Pride and Forgetfulness

He nodded back, as if momentarily cheered by my act of recognition, but almost immediately an unmistakable puzzlement washed across his face.

I have always had a poor memory for names, and my memory for faces, which is better, is often failed by dislocation: wrong person, wrong place.

And so it was that I was walking one gray day down Old Compton St. in London's "Soho district":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soho — for perfectly legitimate reasons, I might add, for those of a salacious turn of mind (you know who you are) — when I saw coming toward me, huddled as I was in a rumpled overcoat, a face I knew I knew. He looked, forgive me, like any one of a hundred civil servants I shared my working days with, and I knew at once that, though his name escaped me totally, along with his department, division, and team, I had to greet him or be thought unpardonably aloof.

So as we came close, I looked him in the eye, gave that half smile that I thought my empathetic trademark, and nodded. He nodded back, as if momentarily cheered by my act of recognition, but almost immediately an unmistakable puzzlement washed across his face. Then we passed and I carried on.

It was half a block later that I placed him. He had played, and played beautifully, the egregiously snobbish canon in the BBC's adaptation of _Pride and Prejudice._ I had, of course, never met him in any other sense.

And the awful thing is that I still cannot recall his name.

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