“Only joking.”

“Changing the subject,” said Augustus Sly, “what happened about that DJ who touched you inappropriately the last time you were in here?”

“Curiously,” I said, “as regards my transient global amnesia , everyone is much more concerned about me than I am. Either they encountered me when I was asking who I was, which must have been upsetting for them, or they weren’t actually there but imagine the bloy-oy-oy-oynggg, having seen the appropriate Hitchcock films. I on the other hand can’t remember a thing about it.”

“But is it Hitchcock that Paul Jennings is thinking of?” said Augustus Sly. “Oddly Bodlikins was published in 1953. Didn’t Hitchcock’s great films come later?”

“Not Spellbound,” I said. “That’s 1945: surprisingly. Whether Spellbound features the bloy-oy-oy-oynggg I can’t remember.”

I paused for a moment thinking of the different rates at which our world’s cultural assets decay: Hitchcock films in rude health; Paul Jennings’ books readily available second hand; older nameless films in which the bloy-oy-oy-oynggg first appeared – once so commonly as to become a by-word for a certain mental condition – now lost for ever except to men (usually men) in the British Film Institute wearing white gloves to avoid damaging brittle celluloid; Where the Boys Are now hopelessly dated but a lovely sentimental memory to those of us of a certain age, principally it must be said because of Connie Francis’ title song…

Augustus Sly reminded me:

“The DJ with the wandering fingers…”

“I remember it all quite well,” I said. “The DJ didn’t have wandering fingers; it was mine that he wanted to wander, if ‘wander’ is quite the right word: he wanted me to move straight to the point, as I remember it. Actually, that’s a worrying story. It should concern all of us who aspire to reach out to the mentally frail.”

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