Saturday, 26 January 2013


When I woke on 23 January 2013, I remembered what I feel is the historic day of two days before, when the images pinned to my mental calendar to help me remember every day that passes suddenly became more real. In my mind's eye I could enter into them to experience that event again - and from it other events of the same day - and not simply view it as a snapshot.

My thought on waking was that something special had happened here in this apartment where I had been holed up working on my own for just over a week. The thought came unbidden: "I have found myself again".

It was a moment of clarity, of recognition and snapping back into place.

I think we are to some extent the sum of our experiences and so remembering those experiences should perhaps bring understanding.

At the same time, I feel there is something at the core of who I am that is very much me. Travelling back through experiences as a wind back the years of my mental calendar (even if the years prior to beginning this process are very patchy), I still see myself.

There is something real there, that does not change, just discovers new things.

Friday, 25 January 2013


I forgot a set of keys to our apartment today when I inadvertantly left them at my sister-in-law's holiday apartment where I have been holed up working for the past 10 days.

It is not forgetting them that troubles me so much as the feeling that my memory was sabotaged. This is not the first time this has happened.

Firstly, I didn't know the keys were there. We haven't visited our own apartment for a while as it has been leased out while we were staying in my country last year. It has just become vacant and we are going there next week.

Packing up today I thought the keys were in a particular small suitcase. There were indeed keys there when I checked, but not the ones I expected. Never mind, I thought, we have the set that have been handed back and, in any case, the keys must be in one of the bags I am taking with me. I'll check when I stop off for a few days before catching our plane home.

Clearing up and storing some things I was leaving till the next time, I saw a computer bag in a wardrobe, which is currently being used for a dataprojector. The week before I thought I had lost the dataprojector as I hadn't spotted it buried under other things in the wardrobe. I remember this as I glimpsed it again.

Having taken a taxi to the coach station with my heavy suitcases and just a few minutes to go for my ride, I suddenly remembered the keys were in the computer bag. I could picture them now in the outside pocket. I contemplated missing my coach, loading my bags into another taxi and going back to check. I didn't because we would be able to collect the keys from the letting agent, though it would be a pain as we would not be able to go straight to our apartment when we arrived.

Thinking back over this, there were several points where my memory should have kicked in.

I shouldn't have been complacent that the keys were in one of the bags I was taking, because I was leaving the computer bag behind.

When I saw the computer bag, even if I didn't remember the keys being there, I should have thought to check it as I had checked all my other bags.

And really, I should have remembered that is where I last put the keys.

In other scenarios I have saved myself a great deal of trouble because something at the edge of my consciousness has prompted me to do something. For example, on my trip to India recently, I remembered a restaurant where we had looked to eat one night as our taxi drove past it going in the wrong direction. Something is not right, I thought before I recognised the restaurant, and realised where we were in time to get the driver to stop and let us out so we could walk the 100 metres to our hotel.

On those occassions it feels like my subconscious is helping me out. It is something I try to cultivate, by having a last look round, by thinking, "What have I forgotten?", by saying to myself "money, passport, ticket" when I am heading off on a trip. I wrote a blog here a while ago about how the process of remembering every day that passes is helping me to trust the feeling that something is incomplete so I work out what it is.

Thinking back to packing and looking for the keys, I almost feel I was being taunted by the clues needed to solve my problem which I registered, but they were not transmitted to the part of my brain they had to reach.

What on earth is going on when my memory sabotages me?

And how do I reduce the chance of it happening again?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Blog birthday

Today is the first anniversary of beginning this blog.

Setting it up is the image pinned to my mental calendar of 23 January 2012. It was a Monday.

This began as an experiment. I did not know if it would still be going a year later, and I have surprised myself in being able to find ways to remember every day since 17 December 2011 when I actually first started the process of remembering. In fact I now have more general images for every month going back to January 2010 and once those are entrenched will see how much more of the past I can reclaim.

I've not become a hyperthymesiac, capable of recall without the effort to entrench memories. I still fear that blanks will appear as time goes on if I let things slip, though these methods have become such a habit and have such wider benefits, it now feels this is just something I do.

In a way I suppose it is obsessive to spend say 20 minutes in the morning and other odd moments at other times reviewing past days. But in the past I may well have been obsessing about something else, perhaps worrying over a particularly memory or something coming up. My mind actually feel stiller now than before I began (I wrote a blog post about this a while ago - but I didn't make a point of remembering the date, so would have to look it up).

