Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Another year ends

The end of the third calendar year where I can remember what I was doing on every single day draws close. As many people are probably saying, it seems hard to believe 2014 is nearly over. For me, it is not just the approach of the new year that is a shock, but that the year still seems so fresh.

Today, I recalled the events of 29 and 30 December 2013, as I have done once a month. I can shut my eyes and drop through the image pinned to my mental calendar and feel I am there again. The same is true for those dates in 2012 and 2011. The difference of perception is not so much due to the separation in time, but the events that have passed, including engaging in this process. I and my loved ones have changed through ageing and experiences.

I can label these years of remembering with themes, which help me as much as the years to place the memories. There are different themese - or developing stories. Here are some:

2012 was the year we spent most of the time in a flat we loved (after a tricky start) and I began to run more regularly and entered my first 5 km races. The year ended with our niece being diagnosed with cancer.

2013 became the year of our niece's illness and separation from my wife for months at a time as she cared for her, until she passed away towards the end of the year. It was the year I joined a running club, ran 5 km most Saturday's in the park and moved up to 10 km races.

2014 almost seems too new to settle on themes. It is the year of my wife and her sister's family trying to come to terms with the loss of a young life, though that is not yet over, and the fall of my mother-in-law at the end of the year has not helped. My running progress continues. After an injury - a pulled muscle - drove me to a physiotherapist for professional assessment of my posture, together with reading and experimentation, I have reduced my 5 km and 10 km times significantly, as well as run my fist half marathons.

This process has become part of my daily life. I have adapted it so it does not become too much of a distraction. This won't be sustainable if I have to spend a long time lost in the review process.

There are many gains. I not only remember where I was, but use memory tags to capture other information such as names, birthdays, restaurants to visit again, names of birds and trees, and so on. This process also gives me balance and perspective.

All things pass. I know like never before that a challenging day ahead will become a memory. I can choose what I carry with me and may prefer to make my memory tag the sights of a new town rather than focusing on the difficult meeting I had there.

A pleasurable time is something to relish; at the time or in retrospect, I have often said to myself, 'This is one of the best days of my life'. Sitting with my wife looking across a lake as the sunset after visiting a Christmas market at the beginning of December, I said to her too, 'This is a moment to remember'.

My mental calendar for 2015 is currently clear for when I step onto it later this week - except for some dates with events scheduled - such as running my first marathon in April.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Lost Christmas

I was so looking forward to Christmas.

My wife and I had everything planned: visiting my brother and his family, a carol service, overnight at a spa hotel on the way to my parents, Christmas dinner with them and my sister's family. I had quietly booked to run in a race on Sunday near one of my wife's favourite places so we could combine our interests.

Then my mother-in-law had a fall and we hurriedly booked tickets to return to my wife's country to provide support. She has come through the operation and is home, but needing constant care.

I have no regrets about making the trip and had the chance to exchange Christmas wishes with family here, while presents for my family sit at home undelivered. As we intersperse changing dressings and moving my mother-in-law from bed to chair and finding nurses who can provide long-term support, each of the events we had planned pass by in a joyful parallel universe.

They are tags on my mental calendar for future days that did not become memories.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Coping with three years of daily memories

Now I am in the fourth year of remembering every day that passes, I need to adjust my refresh strategy.

For a long time, I have  reviewed the images for the same day of the month since January 2011, before I even began this process.

Today being December 28, I would have recalled the image for the 28th of each month. In so doing, I would often use the preceding day, recently refreshed, as a reference. This is in addition to the more detailed review of the past 6 month period described in the 'refresh technique' post.

As the months have piled up, the long review has become too much. When I've failed to complete it, I've been faced with doing two or three days per month on subsequent days to try to catch up. When I lost it completely, I did a memory reboot, recalling sequential days from the beginning over the course of several days.

I have wondered whether the sequential days route might be the way to go. For example, taking say three months to refresh during free thinking time each day for the whole of the period I have covered, and then looping back to the start. I'll keep that in reserve for the future.

The modification I am introducing now is to review two consecutive days per month over two days.

So yesterday, I ran through the images for the 27th and 28th of each month. This doesn't really take more time that reviewing a single day as I would often have to orientate myself by recalling the preceding day in any case. I didn't complete the review yesterday, so finished it today - that freedom to run over takes the pressure off. I'm now up-to-date.

I first tried this on December 24, running through the 24th and 25th of each month to get ahead of myself. I completed the review in one day, so had no long review at all to do on Christmas Day (my intention).

Unlike my six-month review, I do not intend to overlap days: tomorrow I will review the 29th and 30th of each month, not the 28th and 29th. This will give me December 30th to either finish the long review - or as a break from the long-review process.

No doubt I will still have to orientate myself with surrounding days, but I suspect the overall time demands will be reduced.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Starting year four

I did not know how long this experiment would last when I began.

Three years later, the techniques I have developed to remember every day that passes are still working and enriching my life.

So here is to the start of year four as 17 December comes around again.

Stepping sideways on my mental calendar, I can easily move to the same date in 2013, 2012, 2011.

And then I am lost. In all the years that lie before, I do not know where I was on this day.

That fog seems ever more strange. Why did I allow it to descend?

Perhaps this system will falter. But not yet.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Month end

I carried out a memory reboot recently when my review process failed me - and felt like doing so again.

Normally, I conduct a daily review of the same day of the month since I began this process. So on 28th of the month, I recall the images pinned to my mental calendar for the 28th of each month, starting from January 2011.

When I failed to complete this review for several days, I recovered by runnng through consecutive days from the first day of this process. This took me several days to complete, but was hugely rewarding.

A perfect opportunity to repeat the process came on the 28th November. Things become complicated at the end of the month. There are 28 days in every month, but February drops out when I come to 29 days, unless a leap year. November has only 30 days and so I have to squeeze in the 31st of each month by doubling up. In months with 31 days, half the months drop out of the review.

So I decided to do a full memory reboot by running through consecutive days, giving myself 28, 29 and 30th November to complete this. In actual fact, I only completed it on 1 December.

Running through years of daily memory tags was an illuminating and satisfying experience for all the reasons I have been exploring on this blog.

I have lost no days and surprisingly few images proved elusive - there were just three that I had to set aside to retrieve later, using the techniques I have developed. As I've noticed before, it was the most recent weeks that proved most difficult as the images are less entrenched.

Having completed the reboot, I've finished off today by reviewing the 1st of each month to slip back into my usual routine.

All images are noticably fresh once more.

I don't think I will make it a hard rule to do the same at each month's end, but perhaps several times a year will be beneficial.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Funny walks

This is the year I moved up in my running to half marathon distance. Various memory tags recall the progression.

My first 21 km training run on 21 April made me over confident. I pulled a muscle in my knee two days later, which interrupted my running for 6 weeks.

My first half marathon race was on 6 July. Time just under two hours.

Then I embarked on a training schedule to improve my time and knocked 15 minutes off in my next half marathon just over two months later.

In the final half marathon of the year before easing back on the training, I knocked another 5 minutes off my time, while feeling much more comfortable on the run. My pace over the 21 km was 4:37/km, which also gave me my fastest 10 km time of about 46 minutes.

I am now going to concentrate of 5 km and 10 km races for a while to try to improve my pace further. My next race will be 10 km and I have a target to beat 45 mins.

I feel I am still a long way from my potential. At the moment I sense improvement will come from strengthening my leg muscles to improve power and technique.

On training runs I think about two aspects to strengthen my hamstring muscles: semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris (long and short head). I'm cribbing this information from this website: http://lrgoodman.hubpages.com/hub/Muscles-Used-While-Running

At some point I think about pushing further back to strenthen the hip-flexing function of the muscles.

At another point, I think of the knee-flexing function, so lift my heels more powerfully.

It feels like I am Monty Python's Ministry of Funny Walks. Going from a flat, extended rhythm to a bumpy, bum flicking trot. Both exercises cause my legs to ache in a good way, telling me the muscles are working.

At inervals, I'll recover by easing back on these exercises. My achilles-flexing push-off then becomes more of a focus.

Then I try putting it all together, which is faster, but tiring. With time, as my muscles strengthen, I will hopefully become faster and less tired.

