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I am one of those people who tries to self improve on holiday. I always take a least two worthy books with me. Generally, I do OK for the first couple of days but then the sun, fun and booze take over and I return having read only the first 100 pages of the Brothers Karamazov   

This time, in Crete, I decided to learn some poetry. There are lots of thing about which I feel inadequate; not speaking another language, not being able to play a musical instrument, my upper body physique, and - a less conventional inadequacy I realise -  not knowing anything much by heart. OK so there are a few songs; 'I've got you under my skin' and 'Tracks of my tears', for example, but nothing very cultured.

So this holiday I have set out to learn some poems. I've started with something simple; my favourite poem 'As I walked out one evening' by WH Auden. So far I've got the first eight verses (not as impressive as it may sound, they are only four lines long and they rhyme).

I could have it all by Sunday but I feel holiday decadence kicking in. I need support and inspiration. Why do I have this idea it's good to learn things off by heart? Maybe Ben from UCL can tell me how it will help protect my ageing brain, or some of those who criticise my educational progressivism (are you there Joe N?) can make the case for rote learning.

Keep me on track folks. After Auden I want to go for something a bit more challenging. Any one for Yeats?


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