When I think of the word “recite” my mind goes to the poems that people had to learn at school and can still recall (in part at least) thirty five years later. In fact a German friend of mine started reciting a poem she had learnt at school only the other week. I had never heard the poem before and until I met my wife I was pretty clueless when it came to poetry (unless you count nursery rhymes). Being in the “top” English set when I was fourteen years old meant that I would be studying for my English Language O (ordinary) level to be taken two years later. It also meant that I was expected to study English Literature. I struggled with English (at least compared to other subjects) and the thought of studying old English books did not appeal to me in the slightest probably because I was not brought up to read books of any sort. My Granddad gave me money for comics but somehow I never progressed to books. Maybe it was because I never saw any of my family read anything other than a newspaper.
My mum backed up my point of view on English Literature and complained to the school. At fourteen I was impressed that she marched into the school and freed me from the tyranny of reading, nowadays though, I am rather sorry I missed out on the experience of studying poems and Shakespeare. I did catch up in my twenties but my wife will always be the one to answer literature questions in a quiz unless one of the kids gets there first.
The whole comic books versus written word reading is rather indicative of a different kind of mind though. Learning a poem by itself is a pretty hard thing for me to do. I tend to think in pictures, so associating pictures with words makes it much easier for me to remember something, hence the appeal of comics I suppose. I guess it also explains why I love photography too, it is about capturing a memory of something I like which enables me to easily remember it again in the future. Pictures capture a thousand words, well maybe, but that doesn’t help with word order does it? Unfortunately I don’t tend to recall video out of my head.
Thankfully I have another ability up my sleeve, I can think in music. Tunes like pictures tend to stick in my head but they allow for progression. Tunes move forward in time, so all it takes is for me to learn the words that attach to the tune and hey presto I can remember songs. I can even recite some poetry because some kind soul has put the words to music.
I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
and all I want is a tall ship and a star to sail her by …
The start of “Sea Fever” by Johns Mansfield which was put to music by John Ireland, which I started having lessons to learn once upon a time.
When I was a boy I could recite the entire Renault car catalogue including the variations in particular models for trim levels and engine sizes. It was a particular era and I have a funny feeling I could still recall the range now (4,5,9,11,14,18,20,25,30 perhaps) and picture the cars too. I think the Fuego came out then too, the start of the wordy names for Renault cars. Obsessions like this have continued throughout my post adolescence years I suppose. I could recite the first twenty or so elements of the periodic table and know the number of neutrons in their stable isotopes as well as the less common ones. I can recall most 1980’s hits with only a short burst of the music or words. At university it became Hi-Fi components, synthesizers, touring bikes and archery equipment.
It goes on. Currently I could probably regale you with the models of most of the major manufacturers of digital SLRs and, cyclecross/adventure bikes that take mudguards and rear racks (using traditional fixing points). I know because they have been of interest to me recently. I am driven to know which camera I would buy for night-time photography (Nikon D750) and which bike I would buy which is lighter than my hard-tail mountain bike but which fits in with the type of riding I like doing (Boardman CX Team). Those conclusions were hard thought compromises (price being a major one) that I was driven to because if I didn’t make a choice, I would still be pouring through reviews and statistics.
Yes it is a bit over the top for some people, but it is important to me that I make the right choice. It could be easily argued that there is rarely a bad choice in choosing a well developed thing e.g. cars or cameras. I can see this point of view but my makeup, my autism drives me on to encompass every angle I can. It does mean I can take a long time in coming to a decision, and for many, that would be wasted time, but equally I am not one to impulse spend. It also makes me a usual friend to have because I will quite happily plug away for hours researching the thing you have ask my advice about. Thankfully I don’t usually have to make a final choice for my friends, that is their prerogative from the short list I give them.
Interesting for me though it that as I get older, the variety of things seems to get ever wider. Just look at the number of bikes and cameras available now. I can no longer retain all the information I once did and so my ability to recite long lists of whatever obsessed me is diminishing. The information needs to be refreshed to keep it current and I don’t tend to have the time. I was out trying to take star photographs last night but the clouds closed in on me. I used to be able to name and identify a lot of constellations but now I am more interested in the Milky Way as a whole. I am still obsessed with the camera and lens combination though.