Saturday, January 12, 2008

I really am a mentalist

Woo, check out the memory champion, back in training! Results of a good day's work - half-hour binary 3550, hour cards 24 packs (attempting 30), speed numbers 256 (best of two attempts). So obviously I can do significantly better in all three, but if I got those scores at a world championship there wouldn't be many who'd beat me. And more importantly, this is the first time in a very, very long time that I've done so much memorising in one day. If I can do the same kind of thing tomorrow (hour numbers, spoken numbers and speed cards), I will be deliriously happy with myself. I haven't done a full weekend practice session for ages and ages, and there was a time, many years ago, when I was doing them nearly every weekend. Wonder if I can get back into that kind of mood?

It's all the talking about memory I've done lately. So keep talking memory competitions with me, people, whenever you see me! And speaking of memory competitions, let me just put in another plug for the Online Memory Challenge, now that I know I have blog-readers who are training in memory but who I don't necessarily talk to. The next OMC is on Saturday 20th January, at 10am GMT - very early morning if you're in America, but we have to give the Australians a chance to take part in these things too. The OMC really is an ideal way to add some variety to your practice, to meet other competitors of all ability ranges, to test yourself and not have to mark your own papers, and to have some fun! Come along and join in!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mentalists follow-up

Thanks for all the comments, one and all! Since practically everyone who commented on last night's entry included a question, here are the answers:

Lewis: Yep, I'm the only person mad enough to have one image for each pair of cards. I'm pretty sure it's the way of the future, though, and a few other people are experimenting with it right now. Incidentally, do I know you? I'm not aware that I know anyone called Lewis, except the Derby County players Lewis Price and Eddie Lewis, and I don't actually know them, I just memorised their names this morning.

Ian: I'm next on the telly on January 29th, co-starring with those loveable memory monkeys. And you can rest assured that I'm going to train hard and beat Gunther this year! Definitely!

Mike: I just don't like pain au chocolat. I'm very much in favour of chocolate and don't have any particular objection to bread, but put them together and serve it to me for a French breakfast and the thought makes me ill. Give me a bread and butter pudding made with stale white bread any day of the week. Incidentally, I have three regular blog-commenters called Mike - I can usually deduce which one is commenting by what they say (subtle clues such as the fact that only one of the Mikes I know cohabits with an Emma), perhaps you guys could give me more of a clue? Mike D, Mike C and other Mike C, for example?

Ace: I just don't like pain au chocolat. But Ashley can certainly have an autograph, if I can give him a cuddle.

Mike C: I've known you longer than the other Mike C, so you're "Mike C" instead of "other Mike C". No, there isn't a website about me, and I'm not going to make one either. Why would I want one? To tell the world I'm great? The world already knows that!

Katy: Thanks! Here's a summary of things people have said to me about the documentary - "I especially loved Zoomy's grandma, she's so sweet", "your gran is cool", "your gran came across as a lovely wee wifie". I don't know why they bothered to put me, Ed and Gunther in the film at all...

Sam: Was I one of the pillocks on there?

Well, I was on Radio Derby this morning, they invited me on as a sort of follow-up to last night's TV. Much to my satisfaction, they didn't ask me to memorise cards for once, but instead gave me a load of Derby County statistics instead - all the current squad with their numbers, all their results this season, and Robbie Savage's disciplinary record. And even more to my satisfaction, I memorised them all perfectly! Even the names! I'm very happy with myself!

And what's more, this weekend, there will be Training, with a capital T! I've been doing well this week, I've done a half-hour cards, half-hour numbers and half-hour binary, plus a whole lot of speed cards, over the last five days. I think I might be able to try some hour numbers and cards without my mind wandering. If I can do a real pile of practice this weekend, I'll know I'm back on song.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Bet he's got no problems remembering where he left the car keys"

Bless her, that's what the continuity announcer on Channel 5 has just said about me. Gosh, I've never heard that before. And if I had car keys, believe me, I would lose them. "The Mentalists" is on after the break and I thought I'd write my blog while I watch it, or at least until I can't stand to see and hear myself acting like an eejit any more and turn it off...