My 5 km time is already falling and consistently below 21 minutes. My next target is to knock a few seconds off my best time to drop below 20 mins.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Post office

This is another example of how this process of remembering every day that passes enables me to capture other information I do not want to forget. It helps me to remember the names of birds and trees, for example, something I previously found difficult.

Now I've applied it to remembering when the Post Office is open. My memory tag for Wednesday, October 15 is going for a coffee with my wife at lunchtime to a particular café. Instead of these visits merging into a single generic visit in my recollection I can now differentiate between them by something specific that happened.

So on this day we went via the Post Office to send a birthday card to a nephew. The Post Office closed at lunch time and does not re-open on Wednesdays.

Now I will remember.

The next day on the way home from work I called in at the central depot and posted the card there. I noticed that on Wednesdays it is not only open in the afternoon, but stays open until 8 pm. So registering that fact is in my memory tag. Having a common theme to consecutive days is one of the memory tricks I sometimes use.

Whenever I refresh the memory tags, I will remember when the local Post Office is closed in the afternoon - and that the depot is open late that day.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Thinking about you

My memory tag for October 16 this year includes the fact my wife went to the capital to visit a friend we have not seen for a while.

I was unable to go myself and when she returned she passed on our friends best wishes. They had tried to work out when we had last all been together.

As I can remember every day of the nearly three years since beginning this process, I was able to say immediately that it was July 16, 2012 and recount where we went and what we did.

It was made a little easier than it might have been as a few hours before I had run through the 16th day of each month as part of the process of refreshing the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags, so I had briefly relived the captured moment.

This is a strength of my current system.

As well as being able to remember people and events, I periodically bring them to mind. I can honestly say, 'I was thinking about you recently'.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Memory reboot

I had to reboot my memory last week as this process of remembering every day that passes went into meltdown. It happened just as I reached the 1000 day milestone.

I was having a hectic time and was unable to complete my daily review of memory tags for the same day of the month stretching back to 2011.

Whenever this happens, I catch up by reviewing consecutive days the following day. For example, today is 17 September, so I will review the 17th of each month. If I hadn't completed the review yesterday, I would call up the images pinned to my mental calendar for the 16th and 17th of each month.

Last week the missed days piled up so I was faced with reviewing not two, but three then four days of each month, which began to feel overwhelming. If I didn't complete the review, the next day I'd have even more days to run through.

The solution seemed obvious: full memory reboot.

I did something I have not done for a long time. I ran through every day from the start of this process on 17 December 2011.

It took several days as I had to fit it into spare moments, just as with my usual day-per-month review.

My day still began with a more detailed review of the past 6 months, though here too I was experiencing problems as I explained in my last post. I only fully recovered all the memory tags for the last month yesterday.

Once the 6-month review was out of the way - or as much of it as I could manage - I picked up the full run through from where I had left off. There was something comforting in this. The feeling of being overwhelmed at having missed several days of reviews left me. Even though I knew this would take some time, I would still be revisiting past days with less than the month-long gap my established method involved, so could stop worrying that images would fade away in the time it took for me to reach them.

The advantage of a sequential run through is many of the images for consecuitve days are linked. I put to one side any days that did not immediately come to mind and went back to them later. After four days I had gone through the 1000+ days since I began this process without losing a single memory tag.

As I passed the day of the month I would have been reviewing in my normal method, it gave me a boost to see I could soon switch back to it.

It did occur to me that a sequential review could become my new refresh technique. Instead of a day-per-month review, I could review say four consecutive months per day. In my present technique the same day comes around about every 30 days. Covering four months per day would give enable me to review 10 years of memory tags before the time between reviewing the same day hits 30 days.

I am not switching to this method just yet for a simple reason. Reviewing sequential days put me into that time period. I was reliving the past.

The day-per-month review is very different. It gives me perspective over time and links today to past days. That feels much more healthy.

Even so, I now have a memory reboot method should I need it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


My system for remembering every day that passes suffered total collapse last week. I was drawing blanks for almost the whole of the last month and felt bereft. It was as if a balloon had become deflated and I could not pump it up again.

It happened because I spent five intense days working. I had little sleep and had too much to do. I struggled to conduct my usual six-month review in the morning. The longer review process covering the memory tags going back to 2011 went neglected. I was faced with recalling not just one day per month, but then two, three and four just to keep up.

Everything is back on track again now. Tomorrow I'll explain the method I used for a memory reboot covering the longer period.

The more immediate past, usually so familiar, had become a foreign country. A change of scene or situation does give me a new perspective on past days, but this experience made them seem so alien I could barely grasp them.

The solution was perseverance. I had to put aside feelings of panic as day after day of my mental calendar hissed with the white static of forgotten. There were a few days with images and slowly these triggered associations. All the techniques I have developed to recover lost memories came into play and after four days of struggle during spare moments (I have still been very busy), the tags were back.

The memory reboot method I was using for the longer timespan, which I will explain tomorrow, no doubt also helped bring my memory muscles back into shape.

The deflated balloon of my memory began to inflate. In fact, it felt more like inflating an airbed with a foot pump, so slowly did it unfold itself and return to shape. Images that troubled me as incomplete gained their missing aspects and another crinkle popped away.

For a moment, when the immediate month just passed was a mess of missing and confused images, I thought this process had come to its natural end.

This morning I have done my usual six-month run through and all is well again.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Putting two things together

For a long time I've felt something was missing from my memory tag for 4 August 2013.

I remembered calling a good friend from temporary accommodation I had rented to be close to work and adopted that as the image pinned to my mental calendar. The 4th August comes up in the reviews on the 4th of every month and so this is the image I have refreshed, but for several months it has felt like a bit of a cheat.

On the run through yesterday, being 5 September, I recalled receiving news about a cousin on 5 January 2013. But it was not the news of his son attending college. That I had learned on another day directly from my cousin. I decided to make a point of creating an acronym to record where and what he was studying.

Suddenly I realised this nugget of information had been lost to me and that was because it had detached from my mental calendar: it was the missing memory tag from 4 August. I had stopped off to have lunch with my cousin on my journey.

It is now fixed back firmly in place, giving a sense of completion to my calendar once more.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Why I find associating dates with memory tags important

It being the 6 August, my morning review involved a quick run through the images pinned to my mental calendar for every day of the past month.

On Sunday 6 July I ran my first half marathon. Only a month ago. This surprised me. It seems a lot longer. I was unsure how it would go as I was recovering from an injury, but since then I have gone from strength to strength, embarked on a training programme for my next half marathon in September, and have run a 10 km race. The half marathon landmark feels like it should be further away given the progress along that road.

By contrast, when I came to Saturday 12 July, I found it hard to believe the memory captured was not more recent. I took my parents on an outing to old haunts. They are less mobile now and don't travel far on their own. We had a very enjoyable time and I suppose that is why it still seems fresh.

That same day Brazil was beaten by Holland in the 3rd place play-off in the soccer world cup. The following day, Germany beat Argentina to raise the trophy. Both events and the tournament as a whole already feel consigned to history. So 12 July left me perplexed, containing memories both recent and far away.

The following weekend, 19 and 20 July, I had a great time cycling with friends. I am glad I will not forgot those days and will revisit them forevermore in reviews. Again, it seems a shock they have already receded so far.

It was Sunday 27 July when I ran the 10 km race. Just over a week ago, but already done and dusted as my focus is on the training runs scheduled for this week.

Last week, I was preparing and travelling to a conference that took place at the weekend. The images for the week come as a package, linked together. But that package now has the lid closed and is tied up with string. I would probably think little more of it, except my review process stops it fading to nothing.

If these images were not pinned to my mental calendar, but simply drifted into my recollection, no doubt I would be hard-pressed to place them.

My sense of the time passed since an event is unreliable.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Run through

I have mentioned in past posts how sometimes I am surprised when I review the imaged pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags to find events were so recent, or so long, ago.

As an experiment, here is a quick review for the images for the 22nd of each month from when I began this process of remembering every day that passes. I want to explore whether they feel as long ago as they should be, amongst other things.

So here goes.

22 December 2011 (Thursday): Christmas shopping with my wife and niece - without this tag, I would be hard pressed to remember this specific outing or that it took place in 2011.

