Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Memories Are Made Of This

Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten what you were doing there? It’s a common experience caused by our brains compartmentalising memories on an event by event basis.

When one event finishes, the brain moves on to the next activity – especially if the new activity is taking place in a new environment or a separate room. The experiences registered during the first event are edited down and only the highlights are filed away for future reference. This is one of the reasons why bookmakers are already relishing Euro 2016: when the English football team lines up in France, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be a collective national amnesia regarding anything that happened in Brazil.

One of the mechanisms for recalling facts (or remembering whatever it was that you went into the kitchen for) is to re-trace your steps, either physically or mentally. Try it next time you find yourself standing perplexed in front of the kitchen sink. On returning to the bathroom, you’ll realise that what you were looking for was… the potato peeler! Although, frankly, I’d suggest that a standard razor is more useful for shaving with. 

Just as lost items can be found by going back to the beginning, so good memories can be triggered by visiting places that have positive memory associations. When racegoers flock to Cartmel, they’re not just enjoying a day out – many of them are also reliving joyous occasions that they’ve experienced in the past. Grand-parents bring parents who bring children, who will one day bring their children’s children – because the association between Cartmel races and fun family celebrations has entered the genealogy of multiple generations.

The whiff of barbecue smoke in the air, the yells of youngsters whirling on the waltzer, the drumming of horses’ hooves, the warmth of the sun on the picnic blanket, sometimes even the squelching of wellington boots in muddy puddles, the sizzle of sausages, the shouts of the bookies, sticky toffee pudding, English Lakes ice-cream, a pint of real ale from the Cartmel Brewery: memories are made of this.

One of the nicest things about racing at Cartmel in recent years has been the regularity with which Soul Magic has won his races. As racegoers return time after time, they run their fingers down the list of runners and see a familiar name. "Oh yes" they say, "he’s won here before." And he has – seven times. What can we say, the track obviously holds fond memories for him too. 

Soul Magic will be back at Cartmel at the forthcoming races, seeking a record breaking eight victories at the racecourse. He has broad shoulders, so I am sure that he will also be up to carrying the added burden of being my selection for the week ahead. Good luck.

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