In our recent competition, readers sent in their stories involving memory experiences. Enjoy these winning stories in three categories: humorous, overcoming obstacles and great tips for readers.

Category: Humorous


Rev. John Hunt, Canterbury


John Burton HuntAs a minister starting out in a new parish, a priority is learning names.

I had discovered enough about memory to know associating the name with something can help.

When I was introduced to the elderly, feisty ‘Miss Usher’, I immediately associated her with the popular blend of Scotch whisky.

The following Sunday when I met her, proud of my memory aid, I said, ‘Hello Miss Grant!’

She roared with laughter, ‘You’ve got the wrong brand!’

I had remembered the association, whisky, but still not the name, Usher!

She recalled with me when she was an army nurse during the war, the three nurses on night duty were herself, Nurse Usher, Nurse Haig and Nurse Ballantyne. She smiled, ‘The soldiers loved us.’

Clearly creating an association is not enough to enable the remembering of names.  The Memory Foundation has helped me with further aids: give attention to facial features; explore the name, the way it is spelled, its national origin.

Just today I asked a woman, ‘How do you spell your surname?
She grinned, ‘Craig –like the jam!’
I noticed her raspberry lip-stick.

I think I will remember her name forever!


Category: Overcoming Obstacles


Pam Redshaw, Papakura


Well Pam-Redshawthere I was just 40 years old, bad headaches, eyes not good and seeing stars and not able to get any answers.

I got glasses and that didn’t help, was sent to Middlemore Hospital for eye exercises. That didn’t help.

In desperation after 2 years of trying,  I went to my parents old optician’s firm.   They sent me for  x-rays.

Calcification was found in the centre of my brain nearly the size of a golf ball.   I was sent to Auckland Hospital for further tests.   An angiogram showed a large aneurysm enveloping part of my brain.   After more tests and discussion it was decided to tie off the left carotid artery.

“Main artery to brain.”

As one of the precautionary tests the Surgeon held his fingers firm on that left carotid artery shutting off the blood flow, making sure I could cope and function without this flow of blood.  After various other checks and x-rays the surgery went ahead.

I had so much help, love and support from a wonderful Husband, great Kids and a lovely mum-in-law.

I was in I C U for a week and then was put in a room on my own.

I grabbed anyone I could to talk to, vicar, priest, cleaner, hostess, they were keeping me quiet but it was so lonely.

Speech was slow, I had difficulty forming a sentence, and would say opposites, “hot for cold, orange for blue, wet for dry etc.,”  My brain didn’t recognize ‘i’s. when I tried to do cards they just didn’t exist, I would write lke, skng, lookng, and I would transpose letters and numbers.

One month on I was able to go home from hospital. I had lost all confidence, couldn’t drive, play piano, place sewing pattern on material to mention a few.   I had a strong swishing up the right side of my throat, through my ear and eye ball.   This was now the main blood flow.

It was like a major stroke.

“HELP”  Where do I turn next.

The neurologist helped so much with medication and lots of indepth advice and just talking.

I used to have a few bets at Christmas with my late Dad so I got my phone account working again.   I would get the racing page, and pick some horses.

That wasn’t too bad.

Then I had to phone the TAB, give my Account Number,  my Password Number, the Meeting Number, the Race number, the horse number and the amount of the bet.

This was a mammoth task.   If I won it was a real bonus.   Numbers are so hard to get your head around.

I used to paint in oils and this was calming.
At night when I couldn’t sleep I would recite the phonetic alphabet, alpha, bravo, golf,  x-ray, yankee, zulu.  I would forget what letter I had forgotten.   So I would do it again.   I knew this was helping.

In my mid forties I knew that I was breaking through and getting back to some semblance of normality.

Moving into my 50’s 60’s and 70’s many folk would talk in horror of reaching these birthdays.
For me these are all absolute milestones.

I shed tears of joy as I shared each of my Kids 21st Birthdays.

Life goes on and you have your ups and downs but here I am in my late 70’s still doing my alpha, bravo, golf, yankee, zulu.
I do my codecracker daily and enjoy my computer and IPad.

Category: Tips for Others


Dorothy Webster, Christchurch.



I did not think my memory was any better or worse than anyone else of my age group which was late sixties. I forgot things now and then but not usually important things. Then a friend suggested a writing group so we could dredge up any interesting experiences we had from our past and write about them. Well I could relate to that having lived in Nigeria and Papua New Guinea, plus UK and now resident in New Zealand.

Well four of us met each month and we all read one story we had written.

Funny how other people’s stories would jog a memory of mine and so another story would come from the recesses of my brain.

I found the scary experiences would come back to me very sharply as if they had just happened last week. Such as coups and civil wars, armed holdups and the like. I have now written lots of stories and was invited as a guest speaker to the local cancer society meeting twice to read some of them.

My stories are something I can leave to my children and grandchild now and I would strongly recommend retired people to join a writing group to get the rust out of the old grey matter and write a little family history.

I also play lots of games, on the computer and board games like scrabble and cards.

I don’t forget much lately so I really think the extra brain activity has helped me.

Like to read more of Dorothy’s stories?


winnerHighly Commended

Mary Dawson, Hibiscus Coast.


Marie-Doig I am 94 years this year and have been struggling with a biography for my son in the UK.

The most difficult part of doing the biography is to remember events in sequence!

I still have the past 20 years to write up.
This is so difficult remembering  years, dates, days etc.

I attended Gillian’s talk at Hibiscus Coast Hospice earlier this year.
My life has changed since then  because of the book, the exercises and a constant desire to properly focus on everything.
How I wish I had this knowledge 20 years ago.

From a genuine fan and follower, not good at the ‘Cross the Bridge’ or the shopping lists, but I keep trying.