Visual Alphabets galore

Of all my memory devices, the Visual Alphabet is probably the one I use most after the The Bestiary.

Basically, it is a peg system – information is pegged onto each item in the sequence. The most familiar peg system is 1-sun, 2-shoe, 3-tree and so on. But 7 gives you heaven and so 11 gives you a problem. Nothing else rhymes!

In Medieval times, they also used visual alphabets. These were alphabets created using images of objects to link to ideas. One of the most beautiful is that of Giovannino de Grassi created in 1390.

I combined a number of Medieval techniques to create my Visual Alphabet, in particular making each image link to the next visually so I didn’t need to go back to the letter and alphabet each time. When I was at the Rat I knew that the Skull came next. If I can’t remember what is next, I can always think “R is rat and then comes S which is skull”. But I never have to do that, I know it so well. Here is one page of the six which are in Memory Craft.

I would have much rather have done the 26 characters as a sequence, rather than split them onto six pages, but that wouldn’t work for printing the book. In the above image, Quetzalcoatl is entwined with the teal of the panther for the previous page.

I have had a lot of emails from people who use either my Visual Alphabet or one of their own and find them incredibly effective. I was delighted to receive an email with images from Ann Bidstrup who runs Heart Art in Park Orchards. In last term’s Art for Well Being workshops the women created concertina books for their personal Visual Alphabets , here are twelve of them. They look wonderful.

I love them! I hear that they work really well.

Interestingly, these artists don’t include the letters, just the characters. I am going to try that. I originally designed my Visual Alphabet as a continuous image like these before I had to convert it to suit inclusion in Memory Craft. But I always included the letter. I now think that this may be better. I am going to do mine again as a concertina book like these.

I use my Visual Alphabet for all public speaking, for temporary bird lists when out birding [no need to carry a pen and paper – we record them when we get home]. I use it for to-do lists, shopping lists … anything temporary.

One of the sessions at my full day workshop for Independent Schools Victoria next year will include creating a Visual Alphabet and Bestiary. Along with memory palaces and memory boards and a lot more. Their workshops are open to anyone, not just teachers from independent schools.

2018 Australian Memory Championships

I have been very slack in writing this blog. Apologies. I have been finishing my new book, Memory Craft, to be published on June 3, 2019. I have just completed the editing process with my publisher, Allen & Unwin, something I find very stressful and demanding. But it has finally gone to the typesetters. The final manuscript will be sent to me in a week or so for indexing and then it is done. My baby will be sent out into the world.

I competed in the Australian Memory Championships for a second time in November 2018, despite my writing in The Memory Code that I could never do it. But yet again, I found the pressure difficult to handle. By the end of the second day of competition, my brain was mush and my nerves frayed.

The competition was run by the IAM (International Association of Memory) and organised by Tansel Ali. There were ten events, including memorising shuffled decks of cards and long lists of numbers, both integers and binary. We memorised pages of names to match faces, dates of imagined events, images in order and lists of words. And all under strict time limits. It is really high pressure and I don’t handle pressure well at all.

Motoro Ohno

We had international guests, competitors from Japan, China and Indonesia. The entire competition was won by Motoro Ohno from Japan (pictured right).

The Japanese team was led by Takeru Aoki (at right in the picture below). Also part of the team was Hiroshi Abe (on the left).

Hiroshi is a Senior (over 60) and came with the express purpose of competing with me. He is higher in the IAM (International Association of Memory) rankings, and rightly so. But these competitions have a harsh side with the scoring. A mistake in a row of numbers of the suit of a card and you can end up with a score of zero for the row or the card trial. You need to make a decision. Do you go for speed and risk accuracy or take the careful way out and go slower, hoping to be more accurate.

Hiroshi Abe (Japan, Senior), Lynne Kelly (Australia, Senior) and Takeru Oaki (Japan, Open)

Knowing I don’t handle pressure well, I went far slower than I do in training, but was mostly accurate. Hiroshi was faster but had some accuracy slips and ended up scoring a few zeros. But the end of the competition, I had beaten him comfortably. I would not have managed it had he been on form!

I was the top Australian Senior again.

The Australian Memory Champion for the last two years, Anastasia Woolmer, was unable to compete due to illness. I was really disappointed to miss spending time with her again. She would have had tough competition from Zeshaan Khokhar who took the 2018 Australian Memory Champion title.

Lynne Kelly ( Australian, Senior), Zeshaan Khokhar (2018 Australian Memory Champion).

I now do most of my training on Memory League, a really fun way for anyone who wants to start playing around with memory competitions.

You can compete against others at your level, but I just compete with myself. Click on the images to try it out. You need to register but the first levels are free.

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The training screen. There are five events: cards, images, names, numbers and words.

All help for getting started is available through the super-friendly associated forum at Art Of Memory https://forum.artofmemory.com.