As a teenager (Many aeons ago) I often attempted to spark my dormant mind by reading as many books as possible, including Mayfair ( It had some good articles in it, honestly!) I would read just about anything and everything, Mills & Boon, science fiction, horror, autobiographies about Sporting icons, political giants and great actors and actresses, history books, Classics, DIY 😊, martial art instruction manuals, occult manuals, football histories and even wild and wacky self help books.
Many of those books stick in my memory, not least Dr Bruno Fursts’ infamous! Memory Aid.
Dr Bruno Furst I hear you cry, who the f£&k is/was that. Well let me tell you something, I didn’t know either but his name sounded terrifically impressive! I recall The New York Times ran a piece on Dr Furst (You see, I did my research!) I didn’t actually read the profile they printed on him, but hey, if a simple bloke like me couldn’t trust the NY Times judgement on who to run a story on, then who could I trust?!
Ok, Dr Furst was/is (Not sure if he’s passed) an absolute world leader in mnemonic knowledge !!! (Memory retention/improvement through practising memory exercises)
I worked my way through several of the techniques outlined in his book, absolutely convincing myself that with Dr Furst’s help I could and would improve my memory ten-fold. The first exercise I tried out was the art of achieving total relaxation, without which, his students would find it very difficult to improve their memories. Reading through his instructions whilst laying in bed chomping on a large chocolate and cream eclair was perhaps not the best preparation. However, like the dedicated student I pretended to be I followed his instructions word by word. I lay down flat in bed with the light off and began. I tensed my toes for 30 seconds, then curled them under, like clenching a fist. After getting excruciating cramp in my toes I managed to do the exercise and felt my feet relax. Then, I tensed both legs for 30 seconds and released. Then the buttocks, then the stomach, then the back, the same thing with the arms and hands and then finally the jaw. I was like a human jelly.
After going through all the tensing and relaxing I felt my body sink into the mattress. My god, was it actually working?! I went through this ritual every night before falling to sleep and the only product I gained from it was every time I tensed my buttocks up and then relaxed them, I farted like a trombone on acid. So, although this technique didn’t improve my memory retention, it did improve my gas expulsion.
Next exercise required me to walk to the nearest library, go inside, glance at all the books on the shelves, walk out of the library, stand and look at the library exterior and estimate the number of books in the library, go back inside the library and ask how many books they had!! Unbelievably, I actually did this, once! Apparently this technique developed the ability to guesstimate the amount of articles/items in any shop/building on the high street and would ultimately improve memory retention!! I remember the strange expression on the librarians face when I asked her how many books the library held, she must have thought I was a very special person. I’m surprised she didn’t reach for the phone and call security!! Another of the exercises was to walk into a shop, look at 10 random items, walk out of the shop and write them down on a piece of paper, go back into the shop to discover how many I was able to remember in order of my list. Eventually, after persevering for several weeks, I gave up and stored the book away for safekeeping but ironically, I could never remember where I’d put the f£&@“ng thing.
That was my journey into the science of mnemonics.