It still seems there is much to be discovered. My memory tag for just two days ago is that it was a historic day, when I found I could mentally step into the images on my calendar and experience them much more vividly.

As I start to gain a perspective that goes back not just weeks and months, but years, this is also illuminating. In ways I'm only just starting to discover.

If you are reading this and have read other postings, then thank you for dropping by.

Monday, 21 January 2013


Today feels like a historic day.

Something has happened, which feels like a breakthrough in this process of remembering every day that passes. It comes just as I pass the 400-day mark.

I pin images to my mental calendar as memory tags. These now stretch from the end of 2011 into 2013.

To try to orientate myself better around the calendars I have taken to picturing the year in large flaming numbers with the sheets of the calendar - just like a conventional calendar (specifically the iCal calendar on my MacBook, in fact) - lined up before it. To move from one year to another, it is as if this set up rotates on a large drum so the year I am interested in is on the top.

This possibly sounds more cumbersome than it is. It works well for me. I know that some others who have commented on my posts are using a memory palace approach to remembering dates, where they fill an imaginary building with their memory tags and associate objects with them that represent the dates. My personal preference is for a calendar, particularly as I like the associations it throws up when I think back to what I was doing on the same day in past weeks or the same date in past months or years (exercises I like doing, particularly when out on a run).

This morning I was doing my customary review of the memory tags, which I find essential to entrench them. This involves a two-day window, so I was recalling the tags for every Sunday and Monday since I began this process, each recall taking a matter of seconds.

The first change that happened was I became aware of the spatial position of the image not only on the monthly calendar (Sunday on the right, jumping to Monday on the left on the next line), but the position of the month in the line up in front of the flaming numbers of the year.

What happened next took me by surprise.

In my imagination instead of looking at the calendar, I felt I was standing on it and looking down at the date.

I've become used to this process evolving over time - and being open to where it leads - but in this case I thought, "This isn't going to work, it will be better to have an aerial view of the calendar to better place the position of the date in the year. Standing on it, I loose perspective."

But I found my spatial awareness of the date remained while standing upon it. It was if I moved a step away from the flaming numbers as I continued to pass from week to week in the review. Into June and I could sense half of the year was laid out behind me.

It was as if this realisation convinced me this was the way to head next as this process develops. And so I looked down to my imaginary feet to see the image on the date square on which I was standing.

What happened next was amazing - and is making me tingle now as I type this.

It was as if I fell through the floor on which I stood and entered the scene. I experienced a vivid recall of the moment captured by the image, not just in its physicality, but as if I was there experiencing it again. I was able to remember far more detail about not just that scene, but other things that happened that day, with the same sensation of having stepped back into the scene.

Many years ago when I was keen on meditation (about 1985/1986), I practised recalling a particular scene as vividly as I could and this reminded me of that experience, but it happened naturally.

I then continued through the rest of the review, finding the same thing happened with most of the dates. There were some dates I was not particularly keen to explore again, so restricted myself to the quick reminder of the image without entering into it, but in most cases the experience was as above.

Pausing just now to recall this date a year ago, I find my memory tag for 21 January 2012 allows me to enter the day. The image is sitting in a favourite café with my wife in a town we visit infrequently. But now it runs like a disjointed film. Where we parked. Walking through to the market square. Visiting the tourist office for a guided walk leaflet. The different points of interest we stopped at as we walked around.

This feels very exciting.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

It has been a while

Last week was an unusual week. My wife was away visiting a sick relative.

I was holed up on my own with a mammoth amount of work to do.

One day was much like another.

How to find memory tags to be able to remember I lived each of these days?

In my recent reviews of past days, particularly as I push back into the time before I began this process of consciously adding images to my internal calendar, I have been reminded of friends I have not seen or spoken to for some time.

So I have been calling them, spending 20 or 30 minutes on the phone each day to catch up.

My memory tags are who I called each day, so perhaps I will not leave it so long in future. In reviewing these days I will remember them. And not just who I called, but their news.

In my youth I was someone who when I met someone could remember what we last spoke about. If I had a story to share, I could remember who had heard it and who not.

Not any more. Now I worry sometimes I am repeating myself. Perhaps that will change.

Against the clock

Four hundred days since I began this process of remembering every day that passes.

Today I timed how long my morning review took me as I was waking. My current method is to recall a two-day window for each week from when I began this process and then every day of the last month. So today being Sunday, I ran through the images pinned to my internal calendar for every Saturday and Sunday until I reached 20 December, then switched to every day.

