This New Year my resolution lasted about an hour and a half. That’s not untypical of me, but this time I forgot it almost as soon as I made it.
You see, my avowed goal for 2011, in order to be more attentive to my darling wife, was to remember what she says and what I’m doing from one minute to the next. Far tougher than dieting, or giving up cigarettes, or any similar run-of-the-mill seasonal torture: this is well-nigh impossible.
Of course I could blame it on my ageing frame – don’t older people have trouble remembering their car keys and glasses? For me, it’s an art form. I don’t just walk round the entire house looking for something, then completely forget what it is I am searching for. I have raised the missing item game to a higher level.
By the time I’ve been scouring the house for ten minutes, I will be carrying an armful of other things that have distracted me en route. Eventually I sit down and wait. Jo, who remembers everything I forget, which is everything, will find me and say: “Izzy is still waiting for her shoes,” and I will gaze down at the assorted screwdrivers, lightbulbs, unopened bank statements and gardening magazines which have accumulated in my lap. Meanwhile I will have left cupboard doors ajar, fridges wide open, taps running, and gas burners smoking on the stove: I am a walking “forgetory” as my Mum used to call me.
And I know it’s not old age that’s at fault, for it’s happened since – oh, I can’t remember. Certainly since I realised, as a young director, that I possessed this gnat-like memory. It was something I hid from my colleagues.
I was known for my live directing skills. My BBC general election coverage was the biggest live show ever made: my control room had monitors fed with images from 250 separate cameras all over the country. I ran the show like a mad conductor – hair flying and screaming: coming to you, Oldham North, standby Mrs Thatcher, 2 minutes to Downing Street, and so on. That was easy: it was all happening in front of me, and the adrenalin helped me balance a thousand plates in the air. But if the plates had to land in a predetermined order, I was useless.
When I was directing dance programmes I realized I wasn’t really up to it. “5-6-7-8”: how could they always remember to jetée on the 5 and land on the 7? I sat next to the choreographer with reams of paper and little diagrams – tiny arrows showing where they went and when they jumped. I won all the international awards for my directing, but it was down to bravado and a good vision mixer: my brain was always one step behind.
But now it’s driving Jo mad. She calls it “selective memory”, combined with the selective hearing that afflicts all married men, of course. I deny it, and point to the fact that I am invited by large organisations to make long, witty after-dinner speeches and never seem to forget my lines. “So why did you forget to buy the yoghurt, then?”
On Tuesday (or is it Wednesday, I forget?) I have to speak to hundreds of delegates on the future of the BBC. I know exactly what I’m going to say: scrap the current channels and come up with a new blueprint; make the average age of commissioners reflect the average age of the country; and make the output come from the whole of Britain, not just London. It will last exactly fifteen minutes and I could recite every word. Yet there’ll be no script, just four key words written on the back of card the size of a train ticket.
I should be fine – if I’ve remembered to bring my glasses.