22 January 2012 (Sunday): Watched the film, The Artist, with aching legs after a run. Would not have a clue the year it came out without this tag.

22 February 2012 (Wednesday): Conversation with a work guest. Planning for a significant event in December 2012. Seems like it was over two years ago.

22 March 2012 (Thursday): Collecting my wife from her language clash – the road was blocked. Captures that whole time of 9 months living in a particular flat in my country. A happy and more settled time. Glad I can remember it. Similar periods in earlier years are very indistinct and shapeless, just odd memories.

22 April 2012 (Sunday): Lunch at a favourite restaurant. Our first visit on moving back to my country after living in my wife's till the end of November 2011. I remember where we sat and what we had to eat. The same is true of subsequent visits. Previously they would likely have merged into one.

22 May 2012 (Tuesday): Trip to a nearby town as time of lieu after a working weekend. Probably would have forgotten all about this otherwise. But it was the first time we visited a particular café.

22 June 2012 (Friday): Wrote a report on a work success. This is a matter of history. Seems a long time ago - but then nearly two years is a long time, brought home to me by being able to remember every single day between then and now.

22 July 2012 (Sunday): Relatives of my wife's who were visiting returned home. Yup. Two years ago. That's a long time. Almost possible to see I have aged a little – certainly there have been some experiences along the way since then.

22 August 2012 (Wednesday): Sheltered in the rain with my wife before heading home to watch the Olympics closing ceremony on television. Of course, we would remember it was 2012.

22 September 2012 (Saturday): Final Saturday in our flat as we plan to move to return to my wife's country. A period that had seemed settled, was just a short chapter in our lives.

22 October 2012 (Monday): We returned to my wife's country to find my niece seriously ill – we didn't know when we went with her on this day for her first chemotherapy session at an out-patient clinic that she would not be with us 13 months later. These memories are precious as she is now frozen in the past.

22 November 2012 (Thursday): I had to sort out my visa for travelling for the conference discussed back in February. This process gives me landmarks to track the progress of stories like this.

22 December 2012 (Saturday): A gathering of family and friends for my niece.

22 January 2013 (Tuesday): Staying along at my sister-in-law's holiday apartment to work while my wife stays with our niece. Today I was sorting out a problem with the electrical supply.

22 February 2013 (Friday): Riding my bike to the swimming pool in our home town in my wife's country. It is the sound of the chain running through my cycling helmet that reminds me of this day.

22 March 2013 (Friday): A session with a physiotherapist as part of a course on global postural re-education (described elsewhere on this blog). It began on 21 February 2013. This has now become part of my routine. Again, I would not know when I first began this regime without following this process.

22 April 2013 (Monday): After nearly a month away from our home town, we are back with my mother and sister-in-law. Seems more than a year ago. My mother-in-law was taken ill while she was with us, so a difficult time. She's better now. Perhaps that's why I want to feel it is behind us.

22 May 2013 (Wednesday): Back in my country - on this day we travelled from my parents where we first stayed, to a house rented near my office. Something I could easily have forgotten. But I have the details of where we stayed, going for a walk on this first afternoon then and stopping for a drink.

22 June 2013 (Saturday): A 5 km race. This was organised by a running club I would go on to join. My wife had returned to her country to care for her niece. A year later, I was a volunteer helping to organise this race. In that year, I progressed to run 10 km races and read a lot about training and theory. It is encouraging to see how far I have come in a year, with still a long way to go.

22 July 2013 (Monday): A year ago today. What was I doing on this day? Not running as I had sore knees from running my first 5 mile race two days before. Usually thinking back to the same date a year before brings home just how long a year is. In the first 18 months or so of this process, I would sometimes do a long run through of every day from when I began. On a long solo car journey was a good time. There are two many days now, but perhaps I should run through the past year once in a while. Every day I get up. Do it 365 times and a year has passed.

22 August 2013 (Thursday): My mother went to the memory clinic for an assessment as her short-term memory is failing her. She was 74 at the time. They did not prescribe anything at that time, though they would later. Her coping strategies had masked the actual changes to her brain. 'At least I'm in the system', she said when she came back. I took my parents out to lunch to get on with life.

22 September 2013 (Sunday): My wife was back in time for my father's 80th birthday. We gave him an iPod and took him on a surprise trip to meet up with my brother and his family. In some ways, this day seems longer ago than less than a year. Why might that be, I wonder?

22 October 2013 (Tuesday): I can't reach my wife on the phone, but see her walking home as I cycle back. Her phone has broken. A memory I would probably not keep were it not for following this process, but I am glad to have it.

22 November 2013 (Friday): My has returned to her country to care for her niece, in time to be there for her final three weeks of life. In the end she died suddenly and was buried quickly. I am tying up loose ends so I can join her and the family for an extended period.

22 December 2013 (Sunday): So in my wife's country once more. A sister-in-law has a 60th birthday, but it is a subdued affair, remembering our niece. It is only recently that the six-month window of my more in-depth review (two days per week) has moved beyond this period. Relinquishing 2013 was a wrench. Now it is surprising that 2014 is already over half done.

22 January 2014 (Wednesday): My wife an I are staying in the holiday flat again for a month. Today the family who lost a daughter are arriving.

22 February 2014 (Saturday): A haircut. One of the recurring events I choose to remember. My barber when we are home is now 82 and I am pleased to find him still cutting the hair of his old faithful clients on Saturdays. His hands shake now and though he is still competent, not going to instill confidence in new customers.

22 March 2014 (Saturday): Back to my country once more. We have always moved between the two, but I am hard pressed to know for sure where we were before I began this process. Once I had to work it out for bureaucratic reasons and went through my passport stamps. For the past three years, I know from my memory. I've written before how this process changes the nature of the transitions: I am not so dislocated from the two lives we lead in different countries.

22 April 2014 (Tuesday): It is surprising that so much of 2014 has already been consigned to my memory. For the first month or so, I still felt rooted in 2013. On this day I drove to the office to unload the car of resources I had been using. The following day, I pulled a tendon in my knee, opening a chapter of recovery and treatment that closed on 6 July when I ran my first half marathon.

22 May 2014 (Thursday): I bought a foam roller as part of the process of getting back into running after my injury.

22 June 2014 (Sunday): The day after I volunteered to help at the 5 km race I ran the year before. A whole year gone by since then. On this day, I went for lunch with my parents before heading back to where I work.

22 July 2014 (Tuesday): And so to today. Another day that will be captured in an image pinned to my mental calendar. I'm not sure what it will be yet. That will come as I lay down to sleep and run through each memory tag for the past month, ending with today.

Looking back, that's snapshots of 32 days, capturing some of the significant – and not so significant – events of the past three years.

Tomorrow I will run through the 23rd of each month, usually in short annual block because the small blocks of time it takes fit easily around other activities.

Some years, I run through in minutes. Other times a day will stop me short and make me reflect, perhaps reminding me of other times beyond this arbitrary window of remembering.

Other days of the month capture other events. For example, the above sequence totally misses out the recent soccer world cup that figures in recent memory tags.

I don't know where this is heading. In ten years time will I run through 120 images at some point during the day? Will I have given up? Will my review process have developed so I can still find the memories, but don't call them to mind so often?

This sequence will come round again in a month's time. Today will then be captured in a memory tag.

While the past cannot be re-written, I have a new perception of it with each review. Stories progress. Situations change.

Perhaps, imperceptibly, I become a different person to who I was in my memories.

In praise of physiotherapists - part two

A while ago (19 May 2014) I wrote in praise of physiotherapists after I pulled the ligament by my inner right knee. I visited a phsyio for guidance on how to recover and instead also gained a diagnosis on changing my running style through stretching different muscles to avoid problems in future.

As I go through the reviews of my memory tags, the story plays out as follows:

21 April 2014: I set out to try running at a half marathon pace of 6 mins/km to see how it felt – and ended up running a half marathon distance (21 km).

23 April 2014: Confident I had it in me to complete a half marathon, I started to think about training for one. But on my run this day, I felt a tear near my right knee and had to walk home with it burning.

25 April 2014: One thing this process of remembering every day that passes bring home, is that episodes pass. To show my believe in this fact, when I saw an early-bird discount for a full marathon next April, I signed up. In the afternoon, I visited the sports shop and looked for a new pair of running shoes. The age of my old ones may have contributed to my injury.