It took just over 18 minutes. I calculate it involved reviewing about 136 images, which gives nearly 8 seconds per image on average. Generally I aim to synchronise with my breathing, but sometimes take a little longer to find the image or reflect upon it.

It is a very relaxing 18 minutes that helps to set me up for the day.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Past years

Someone asked me in a comment to a post on this blog whether I visualise an actual calendar to pin the images to that help me to remember every day that passes.

That is exactly what I do, though I sense the position of the day on the calendar as much as visualise it. If a day is on the extreme left, it is a Monday, for example. When I review the images, I also say the full date to myself in my thoughts.

Thinking about this has combined with my attempt to capture images for the time before I began this process on 17 December 2011.

Firstly, I have tried to find images for each month in 2011, not worrying about the exact date.

Just running through these images helps to give shape to the year and more and more detail is appearing.

I have still been finding it difficult to orientate myself in the years prior to that. Where I spent particular New Years Eves has been particularly tricky.

Visualising the calendar for the years as I venture back, 2010, 2009, 2008 and so on, has helped.

I see the year in large flaming numbers in my mind's eye with the 12 months of the calendar stretched before it. Images are starting to appear. Again, I'm not worried about the precise dates, more at which point in the year the images come.

More generally, I am trying to remember where I was living.

So the beginning of 2010 is now blocked out as being in my wife's country. She visited again at the end of the year, returning just before Christmas. The bad weather the day after I met her at the airport as we planned to travel to my brother's is an image tag that goes somewhere at the end of December.

Yesterday when I was drifting off to sleep, I tried rolling back the calendar further, year by year.

It is amazing how long ago the turn of the millennium was. I have an image for that.

Further back through the 1990s, when I spent time in Africa.

Into the 1980s, when I was at college, at school at the start of the decade.

Into the 1970s, where it feels like the flaming numbers of the year should lose some of their colour as I head towards a time of black and white television. I'm resisting, because the world was in colour.

Into the 1960s, when I was born, and have little in the way of memories, though I do have some.

The calendar rolls on back, but I am not there.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Having over a year of tags on my mental calendar now gives me alerts for recurring events.

That is quite useful for birthdays.

I need to cut my hair about every six weeks, but in the past was prompted to do so when it became uncomfortable at about eight weeks. Now I remember.

Another benefit is remembering friends and family I have not seen for a while and being reminded that I had promised to send something or simply to call them up.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Remembering rainbows

I once cycled under the rainbow.

The year was 1993 or 1994, during the time I worked in Africa. I was cycling back to the school where I was teaching after visiting a friend. The rainbow was a full double arc perfectly centred over the dirt road stretching before me.

I looked over my shoulder and the recently risen sun was directly behind me, its light splitting into the spectrum as it was refracted and reflected from the raindrops falling in the distance. Of course, I never reached the rainbow as it receded before me.

Rifle back through the months and years of the calendar of my life to when I am a child, reading my illustrated children's Bible and there is the story of how the rainbow came to be placed in the sky. As a child I thought, "There have always been rainbows and this is a story to explain them." I am currently re-reading the full Bible and have come to the story of Noah, which brings this to mind.

Forward again to about 1989 and I am reading Isaac Asimov's book "In the Beginning", which provides a commentary on Genesis from a scientific point of view. He examines the amount of water stored in the ice caps and the rise in sea level if it had all melted - not enough to flood the world. That would have taken a miracle to conjure up vast volumes of water.

Then on to 1999 and a documentary by the BBC's Horizon program into Noah's flood (I just looked this up to confirm the date). The theory proposed was that around 7,000 years ago what is now the Black Sea was a freshwater lake below sea level, then the sea broke through from the Mediterranean, finally eroding a channel so a trickle turned into a flood. The water level would have risen rapidly, covering the settlements along the lake's edge - settlements that have now been discovered beneath 7,000 years of silt.

Anyone attentive to the waterfall from the Mediterranean or the level of the lake could have seen something was coming with time enough to build a ship. Here's how a report on the documentary from 2000 explains what happened when the water broke through:

"About 7,000 years ago, according to geological evidence, the rising Mediterranean sea pushed a channel through what is now the Bosphorus, and then seawater poured in at about 200 times the volume of Niagara Falls. The Black Sea would have widened at the rate of a mile a day, submerging the original shoreline under hundreds of feet of salty water."

A cataclysmic event that would no doubt have lived on in human memory down the centuries, appearing in the stories of different cultures.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

New Year Resolution

At the request of my wife, I am reading the Bible from cover to cover during this year.

