The Persistence of Memory – and when you wish it wouldn’t


I was reminded yesterday of something that happened on my honeymoon. It’s in no way private or personal, and if it’s derogatory in any way, then that’s about me, so I feel able to share this example of just how memory can assert itself in a way you’d rather it wouldn’t.

My dear wife and I honeymooned on Madeira, and enjoyed our week there immensely. Our suite had television laid on, and we could access a couple of dozen free channels in various languages, from the obvious Portuguese to French, Italian and Spanish. Some channels even offered English-speaking programmes.

On the Thursday, we returned to our suite in the early evening, between 6.00 and 7.00pm. Whilst my wife busied herself in the bedroom, I switched on the TV and flicked around the channels. One of them was showing an American sitcom.

I looked at it with curiosity. It was in colour, and we’d not had colour TV in our house until the early 1970s, but I could tell that this was something from the Sixties. I watched it for two or three minutes with a growing inkling in my mind that I knew this programme, and then something got said that confirmed my suspicions and I yelled out loud, bringing my poor wife running out of the bedroom, fearful that I’d suffered a stroke or something!

But I hadn’t. It was just that I’d become convinced that I knew what this was. I hadn’t seen it for thirty-five years or thereabouts, nor had I thought about it for the overwhelming majority of that time, but I was certain that it was Green Acres.

For those still in ignorance, Green Acres was, in some ways, a forerunner of The Good Life. It starred Eddie Albert as a successful New York attorney who, one day, acts on his lifelong wish to own a farm and move to the countryside, and Eva Gabor as his wife, a natural born socialite, who hates everything outside New York City but, this being the Sixties, has to go with her husband to a countryside full of eccentrics.

Green Acres was just one of dozens of American sitcoms that ITV Granada used to broadcast in the early Sixties, invariably between 6.00 – 7.00pm in the evening, so I was catching up with this at an appropriate time, however removed in years and space it may be. Things like Gilligan’s Island,_The Beverly Hillbillies, Mr Ed,_My Mother the Car, Petticoat Junction, The Addams Family: I was indiscriminately attracted by all of these. But Green Acres had gone out of my head until this moment, and I was busy reassuring my wife that I was perfectly fine (physically), explaining what she was bemusedly seeing and trying to concentrate upon the episode.

And then it ended, and I had the confirmation that my memories were not playing me false, because the theme song began, and I recognised it, and my wife was staring at me in horror because, over thirty-five years, I was word-perfect on the song! I could see her wondering just what she had gotten herself into!

As sitcoms go, and as sitcoms of that era go, Green Acres wasn’t a classic, and in the ten minutes or so that I watched, I neither laughed, nor recognised anything other than the more forgettable one of the two principal characters (Eva Gabor did not appear during the snippet I watched). But the show was alive inside my head and only waiting for the right stimulus to come out.

Such things can be extremely worrying. And not just for wives.

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