55. Amnesia

Tapehead no 55

One thing Tapehead has always been frightened of is, er, what’s it called ? Amnesia. Genius or idiot savant ? It’s a thin line. So this week’s Cutting Edge struck a terrible chord.
Former maths teacher John Spencer, we learnt, has “catastrophic” amnesia.

He can remember his wartime childhood but nothing else.

We watch John travelling with his wife, Audrey, from their home in Stalybridge to Sheffield to have further tests. By the time he gets there, he has no idea where he is. Each time the doctors ask him if he knows where he is, John ponders and then, gently, guesses, “Stalybridge ?”

John, tragically, can’t go out on his own because he’s forgotten that he’s got amnesia and will certainly get lost. He has no questions to ask the doctors about his condition because he can’t remember them.

More worrying but less upsetting, is the case of A-Level student, Stuart Norris, who banged his head on a kitchen unit. There was no physical damage, but “in a flash” his memory had gone. 

Suddenly he had no idea what food he liked, whether he could swim, or who John Major was (not all bad then). He has learnt how to dress thanks to watching Sesame Street (which could explain his peculiarly bad dress sense).

Then there’s John Spencer from Stalybridge. His wife, Audrey, tries to encourage John’s memory by setting him little tasks, like asking him to bring in a pint of milk from kitchen. 

“What do you think he’ll bring back ?” she wonders as John wanders, gently, tragically off.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, in The Knowledge, six-and-a-half-year-old Ahmed has an IQ of 150 but can find no school 

well-equipped enough to accommodate him. To his relief, Tapehead too passes the IQ test (with flying colours). 

“A huge animal, grey in colour, my nose is long and is called a 

trunk ?” 

Answer: “an elephant.” 

Even Tapehead can remember that.

Education psychologists are worried about Ahmed’s development – in case he turned out like violin prodigy, Joshua Bell (the subject of this week’s Omnibus), who according to his mum, “thinks, dreams and lives in a world where I can hardly get his attention.”

Unfortunately, all the schools equipped to deal with a boy of Ahmed’s intelligence are either too full, too far away, or too expensive. The perfect time then for Knowledge narrator, John Fashanu, to get his wallet out and sort it.

While he’s at it, he should do something about 16-year-old prodigy Christer McNulty (Short Change) currently serving a 10-year ban from football for lying about his age when he was 12. He altered his birth certificate by three weeks in order to play in an Under-12s tournament. (Eric Cantona mangez votre coeur). 

At least Christer was saved from the clutches of Dundee United. Or was it Stalybridge ?

Plenty of intelligent life in Magic Animals (on dolphins), but sadly no sign of any in the script (Mark Harrison) or narrator, Miranda Richardson, who judging by her badly-crocheted dress has obviously hit upon hard times. 

Magic Animals has all the insight, gravitas, and visual innovation of an Ultravox video, with twice the pretentiousness. According to Harrison, humans like dolphins because they want to be dolphins. 

Dolphins have been on the earth 35 million years, Miranda simpers, mystically, “but only now do we need them. Only now, do they seem to carry for us a message – an answer for all that went before and all that will come after.”

The space programme, Harrison expounds, was a waste of time, a waste of… space. 

“We had been searching the heavens for a friendly voice, yet all the while, within the waters that covered two-thirds of our planet, creatures were calling.”

And what were they saying ?

“Mark, you’re talking nonsense.”

There were probably were some good bits in this historically stupid programme, but whatever they were, Tapehead’s forgotten them.


Short Change: Sun, 11.20am-11.45am, BBC2

Cutting Edge: Mon, 9pm-10pm, C4

The Knowledge: Tue, 7.30pm-8.00pm, BBC2

Omnibus: Tue, 10.20pm-11.10pm, BBC1