I have been trying to remember if my memory has always been this bad, or, if – like a lot of other things – it’s been deteriorating for years but because it’s been so gradual, I’m only now noticing it. Because there’s no doubt about it, my memory is officially rubbish.
Of course, even in my younger days there were moments when I’d go to remember something and my brain would hold up its hands in despair and shrug – sorry, mate, no can do. But, overall, I used to have a pretty good memory.
Now I struggle to remember even the most basic of things. I have to think about what month it is, let alone what day. I rely on the neighbours putting out their bins to know to put mine out and what colour bin it is this week. But isn’t that the same for everyone? Isn’t there always one person in the street who knows what day bin day is, and which colour bin should go out, and we all watch for their bin before dragging out our own. Heaven forbid they should ever forget – or worse, go away on holiday and rely on neighbours to put their bin out – we’d seriously all be lost.
I forget to text people back or think I already have. Emails sit in my inbox unanswered because I’ve forgotten all about them. I do try to keep up with birthdays by constantly checking my calendar because otherwise, I’d have no clue. And as for work … since my shifts have become flexible and irregular, I don’t have any idea what I’m doing. I even got into trouble last week because I rocked up to work for a 10:30am shift, only to find I was actually on a 9:30am shift and should have opened up the shop and a delivery van had been sitting on the doorstep for half an hour. Oopsie. Got into a spot of hot water about that one.
I have money off vouchers I forget to use and there’s always something missed off the shopping list. A zoom meeting is supposed to start at 1pm – it always starts at 1pm – but in my head, it’s 1:30pm so I miss the first thirty minutes, and so on and so on.
But last week I managed a monumental failure in the memory department and have concluded that it must be an age thing – or maybe an indication of how full my head is of other stuff – that there’s no room to remember anything else.
As I told you last week it’s my mum’s birthday this weekend – Happy Birthday, Mum. Hope you’re having a great time and enjoying your holiday – so I went into Next to buy her some clothes as she’d said that’s what she wanted. Unusually, I found a pair of linen trousers and a couple of tops that I liked and thought Mum would like too. I queued and the nice lady on the till rang them through.
That’ll be £60, she said, cash or card?
Card, I replied and slid my card into the machine. As it was over £45, I couldn’t use contactless payment.
Please enter your PIN, she said.
I stared at the card machine.
The card machine stared back.
It flashed the words – enter PIN now at me – rather aggressively I thought.
I stared a bit more in the vain hope that the numbers would magically float into my brain.
They did not.
Now relying on muscle memory, I punched in some numbers and hoped.
Incorrect PIN flashed the card machine.
Try again, urged the lady behind the till.
I tried again.
The card machine paused, then – you’re not Julia, are you? It sneered. You’ve stolen this card, haven’t you?
Now truly scared I looked at the nice lady.
I can’t remember my PIN, I admitted sheepishly. It’s been so long since I’ve used it, I just can’t remember it.
That’s okay, she reassured me. Take your card out and I can split this sale in two so you can pay using contactless.
I took the card out, she split the sales down and I tapped the card machine twice – vastly relieved when both transactions went through smoothly.
I then left the shop desperately trying to remember my PIN and by the time I reached my next port of call, Wilks, I thought I had it.
Now I’m a regular shopper in Wilks and the staff know me so I explained to the lady on the till what had happened, but that I was 99% sure I had remembered my PIN now.
Well, try once, she said, and if you haven’t then you can pay by contactless.
I paid by contactless and slunk home.
I couldn’t believe that I’d forgotten my PIN. I’ve had those four digits emblazoned in my skull for almost twenty years now. It was the one thing I honestly thought I would never forget. I always imagined that after my death, if they autopsied me, they would find those numbers etched into my brain, I was that sure of them.
But apparently, I wasn’t.
I went onto my banking website and found out how to order a PIN reminder. It will take three-four working days, it informed me. It was now Friday afternoon so I assumed the earliest I would get it was Wednesday, Thursday at the latest.
I had a rare weekend off and was busy all Saturday, but on Sunday decided I had to buy myself some new clothes. What with being unable to buy any during the various lockdowns plus the change in the weather, I needed some cooler clothing. So, mid-morning on Sunday I skipped across to Next again because when I’d bought Mum’s clothes, I had seen quite a few things I liked for myself.
I spent a happy twenty minutes browsing the racks before picking out two pairs of lightweight trousers, a shirt, and a couple of t-shirts.
