To get you in the mood, here’s a specially written prelude to the new film Memory Failure, written by Paul Ferry.
Dr Claire Wheeler, hypnotherapist, had had a very tiring morning.
Firstly, she’d had the client who wanted to quit smoking but smelled like an explosion in an ashtray factory; then there was the man who was desperate to remember where he’d hidden the letters he’d exchanged with another woman before his wife found them. Neither was the sort of thing that she had gone into hypnotherapy for.
By 11am, she found herself with no appointment on her books, so she’d gone for an early lunch. A coffee and a chicken salad sandwich at the cafe on the corner soon washed away the bad taste of the morning.
She could never have any inkling how strange her afternoon was going to be.
There was a man standing on the steps of the office when she returned. There was nothing particularly odd about his physical appearance; mid-40s, she guessed, shortish, slightly overweight and with a shock of prematurely grey hair. But his clothes were not the sort of thing you saw every day. He wore a sage green corduroy jacket with suede elbow patches and a silk waistcoat and tie in similarly autumnal hues. The overall impression was of a dotty schoolmaster in an Ealing comedy. All he really needed was a mortarboard to complete the ensemble.
He turned and smiled as Claire approached; “I’m looking for a hypnotherapist.”
“You’ve found one, she replied.
As she drew closer, Claire detected the finer points of the man’s outfit. He wore what appeared to be a pocket watch on an Albert chain, his pockets were baggy as if they were used to being stuffed with books and a battered enamel badge was pinned to his left lapel. And yet, there was none of the forced eccentricity that she was used to seeing about the town; nothing about this man was affectation – he was a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool oddball.
“I’d like to make an appointment,” said the man.
“I generally make appointments in the office,” Claire hitched her handbag onto her shoulder. “Rather than on the front steps of the office.”
The man seemed genuinely apologetic. “I’m so sorry. What must you think of me? You go in and get yourself sorted and I’ll follow you in five minutes.”
He did the smile again and Claire couldn’t help but smile back.
She let herself into the office, leaving the man on the steps whistling excerpts from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. By the time she’d taken off her coat, unlocked her drawer, touched up her hair and put the kettle on, the strange man was already in the waiting area, reading an ancient copy of Woman’s Realm.
“Sorry, I got a bit bored,” explained the man, adding; “There’s a delightful recipe in here for pineapple upside-down cake.”
“Indeed,” said Claire, for lack of anything else to say.
The man tossed the magazine onto a pile of similar on the coffee table and leapt to his feet. “Well, shall we get started?” he asked, clapping his hands together.”
“Yes, yes,” mumbled Claire, feeling a bit like she was at the centre of a whirlwind. “Step this way, Mr…?”
“Smith,” beamed the man. “Doctor John Smith.”