It won't be the first time I have done so. It will be the second. I first read the whole Bible in 1988, when I was 23 years old.

My relationship with it as a child was as a innate sceptic. My parents had been religious, but left the Church following a challenge to their faith. I was packed off to Sunday School in a half-hearted sort of way for a few weeks when very young and given a children's Bible, but was not raised as a Christian.

I remember reading the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son. In my mind's eye, there is an illustration of him holding the boy ready to do as he was ordered, but looking over his shoulder at the goat, which God had provided just in time in place of Abraham's son once his obedience had been proven.

My thought as a child of maybe four or five was the terror of the child, imagining how I would feel if my father had turned on me in the same way.

Whenever I attend Church with my wife now and Abraham is praised as a model of obedience this often comes to mind - along with more recent memories of people who have killed their children believing God told them to do so and generally been sentenced to compulsory mental health care.

I also remember the picture of the tower of Babel and thinking it ridiculous that people might have thought they could have build a tower to reach heaven, particularly as in the picture it was being built on a plain and not the top of the highest mountain they could find. It seemed very obviously a tale to explain the different languages in the world.

These were my thoughts from the innocence of childhood. Perhaps if I was being told it was all true by people I loved and trusted, I would have discarded my innate scepticism and learned how to ignore the voice of doubt.

All the same, when I read the Bible from cover to cover the first time it spoke to me and there in the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain I underwent a conversion experience, drinking handfuls of water from a mountain stream, realising that I had been made to survive on this water. "I drink your water," I said to the God that had become real to me.

This was the end of one journey and the beginning of another that would lead me into and then out of Church and the Christian faith.

So now as I read the Bible, I have no expectation that it will work some kind of supernatural magic to convert me - as my wife no doubt hopes it will. All the same, it seems worth doing for whatever insight it will bring and the memories of my past selves it may invoke.

Plus I found a free app for my iPhone that not only provides a reading schedule, but loads up the relevant texts sequentially from the Old Testament, New Testament and Book of Psalms.

There are various apps doing similar things, but the one I am using is free and is called Bible365.

It isn't tied to the calendar year, but I intend to catch up to synchronise with it. So first up is Genesis (and the impossibility of accepting that as literal truth) and Matthew (which opens by tracing Jesus back to King David... via Joseph).

Advertising policy

At the time of writing I have Google Ads active on this blog.

Advertisements appear tailored to your location and may be related to certain keywords used in blogposts. Any payment I receive from Google Ads is based on the ads being clicked. I do not receive payment for the ads appearing and their presence on the blog is not intended to indicate I endorse the product or service being advertised.

I have set the preferences to avoid certain types of advertisements that might be triggered by articles on memory. For example, I have blocked health advertisements to, hopefully, prevent those making claims that vitamins or other supplements benefit memory. These should not appear on this blog.

If you do see any advertisements that you think are inappropriate, please let me know.

From time to time I may mention a product in a blog. I imagine this will generally be in the context of a particular memory or a research study. For example, I posted a blog about a study involving Disney World and people recalling meeting Bug Bunny there, even though he is not a Disney character.

Hopefully it is obvious that I am not intending any endorsement by postings such as that, nor am I receiving any payment for them.

Possibly I will mention a product, such as a smart phone app, to recommend it (this is what has prompted me to post this policy). When this happens, this is my own genuine opinion and is unlikely to have been based on any rigorous market research, so take it for what it is: highlighting something I have found useful. I do not receive payment for anything I mention in the blog - and should I be approached or offered money to blog on a product, I would refuse.

I hope this is clear. Feel free to comment.

As if it was yesterday

We spent last weekend with one my wife's sisters and her husband.

On Sunday we went for a walk and a drink. Chatting on the way, my wife related a story of when a friend's young son caught a fish in a play area next to a recreational lake we visited.

I immediately remembered the date: 27 August 2012, a Monday. The image pinned to my mental calendar is actually cycling around the lake, but I recall much more about the day and was able to remind my wife. It added to a pleasant outing.

Now, I might well have remembered some or all of this before I began this process of remembering every day that passes, but perhaps not. Orientating myself through the events earlier in my life is certainly a struggle.

It was a rewarding moment: this is the point of being able to remember better, I thought, as we talked.

That conversation is my memory tag for the day.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Scratching for past memories

Most days I usually run back through the same day of the month for as far back as I have memory tags.

Now I am trying to go back further than 17 December 2011, the date I began this process of trying to remember every day that passes. 

