Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Top Ten Club

You know, it just occurred to me at lunchtime TODAY that Hamburg is where the Beatles played in their younger days. That thought never crossed my mind before, during or after my own trip to Hamburg last week. I could have gone on a tour. Not to mention all the Beatles-themed blog titles I could have used! Ah, wasted opportunities, and all because of my bad memory. Still, at least I get to use a very appropriate title for a blog about the world rankings...

The movers and shakers in the top ten of international memory after Hamburg are Simon, who moves up to third place, and Boris, who's now number eight. The world's coolest people are now as follows:

1 Me
2 Gunther
3 Simon
4 Clemens
5 Hannes
6 Astrid
7 Cornelia
8 Boris
9 Joachim
10 Andi

Check out that enormous gang of Germans (plus a couple of hopefully-temporarily retired Austrians) chasing me! Poor Andi's nearly followed Dominic out of the top ten - maybe that will motivate him to really try to win the world championship again this year, but we really do need more British people to help me out here.

But still, I can't believe I didn't think about the Beatles connection. I had the whole day to myself in Hamburg on Sunday, in order to get the cheapest flights, and since all the shops in Germany are closed on Sundays (what is this, the time of Charlemagne?) I had to spend it hanging around the Hauptbahnhof shopping centre, touring the various ancient and beautiful buildings (I'll admit that the Rathaus is absolutely awesome), listening to a lot of really good street musicians (especially one particularly talented xylophonist) and watching the ladybirds. Hamburg is absolutely full of ladybirds. In my quest to improve my German, one word at a time, I just looked up 'ladybird' and found that it's 'Marienkäfer'. Which I did actually know at one point. Also, the word is neuter and not feminine like I would have expected.

As well as having shops that were open on Sunday, the train station also had handy left-luggage lockers, which was a good thing because I didn't fancy carrying my bag around with me all day. As I always do at these things, I'd crammed my little rucksack to its maximum capacity with clothes, books, cards, timers and so on on the way out, not considering that I might come home with a big trophy, a Nintendo DS and other goodies. I had to fit everything I could into the bag and force everything left over (about a dozen packs of cards, the DS (removed from its box), instructions and games) into the pockets of my jacket in order to get onto the plane without paying for an extra bag.

I haven't mentioned my jacket yet, have I? I was wearing a rather groovy black and white jacket that I bought in a charity shop about ten years ago, never wore and recently rediscovered among my old clothes. So I've been wearing it for the last couple of weeks to see if it looks cool, before deciding whether or not to give it to another charity shop and let someone else leave it in their wardrobe for ten years. But actually, I think it does look cool, and Tony Buzan agreed. And Tony does have quite genuinely the greatest taste in clothes of anybody I know, so I think I'm going to keep wearing the jacket. Even though it's a little bit too small for me and it's too hot when the weather's nice.

Speaking of Tony, and speaking of speaking, his speech at the closing ceremony was shorter and used less needlessly complicated words and ideas than at the opening. I'm sure the members of the audience who don't speak perfect English were grateful. Regular memory-competition attendees will be interested to know that he informed us all that in 1994, scientists said that nobody would ever be able to remember a 30-digit spoken number. He also mentioned a few things of interest to memorisers (actually, he told me these things the day before and asked me not to tell anyone or blog about it, but since he then repeated everything so publicly, I assume I'm not under any obligation to keep it secret any more...)

Firstly, he said that the world championship moving from Bahrain was because the sponsor had had financial difficulties - and then added as an afterthought that there had been riots in Bahrain too, which came a bit closer to the official explanation published on the world championship website.

Secondly, he said at great length that the Chinese are very keen to become the top memory-country in the world, and also very keen to host the world championship in 2010. Indeed, they're shortly flying Tony and Ray Keene out to China for a week to "inspect the site". It's sounding like we might really be having a WMC in China somewhere in the near future (although we've been hearing that for five years at least, without it actually happening yet). I think it might be fun, it's only fair to circulate the competition around the world now that it's such an international thing. And provided it's organised by individuals who happen to be Chinese, and that Tony's suggestion that the Chinese government is eager to be heavily involved is just the usual exaggerations, I won't have to boycott the championship for political reasons. That would really be annoying.

Okay, I'm fairly sure that's everything I've got to say about the German Memory Championship 2009. More interesting subjects (or at any rate slightly different subjects, like the World Othello Championship and the Mind Sports Olympiad) will resume tomorrow.

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