Recently I spent a contented day walking a stretch of the North Downs Way in Kent. This 156 mile walk runs from Farnham to Dover and I’ve been doing it in stages for the past couple of years, sometimes with friends or family, but often on my own. This time I’d had a break of nearly a year and it was a treat to resume it and to walk through cornfields, along wooded ridges and down deserted dusty lanes, all alone. It was a rare bit of peace and a chance to appreciate the capriciousness of English weather. The sun seared my face and then shortly afterwards a smattering of drizzle chilled me.
I’ve got two long distance walks on my list of sixty treats. This one and the South West Coastal Footpath. On these kind of walks you can keep putting one foot in front of the other and for a while you’re relieved of having to think about life’s usual worries. You know roughly what’s going to happen next, but there’s always the pleasure of wondering what precisely is round that bend that you can see in the distance.
On this occasion as I walked through deepest Kent, I pondered what to write for my next blog post and settled on the unexpected benefits of treats. Some of those I’ve done so far have required me to try new activities or to tackle unfamiliar subjects and there’s plenty of research which suggests that mental activity can help to stave off forgetfulness.
This is becoming increasingly relevant. When I was young I could easily remember names, addresses, dates and all manner of other bits and pieces. I couldn’t imagine what it was like not to be able to retrieve them but this is one of those things that it’s hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it. Like gout, labour pains and carpal tunnel syndrome. Now I know about forgetfulness only too well. It’s getting on for a year since I moved house and I still can’t remember the names of any of the roads around me. And yet in my head I can easily walk around the streets where I lived thirty years ago.
One of my other current treats is to watch all of Hitchcock’s films and this is certainly giving me some mental stimulation. He’s often cited as the most influential director of all time and was noteworthy for the way he played with his audience and for the detailed control he exerted over all aspects of his films. There are over fifty to enjoy and so far I’ve watched six. The most recent of these, Stage Fright was interesting because it starts with one of the main characters telling a story in flashback. It’s only at the end that the audience discovers he was lying. This kind of manipulation would be thought clever now, but in 1950 viewers felt cheated and Hitchcock considered it to be one of the major errors in his long career.
In the warm Kentish sunshine my mind wandered to these films that I’ve seen recently and to other Hitchcocks that I’ve seen in the past and will revisit as part of this treat. As I reflected and walked down a track, I noticed a tractor going up and down in the distance. Up and down. Up and down. There was a light breeze and everything felt very still. Very quiet and rather sinister. A small plane circled in the sky above. Round and round. Dipping and diving. Apparently aimless. Or was it? Was I imagining it or were there more birds around than usual?
This was no good. An enjoyable walk-treat was being sabotaged by an equally pleasurable film-treat so I distracted myself by trying to remember what I wanted to write about in this next blog. But there was just an empty gap in my head.
Fortunately I eventually remembered that this current blog was meant to be about forgetfulness. And I also remembered this entertaining video which sums up age-activated attention deficit disorder. It makes me laugh and I hope you enjoy it too. It’s well worth spending three minutes on, but I suggest you watch it straightaway or you might forget.