26 April 2014: Instead of running in the park as usual on a Saturday morning, my wife and I went for a walk.

27 April 2014: Today we cycled. My knee could cope with this.

2 May 2014: I bought the new running shoes. But had still not returned to running.

9 May 2014: I visited the physio for advice on whether to rest or to exercise etc. Came away with exercises to help me change my gait. Told not to run for a week.

19 May 2014: Checked out clips on running gait and wrote the post In praise of physiotherapists - part one. The title was in expectation that one day I would write this post.

21 May 2014: Tried a short run. Muscles ached, but knee okay.

22 May 2014: Bought a foam roller to massage muscles.

26 May 2014: Went on a 40 km cycle ride as cross training.

28 May 2014: Started running again. Now doing my exercises each day.

8 June 2014: Ran a 10 km race. Knee fine, but bad approach, going out too fast and struggling at the end.

15 June 2014: Ran another 10 km race. This time, purposely started out slowly and build up the pace for a strong finish, passing many of those who passed me at the beginning in the second half of the race. Feeling back on track and looked for a half marathon to enter.

20 June 2014: Went for a haircut prior to seeing the physio okay to evaluate progress. The barber sneers at the idea of visiting a physio saying he had never met one who knew anything useful. I beg to differ, saying mine had dealt with my injury and the root cause of the problem.

6 July 2014: Ran my first ever half marathon – in just under two hours.

That was 10 weeks from injury to achieving my goal of running a half marathon.

Some of the above milestones along the way come up in each of my reviews.

Life is lived forwards, but understood looking backwards. This story now has a beginning, middle and end.

Now I am in a new chapter: building toward my first marathon in April 2015.

Monday, 14 July 2014


I visited my parents at the weekend.

My mother's memory is starting to go and so she repeatedly shares the same news and asks the same questions.

We took a drive out to visit some old haunts. She kept commenting it seemed a long time since we had been to them.

I could tell her when and the circumstances of our last visits.

Before I began this process of remembering every day that passes, I would have been almost as uncertain as her. Was it just last year? At another place, was it really two years ago?

This is the payback for the effort of developing these skills.

It is becoming easier with time. I am more routinely using the full-date tagging approach I have blogged on previously. When I recall the image for today it will be associated with 14 January 14.

Knowing the year is becoming more important as they begin to mount up. For a while, I was losing my way between years, but this technique seems to have resolved that problem.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Blood glucose

So I gave up processed sugar on 16 June 2014. Going to find a book on the subject having decided it was a healthy option is in my memory tag for the day.

I've been reading up since then and following a low GI diet: eating natural foods, predominantly those with a low glycaemic index.

I have lost a bit of weight (now down to 80 kg – BMI below 25) and reduced my body fat (23.8% – classified as 'good').

I feel better in a way that is difficult to explain.

A bit more comfortable in my body, never feeling stuffed. And with clearer eyesight, it seems. Which is reassuring given in my hypochondria attack back in March when beset by tiggling fingers, I ran on a beach with my eyes closed, thinking how it would be if I lost my sight. That worry has receded, though I do still have the tingling fingers, and cracking spine.

I am eating well and enjoying food. I do sometimes feel a little hungry and so snack between meals, as advised, but on healthy things like carrots, oranges and apples. Or crackers with peanut butter.

The GI diet is supposed to maintain blood sugar at a more balanced level through the consumption of carbohydrates that take longer to break down.

I thought I would find out what was happening to my blood sugar and so bought a test meter and finger pricker on 27 June (yes, it's in my memory tag).

I've done various tests since then and found my blood sugar is very stable. To see how it might have varied in the past, I turned the clock back and with my evening meal yesterday of low-fat french fries, fish in butter sauce and vegetables (I did eat pretty healthly in any case) had a can of coke, followed by an icecream. Oh, and a chocolate bar while I was cooking.

According to the nutrition app on my smartphone, I have topped 100g of sugar today. Over three-quarters will have been processed sugar, rather than natural sugars in fruit and vegetables.

The World Health Organisation recently dropped its recommendation on sugar intake to 5% of calories, or about 25g for a adult male. Reports on this and other sugar warnings started me thinking about giving up sugar in the first place.

Note, that the can of coke had 35g of sugar in it alone. The chocolate bar and ice cream each had 22g. So that's 79g of processed sugar, over three times the recommendation, in just three processed foods.

The results of my experiment do suggest I have a lower blood glucose spike following the GI diet.

I've only run this experiment once and there is a margin of error in readings, but here are the figures.

A fasting blood test (after 8 hours with no food) using my new meter gave me a blood glucose reading of 4.7 mmol/l. (I have a clinic fasting blood test result from 2012, which records a value of 4.3 mmol/l, so a similar order).

My high-sugar meal and drink gave me a peak of 7.9 mmol/l. I measured from about 20 minutes after eating (6.3 mmol/l) then at 20 to 30 minute intervals. The high reading was at nearly 50 minutes. At 75 minutes, I was down to 6.0 mmol/l.

After 2 hours I was down to 5.4 mmol/l and at 3 hours at 5.3 mmol/l. This seems to be my steady-state level between eating.

I measured my blood glucose the day before the high-sugar test as a control. I ate a similar meal without the processed high-sugar food and drink. An hour after eating, my blood glucose was 4.9 mmol/l. Two hours after eating it was 5.5 mmol/l. Which suggests it takes longer for the glucose to arrive and when it does, it is less dramatic.

Having made various measurements on other days before and after eating, it seems my blood glucose on the GI diet fluctuates between 4.8 to 5.8 mmol/l. One day I went for a 20-minute run an hour after eating and it dropped to 4.6 mmol/l, but an hour later recovered to 5.3 mmol/l without eating anything else. In fact, this was on a low-calorie day in the fasting diet I follow (two low-calorie days per week – see 'fast living' blog posts).

The peak of 7.9 mmol/l appears to show the impact of the high-sugar intake. It is within acceptable limits according to the literature I've read. My body produced insulin to instruct my cells to absorb glucose and the level dropped to the steady-state level in 2 hours.

But the swing is less marked with the GI diet. Apparently this translates into less risk of developing type-2 diabetes, which arises when cells become less responsive to the insulin signal and blood sugar can run out of control.

This has only been a snapshot test, but it does seem to support the theory.

The GI diet is no problem to follow, though it is making me averse to processed foods. There are whole aisles in the supermarket that I now ignore as they scream 'sugar' at me.

In fact, I am enjoying food more, even embarking on some of the recipes in the books I've been reading.

Goodness. I even baked my own wholemeal bread last week.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Goodbye to 2013

The current technique I use for refreshing the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags starts with me thinking of this date 6 months ago. From there I move to the same day of the week. My review involves recalling the images for the day before and the same day for every week until one month ago (from where I run through every day until yesterday).

This is usually my waking routine, sometimes extending into getting ready for the day.

So today being Wednesday 2 July, I first stepped to 2 January on my mental calendar and found it to be a Thursday. So my review began with Tuesday 31 December 2013. The each Tuesday and Wednesday of successive weeks.

In other words, this was the last time the 6-month window started in the year 2013.

I feel a sad sense of letting go with this realisation.

It was not a good year: a young niece passed away towards the end of it after an illness diagnosed a little over a year before that. So the memory tags for 2013 are punctuated by final days shared and moments of suffering.

I still revisit each day of the year, but now on a slower cycle.

At some point during the day, I recall the same date in each month. So a day per month, starting from 2 January 2011, through the 2nd of each month in 2012, 2013 and the 6 months of this year that have already passed.

As more distant days only come to mind once per month, they are sometimes a surprise. Today it was 2 December that struck me. My memory tag is standing on a street in the capital looking at the Christmas decorations.

Before I began this process, a memory like this might well have dwindled to nothing. Or if I recalled it, I might not remember to which year it related.

I bought a laptop on that trip – then went for a walk to look at the lights while they fitted a memory expansion board (ironically enough).

Without my memory tags I would be hard pressed to remember when or perhaps even where I bought the laptop I am using now.

So 2013 lives on.

 With the moments and the people that made up the days I lived through.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Pick a month

In recent days I have had difficulty locating some of the images pinned to my memory calendar as memory tags to remember each day that passes.