"There's a small group of people across the world whose brains harbour an amazing ability..." Not a great start. I was hoping for a "this is something anyone can do" approach. Heehee, ooh, fun footage, though! Gunther's house!

Ooh, my house! Tumby house, that is! Ooh, me in the used-to-be-the-dining-room-and-is-now-the-kitchen! Heehee, me with the straw hat! Ugh, I'm ugly. And my voice is horrible. Argh, I always sound so pretentious when I'm talking to the camera! I don't normally sound like that in real life, do I? Also, I'm fat.

Fantastic that we get to see the house, anyway, I can show this to my brother. Hee! They spelt "Highley" wrong! That'll upset the people at the leisure centre! Hmm, artful camera angles to disguise the fact that only five people turned up for the UK championship... Yay, my Zoom-Zoom T-shirt!

Ooh, clever, they matched me telling my spoken number story to a shot of the answer paper - and correctly synchronised the images I'm saying with the numbers as the camera pans across! Nice one, Nick!


Heehee, James Kemp looking impressed in the background. Wow, first advert break already? This is a lot more fun than I expected it to be. I wish I hadn't scuppered the ending by losing the world championship now.

I bet Alan Hansen doesn't really shop at Morrisons. He's just lying because they give him money. Big fibber. Although I suppose he must do his shopping somewhere, so there's a chance he really does. Unless he's rich enough to have someone do his shopping for him, of course.

I'm recording this for my brother (who's out doing something more exciting tonight) but also for any foreigners who want to see it and can arrange to get a copy from me. They'll get to see all these British adverts and experience a whole different culture.

Come on, put The Mentalists back on! Ah, that's better. Who the heck is this reciting poetry? Oh, Ed, of course. Heehee. Ooh, is that the field where we got lost on the way to his party? Yep, there's stately Cooke Manor. God, Ed, people are going to take you seriously when you say things like this. The quality of the terrain, indeed...

Yay, Ed's dad gets an interview too! "We thought he might have finished with the world memory and get a job or something..."

Ooh, is this going to be Grandma's moment of glory? Oh, thanks, Nick, let's say "Ben's parents separated when he was nine..." that's important information for everyone to know. Yay, Grandma looks great on TV! She's watching it right now with all her friends. Heehee, thanks, Grandma, "He doesn't tend to brag about his achievements." Oh, fantastic, Dad's photo too! Hope that's the end of the Pridmore family soap opera.

Oh god, Tony Buzan with a kendo sword. He wanted this documentary to be called "Warriors Of The Mind". "Some people call me a guru, you know..." Good old Tony.

His 92 books on the brain... Actually, I thought the 92 included his books of poetry, don't they? Say what you like about Tony, he's one heck of a snappy dresser. I've always loved his clothes.

Ahh, I remember that taxi ride to Central Tonight in the pouring rain. Happy days.

Hey, you know, I'm really enjoying this. Excellent - "Useless is what would describe what I do..."

Ahh, German championships! Whoa, wait a second. "He's certainly beatable, although he hasn't shown much sign of it over the last few years." I said that about Clemens and they edited it to make it seem like I was talking about Gunther!

Heehee, me getting stressed after dropping the pack of cards at the end. Classic.

Ooh, Gunther's house is nice. Is that his giant chess set? And I'm sorry, I refuse to believe that Gunther and Michaela practice like that, in English yet, when there aren't any cameras around...

Eww, yuck, prawns. "Cutting onions with ze big knife..." Heehee, this is funny stuff.

Ahh, more adverts. Woo, we're half way through and it hasn't made me look particularly stupid yet. Possibly I was worried about nothing.

All that M&S posh food looks horrible. Pain au chocolat bread and butter pudding? Yuck! Now, my dad used to make a great bread and butter pudding.

Too many adverts on telly these days. You know, it occurs to me that you'll need to be watching the documentary while you're reading this blog, or it won't make any sense. Ah well, who cares?

