ANNE GILDEA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - REAL LIFE - Anne.gildea@mailon­sun­day.ie

other things like men and recipes and how to han­dle sci­at­ica. Maybe at the end of the night there might be a ‘hands up, who liked the book’, and a de­ci­sion on what novel we were go­ing to read and for­get for the next time.

So Mar­garet At­wood, one of my favourite authors ever, came and went within four feet of me, and I was so pan­icked by my own am­ne­sia I didn’t even say ‘howaya’. The kind- of irony of the whole sit­u­a­tion be­ing that the rea­son I was in RTÉ was to talk about the book I’ve just had pub­lished my­self — the launch for which had been the evening be­fore: an evening dom­i­nated

‘Wouldn’t it be great to have an app that recog­nises faces like the one that recog­nises songs?’

by mem­o­ries of my am­ne­sia.

‘Hello PJ, thank you so much for com­ing,’ I said to an old ac­quain­tance, a man I hold in high re­gard, whose name is Noel. He does look a bit like an­other guy I know called PJ, who hadn’t been in­vited — so why did my mind do that? Greet­ing some­one with the wrong name is like say­ing ‘hello’ with a small slap across their face. Then I’m talk­ing to some­one I’ve known for years, an­other per­son­ally well-known per­son joins the con­ver­sa­tion — it’s up to me to do the in­tro­duc­tions. I blank. Names ka­put, in­stead I clev­erly try and or­ches­trate a win­dow whereby they can ‘or­gan­i­cally’ say their names to each other — by run­ning away. It’s hideous when some­one re­calls your name, and you can’t re­cip­ro­cate. ‘Anne’ (in my case) they say with warmth, and in a flash their name, that was on the tip of the tongue, is gone. I can re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing else about the per­son — but so­cially to be able to in­stan­ta­neously put the name to the face seems to en­cap­su­late the depth of the im­pres­sion the per­son has made on you — in a way that run­ning through a litany of de­tail about them doesn’t.

Then, it got worse, much worse. Be­cause I had to sign books, my books, as gen­er­ously bought by peo­ple I know, es­pe­cially in­vited to the oc­ca­sion of its pub­li­ca­tion. And I kept blank­ing. ‘So who will I sign this to?’ I’d ask, my palms sweat­ing, as an­other name bit the dust. Phew, if it was to some­one else, and I was handed the name, and oh the mor­ti­fi­ca­tion of ‘Just make it out to me.’ I got away with a few, ‘how ex­actly do your spell your name again?’ but did ut­ter, ‘I’m so sorry, I’ve for­got­ten your name’ once.

Some­one who suf­fers from the same dilemma told me later that what they do is men­tally run through the faces and names of ac­quain­tances they ex­pect to meet be­fore so­cial oc­ca­sions. Some­one else said wouldn’t it be great to have a face recog­ni­tion phone app like the ‘Shazam’ one that recog­nises songs. You’d just sur­rep­ti­tiously hold the phone up to the face of the per­son whose name evades you, and get it from cy­berspace. Imagine it go­ing wrong, though. ‘Ah Muham­mad, so good to see you’. ‘My name’s not Muham­mad, it’s Noel.’ ‘Oh. Sorry about that, Noel.’

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