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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.

Say Hello To Geri.

I had a passing acquaintance with Geri a good while ago now. I didn't think much about it at the time, and the memory faded quickly. I was having a shower and something interrupted the process of washing. When my attention returned to the task, I didn't know where I was up to. Over the last few years Geri has made more frequent visits and I've been forced to develop a range of strategies to deal with the meddling ways of this character.

I can remember, probably thirty years ago, visiting my mother in her unit and seeing an array of little notes on her kitchen bench. Things like 'pay gas bill by Friday', 'put the bins out', and of course, shopping lists. On close inspection one or two would be for a more distant event, such as 'buy card for John's birthday', and one I never deciphered 'find man in library'. It's hard to imagine what she meant, but the vision of mum with a loud hailer calling out "is there a man in the library", brought a smile to my lips at the time. I would not, of course, have dared to ask what it meant, for then she would have considered I was snooping. The notes were always there. You could tell at a distance the ones with a longer lead time, as they were a bit dusty. I would always smile benevolently as I passed by, and I wonder now if my kids do the same when they see similar notes proliferating in my kitchen.

There are so many ways in which Geri catches you out. Drop something transparent on the floor and try to find it - can be difficult. The other day I was looking for the very small top of the nasal spray bottle. Only found it a bit later when I stood on it. Rushing to go out, need to put you watch on quickly. No, can't do it. Need to take time so one end of the band doesn't fall away before you can fasten it to the other. The newest problem for me is what I call object displacement. Cleaning up after breakfast, butter dish in hand, open fridge, deposit butter. Wrong! Butter's been living in the pantry for some time now. Geri's at work again getting the brain to override your wishes. Works the other way too. Look in the wardrobe for your old black jacket. Would be good to put on and do the gardening, won't matter if it gets dirty. Not there -must be in the cupboard in the spare room. Not there either - oh yes you threw it out!

There are many other examples of how Geri teases us, but there are things we can do. Firstly, I think we have to acknowledge that, just like the body, the brain doesn't react the way it used to as we get older. Concentration and memory are central to most things we do and it's a decline in these areas that gets us into trouble. But never fear, just as we have strength training for our bodies, there is also brain training for our minds. A regular workout should keep our muscles and our synapses in good firing order, for some time to come. But we do have to make a commitment to help ourselves. There is abundant evidence that the 'use it or lose it' principle applies at all ages, to both body and brain. So don't let Geri Atric mess with your mind - make a pre-emptive strike and start training now!

Goldie Fox.