You don’t need to know me particularly well to know that it’s girls like me that gave blondes a bad name in the first place. True, I am nothing if not hopelessly gullible and I often lack that little something my father calls ‘common sense’. My mother laments this latter fact all too often. However, I am otherwise surprisingly efficient in the workplace, am quickwitted in a crisis, and I flatter myself that I am a fairly good judge of fellow human beings. I can also vividly recollect memories, conversations and locations. Sometimes this annoys others, especially when I am mid-argument with them about this-or-that. Obviously, from time to time I forgot little things. We all do. It’s apparently something to do with our long term and short term memories’ in built mechanisms whereby seemingly trivial occurrences are discarded of, and subsequently forgotten.
Recently, I began to notice that things were deteriorating. It’s not that my cognitive ability seems to be in any way altered, but rather that my memory was lapsing more frequently, and I was becoming even more absent minded than usual. I forgot my keys, for example, when Rhys was somewhere inconvenient and inaccessible like Milan, and had to beg the estate agents for the spares before forgetting to return them. I washed a roll of brand new poo bags and almost washed the car keys. I lose my train of thought mid-way through a sentence.
As a born worrier, I am worried about this. Fairly recent bouts of extreme anxiety have made me wary of my own psyche, and have convinced me that if there’s going to be an issue somewhere in this body of mine, it will be in my brain. Daft, perhaps, but that’s anxiety for you. It’s not always rational. Reported links between tiredness and poor mental health had left me frightened of being tired. But I’m over that now. I have to be ‘over it’ or else I would never make it to another horse show and heaven forbid that happens.
Nevertheless, reported links between poor mental health and disorders such as dementia have further fueled my fear’s fire. Actually, subconsciously, they probably ignited it.
I know that reading is often risky; ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is how the saying goes’, and in this case, I don’t think there could be a truer phrase. It’s definitely dangerous to consult Dr Google. Then again, it’s so tempting.
Sabina Brennan, a research psychologist who penned ‘100 Days to a Younger Brain’ suggests that around 30% of Alzheimer’s cases can be attributed to seven risk factors, including low exercise levels, poor educational attainment, smoking, type two diabetes, high-blood pressure, obesity, and depression. Uh Oh. Best get my backside off the sofa and lay off the Dairy Milk.
To my utmost relief, it is apparently possible to delay brain atrophy. So now I’m doubly obsessed with the ‘Mediterranean diet’ and my fruit and veg intake – it’s not just my gut that will reap the benefits, it seems. I’ve finally given into Rhys’ suggestion of gym membership; this seems a better reason to spend the joining fee than my own vanity. I have already given up large quantities of Diet Coke and caffeine in a big to rescue my gut’s ‘good bugs’ and get a decent night’s sleep, so I was a step ahead here.
Pleased that according to the www. community, my grey matter wasn’t rotting more quickly than usual, and engaging in cognitive preservation, I concluded that it’s no wonder that some things wind up forgotten. With the pressure of juggling a myriad of commitments and responsibilities, things are bound to slip through the cracks of consciousness. Let’s not sweat it, I told myself.
Still, things continued to go down hill. I am currently driving around in my grandmother, or Mamgu’s car, complete with paisley cushions on the front seat. I was once again on my way home from London via the M4 corridor and had stopped at Leigh Delamere services for a double dose of fueling up. Betty and I came first, and then it was the car’s turn. I duly paid and left.
All was well for the first few miles. Then she – my car – began to judder. I thought it was a wheel or the steering but that was all fine. I decided to take it steadily, stick to the outside lane so that I could easily pull over if she began to feel worse.
I arrived home about an hour later than expected and with a car that was definitely sick. Straight into the garage she went. I expected the worst. I feared she may have seen out the last of our days together.
Farmer Tim text me a few days later. The garage had been in touch and my car was fine.
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘that’s a relief. What was wrong with her?’
Farmer Tim sighed. All thirty three years of fatherhood weighed heavily on his shoulders, I could sense it.
‘You put petrol in her instead of diesel’.
How? How could I have done this? I have had the car since 2012, it’s not like it’s the first time she’s needed refueling. And besides, most other vehicles I have to fuel from time to time are diesel. My truck for example, Maggie’s truck and Dad’s pickup are all diesel.
The next morning I set off for Glanusk stallion show in Mamgu’s car, following behind Mum and Maggie in the lorry as I needed to part ways with them and get to Gatwick that evening. Glanusk is a show I have frequented many times, and it is held on the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s ground in Builth Wells, so I have driven there on countless occasions. So I relaxed, and turned up the radio.
I was driving past ‘windy corner’ when I wondered how far it was until Llandeilo, the next milestone as far as I could see. And then my brain began to get a little muddled. Ordinarily, I can picture a route in my head, but my envisioned path ahead became sketchy. I pulled over. I had driven the wrong way.
By now I was convinced that I was losing the plot. I wasn’t so worried that I didn’t enjoy the day, and watching Maggie win on new team member Haighmoor Llewellyn, bred by family friend Julie, just a few weeks after winning on another fresh face, our own Haighmoor Gemma at Lampeter Stallion Show was a treat.
Nevertheless, I was fairly convinced I was losing it. So you can imagine my horror when I opened a private Instagram message from an acquaintance mid conversation, to find installments made into said conversation, apparently by me, of which I had no recollection of having ever sent. I thought that perhaps I had confused myself, and had in fact written the comment late in a state of semi-sleep and had simply erased it from my memory. The same thing happened about an hour later, so I rang my poor, long suffering mother.
‘Del,’ I said, ‘I have messages on my Instagram that I literally have no recollection of having written.’
‘Right,’ she said. ‘On what?’
‘Instagram. What if I am continually writing messages, Mum? Who else have I randomly messaged?! It’s scary.’ My mind raced, imagining myself sending all kinds of nonsense to all sorts of people. What would people think?! I told her what I had written.
‘Beth,’ she said, ‘you’re logged into Instagram on my phone, too. I wrote the messages.’
My heart soared. I wasn’t losing the plot after all. And off to Rome I flew.