To make it easy on myself I'm not trying to find image tags for the exact day, but coming up with something for each month.

So November 2011 is when we returned to my country from my wife's. I know the actual date we arrived was 20 November 2011, so the image is anchored there.

In October 2011, we went to a conference, staying with my sister-in-law. I don't have any specific memories or dates. Just the image of the conference.

In September 2011, I bought my father an e-book reader for his birthday while in our flat.

In August 2011,  we returned to our flat - need something more specific for this month.

In July 2011, my sister-in-law and family came to my mother-in-law's with a cake for my wife on her birthday. She always says a birthday is not a birthday without cake, and I had done my best and made some scones.

In June 2011, not too sure.

In May 2011, I had not yet left my country to join my wife, but left this month.

In April 2011, my wife and I rented a cottage and had friends and family stay to spend some time before we left my country.

And that's about as far as I have got so far. It is shockingly spartan, as well as difficult to find and place memories, even for a time as long as a month. What a contrast to 2012!

At some point I may well read my diaries, that will cover some of this period though with big gaps.

Until then, I will take it easy and see where it goes, just trying to get the months of 2011 straight before going any further back and not worrying if a month has something vague pinned to it, or even nothing.

After all, I do still have to add memory tags for each day as it passes.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Digging up the past

Can I reclaim the days that came before I began this process of remembering every day that passes?

Sometimes it strikes me as odd that I remember every day of the past 13 months, but the 46 years before that are pretty much a blur. Some of that blur was more significant to me than the last year.

Memories do come to me unbidden and from time to time I will reflect on particular events, but they are snapshots where one recollection might serve to represent a whole phase of my life.

For example, I learned to fly a plane when I worked in Africa in the mid 1990s. I can remember some moments of this experience in great detail, but not every flight and certainly not the dates.

When a friend at the reunion we had on 15 September 2012 told my wife a story of joining me on one of my flying lessons, which she thought we show her the sights, only to end up feeling ill as I practised landing after landing (getting none of the perfect), it draw a virtual blank for me. It was more a case of imagining it happening than remembering it happening.

I have a set of diaries that cover that time and stretch pretty much from when I was at college to the present day. I kept it going by not making it a duty to write. Sometimes I will let it go for months. Other times, I'd write regularly. Since I began this process I made a point of not writing things down (there is a blog posting here explaining why), but a few months ago I did pick it up to try to catch up, filling in far more than I have pinned to my internal calendar.

I have wondered if at some point I could use the diaries - which I very rarely read - to reconstruct the time before I began this process, if not in the same detail, at least with some images pinned to specific dates.

Whether this is realistic - or worth the effort and naval gazing - is not something I've resolved as yet.

But I have started exploring the possibility in an organic way. More about that next time.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

I think I can do this

With my new speedy method for reviewing the images pinned to my internal calendar as prompts to remember the day, this process of remembering every day that passes has become easier.

I am almost nervous that it is too easy, because I fear becoming complacent and finding blanks start to appear.

But perhaps I have reached a new phase.

In the lightning runs through the past 13 months since I began this process every morning the point is now less to ensure the images are entrenched and more just to reflect.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Bubble meditation

I am now trying to synchronise recalling the images pinned to my internal calendar to my breathing.

Remember one day on breathing in, the next on breathing out, then move forward a week for the next two-day window. I switch to a three-day window on reaching three months ago and review every day of the last month, dispensing with the breathing link if it takes a little more thought to remember the image I have chosen.

During the breathing review yesterday, I was reminded of a meditation technique I practised for a while a long time ago. Actually, I may as well be more precise and say it was in 1986 when I was at college. I am now making a point of remembering so might as well be accurate when I can.

The instruction in the book where I took this from was to imagine being at the bottom of a swimming pool or lake - the lake I used is a real one I have visited. Allow a thought to rise like a bubble rising through the water towards the surface and the sunlight. When it reaches the surface, let it go. Then wait for the next thought. The idea was not to dwell on a particular thought, but to experience each for a short moment and let any lessons be subliminal.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Breathing in and breathing out

A few days ago I change the method I used for reviewing the images pinned to my mental calendar as tags for remembering each day that passes.

I now use a two-day window for the most distant months. So today being Monday, I recall every Sunday and Monday since I began this process back in December 2011. This is a reduction from the three-day window I was previously using, though I am switching back to that when I reach about three months ago. For the last month I review the images for every day.

