Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 07/02/18

Marbles, And The Losing Of Them

This is starting to really bug me now.

I know that I have to face the ugly truth that I have very few of the green years left, and that - physically - it's all downhill from here.

I can deal with that; entropy is, after all, undeniable.

What I can't handle so readily is the suspicion - rising to near-certainty in some respects - that my mental faculties may be getting ready to ship out as well.

I've remarked once or twice before that my typing isn't what it was. I can still go at a fair lick, but what appears on the screen often bears little relation to what I thought I was tapping out. Now, some of this seems to be the result of sitting too far to the left or too far to the right vis--vis my keyboard, so that I rmd u[ hottinf thw keus one column off. But even when ideally situated, things wobble well beyond my customary inability to type the sequence 'tch' in the correct order.

(This is one reason why new pieces here have been a bit sparse of late, along with needing to get on with the Great Winter Project™, having to recreate two databases of information regarding my record collection from scratch because LibreOffice Base refuses to play with the Access databases they were originally set up on over fifteen years ago, and general cantbearseditude).

But I've also started having problems remembering words, abstract nouns in particular. OK, I've always had to pause before making the mistake of using the word 'compromise' when I meant 'comprise', but even dragging the correct word from what passes for my mind is more of a struggle than it once was.

Where I've really started to hit obstructions, however, is with names.

I have always prided myself on my being able to remember names easily, and to retrieve them with equal facility. I could pull out the name of, say, someone who was in the regular cast of The Tomorrow People in 1975 in a nano-second. Similarly recondite information was there at the touch, as it were, of a button.

Now, however, I find myself in an increasing struggle to dredge up that same information at all or, at best, without a struggle.

This has even extended to the names of colleagues, with some of whom I have worked for twenty years or more. An example: a couple of weeks ago, I was going out of the front door of the office when a long-time co-worker was coming in. "Hello!", she said. "Hello...........", I replied. I was out of the car park and onto the main road before I remembered that her name is Jan and that we had worked in the same building since about 1993.

But it's not just words, it's actions as well which now appear to be vanishing from my consciousness. Just half an hour ago - and the incident which has prompted this sedentary howl of anguish - I went out of the living room into the kitchen for about three minutes. On approaching the living room again, I saw that the light was out. "Bugger!", I bethought myself, "The bulb must have gone.". I reached for the light switch...

...to find that it was in the 'off' position...

...meaning that I had quite clearly turned the light off myself when leaving the room just three or four minutes previously...

..and not only could I not think of why I would do that...

...I didn't even remember doing it.

Now, each of these things taken in isolation could be written off with a jolly, self-deprecating laugh about having 'a senior moment'. But I am aware that wedges can have very thin ends, and very conscious of the fate of the late, great Terry Pratchett - who was not much older than me when his Embuggerance was diagnosed - when he found that he was doing his shirt buttons up wrongly, that he could no longer tie a tie, and that he accused his personal assistant of stealing the 'S' key from his keyboard when it was in its proper place between the 'A' and the 'D' all along.

If this is just standard decrepitude, I can't say I think very highly of it. It's bad enough that my body has let me down in a hundred different ways in my lifetime; I don't need my brain to start writing its will as well. The thought that information which I had, figuratively speaking, at my fingertips for so long should start to become so difficult to retrieve affects me in the way that other men get bugged and depressed by loss of virilty (you'll be delighted to know that that is a subject on which I will not, as it were, expand here - or anywhere else, for that matter).

I am conscious, however, that - in the same way that there is a 'learning gradient' (not 'learning curve', please!) - there may also be a slope of forgetfulness which becomes steeper the further down it you go.

Now that frightens me. I can live with physical decrepitude (which, as if to prove my point, I have just typed as 'decriptude' for the second time in three paragraphs); indeed, I have been living with it all my life, since I seem to have started out from a sub-optimal state.

But the thought of my mind wandering off without the rest of me fills me with a dread which no self-delusion can mask. Physical infirmity may be endured (at least, up to a point), but being absent whilst still being present would, to me, present a nightmare, an almost literal Living Hell.

Again, I think back to Pratchett and how he dealt with the falling apart of that most sharp of minds (and wouldn't it be just my luck that that might be the only thing I'll ever end up having in common with him?). I felt that his plea - his demand - for the right to a medically-assisted death at the time of his choosing was, philosophically and ethically, unimpeachable; we have no say in our entry into this world, we have far less control over our circumstances while we are here than we would prefer to think, and so we should at least have the inalienable right to choose the time and manner of our departure. That right should not be abridged by the dithering of well-meaning ninnies or the pooterings of people who think that scribbles on a goatskin from fifteen hundred, two thousand or three thousand years ago should be accorded a higher moral force that our own judgement augmented by objectively-determined knowledge.

I still cleave to that view. Indeed, I adhere to it more strongly as the years tick on. Physical uselessness may be tolerable so long as the mind continues in a satisfactory state of cogency. The reverse would be a travesty of life; or, rather, of existence, for that is all it could possibly be.

And I won't have it.