I was starting to wonder if this may be associated with my decision to give up sugar. As I mentioned recently a sugar rush from raisins (natural, but still with high on the glycaemic index) boosted my alertness on a long car journey (see 'no sugar' posts). Could the opposite be happening if my blood glucose is stabilising at a lower level, without the peaks and troughs brought on by processed sugar?

I don't think that was the cause. As is often the case, the days that presented problems were in the months that have most recently dropped out of my more comprehensive daily review of the past 6 months: September and October 2013 in particular.

I used the techniques I have developed to recover these lost images, though for some it was actually a day or two before they burst back into full vividness. I was starting to think maybe it was time to accept some days will be lost and that seemed to kick my brain into gear so I remembered the missing image was actually a particularly valuable memory I did not want to lose. That boosted my motivation.

Of particular benefit in locating them was running through each day of the specific month sequentially. The surrounding days provide context and triggers.

Starting my review today on 27 December 2013, it struck me that this month has been progressively dropping out of the 6-month review window. Instead of refreshing images every day, or at least twice each week, they are refreshed only once per month (see the link in the side panel to 'refresh technique' for more details of my current method).

So today I decided to do a run through of December. It was well worth it, as some of the memory tags really benefited from being dusted off. It can take time, however, as the images trigger other memories that are tempting to explore.

A year ago, when I had less days to remember since beginning this process, I would occasionally do a run through every day in sequence from when I started on 17 December 2011. I haven't done that for a long time and doubt I will have the time to do it again as the days continue to pile up. Perhaps if I have time to spare on my death bed.

But I think I will make a point of picking a month every now to run through each day.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Brain boost

Apparently when you remove processed sugar from your diet, it takes a while for your body to adjust.

Before, blood glucose levels spike after eating food or drink with processed sugar, only to drop sharply as insulin is produced to tell your cells to absorb it.

Glucose levels are more regular, but lower, maintained by the breakdown of more complex sugars, carbohydrates and fats in foods with low Glycaemic Index (GI). Processed sugar has a GI of 100. Foods with a lower GI take longer to be broken down to glucose. Foods with a GI below 55 are recommended.

From what I have read, it is advisable to snack between main meals to maintain blood glucose at a steady level. Fruit is good, though I am partial to raw carrots. Carrots have a GI of around 50, more than apples (GI 38), but contain less sugar overall and has the advantage of coming with fibre.

Driving to my parents recently, I felt a familiar drop in alertness, which usually prompts me to stop for coffee and some chocolate.

This time, I had the coffee, but looked for an alternative snack without processed sugar. A mix of nuts and raisins seemed a good bet. Raisins have a GI of 64, so they are not a green lighted food in Rick Gallop's traffic light system.

They had an immediate effect in energising my brain for the remainder of the journey. I'm now carrying some nut and raisins mix in the car for whenever I need to boost my alertness with a healthier sugar hit.

On the return leg, I tried coffee without raisins when I started to flag to see if it was the caffeine hit that had been responsible. It was not.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Bye to sugar

The bad press that sugar has been getting has not passed me by, but it has taken me a while to decide to cut processed sugar from my diet.

There is research that suggests a high sugar diet can affect memory and cognitive skills (an example in Huffington Post).

Diabetics are warned of the risk of too high or too low sugar levels on brain function (Diabetes UK).

Most processed food has added processed sugar, whether it is glucose, fructose, corn syrup or some other designation. While there are already warnings about the health risks of consuming too much sugar, there are suggestions that the Guideline Daily Amounts have been set too high, due to influence from the food industry (British Medical Journal article).

Even then, the current recommendation of limiting daily calories from added sugar to just 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men is blown away.

According to the US Center for Disease Control, the average American consumes 440 calories per day from added sugar – that's 156 pounds (70 kg) of sugar per year. Not far off your own body weight, unless you are already obese!

This statistic comes from an article on the Psychology Today website that goes on to suggest:

'Research indicates that a diet high in added sugar reduces the production of a brain chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Without BDNF, our brains can't form new memories and we can't learn (or remember) much of anything. Levels of BDNF are particularly low in people with an impaired glucose metabolism—diabetics and pre-diabetics—and as the amount of BDNF decreases, sugar metabolism worsens.'

Excess glucose in the blood triggers the pancreas to produce insulin as a signal to cells to absorb the glucose.

In the case of the liver and muscles, this is stored as glycogen. This process can be reversed when glucose levels fall too low in the blood.

But keep overdosing on sugar so that the liver has stored all the glycogen it can and the insulin signalling may break down, leading to uncontrolled glucose blood levels and the development of type-2 diabetes.

Our bodies are powered by sugar, of course. We need it.

Fruit, vegetables and milk contain sugars. Carbohydrates in vegetables and grains, and fat in meat, fish and other foods, are broken down into sugar.

Our brains run on sugar. In fact, as eHow summarises, 'more than 60 percent of the glucose streaming through our blood is consumed by the brain'

So how can we obtain the glucose we need without overdosing and the attendant health risks?

By obtaining sugars, carbohydrates and fats in an unprocessed and unrefined state. That means cooking meals from natural ingredients, using whole grains and eating fruit.

This gives us the glucose we need, but without the glucose spike and overdosing that comes from added sugar and processed foods.

There are guides on the foods to eat. A book I am reading at the moment is The GI Diet by Rick Gallop. This colour codes foods with traffic lights depending on their Glycemic Index, which 'measures the speed at which you digest food and convert it to glucose.'

Sugar has a rating of 100. Boiled potatoes 56. Oatmeal 42. An apple 38.

My memory tag for 16 June 2014 is visiting the library and bookshops to search for information on controlling sugar levels.

I'll tag any future blog posts on this topic with 'no sugar'.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Lost image: 30 April 2014

I lost the image for 30 April 2014 yesterday.

It was strange because I knew it was a corker. It sat within a sequence of images that were still clearly visible on my mental calendar. But Wednesday was a white out. Nothing.

It was also strange because that week had been one I could run through quickly in my reviews. The images were related to each other somehow.

But the day had dropped out of my sequential review of past days on 30 May. Now it is only included when I came to look at past Wednesdays over the previous 6 months each Wednesday and Thursday (see the link at the side for my refresh technique).

Yesterday was Wednesday, so I ran through the Tuesdays and Wednesdays since 11 December 2013. I came to 30 April. Nothing. I had not yet built the associations with days a week apart.

Returning to reviewing the whole week as I was used to, did not help. I was able to remember certain things about that day. In the evening I had looked at hotels to stay near my brother who I planned to visit at the weekend.

But that was not the tag.

The day before I had a meeting about a website I was working on. But the website wasn't in my memory tag for Wednesday, I was sure, although there was some connection.

I didn't sweat it, but moved on to my longer review of a day per month from January 2011. That was fine.

I was expecting the image to pop into my head at some point unprompted, as is often the case, but it had still not done so by the time I was going for an evening run. I was starting to wish I had moved the images into a written record when they dropped out of the sequential daily review of the past month. But I knew that being forced to remember would help to reinforce the memory better than cribbing off a written record.

So I did what I have done several times before in this situation: I ran through the whole month starting on 1 April. I was a little apprehensive as I approached the blank day as nothing was coming immediately to mind. But in the end the associations worked and it came back to me in a flash.

I had been booking the hotel to stay near my brother as we had met for lunch that day. While I was waiting for him, I had been meeting a deadline for filing some documents. That had been the association with my meeting the day before about the website project: getting things sorted.

Image tag: Wednesday 30 April 2014, completing documents while waiting at a café for my brother.

So now it is back and, hopefully, the fact I had to struggle to remember it this time, will make it easier next time.

Friday, 30 May 2014

What's my bike called?

I cycle to work every day. Despite getting on and off my bike for this journey, I had no idea of the name of the bike. In fact there are two names, the manufacturer and model, both in large text on the tubing.

As I've had two bikes stolen in my time as a cyclist, I took a photograph of the bike with my phone, just in case. Otherwise, I'd be in the embrassing position of not even knowing what it is called should I have to report a theft to the police

When I took it to the shop for repair recently I read the names as if for the first time. They had simply not registered with me, despite seeing the bike nearly every day. Even when locking it up and looking directly at the words, I did not consciously read them.

