Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Can people levitate?

I should have mentioned last night that the Kölner Dom is a really beautiful building. I went along to see it this morning, seeing as it's right next to my hotel, and I really was impressed. Also impressive was the man levitating outside it, but the other passers-by didn't really pay much attention to him, so I assume they've seen it all before.

Anyway, I'm at Frankfurt Airport as I write this, on my way home again. It's a busy life, being an international jetsetter. I've missed this, these last few months.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I always assumed the Dom was dome-shaped

This hotel I'm staying in in Köln really isn't very Handy if you haven't got a mobile phone. To check in, you have to call a phone number, and then they tell you the combination for the miniature safe that your key is in. It's strange, as is the desert theme (it's the Sandmanns Hotel) and peculiar decorations all around the place.

Still, I've had fun on this very brief trip to Germany - I haven't been to this country for much too long, so even if I'm only here for barely 24 hours, it's been fun. The TV people even let me try to speak German a little bit, which people in Germany usually never do. It's no wonder nobody in Britain speaks the language, everyone over here always speaks English to us without giving us a chance to learn it!

So, I get the train back to the airport tomorrow morning, but that at least gives me a chance to watch some cartoons before I leave, and maybe even look in a couple of shops, if I'm quick!

Monday, August 26, 2013


Okay, Weird Internet Friend #2 is safely installed here, although he got detained at immigration presumably because they thought he was some kind of weird internet person. Now I can turn my attention to going to Germany and looking forward to the TV spectacular they're putting together in a month or two. I don't think I'm supposed to talk about the details yet, but I assure you it'll be awesome!

I'm flying out tomorrow, and back on Wednesday, so I've just gone through my drawer-of-assorted-rubbish to see how many Euros I've got kicking around. About €22.50, in fact, almost all of it in €2 coins. I need to spend coins rather than notes when I'm on the continent, obviously.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

We are the champions, my friend

See, there are two "championships" at the UK Memory Championships - one just for British people, and one for foreigners. Or rather, as far as the actual competitors are concerned, there's only one championship, the UK Open, but by virtue of Jonas coming from Sweden, I got the big trophy and (technically) the prestigious title of UK Memory Champion, even though he was about a million times better than me. I'm not going to put it on my business cards.

Actually, day two went rather better than day one - following the same strategy as I'd used in the 30-minute numbers, I aimed for much lower scores than I normally would, and got them all right without much trouble. Twelve packs in 30-minute cards is perfectly acceptable really, 77 historic dates would have been mind-blowingly amazing ten years ago so I shouldn't feel bad about it, and so on. I did make a mess of spoken numbers, which I haven't practiced for a long time - I was only a fraction of a second slower than I would normally be, but that's time enough to lose track of the digits. But then in speed cards I recorded a time of 28.78 seconds in the first trial and was much closer to recalling it correctly than I thought I would be. So I went at about the same speed the second time, and got it right!

The time was officially recorded as 31.34 seconds, although that might not be as accurate as it usually is, since I apparently broke the timer when I put my hands down on it. It turned itself off, and didn't even save the time in its memory like the things are supposed to do. Luckily, David Sedgwick was watching the display screen at the moment it broke, and he assures us that the time he wrote down is correct, "within maybe a couple of hundredths of a second, anyway". I'm sure I didn't hit the thing particularly hard, although I know I do have a tendency to get overexcited and thump my hands down a bit. Luckily, the time could have been out by a minute or so and I would still have finished second overall, so it didn't matter much.

I didn't notice the problem until about a minute after it happened, incidentally - when I put the cards down and hit the timer, I immediately close my eyes and try to remember what the cards are. I don't open them again and peek around the room at the other competitors until I'm certain my mental images are going to stay in my brain and not disappear before the five minutes' memorisation time has finished.

Meanwhile, I hope you caught Jonas on BBC breakfast TV the following day. I didn't - no TV in the hall of residence, although to be fair it does have free wifi, and I could have watched it on my laptop. It didn't occur to me, mainly because I had a terrible hangover yesterday after only two pints of cider in the pub afterwards. It'll be the mental exertion, I haven't done a two-day memory competition for too many months.

Chris Day spent a lot of time talking to a journalist at the competition, which has resulted in the following in-depth analysis of memory techniques in this memory article:

Chris Day, from the World Memory Sports Council, said the techniques are useful to improve memory.

Mr Day said: "We all have potentially an amazing memory."

If that was the guy he was talking to when they saw me going down the stairs and felt that there was more of my backside on display than is decent (my lucky shirt has a large hole in the back, and my shorts are somewhat loose around the waist), then it's probably my fault.