Here we go, Ed and Lukas high-altitude training! You've already told us Ed is the world number 17, people, you only get 45 minutes, don't duplicate information! "Every year we come to the mountains where Lukas lives as a goatherd and train ourselves for the competition..." Heehee. Bet they follow this up with me doing karaoke and getting drunk. Hope they do, anyway.

Wow, nice scenery. Nice camerawork, too! Kudos to Nick, if he did that bit himself. Wow, Ed looks like the real guru, up on top of a mountain. And chopping wood!

Heehee, Gunther's got a lot more trophies than me. And he keeps them in a cabinet.

Yay, "Ben has his own approach to last-minute training" and us getting drunk and karaokeing. Wait, we have me talking about the upcoming German championship made to look like I'm talking about the worlds? More trickery!

Oooooooh, Bahrain. Such a cool place. I hope we get to go there again. Heehee, me with the hankie on my head, foolishly going out in the midday sun. "I'm sweating like whatever the halal equivalent of a pig is..." Hope nobody finds that offensive.

Team China! We really, really need matching T-shirts next year for Britain.

Dr Yip and his Oxford English Dictionary. There should have been more of him there.

Ah, the drama of the abstract images. Ooh, the excitement of the competition! This is actually put together very nicely. "Gunther's mind games pay off" is a bit misleading, but never mind.

That footage wasn't of me starting to memorise binary digits. That was hour numbers. Fakery.

Did I mishear that? Did I say "The Blue Beetle"? Why would I have said that? He's not one of my images? And no, Gunther hasn't been shaken by my performance, he was expecting me to get that kind of score.

Oh, excellent, I was hoping Boris would get a cameo. Nice speed-stacking!

Aargh, hour cards. What a horrible disaster that was. Do we have to see this? Can't we pretend that I got a big score and won the world championship?

Still fun to watch, though. Those aren't my cards, despite what the narrator said. They're German cards.

Heh, "Ben, ludicrously stupidly, tried to do 36 packs of cards..." Nice one, Ed! Actually, it wasn't because I was going for so many that I went wrong. My brain just wasn't in the right place, that afternoon, and I could tell from the start that it wasn't sinking in.

More adverts. Nearly finished. Do you think I'm going to win the world championship? I bet I am. Hey, wasn't that Lynne Slater from EastEnders on that Take A Break advert?

I was hoping there'd be an appropriate advert that was connected in some way to me or to memory, but they're all for things I'm not interested in at all, like Jamie Oliver.

Hmm, answer that message from Crispy or keep blogging? Keep blogging. Gunther and Michaela are training in their hotel room. "Do you ever relax?" "Sometimes, but very rarely."

Ed is actually good at explaining what's going on for establishing shots. I didn't really do any of that. Oh god, he's sounding serious again.

Ah, speed cards. Turn away now if you don't want to see me make a fool of myself...

Sigh. I suck.

My beard doesn't look as grey on TV as it does in real life, though. That's a good thing.

God, I can't believe I messed up the speed cards. It's so embarrassing. Heehee, me and Phil look like siamese twins there.

Well, Gunther deserved it, anyway. Next year it'll be a different story. Oh, I basically said that on the interview, too.

Wow, this has been a great documentary. Oh, the narrator was Richard Vranch. Should have recognised the name. He's a great pianist too, you know.

Well, that's that. I liked it! I hope it was entertaining for the people watching it who'd never heard of me or memory.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It could be you

Yesterday I found two Thunderball lottery tickets for tonight's draw, lying on the floor in the shopping centre in Derby. I was looking forward to a moral dilemma when one of them won the jackpot and I had to decide between keeping all the money to myself or finding the person who bought and lost them. However, they didn't win a penny. I feel doubly disappointed.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

It'll make a good sequence

I'm in two minds. Should I watch 'The Mentalists' on Thursday night so I know what people are talking about when they jeer at me on the street the following day, or should I miss it and avoid the horror of hearing my horrible voice, seeing my horrible face and witnessing a documentary making me out to be some kind of weirdo entirely different from the kind of weirdo that I really am? I'm pretty sure that you can't sum up my life in 45 minutes, so I don't think I'm going to like it, however well-made and flattering it might be...

