Help! Memory: Gone Missing

Life has an annoying tendency to pass by in a whirlwind. Mornings skip along, afternoons canter and the nights pass away in a fog of knackeredness that before I know it the week has disappeared. Hours are eaten up by kids’ stuff, meetings, appointments, calls and dealing with lawyers and their lengthy emails relating to our building project and forthcoming move to the ‘burbs. (To all the lawyers out there: why can’t you make things simple rather than wrapping everything up in mind-bending semantics and sentences that go on forever?)

Things are made worse by my Better Half’s habit of calling with instructions or questions as I’m (a) dealing with a child in desperate need of a pee, or (b) negotiating a peace settlement between two warring children. ‘I don’t have time to deal with this,’ he says. He then mumbles some half-conversation he’s had with so-and-so on such-and-such a topic, leaving me to fill in the blanks.

A few weeks ago he rang to to tell me I needed to head to the bank, NOW, to get my passport certified.

‘It’s urgent. They need it this afternoon.’

‘Didn’t we do this already?’ I said.

‘We did. They can’t find the paperwork.’ So I dutifully waddled as quickly as I could to the bank.

My role as  ‘Head of Back-Office for the Boheim Household’ is combined with my role as the baby-making machine with a pelvic problem that would make you wince. That, and the tumult of hormones and the fifty million things that have been delegated to me make my brain feel like it’s about to combust. The result is a memory that’s constantly on the blink such that it’s better not to ask me anything because I’ll only rattle out the wrong answer. These days it’s easier to answer a question with an I-don’t-know. If grades were given out for Ineptitude, I’d get an A*.

It’s a little strange too, as life seems to be imitating ‘art’. I’ve been drafting a second novel where, among other things, the protagonist has a fractured pelvis and a memory on stop-go. I’ve put it to one side because (a) I’m too close to it, so like a love-sick puppy, I’m (b) currently blind to its flaws. And (c) if I stop writing about a character with a broken pelvis and a dodgy memory, maybe my own flakey pelvis and memory will improve. Wishful thinking? It seems like it.

Just a few weeks ago, my Better Half asked me where I had parked the car.

I looked at him. ‘The car?’

‘Yes, the car. Where did you put it?’ He was rushing out the door to get to work, wearing this pained look on his face as though he were having a conversation with a half-wit.

‘I don’t know,’ I replied. ‘I mean, I really can’t remember.’

‘You can’t remember?’

‘Yep. It’s gone. Just like that.’ It was true. Then and there everything to do with cars, the constant frustration of finding a parking spot close to home seemed to have been redacted.

He gave me The Look. ‘Retrace your steps,’ he said, before shutting the door behind him.

I did eventually locate the car, but it was still a mystery as to how I had parked it there. Like it was a mystery as to how my wedding ring had simply fallen off my finger. It has never slipped off. And as I get fatter with pregnancy, the metal band should now be meshed into my skin. But no. It had gone missing somewhere between a trip to the playground, the supermarket and returning home. It couldn’t be found.

Then, a week later, as I was sorting through the fridge, I found it nestled between a bag of carrots and a tub of Yeo Valley Greek yogurt. The elation of finding a little bit of metal was akin to winning the lottery.

‘I found my ring at the bottom of fridge!’ I cried out to my Better Half.

‘How did it get there?’

‘Who cares? Maybe the ghost put it there.’

‘Are we back to that?’

‘Better than admitting your wife’s going senile.’

The evening before we headed out on holiday, however, I really thought I was going senile.

‘I can’t find my passport,’ I said. My Better Half looked up from the computer.

‘What?’

‘I. Can’t. Find. My. Passport.’ I was trying not to hyperventilate. ‘It’s not where it should be.’

‘Then where is it?’

‘I’ve no idea.’

‘Retrace your steps.’

‘I’m trying to.’

‘Don’t tell me. You can’t remember where you last had it.’

‘No,’ I replied in a quiet voice.

‘We didn’t take it,’ said my four-year-old daughter, trotting into our bedroom. Her little sister followed hot on her heals.

‘No, no, no,’ she said, shaking her head before mindlessly pulling out drawers and rummaging through them as we were doing.

We uprooted our home. It couldn’t be found. Even our resident ‘ghost’ appeared, adding some mischief into the mix by switching the television on and off as we searched the living room. (It’s true – the T.V. inexplicably came on. Twice. No one was near the remote control.)

My passport was well and truly missing. At midnight I went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.

At 8.00 a.m. the following day, six hours before our flight, I called the Passport Agency. The person I spoke to was as helpful as a damp squib.

‘You can get an appointment to see someone tomorrow.’

‘But I fly today.’ I told him.

‘Your appointment’s at 7.45 a.m.,’ he continued, deadpan.

‘And I’ll get my passport that day?’

‘You’ll get it in seven days.’

‘What? But the holiday will be over by then.’

‘You’ll get it in a week.’

‘But it’s a really special trip … It’s my daughter’s birthday, my husband’s birthday, and we’re celebrating my father-in-law’s 70th. We’ve been planning this for months.’

‘But no one’s died Mrs. Boheim. So it’s not an emergency.’ I felt like I had died, but I didn’t tell him that. Instead I put down the phone and headed with my bags to camp inside the UK Passport Agency building in Victoria. I wasn’t going to wait until the next day for an appointment. On my way out I called my Better Half with an update.

‘But when will you get a new passport?’ he asked.

‘The good thing is,’ I said, like a politician, masterfully avoiding the question, ‘you’ll still get to go on holiday with the kids. And you’ll have the nanny too.’ (I know – this looks a bit suspect: my Better Half going on holiday … with the nanny …)

‘Can you remember when you last had your passport?’ he asked for the umpteenth time.

‘Yes. I can. I think … It was at the bank, but I’m sure they gave it back to me. Besides, that was two weeks ago.’

‘Have you checked with them?’

‘They don’t open until 9.30. I’ve tried phoning. There’s no one there.’ Stupid banks, I thought. First, they bring down the economy, then they mislay crucial paperwork and to top it all they can’t be bothered to open up shop early.

After an hour of running between the police station and the Passport Agency, three phone calls with anonymous call centre people – the last conversation involving a grilling as to why exactly I needed to get to Turkey, who I was going with and what kind of name was Amna (go figure,) my mobile rang. Given the way the morning was panning out, I half expected a call from MI5 or the police.

It was our nanny. I had asked her to go to the bank to check if my passport was there while I was out dealing with the inane red-tape of a government agency.

‘They have it,’ she said. ‘Along with twenty other passports.’ I almost cried with relief. I couldn’t be bothered to question why they hadn’t got in touch with me to tell me I had left it behind because this was simply The Best News Ever.

So I made the holiday. We had a wonderful time. My Better Half even kept away from the Crackberry for more than ten minutes. Although our midnight arrival into a dilapidated London Gatwick soon washed away our holiday glow. By the time we got through passport control it was close to 1.00 a.m. By the time we got home it was 2.00 a.m. Welcome back to the UK.

The following morning, I found my Better Half desperately rummaging through our desk drawers.

‘Where’s my passport?’ he asked.

‘Your passport?’

‘I can’t find it.’

‘You need it urgently?’

‘Yes – tomorrow.’

‘Right,’ I said, squeezing my eyes closed and nodding my head.

‘What are you doing?’ he asked.

‘Retracing my steps.’ Five minutes later I looked up at him. ‘Oops,’ I said. I knew exactly where it was.

Until next time!

Amna