Look - it’s old whatsisname. Er... what is his name?

Alexander... er... thingy... um... Armstrong (phew!) presents Pointless. Picture: Remarkable Televis

Alexander... er... thingy... um... Armstrong (phew!) presents Pointless. Picture: Remarkable Television/Endemol - Credit: Remarkable Television, an Endemo

They say two heads are better than one but what do you do when even two heads are no good? Google, of course.

What we need to encourage is 20th century solutions for 21st century problems.

And by “we” I mean those of us who are remaindered from the last Millennium... edging towards our “best before” dates but hey, still looking good.

It is the time of life when you can’t always remember people’s names. If it is someone reasonably famous, it is tempting to search the internet but this is not going to do much to preserve the memory. It may be the modern way but is it the best way?

If, on the other hand, it is someone who will not pop up on Google - a person you know from somewhere but you’re not sure where it was and what their name is, the best thing to do, probably, is to “fess up” (a term that does appear in the dictionary) or panic and run away.

About 10 years ago, I was in a DIY store with my husband and saw someone I knew. But who? I spent the next 20 minutes ducking down aisles so that she didn’t see me. If she had I would have needed to introduce my husband to her and I just couldn’t summon her name. I don’t always call him the right name - using my son’s name instead

Just lately, my husband and I have been experiencing a more acute version of nominative indeterminism - for example, the name of the actor who played Moriarty in Sherlock.

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We established a number of things about him.

“I’m sure he has a very standard name... the antithesis of a name like Benedict Cumberbatch.”

We discarded James Brown and Martin Smith and put Simon in the “maybe” basket having decided he had two syllables.

“I think he might be Irish.”

Maybe Patrick or Connor?

“Dark hair.”

We felt we might be getting closer.

“I think he played Hamlet.”

“That was Benedict Cumberbatch”

“No, this actor has done it too.”

“David Tennant.”


“Rory Kinnear... Jude Law.”

We continue to reel off well-known Hamlets and in no time, have completely forgotten why we wanted to know the name of the actor who played Moriarty.

Suddenly, my husband interrupts this cerebral challenge and announces: “Carrie Underwood!”


It is the name of a famous country singer whose moniker we had been trying to remember. The previous day, we heard someone sing a country and western song on the radio and thought it might be her. In fact, it wasn’t her at all, it was someone else whose name escapes me.

Having established that Carrie Underwood was the missing name, we go back to Moriarty. In a final capitulation, we resort to Googling him. He is Andrew Scott. We sigh with relief... then we remember why we wanted to know in the first place. The head-to-head round in TV quiz show Pointless was a list of anagrams of actors who appeared in Sherlock. I was sure the person whose name we had forgotten would be one of them.

By the time we identified Andrew Scott, however, the round of questions and indeed, the entire programme was over and we were up to the six o’clock news. And anyway, he wasn’t one of the anagrams.

It is unusual for neither of us to be able to come up with a name. Normally, we have a system whereby one of us will provide information while the other reels off names:

“That woman in Midsomer Murders - that’s her, isn’t it. The one who played Thingy in Doctor Who.”

“Which Doctor Who? Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant (again), Peter Capaldi, Jodie Whittaker... oh and here’s an interesting fact. Did you know her middle name is Auckland?.”

“Jodie Whittaker or the one who was Thingy?”


“Actually, I don’t think it was Doctor Who after all - it was Torchwood and John Barrowman.”

“Eve someone.”

“And Broadchurch (David Tennant again).”

“That’s it. Eve Myles,”

It turns out to have been a fruitless exercise because it isn’t Eve Myles in Midsomer Murders. We went through all of that just to identify an actor we haven’t seen in a murder mystery. Is it worth it? Well, I’m not entirely convinced but at least the brain cogs are whirring even if they’re not exactly engaging.

• A day spent with baby Herbie revealed that he can high-five and fist pump proficiently. He is also grappling with speech but we were amazed and impressed when the one-year-old pointed to my mug and said: “Tea” and then pointed to grandpa’s mug and repeated: “Tea.” To be honest it sounded more like “Tchee” but, as Herbie comes from a family of dedicated tea drinkers, it was almost as if a dominant gene had emerged.

When my son came home, I told him of his baby son’s important new word and he was similarly amazed.

A few days later, my son rang. “Herbie wasn’t saying “tea”, his other grandma has been teaching him to say “cheers” - thereby demonstrating another dominant family gene.

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