I queued for ages. There was something wrong with the tills – the mainframe had crashed, the harried staff explained – someone was trying to fix it but there might be a bit of a wait. The queue grumbled good-naturedly, and a few comments were made about technology only being any good when it worked.
I never did get that statement. I mean, surely everything is only any good if it works.
Anyway, a few minutes later an assistant popped up and asked me to come to the children’s department as there was a till free that was working, so I followed her there and she rang up my items.
£78 she said and then saw the card in my hand. If you’d just like to pop your card in the machine and enter your PIN, she continued.
I stared at the card machine as my world slowly collapsed about me.
I’d completely forgotten that I’d forgotten my PIN.
Silently cursing my defected, stupid brain for putting me in such an awkward and embarrassing situation, I desperately scrambled about my memory cells praying for a last-minute intervention. Nope. If the PIN was in there somewhere it was flatly refusing to come out. There was nothing for it, I was going to have to fess up.
I’m so sorry, I said, I completely forgot that I’ve forgotten my PIN. I have ordered a reminder, but I haven’t got it yet.
That’s okay, she said. I can split the order down so you can pay contactless.
She split the order down.
I tapped the card to settle the first amount of £40.
Card not authorised; the machine smugly told me.
I tried again.
Card not authorised, it told me again – and this time there was definitely an air of malice in the way it flashed the message.
It’s refusing my card, I admitted.
The girl gave me a look – you know, THAT look – the look that quite clearly says – now what kind of a game are you playing here? Is the card stolen, fraudulent, or do you just not have the money in your account to make the payment?
Do you think it might be because I’ve ordered a PIN reminder? I asked.
Maybe, she agreed. Do you have any other method of payment?
Not on me, I said.
Oh, she said. What would you like to do then?
What I would have liked to have done was hide my face in shame and crawl out of the shop, but I wanted the clothes. So, I phoned Miss F.
It wasn’t even yet midday on a Sunday, so she wasn’t best pleased with being woken up by her pathetic mother. She was even less pleased when I asked her if she could possibly get up, get dressed, and pop across to Next to pay for my clothes for me. Oh, and if she could do it as quick as possible that would be wonderful.
She called me an idiot – which I felt was fair enough, and to be honest, if our positions had been reversed, I would have called her far worse – but bless her, she agreed to come.
She’s coming, I told the sales assistant. She looked relieved and placed the clothes behind the till and served the next person in the queue.
So, there I was, midday in a hot and crowded clothes store, lurking in the children’s department and trying unsuccessfully to look as if I had a reason for doing so. It felt like ages but was only ten minutes before Miss F marched in and glared at me over her mask. We shuffled back to the till, she paid, and we then came home.
Thank you, I mumbled.
Idiot, she said again. You knew you’d forgotten your PIN so what were you doing trying to buy a shit ton of clothes?
You forgot you’d forgotten your PIN?
She huffed in utter exasperation at having such a braindead ninny for a mother.
I’ll transfer the money over to your account the minute we get home, I promised.
Too damn right you will, came the reply.
I phoned the bank and explained to them what had happened.
Did you reject my card because I’ve requested a PIN reminder?
No, it came back not authorised because you’re only allowed to spend £130 via contactless payment before it will ask for chip and PIN on a transaction just to touch base that it is you – and not someone running amuck with your stolen debit card.
Oh, I said. So, it was just a coincidence that it happened then?
Yes, it was just a coincidence.
So, it could have happened to anyone?
There was a silence at the other end of the line, indicating that no, it only could have happened to complete idiots like me who forgot then PIN, then forgot they’d forgotten their PIN and merrily went shopping.
And that was me with no way of paying for anything until my PIN reminder turned up. But that’s okay, I thought. I pay for my grocery shopping online, I have a full tank of petrol, and there’s nothing else that can’t wait until I have use of my card again.
BUT. I had forgotten something.
I had forgotten that last week I picked out some new bedding for Miss F to take to university with her – a lovely thick mattress topper, a washable duvet, a pair of washable pillows, and two packs of pillow protectors. We get a very generous staff discount but must apply for a code for each purchase we make. I had put the bedding away in the warehouse with my name on it and applied for the code, then promptly forgot about it.
On Monday, my boss told me the code had been received and as the shop had a stocktake on Thursday, he’d be grateful if I could buy the bedding before then.
I was only at work Monday and Tuesday and then not again until Sunday.
When I collected Miss F from work that evening, I explained the predicament to her.
