Pieces of Perth’s past lodged in my brain

I’ve noticed a few interesting things about the way that visual memory of scenes or landscapes is naturally and involuntarily connected with other types of thinking in some interesting ways in my mind, which seem to be like or related to synaesthesia. Perhaps the oddest and least “normal” of these is a type of synaesthesia that I experience in which hand movements while doing various specific chores trigger permanently but idiosyncratically linked visual memories of scenes. An example would be involuntarily seeing in my mind’s eye for a second or two a scene of the front of the family doctor’s suburban surgery which my family visited in the 1970s, with its glossy pea-green painted decorative woodwork and moist garden, when I would carefully slide in a decorative comb to keep my hair in place. I’ve also noticed that some people, including some of my other synaesthete relatives and myself, experience a visual/memory phenomenon that appears to be a naturally and spontaneously occurring version of the memory technique that is known as the method of loci. We have noticed that when we revisit and view a specific outdoor place where we learned new information in the past, we might find that the exact thought that we had been learning at that exact spot in the past is re-activated our minds automatically. The information previously learned is generally of a conceptual nature, the result of listening to talk radio or reading a book, but sometimes memories of specific pop songs heard in the past are evoked. An example would be remembering the concept of people being killed in the Black Saturday bushfires evoked by watching the scenery while being driven past the exact spot on Flinders Street in Yokine where one sat in a stationary vehicle stopped at traffic lights as one listened in 2009 to morning news on the car radio giving the first full confirmation of the seriousness of the disaster.

Another synaesthesia-like linking of visual memories with another type of thought would be the involuntary illustration of thinking about some specific concepts with scenes of visual memories that are sometimes semantically related, sometimes temporally or randomly linked, and often very dated. I might see a scene of trees on the Rockingham foreshore from decades ago when thinking about the concept of the most popular hits of the latter part of the career of the Beatles. Maybe the “rock” in Rockingham or the British migrants living there are the reason for the linking of these things. As an illustration for thinking of the concept of a nightclub I might see in my mind’s eye the dark and sparse interior of a bar (or was it a nightclub?) which I think was on the ground floor level among St George’s Terrace skyscrapers in the 1970s. Was it called “The Foxy Lady”? No joke, I think it was. It was the 1970s. It was the era of no taste and even less subtlety. Yes, I think there indeed was once a bar on the terrace called The Foxy Lady. How do I know what the inside of it looked like?

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