Caroline Mabey: Getting Lost in my Memory Palace

The unforgettable Caroline Mabey makes a note about trying to remember her show on memory and scrabble

Feature by Caroline Mabey | 31 Jul 2017
  • Caroline Mabey

At the time of writing I’m still trying to match my show to my programme blurb. declares that I’m losing my memory and invites you to join me as I try to memorise the 103 allowable two-letter Scrabble words. It also mentions holistic dance, but I’m hoping that’s metaphorical.

Anyhoots, it’s all very well having highfalutin fancy-dan aspirations in March. And I was an idiot in March when I wrote my blurb, for a show which has no intention of allowing itself to be written until mid-June. Show blurb is the equivalent of a child’s scrawled 'I want to be a fireman'. It’s irrelevant. Children are idiots. They don’t know what’s good for them. And now I’m stuck with the themes of memory and Scrabble.

I thought my failing memory would make a great subject, because it would give me an excuse to research memory techniques and help me improve mine. Surely the only thing that’s been standing between me and world domination for god-knows-how-long is my brain-like sieve? So I set about reading everything I could on aides-memoire and found out a lot of important stuff. Of course, it all instantly got forgot. The upside is I get to be amazed all over again every time I read a thing. The downside is... sorry, where was I?

At least when I was naming my show I remembered it was supposed to be about Scrabble. I found QUETZALS on a listicle of high-scoring Scrabble words. If you play your cards/tiles right, it is possible to win a whopping 374 points – about three times the average score for an entire game. GHERKINS was also listed. But, 'A small pickle, made from an immature cucumber' doesn’t sound as showbiz as 'The national bird of Guatemala'. OXAZEPAM – 'An anti-anxiety drug' – got 392 points and would have been an excellent choice if I could have got sponsorship.

How forgetful am I? It’s difficult to say, because I’ve lost track of all the evidence, the hints and allegations, the incidents and accidents. I live in a state of Alzheimers-lite, bumbling through, never finishing a sentence or a thought, never completing a task when a digression is there to be taken. Some of this can be attributed to general mental and physical wear and tear. And especially to motherhood. I read that the umbilical chord is basically just a fancy straw through which babies suck out two thirds of a woman’s brain cells like a pre-natal milkshake. It makes sense. Look at your mum. She’s an idiot.

Parenthood has definitely made a dent in any claims I might have had to being coherent. Sleep deprivation and constantly chasing round after an indomitable Godzuki don’t help the executive functions. But if I’m honest, having a baby made sense of my pre-existing persona. I no longer had to pretend to be drunk on stage – I could just say I’d given birth and suddenly I rang true.

Now my child is a five-year-old adult I can’t use that excuse any more, so I’ve decided to stop blaming her. I don’t want to instil mental problems that she’ll later be able to blame me for. So I’m owning my… whatever it is, my forgettiness, my inability to vocabularise. And (desperately) trying to remember some memory techniques… So that I might be able to memorise those 103 tiny meaningless words before August. The Fringe is in August isn’t it? I’ll check my diary.

Caroline Mabey: Quetzals, Just the Tonic at The Caves (The Spare Room), 3-27 Aug (not 14), 7.40pm, £5/PWYW