But I can tell you the names now because they are in my memory tag for 24 April 2014, when my rear wheel hub collapsed as I cycled to the office.

When I think of my bike now, I see the names on the frame.

That was over a month ago.

Every time I have reviewed the memory tag since then, I recall the names and it strikes me that I haven't actually read the words again since that day. Seeing my bike in reality does not refresh them in my memory, only the reviews.

Monday, 19 May 2014

In praise of physiotherapists - part one

The images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags can track a developing story.

The associations that arise between them makes recall easier, particularly during my review process (see the 'Refresh Technique' under 'About me' on the right).

However, this process is much more powerful than that. For example, it enables me to track developments.

One such example is my progress as a runner.

I know the date I ran my first 5 km race and the dates of all the races since. With nice symmetry, my first 10 km race took place a year after my first 5 km race, in parallel with the next edition of it.  I remember where and when I bought each pair of new running shoes. I remember significant developments in my technique, such as watching the running clips on youtube on 10 November 2013 to learn to run like an Olympian.

And I remember getting injured, which happened to me on 23 April 2014.

Running had been going so well, to the point that I began to think of moving up to half marathon distance. So on 21 April I set out to see how I felt running at that pace, which I reckoned for me would be about 6 min/km. It felt so sustainable I ended up running for 21 km.

I ached a little, but was otherwise fine and so checked out dates for forthcoming races. I had a rest day, then set out for a short run, doing a few kms at the same 6 min/km pace, then upping the speed.

After a couple more km I had to stop as a twinge in my right knee deteriorated over 100 metres into the sharp pain of a torn ligament. I know next time to spot the signs and stop sooner.

After some days of massaging it and applying ice, I wasn't sure whether more rest or a return to gentle running would be best. A short run told me I was not ready. So I booked to see a physiotherapist, reasoning that when serious athletes injure themselves they have professional support to return to activity in the shortest possible time.

The physio I visited was wonderful. I went looking for advice on the best recovery strategy, more than treatment, but gained a thorough assessment of why I had been injured in the first place and how to prevent a recurrence.

I was diagnosed with weak hip muscles which meant my knees are displaced towards my instep. This was more pronounced on my right leg, as shown by the wear on my running shoes.

The solution is a variety of exercises to strengthen my hip muscles and stretch my calf muscles. Some feel unnatural. My feet have been incorrectly positioned for years, explaining a whole host of other issues, including why I didn't progress well with downhill skiing.

So I've spent today looking closely at the feet of people around me to see where they point as they walk. This evening I looked again at youtube for clips of foot strike.

What to me still feels like an unatural inward twist of my feet puts them in the same position as many of the running coaches I see in the clips. My insteps should be parallel, not pointing outwards. A lot of people do not walk or even run like this, but here are a couple of clips I have found that show what I mean, even if this is not their primary purpose.

This is a useful exercise involving running up steps.

The guy's feet point forwards, not outwards.

This is about foot position more generally.

From the above, I can see where I am aiming, but having expert advice from a physiotherapist has been essential for me. I have learned I have some fairly serious corrections to make and have the confidence to make them, even though the pain in my right knee has now been replaced by the aches in muscles that are stretching and working in new ways.

The physio said that I should notice an improvement in my running performance as more muscles will come fully into operation when I am in better alignment.

Once again, I feel as if I am only at the beginning of this adventure.

Here's another intersting exercise I came across in my youtube search.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Going faster

I need to speed up in my daily reviews.

It's not that they place demands on my time. They are just too interesting.

I generally run my 6-month review when I first wake up and complete it while still in bed, or sometimes while having a wash and breakfast. This involves running a two-day window over each week starting 6 months ago (today is Thursday, so this covers each Wednesday and Thursday). I review every day when I come to the last month.

At some point during the day I go through the same day of the month for each year since 2011. That's 12 dates per year. I run these reviews in discrete blocks. Taking a few minutes at odd times, such as cycling to the office, making a cup of tea, walking into town.

These yearly reviews can be over in minutes. Most of the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags have been reviewed so often they are familiar. It is a rare day that I have to scrabble around for a lost image.

Recalling the image, or sometimes several images, associated with a date is enough for this process of remembering. But frequently these serve as an entry point to remember much more about that day and surrounding days. As I only revisit these days once per month now, I am sometimes drawn into to thinking about them a little more.

The past is unalterable without a time machine, but perspectives change. Stories are completed, or another chapter is written.

I change, from the experiences I live through and from this experience of remembering every day that passes. It gives me grounding and balance. I am less stressed. I appreciate as never before that every day comes to end and tomorrow will come.

I have long tried to view life as a precious gift and every day a present. This now has a new richness because an enjoyable day is not gone forever after it has been lived. It lingers on – and once a month I revisit it.

But the days pile up: there are 880 on the counter on this blog today since I began this process.

So there are only so many memories I can allow to distract me.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Lost image - 21 August 2013

My wife and I stayed at my parents' house last week. I had to make an overnight business trip and when I returned my parents said they had taken my wife to a restaurant she had never visited.

I had been to the same place once before, last year. Normally these days I would be able to give the date of such an event and relate the circumstances, but I drew a blank. I knew the name and that I had been, but could not remember when: it had not featured in any of my reviews of the images pinned to my mental calendar and so was faded, vague and floating free.

Worse than this, I remembered that after visiting I had decided to include the restaurant in my memory tag for the day. Somehow it had been replaced by something else. Sometimes I have more than one image pinned to a day, but I usually sense if I am not remembering them all in a review.

In this case something had gone wrong: I hadn't thought about visiting this restaurant for many months.

I did know it was while my wife was visiting relatives in her own country last year, so decided to go through all the dates she was away when I was visiting my parents. There were three blocks of time, but I could not say which of these was the one so went through them all.

Going through day-by-day recalling the images, I found the memory in the third block.

On Tuesday August 20, I went to the running club I sometimes attend while home. On Wednesday I had a vague tag about going for a solo run with aching legs after the training session the day before. I realised this was the day I had visited the restaurant and this had been my original memory tag – it suddenly hit me that the name of one of the runners in my tag for the Tuesday – Charles – had been my prompt for remembering the name of the restaurant - Carlo's.

But there was more that proved to me this was the day. We went to the restaurant after a reconnaissance mission to the hospital where my mother was due to attend a memory clinic for assessment of the deterioration of her short-term memory. My memory tag for the following day - solidly pinned to my mental calendar and present in my reviews - was the outcome of that visit.

Now the visit to the restaurant is restored to its correct place on my mental calendar, thanks to the surrounding clues.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Anniversary memories

This process of remembering every day that passes continues to enrich my life.

How often would I otherwise have remembered the events of 28 March 2012, when I visited an radio telescope facility with my parents, wife and nephew. My memory tag is sitting at the café with the enormous dish looming over us. One of those special days that I appreciate as being one of the happiest of my life as I live it and do not want to forget.

In my review technique that image and the feelings of the day come around on the 28th of every month. 

In fact, as my reviews cover days going back three years now, there is always something to make me smile and be grateful.

It is even more special when the day falls on an anniversary as then I can justifiably say to my wife, "Do you remember where we were on this date two years ago?"

Monday, 31 March 2014


Just because I might have a tendency to hypochondria does not mean I will never get ill.

And I cannot deny the symptoms logged in some of the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags.

My current concerns began on 11 February 2014, when tingling started in the thumb, index and middle finger of my left hand. I have long experience tingling in my face, but suddenly this was more pronounced, as if I am recovering from a dentist's injection and other times feels like I have been burned, and spread to my tongue, accompanied by a slight metallic taste.

Searching the internet suggests these are symptoms to have checked out. On 17 March I did register with a doctor with the intention to make an appointment, but have not yet done so. As a hypochondriac, I've become used to scaring myself, only to have my carefully monitored symptoms dismissed, sometimes after tests. Pains in my lower back were not signs of kidney disease, but probably exertion. Pains in my chest were not a heart attack, but a muscle spasm (intercostal neuralgia). The clicking vertebrae in my neck, which began 18 months ago and I sometimes fear may be behind these latest developments are nothing to worry about: many people experience the same.

