MY normal aide mémoire is a beer mat in my back pocket. The next day, I hold it up and say to my wife Maria: “What was I supposed to remember?” And she reminds me.
On this occasion, we were in the car driving away from a supermarket, there were no beer mats available and it seemed, even to me, a little extreme to drive to the nearest pub to find one.
“Clenching your fist helps you remember,” Maria said. “I read it in a magazine.”
So I clenched my fist.
Much later, as I was preparing to write this column, I remembered clenching my fist. But couldn’t remember why.
“I’ve forgotten,” I said, raising my right arm in a Tooting Popular Front salute of which Citizen Smith would have been proud.
“Reading labels and standing by the trolley like a Wally,” she said.
So, in a way, clenching my fist worked. It reminded me to ask my wife and she remembered.
Which leads me to reading labels.
I have an aged relative in America who is a delightful chap as long as you never go shopping with him.
“I think I’ll get some crisps,” I once said in a supermarket.
“Chips? They’re chips in America. This aisle. Now you have your plain chips, your roasted chips, your toasted chips, your tortilla chips, your barbecue chips, your cheese chips ...”
He felt it his duty to read the packets for me in case I didn’t understand the very obvious American way of labelling. I then made the mistake of saying I wanted beer. American stores have an endless choice of beer.
Two hours later we had gone from Bud to Henry Weinhard and just reached the Mexican section with Europe still to go.
If we had gone near the gun section I would have been tempted to shoot him.
And then the other day I found I was doing it myself at Morrisons bread counter where my wife was choosing five rolls for £1.
“You’ve got your cheese ciabatta, your plain ciabatta, your herb caibatta, your bagel, your granary ...”
Maria looked at me.
“Oh my God,” I said. “I’m turning into an American.”
A little later, I was standing by the trolley like a Wally, watching my life pass by, when my gaze met that of another chap, equally stranded in charge of a trolley, while his wife was off in search of some essential.
He raised an eyebrow as if to say: What can you do? And I raised an eyebrow back in agreement.
I nodded towards my wife who was taking out and putting back a bag of prawns as if doing the hokey cokey. “Nearly had a result there,” I said.
“Perhaps we’ll read about it in the Examiner,” he said. “Have a laugh.”
Which is why, as we drove away, I settled for clenching my right fist because there was no beer mat available.
PS: Maria showed me the magazine article about clenching your fist. You apparently clench your right fist to store the memory and clench your left fist to release it. “You didn’t tell me about the left fist,” I said. “I’d forgotten that bit,” she said.