How often do we look back and remember things from the past? Believe me, says she from an advanced age, the older I get the more I do it. Wet, dismal afternoons tend to sink me into reminiscence until I get up and do something quickly. But are those memories accurate - no they are not, any more than that sense of deja vu is.
Do you remember what you were doing when JFK was assassinated. That is one of those defining moments when they say that everyone remembers what they were doing (whoever 'they' is). I am sure I remember - I lived in the depths of the Lincolnshire countryside, I was ironing, my young son had just gone to bed, my sister rang to tell me the news.
Daniel Finkelstein in today's Times writes about memory and 9/11 - another of those defining moments.
In 'The Invisible Gorilla' by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons there is an excerpt which suggest that memory plays tricks on us. Apparently in a study a group of undergraduates were asked to remember what they were doing on the day and for a few days earlier than 9/11. When the academics conducting the study went back to the same people a few years later and asked the same questions their memories were vivid but very inaccurate. But there was also a difference. They were willing to admit that they may well be wrong about those few days before 9/11 but they thought that no way was it possible that they were wrong about the day itself.
So it looks as though we feel secure in our memories of big events - even if the memories are false.
And of course, sometimes we have no memory at all of events - they have vanished for ever, even if we are reminded of this. Yesterday friend W and I met our friends from Windermere at our favourite Italian Restaurant in Kirby Lonsdale for lunch. During our lunch friend P asked if I remembered when I ran a choir in our little market town - I vaguely remembered that (it is about twenty two years ago) but I had completely forgotten that he was staying with me one day and I asked him to come to a rehearsal and play the piano so that I could conduct them, rather than try to do both at the same time.
But there was a momentous event as an outcome of this and I do remember that. I was getting this choir ready to sing with other choirs at a Harvest Festival. I was not the Principal Conductor, but would sing in the choir on the night.
The venue was St. Wilfred's Church in Harrogate. We set off with the bus driver assuring me that he knew exactly where St. Wilfred's was and he duly dropped us off there with about twenty minutes to spare - time to get into the choir stalls and get ourselves organised.
He drove off with a cheery good-bye, telling us that he was going to stop down the road and get fish and chips and sit and eat them and listen to his radio. Of course it was dark by this time and we trooped up the drive to the church in dim lighting. At the door was a large sign which said "Welcome to St. Luke's Church" - we were in the wrong place!
The youngest and fittest set off at a gallop down the road to where we could see the lights of shops in the distance. We huddled on the side of the road. Luckily she caught the driver, he came back and we toured Harrogate asking all and sundry for how to get to St. Wilfred's. We arrived half way through the first verse of We Plough the Fields and Scatter - hot and bothered, wind-blown and puffing heavily. I can assure you I can still remember the look of relief on the face of the conductor.
And I will tell you this for nothing. Should I ever pass St Luke's Church in Harrogate again I shall be in no doubt at all that I am having a strong feeling of deja vu.