More to the point, over a decade ago I experienced similar feelings of tingling skin on my arms and a clammy deadness in my legs and was checked out to the point of an MRI scan, that found nothing wrong. I feared at the time the commencement of a nervous disorder – in the darkest moments the dreaded MS that disabled and finally killed a brother-in-law. Nothing found and my worries faded, though the tingling cheeks I have experienced for as long as I can remember, never really left.

My recent internet research suggests possible other causes. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one, though I am not a vegetarian, even if I rarely eat red meat. I follow a fasting diet two days per week and have been stricter since Christmas and lost around 5 kg as a result. Perhaps that prompted a vitamin imbalance. Just in case, I started taking a vitamin supplement, also on 17 March.

Carpal tunnel syndrome could explain the tingling fingers. In a bizarre coincidence that seems like a cosmic joke, this came up in a telephone conversation with my father on 19 March when he told me he is booked for an MRI scan as he has been suffering from tingling fingers. He attributed this to carpal tunnel syndrome at first as my sister had been diagnosed with the same some years before (she was probably also beset with fears of the MS that took my brother-in-law). Then on 27 March a colleague at work mentioned she thought she was developing carpal tunnel syndrome ("Are your fingers tingling?" I asked, but she has aches in her wrists).

I do spend too long on the computer and both these symptoms and the clicking in my neck seem linked to the duration and levels of stress: if I work late into the night I know it.

There have been times when I have woken with both forearms and hands numb and I have started to wonder if this is computer related. As part of a life reassessment, I'm trying to keep work to set hours (though I am typing this early morning).

Whether from vitamin supplements, less typing or nervous disorder remission, the symptoms have diminished to slight tingling in my left thumb, index finger and middle finger, with the same tingling cheeks. Now I am in monitoring mode and my fears have started to recede. I have told no-one.

But there have been seem dark moments. My memory tag of 16 March is visiting a nature sanctuary with my wife. It had been a few years since we have visited and as we walked around I wondered if this would be the last opportunity – and so a moment to be savoured.

On 6 March I was running on an empty beach and decided to close my eyes, thinking of how life would be if I lost my sight.

On another run on 25 March, I ended up sitting on a bench at the top of a hill, feeling wonderfully healthy from the exertion and wondering if the symptoms were just another descent into hypochondria and not signs of my imminent demise.

It struck me that something will get me in the end. Like everyone around me I am ageing, day by day. Like everyone before me, I am mortal.

So run while I can, I thought, charging back down the hill.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Liver shrinkage

I had been following the intermittent fasting – or 5:2 diet – reasonably well until Christmas.

Then I suddenly noticed my gut was protruding and I was over 91 kg on 2nd January.

Back to low calorie days on Mondays and Thursdays and I've shed 7 kg in two months.

I noted here last year how my belly seems to deflate almost day by day as I lose visceral fat around my organs. Although intermittent fasting is supposed to have health advantages beyond weight loss, losing visceral fat is definitely a good thing to do. It is easy to monitor as I just try to stick my gut out.

For a while I noticed greater protuberance to the left side, presumably my stomach. Since then things evened up for a while.

Now it feels like there is nothing to protrude: trying flexes my stomach muscles rather than pushing my stomach, liver and whatever else forward. Things are fitting where they should again.

Last time I stabilised at around 82 kg. In theory my ideal Body Mass Index is a further 6 kg below this, which might be interesting to aim for just to see what happens.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Adding information

The images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags are providing a way to capture not only what I was doing on that day, but other key information I would like to remember.

This includes the names of friends' children, types of trees and jokes (see past posts).

Sometimes, however, I have to add the information after the event.

I was reminded of this yesterday, Wednesday 26 February 2014, as I went through the memory tags for each Tuesday and Wednesday of the past 6 months in my morning review.

On Wednesday 16 October 2013, my wife and I met my mother at a garden centre for lunch and shopping. They did not have what she wanted so we went on to another one I had not visited before. I included this in my memory tag that night, but could not remember the name of the second garden centre.

Passing by a couple of weeks later, I constructed a mnemonic to remember the name and added that to the memory tag retrospectively.

Now whenever I think of that day, I remember the name of the garden centre.

This is powerful, but it troubles me as it is, in a sense, a false memory. I did not record the name when I visited. Now I can think of my mother suggesting we go on to this second garden centre and hear her saying the name. But until I saw the name again, I couldn't retrieve this information by thinking back to that same scene.

It is something police forces and juries have to be aware of when assessing the reliability of witnesses: are they remembering something from the time it allegedly happened or have they, even unwittingly, added the information to their memory after the event?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

That year

I have found an easier way to refresh the memory tags on my mental calendar for years past.

Now 2014 has well and truly begun, I have three full years to get through in the one-day-per-month part of my refresh routine.

This is something I do during free mental time during the day. But it was starting to feel a bit daunting.

So now I split the review into yearly blocks.

At some point during the day, I call up 2011 and remember images pinned to each day for the same day of the month: it being 17 February today, I remember the 17th of each month.

It doesn't take long, particularly as 2011 is mainly blank as I only began this processing of remembering on 17 December 2011.

At another time, I'll run through the 12 days due for a refresh in 2012 and later those in 2013, tagging the image for the day in January 2014 on at the end, at least for now. As 2014 progresses, it will merit its own separate slot.

I do wonder what will happen when there are too many years for even this more relaxed approach to cope. I have a vague hope that the point will come when I can remember the memory tags without having to refresh them, just think of the date and it appears.

But, for now, I still find pleasure in the reviews.

It is very rare now that I struggle to remember an image. Frequently they are like old friends I want to greet and renew acquaintances, even though it will be no more than 31 days since I last thought of them.

It was like that today, thinking of 17 July 2013. It was the day I gave my mother a book of photos I had laid out with captions and had printed, a delayed birthday present. She was overjoyed with it and for months afterwards would take it out most days to look through.

That's a nice memory to come around every month, whether I dwell on it or not.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Precious memories

February 2014 and I begin in the not-so-new year now when I review the memory tags for the past month.

My two-day-per-week review of memory tags for the past 6 months still begins in 2013, but inexorably the months drop out of it. When they do I make a point of running through every day of the month before letting it slide into the day-per-month review that refreshes the images in the more distance past.

Coming across the images capturing the key events and feelings of the early days of this process of remembering every day that passes, at the end of 2011 and into 2012, it struck me how precious they are, how glad I am to have them.

It would have been enriching to have begun this process long ago.

As more time passes, the memory tags I do have become more precious.

Friday, 24 January 2014

A life ended

At the end of 2012 we learned that a close relative had been diagnosed with cancer. A year later she passed away, a little over thirty years old.

We are still coming to terms with the distress of the final stages of her illness and that she is now gone, while trying to gain perspective by remembering her whole life.

She figures in many of my memory tags. I know exactly when certain events happened in the progression of her illness. I remember the special days we spent together both before and after her diagnosis.

This includes memory tags I have added retrospectively to the blanks on my mental calendar before I began this process of remembering every day that passes. We were together on 1 January 2011, the month when I begin the day-per-month reviews.

I was walking and speaking with her father soon after New Year this year and spoke to him about New Year three years before. We shared memories and stories. It was good to remember her, but there was a question that kept coming to mind, but was too painful to ask because it was no longer relevant: what were her plans?

When a life ends we have only the days lived to remember.

A phrase on cards and fridge magnets says that no-one is truly gone if they are remembered.

And so I am glad to have these memories and to come across them regularly following my refresh technique. Not just of this relative, but all the family and friends I share my life with.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Hello mate

I understand that in the acting profession people call each other "darling" because they want to be friendly to people they meet - they may have worked with them or hope too - but can't always remember their names. This is particularly true for those who are famous and may not be sure if someone knows them or just knows who they are.

I'm not famous, but find it worse when someone knows my name and I cannot remember theirs. The window when I feel able to ask for a reminder, if it exists at all, is very narrow. It becomes difficult when engrossed in conversation with someone who knows my name to stop and say, "Tell me your name again". So I try to get the question in early and then remember the name. Using it repeatedly is a good way.