How much do you need?
Well, it’s £64 for all the bedding, but I was thinking I need to get all our plants for our front pots and hanging baskets.
Last year because I’d somehow managed to not only make spectacular pots and a hanging basket for our front garden but also kept them fed and watered, we were rewarded with the most gorgeous display of purple and cream petunias that had people stopping in the street to exclaim about them – and had netted me a Bury in Bloom certificate. Such acclaim had gone to my head, and I really, really wanted to win another certificate this year.
It wanted but a few weeks until the judges would be coming around, so I needed to get my plants in and established by then.
Both Miss F and I were working until 5pm on Tuesday, and she gets the bus home rather than hang about waiting for me. The plan was hatched that we would both get changed as soon as we got home, then we’d drive back to my work and collect the bedding, then we’d pop into Homebase opposite and see what plants they had. If we felt that we needed more, we could call into B&Q on the way home and see what they had.
I wanted to try and find the petunias we had last year because they were huge and gorgeous. We had plain cream ones, plain purple ones, and then purple ones that looked like someone had splattered them with cream.
Rather than Miss F spend her money and then me pay her back, I estimated roughly what I would be spending and transferred the money into her account Tuesday morning.
It all went smoothly, but sadly although we found plenty of petunias, and even cream and purple ones, there was no sight of the lovely, splattered effect ones. Still, we decided to stick to the purple and cream vibe and did buy some beautiful flowers.
I was glad we had made the effort to do everything Tuesday evening. Yes, it meant we ate a little later than normal but then we didn’t have to go anywhere Wednesday morning. We both had the day off and Miss F wanted to stay in bed, whilst I wanted to get up and pootle about the garden and pot up my plants.
I will share some pictures when they are more established and there’s something to see.
For Easter, my parents had given us some Tesco vouchers. For those of you who don’t know what they are, Tesco is one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK and every time you shop there you accumulate Clubcard points – you can also get them from buying petrol from them and by using their credit card. These points can then either be straight exchanged in-store or can be doubled in value and spent in restaurants and on days out and at tourist attractions. They can also be used in some hotels.
Anyway, my parents gave us quite a few vouchers – enough to do some serious damage with – but Miss F and I were uncertain what to spend them on. Then her university announced that they would be doing an open day after all for a small number of next year’s potential students. It would be on a first-come, first-served basis by a strict booking and timed slot system. Now, the university Miss F is going to is quite a distance from here. Google maps say it should only take three hours, but we’ve been to that part of the country on holiday, and it took us over nine hours because of roadworks and traffic. The last thing I wanted was the stress of being stuck in a tailback as we watched her timed tour slot come and go.
We checked out hotels local to the university and found a nice looking one only ten minutes from it. Did it have a twin-bedded room? It did. Was there availability for the night of the 7th? The tour is taking place on the 8th. There was. Most importantly, did it take Tesco vouchers? It did.
Nerves on edge, we waited until the booking slots for the tour opened and Miss F jumped onto the website and managed to book our tour for midday on the eighth. I had already spoken to my boss, and he had marked those two days as being part of my weekly days off. We then drove to my parents and Miss F and my mum went onto the Tesco website and managed to book us the room.
It’s perfect. Check-in isn’t until 2pm on the 7th, so we have time to take a leisurely drive up and stop for a light lunch on the way. We will check-in and then have the rest of the afternoon to wander around the local town and see where everything is and find a nice restaurant to have dinner in. The next morning, it’s a mere ten-minute drive from the hotel to the university so there won’t be the stress and panic of racing down a motorway trying to get there. As soon as the tour is over, we will head for home and either stop for something to eat on the way back or, if Google maps is right for once and it looks like only taking us three hours, press on for home and get something to eat when we get back.
I’m looking forward to it. This will be the first time either of us has been out of Bury for years, what with always working, having no money, and then, of course, the whole pandemic and lockdown situation, holidays and weekends away have been impossible.
Oh, and my PIN reminder turned up this morning. I looked at it. I know it’s my number and I recognise some of the numbers, but it doesn’t immediately make me cry out – why yes, that is my number, how can I possibly have forgotten it? I shall never forget it again – because I know the chances are I will probably forget it again. I shall have to write it down somewhere and yes, I know we’re not supposed to do that, but I shall disguise it well so only I know what it is.
That’s if I remember what I’ve disguised it as.
Anyway, that’s it for this week. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are well and please stay safe, stay healthy.