I am trying to become more relaxed with the images that are well entrenched, to the extent of recalling each image as I breath, the first day breathing in, the second day breathing out. I say the actual date in my mind as I do so. It is easy to jump to the dates for the following week.

Sometimes I take a little longer and may have to look back a few days earlier to orientate myself. Some days have more than one image or more detail I want to recall that takes longer.

But I think I will make this my goal for the entrenched time, to make the reviews as easy as breathing in and breathing out.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Paring down

As I enter my second year of remembering every day that passes, a new method for reviewing the images pinned to my mental calendar is emerging.

Each image - sometimes several images - pinned to a date allows me to recall what I chose to remember as a tag for that day and from that I can recall other aspects. I have been reviewing these images regularly and they now seem to be entrenched, but I remain fearful of stopping this process in case blanks begin to appear when I do look back.

I have been using a three-day window in my reviews, so on Sunday I recall the images for each Friday, Saturday and Sunday since I began this process. For the most recent month, I review all images. This has been working fine.

A couple of days ago, I thought I'd switch to a two-day window. I did consider just recalling the same day of the week going back to December 2011, but two consecutive days suits me better as the memories are often linked in some way and the moving window means the days daisy chain off each other each time I do the review.

Moving to a two-day window has cut the number of days in the review by almost a third, though not exactly a third as I still review the images for the full last month.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

New Year's Eve should be an easy landmark to remember, but there are surprisingly few I can pin down with any degree of certainty.

Without any effort I have been able to recall the past four New Years. I know where I was at the turn of the Millennium and I'm pretty sure of the year I was on Copacabana beach in Brazil.

When I was in High School and home from college there was a party, usually where my friends and I went to drink. I have vague memories of my parents' parties when I was a child, mixed in with watching some TV programme when there was no party.

My memory of New Years covers nearly half a century. Mobile phones disappear as I venture back, as do ATM machines. The Berlin Wall returns along with the Cold War. DVDs turn to VHS tapes, our television fades to back to black and white. Our front-loading washing machine vanishes. Fruit and vegetables becomes seasonal and we wrap apples in newspaper and store them in the dark for the winter. There are rumours that the Beatles will reform - they broke up when I was five years old.

I now have nearly 400 images pinned to my internal calendar, stretching back day by day into 2011. In idle moments, I will sometimes take a trip through the past year by recalling the image for the same day of each month. This takes just 12 images and as the sequence depends on the date and is always building, it is usually fascinating.

Applying the same technique to recalling New Year's Eves only, I could jump back to being 5 years old in 42 images (if I had stored them). If I had been born a little earlier, I would have the 50 images required to cover half a century. Double that and we are back to the early days of flight, the lull before the storm of the First World War, radio and film as the new forms of entertainment. Women without the vote and no access to reliable contraception. The past is such a foreign country a little over twice my lifetime ago. Just one hundred images of New Years.

Add the same again and two hundred years ago trains and steam power are the new innovations. A century before and canals and horse-drawn barges are the transport system that powers the industrial revolution in Europe. If I could look back as many New Years Eves as I have remembered sequential days, I would be in a world where evolution had not yet been proposed and, in the Western world, God, the devil, spirits and demons controlled events on an Earth the most learned scholars state with certainty is just 6,000 years old.

Rolling back the calendar more quickly through as many New Years as I will see days in my life and I see civilisations explode then shrink, the pyramids deconstructed.

Further back still and I see our ancestors returning to Africa and decreasing in number until the first homo sapien is born to parents who are somewhat different.

Back further to a more hostile world with creatures only capable of shaping it consciously in limited ways, but whose respiration changes the atmosphere, whose bodies settle on ocean floors to give rise to chalk cliffs, whose swampy vegetation will create seas of petroleum millions of years in the future.

Back to when a splashing wave deposits a few cells on a rock where they dry in the sun and survive to reproduce. This has happened many time before, but the cells deposited in countless splashes over millions of years shrivelled up and died in the sun. Only now when the right cells splash onto the right rock at the right moment does life reach dry land.

Billions of years back now to the deep past and an ocean that is a chemical soup. Within it some of the molecules are very special. They grow and split, attracting other chemicals to protect them. Further back and they are less complex and fewer in number until there is the first - perhaps formed at a deep sea hydrothermal vent. A molecule formed by chance or divine will, to act as the seed to transform the Earth and assemble some of its atoms into increasingly complex structures that will populate every habitat and ultimately gain self-awareness, the ability to think, to reason, to remember and to write blogs.

Perhaps three billion New Years ago the sequence of days leading to the days to which I am witness began.