Then I include the persons face and name in the image for that day, as described previously. This sometimes includes a mental picture of everyone around a table at a dinner party or meeting and saying their name to myself as I try to recall their face. If I end up chatting with someone at the runs in the park I often attend, I'll ask their name and make a point of remembering it.

From this I've realised that while remembering the name of strangers you have met once can impress them, it can also be awkward for them and even unsettling. Why should a someone you may only vaguely remember talking to months ago remember your name? It helps if I reference back to the past meeting when I begin.

It is interesting how people respond when they do not remember my name. Few actually ask. Several times I've had people call me "mate" or "friend" - though not yet "darling".

So this is a new dilema to be resolved: how do I remind people of my name when they have clearly forgotten it - and possibly me - when I greet them by theirs?

Again its best to get in through the narrow window when first meeting again: "I'm Lembran. We met at the run at the beginning of October, I think it was."

Best to say "I think it was", I feel, than freak them out by giving the exact date, plucked from my mental calendar.

Saturday, 18 January 2014


I've commented before that I often find it harder to recall the memory tags for recent days than for days long gone.

This has been particularly true this week, for two conflicting reasons. On the one hand, the days are similar in routine and location. On the other hand, there have been some significant developments in resolving some personal issues through discussions with my wife.

Information has filled my mind and it has made it difficult to separate out what happened on one day rather than another.

Only as the week has reached its end have I been able to construct the images to capture each day, attaching the progress towards a resolution of the issues my wife and I have been discussing to the subtly different landmarks of time and place.

I am reminded that life is lived going forwards, but understood looking backwards.

What we choose to remember is, to some extent, dependent on the story we tell of our own lives. This is undoubtedly even more true in following this process of remembering, where I construct an image for each day to capture the essential facts I want to keep forever: I consciously choose those facts.

Newspapers have been described as "The first draft of history".

I didn't quite understand this when first I heard it. It seemed to me that news written at the time would be superior to someone from the future looking back on events with only partial details to piece together a story. But I came to understand that history needs to be pieced together and interpreted. The news stories for a particular day may only provide glimpses of a greater picture that comes to view with a little distance.

So it is has been this week. Each day a piece of the puzzle emerged to slot together by the week's end.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Not fade away

Having images pinned to every day of my mental calendar for 2012 and 2013 is changing my perception of memory.

It is probably obvious, but memories are not captured moments of time, they are constructs.

Using my current refresh technique, I can recall all of the memory tags I use to remember the days that have passed since I began this process.

If I try to remember a day before I began this process, then generally I have no clue what I was doing on that particular day. With a bit of thought, I can work out where I was living, though as I move between my own country and my wife's even that is sometimes a challenge.

These older memories have faded not so much because of time's passing, but because I have not refreshed them. By refreshing a memory tag at least once per month, it remains with me. Perhaps as this process continues, memories will be entrenched in my long-term memory with less frequent refreshes.

Associated memories, which are triggered by these memory tags but not routinely refreshed, are another matter, of course.

The details I capture in the memory tags I expect to remain, because they are not really moments of time, they are constructs. I can remember them as well as I can remember facts, such as E=mc^2, or that Han Solo was played by Harrison Ford.

This concept is perhaps obvious, but it frees me from the idea that memories of past events will inevitably fade as time passes.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Tell me a joke

The New Year is a time for resolutions.

So I reflected on what I would like to change for the better and came up with something both concrete and achievable.

I would like to be able to tell jokes.

I have one or two memories from when I was at college and was full of jokes from recently read student union magazines and was able to fire of jokes with the best of them passing an enjoyable evening.

But that was long ago and for most of my life I have struggled to remember jokes. Except for a couple that stick in my mind.

What's orange and sounds like a parrot?
                      A carrot.

Which then reminds me of my second joke:

What is brown and sticky? ===========================================> A stick.

It is a limited repertoire that does not add much to an evening's bonhomie.

So I have decided to use this process of remembering every day that passes to become better at remembering and telling jokes.

My aim is to bring a good joke into the images I pin to my mental calendar as memory tags every now and then.

One way to do this is by telling the joke during an event I want to remember.

So sitting at a café today with my wife I told her about the perfectionist, the stoic and the miser going into a bar (insert the national stereotypes applicable for your country). They each order a beer, but before they can drink disaster strikes as flies buzzing around some sticky buns on the bar peel off and one falls into each glass of beer.

The perfectionist takes one look at the fly, swears and pushes her beer away.

The stoic fishes out the fly and takes a swig of his beer regardless.

The miser also picks out the fly and squeezes it, shouting: "Spit it out!"

So for this day I will remember for years to come sitting in the café, the pitying look on my wife's face and the joke I told.

My hope is that with a few jokes dotted around my mental calendar, I will overcome the block I have when it comes to remembering jokes and many more will come to mind when I have a joke-telling opportunity.

I am also experimenting with adding some jokes to existing memory tags.

The image I have for 29 December 2013 involves a dog. I have a joke for kids to do with a dog: Which side of a dog has the most fur? Answer: the outside.

Now all I need is some better material!

Monday, 6 January 2014

My mental calendar

I have been asked to describe the mental calendar I used in this process of remembering every day that passes.

I do literally visualise a month-per-view calendar with the images pinned to the days of it. In fact, I see these laid out in a line of pages before the year in large flaming numbers to which they relate.

Over time, I have developed pronounced spatial awareness of this calendar and feel like I am stepping from one day to the other as I go through my daily refresh technique - for full details of that, click on the link under "About Me" as it changes over time.

Applying current refresh technique today, 6th January 2014, includes reviewing the 6th day of each month from January 2011. This is before I began this process, but I find it an interesting part of my routine to try to fill in blanks. The marked contrast between what I can remember before and after starting this process on 17 December 2011 also motivates me to continue.

I simply remember that 1st January 2011 was a Saturday and that starts me off. I feel like I'm on the penultimate day on the first line of the calendar page closest to the flaming number 2011. Step back a line on the calendar and I'm on Saturday 8th January 2011. Two steps to the left and I'm on Thursday 6th January 2011. I don't have an image for that day, so just remember where I was for New Year instead and move on. 6th February 2011 will be three days later in the following month, because January has 31 days. So I step back a month, then right onto Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I'm now standing on 6th February, first line, far right.

As 2011 wasn't a leap year, February had 28 days and so I know 6th March was the same day of the week, same position, but further from the 2011 numbers.

March has 31 days, so on the next calendar page, I move three spaces, looping back to the start of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to 6 April.

Then a month back from the flaming 2011 and two days right, as April has 30 days, to Friday 6 May 2011. I have an image for 7 May - I was at a party that Saturday, which I remember, confirming my position on the calendar is correct.

And so on, until 6 December 2011 - another day I have a definite image for, which confirms it was a Tuseday and I haven't slipped up.

For the days since I began this process of remembering every day that passes, the image will generally come to me immediately, simply by voicing the date in my mind and the spatial awareness.

For the earlier days, there will generally be a blank, so I'll just think of something in that month I can remember.

From Tuesday 6th December 2011 it is a big step forward and a step to the right onto the calendar for 2012. I step onto the page closest to the flaiming numbers 2012, three days to the right, putting me on Friday 6 January 2012. The familiar image on that date confirms I am in the right place.

If I just pick a date at random, say 19th June 2012, and want to remember where I was and what I was doing, it may take a little time to orientate myself. I don't remember the image for that date immediately, so scan out along adjacent days. I do have a strong image pinned to 20th June 2012. The image for 19th June isn't connected to it thematically at all in this example, but the spatial connection is enough for me to remember the image.

If I have trouble remembering an image, I might have to run through the whole month to trigger the recall. If I'm doing the day-a-month review and I'm really struggling to remember an image, I'll come back later to find it. So far, this has not failed me. I've learned patience is a virtue when it comes to remembering memory tags.

As I say, I have a very strong sense of the spatial layout of the calendar, which helps me navigate it, but this is something that has developed over time. Initially, I was more picturing the calendar and sticking pins in it - now I feel like I am walking over it. I wrote a blog about this transition in perspective on 21 January 2013, when I found I could not only mentally walk around the calendar, but drop into the images to relive the moment. In fact, my memory tag for that date is writing the blog entry - I close my eyes and feel I am sitting on the sofa, with my feet up, laptop on my lap and can look around the room...