On the other hand, I do miss being followed around by a cameraman urging me to do things that I would never normally do, on the grounds that "it'll make a good sequence". Maybe I'll see if I can persuade someone else to make a documentary about me, this time about accountants, or othello players, or people with unusually long toes. I don't think there's ever been a documentary about any of those sub-groups of society, and let's face it, if Channel 5 will show a documentary about memorisers, they'll show a documentary about anything.

Hey, maybe I could become a director, and follow someone else around with a camera all day! It looks like a fun thing to do, when you're not dealing with a stroppy weirdo who doesn't want to be in a documentary in the first place.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sissons Scissor Sharpening

"I don't like to have to say this to you, lads," Mr Sissons said to the three women who worked for him at his scissor-sharpening stall on Bolton market, "but you've probably noticed that business has been a little slack recently. We live in an age when people just don't seem to need their scissors sharpened as much as they used to. I don't know why, I think it's something to do with the internet. And it doesn't help that those other two scissor-sharpening stalls opened up on either side of ours and started charging less than a quarter of what we charge for the same service. But the long and short of it is that we've only had one customer in the last eight years, and she only came here to ask if we'd seen her lost dog."

"What are you getting at, Mr Sissons?" asked Valerie.

"Well, I'm afraid that I simply can't afford to employ three full-time staff any more. Unless you can think of a better alternative, I shall have to sell the lot of you into slavery in order to pay the rent on the stall for another week."

Roberta, who had an NVQ in business administration, suggested "Perhaps we could diversify the business? Start selling scissors as well as sharpening them?"

"No, no, that wouldn't work at all," Mr Sissons said with a shake of the head. "I have a terrible fear of scissors, and while I can just about tolerate having them in close proximity to me for as long as it takes to sharpen them, I couldn't bear to have a stock of them on this market stall. It would drive me out of my mind!" He shuddered at the very thought.

"Maybe you could admit to that woman that you stole her dog, and you've still got it at your house now?" Dolores said. "She might pay a reward, and to be honest I've always been a little concerned about your habit of stealing people's pets. I think it might be illegal."

"Nonsense," said Mr Sissons with an impatient wave of the hand. "If people can't protect their pets from thieves, they don't deserve to own them. Likewise with televisions and jewellery. No, there's nothing else for it, the slave trader will be here in five minutes, put these manacles on and try to look like hard workers."

Just then, a man came up to the counter and asked "I say, do you sharpen scissors, by any chance? I have a rare pair of diamond-encrusted gold scissors which, being made of gold and thus hugely inferior to ordinary steel ones, need frequent sharpening. I'll pay a thousand pounds a week for you to keep them sharp."

"Eh? What? Scissors? No, we don't sharpen scissors," Mr Sissons said, distractedly. "No, wait! Yes, we do sharpen scissors! I got confused there for a moment..."

But the man had already left, with a disappointed look on his face. "Blast," Mr Sissons said. "I just don't understand why my business isn't more successful. It's the internet, I'm sure of it."

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Ah, there's nothing like sitting around talking memory for a couple of hours to get the old motivation running again! Did a half-hour cards this afternoon with nearly no mind-wandering, and I think I got a perfect 18 packs (although I haven't checked them yet). And this is despite having a pint of Foster's at lunchtime!

Hmm, maybe it wasn't the morning's discussion with the Jameses, maybe it was the beer. Perhaps getting drunk is the secret to a good memory? I'll have to experiment further. But I'm pretty sure it was the conversation. I was actually in the mood to follow it up with a late-night half-hour-numbers session, but then I got chatting on the internet for, well, two or three hours. But the point is, I'm still in the mood to memorise, and tomorrow, when there will be fewer distractions, I think I'm gonna do some more! Woohoo!