Mnemonics

Bubbles on poolSnail

As I walked down Downton Lane on my usual Hordle Cliff walk this morning, the fog alert signalled that there would be nothing to see across The Solent through the grey skies and driving rain. Bubbles forming and floating on the roadside pools slowly burst and created concentric circles on the surface which was thrown up by passing cars.

A speckled snail hauled its humbug home up a soggy stem.

UmbrellasChild with umbrellaLes parapluiesReminding me of Renoir’s famous painting ‘Les Parapluies’, an optimistic family sheltered under umbrellas as they made their way to the beach from Shorefield. The children needed a walk. The straggler was quite interested in being photographed.

Today’s Royal Mail post brought an invitation from BT to discuss cheaper options for our contract. Naturally I phoned them. A delightful young woman soon came on the line and renegotiated our account. We will now have a slightly smaller bill for faster Broadband and unlimited weekend calls. The contract has been transferred to my name, which rather pleased Jackie. We will need a new home hub which I am assured I will be able to install.

Sixteen young commissioners, aged 10 to 19, from the Children’s Commission on Poverty have recently produced research findings suggesting that the need for parents to provide certain extras, like computers, are pricing some families out of educational opportunities.

At Wimbledon College in the 1950s there were no PCs to be acquired. Most of the extras in those days were for additional activities such as the Boxing Club. The school was not really geared for art, so it was an unusual, if not the first, request for me to sit the ‘O’ Level examination in 1958, and no books were available. Although I don’t remember, Matthew Hutchinson, who would have walked it, must have sat it too.

jpegThe examination was largely an assessment of your artwork, but there was one set book, ‘The Parish Churches of England’, by John Charles Cox and Charles Bradley Ford. The school failed to supply this essential volume, and my parents could not afford it. Mum ordered it from Wimbledon Library. As the weeks rolled by, we waited with bated breath for its arrival. It was in our hands after school the day before the exam. Using a twenty four hour clock this would have been the sixteenth hour, but it certainly felt like the eleventh.

Having the advantage of reducing the text a little, this small format architectural history of our traditional places of worship was lavishly illustrated with black and white photographs. It had to be read in order to answer exam questions that would face me the next day. There would be possibly four illustrations from the book which I would need to identify and to comment upon.

I skim-read the pages of the book. I stared at what seems like hundreds of pictures. I couldn’t memorise them all. I selected some I thought most likely examples of various periods or styles of architecture.

It was rather late by then. I was pretty tired from the reading, and Mum had completed her normal heavy duty day of caring for the family. Our adrenalin, however, kicked in.

Mnemonics!

That was the answer. A mnemonic is a device dreamed up to aid memory retention. There are various types of these, one of which is rhymes, an example of which is ‘Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November………’, enabling us to remember how many days there are in each month.

Fixing my eyes in turn on each of the images I thought most likely to turn up on my desk the next day, I recited an invented nonsense rhyme until it was burned in my brain. Mum then took the book in hand, and, opening the tagged pages at random, asked a question about the photos thereon. By running the relevant rhyme through my head I came up with an answer. At first these were not always correct. A certain amount of repetition, late into the night, was required.

Finally, reasonably satisfied, we repaired to our respective beds. I had chosen well. I recognised each of the illustrations in the exam and answered the questions to the satisfaction of the examiners. Phew!

For this evening’s dinner Jackie produced a tender beef and mushroom casserole with Boiled potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Profiteroles were to follow. I drank Castillo san Lorenzo reserva rioja 2009, and Jackie didn’t.

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