I’d be more than app-y to get help remembering faces from the past

PUBLISHED: 17:37 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:37 18 September 2019

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh pictured at Balmoral in 1972 - would you need help recognising them if you bumped into them?

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh pictured at Balmoral in 1972 - would you need help recognising them if you bumped into them?

© As Marked

As he gets older, David Clayton says he would welcome all the help he can get to remember faces from the past

I did laugh at the story of the American tourists who bumped into the Queen taking a stroll around Balmoral. They didn't recognise her and asked whether, given the location, she'd ever bumped into any of the Royal Family herself, 
Her Majesty mischievously pointed to the security guard nearby and said that he had. Then, wasn't there a tale many years ago, that someone encountered the late Queen Mother strolling around Sandringham? This person had worked out her face was familiar, and they obviously knew her for some reason. A perfectly friendly conversation began while they tried to place who this charming lady was. After some time, the person said, "And how is your husband these days?" To which Her Majesty, presumably with a wry smile, replied, "Still king!"

I have similar moments but not quite so grand. I was strolling along the streets of a northern market town last week when a man said, "Hello David, fancy bumping into you!" I was taking a break in the Dales, so a long way from here, which is my excuse for being a bit nonplussed at being recognised. Given that the Dales weather necessitated hoods and hats, I had to strain for a hint of facial recognition. I knew I knew the man but momentarily couldn't place him. He introduced me to his wife. I duly shook hands and said how nice it was to make her acquaintance while trying to work out who he was and therefore who she was. Then, I really had no option but to introduce my wife, but to whom?

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Fortunately, I had a momentary flash of inspiration and realised he was a BBC engineer I'd worked with, on and off, over a good few years, but I just couldn't download his name from my personal memory bank. This has happened before, but I'm pleased to say my wife now understands. We have a pact. If I bump into someone unexpectedly, she's now prepared for the situation where I can't, for the life of me, remember the person's name. Although it's clear I know them from somewhere, and they know me, she's primed for the moment I say, "And this is my wife, Jennie," after which she carries on and the usual greetings ensue, but I omit to name the "stranger." Sometimes they helpfully fill in the gap and proffer their handshake to my wife with, "Oh hello, nice to meet you, I'm…." Therefore, amid much relief, the pressure is off, and I can now place them. It didn't happen on this occasion but none of us seemed to mind nor even spot the omission. If it feels appropriate, I'm known to try, "Oh do remind me whenever did we last bump into each other?" This usually elicits a place and time and helps with identification. I didn't on this occasion, though.

Anyway, we chatted a while about radio and engineering, as you do, with a good bit of, "Well how amazing to meet you here!" I wracked my brains for his name. Then off we went on our separate ways, me having got away with it.

I explained that I just couldn't remember his name. I hardly needed to. My wife sighed the sigh of someone who's been through this all before. Minutes later, standing in a butcher's shop, I suddenly worked out who he was. A name rushed to the front of my befuddled brain and I blurted out in too loud a voice, "Richard!" A few people swung round in the shop, presumably called Richard.

It's a fact of life that we increasingly can't remember everything, and my excuse is my job in radio and TV necessitated me meeting loads of people over the years. There may be some resistance to the onslaught of facial recognition technology, but if it's a downloadable app for my smartphone, I'm having it.

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