If you’re a similar age to me you’ll no doubt suffer the same frustrating moments when something well known is on the tip of your tongue… but you JUST CAN’T REMEMBER IT! A good example for me is hollyhocks. If I have to think of the name of that plant, more often than not it just won’t come through the grey mists of all the other things stored in my head. A little while later when I’m not thinking about it, there it is clear as day!

I know it’s not just me. It used to happen when I’d have my Saturday afternoon post-squash beer with my friend David. One afternoon we sat watching the afternoon’s football results when a well known face appeared on TV and we both started struggling to remember his name. We knew everything else about him… he’s played for Celtic, managed this and that team etc etc. I had to text David with the answer an hour or two later… of course it was Ally McCoist.

Both are examples of long term memory loss, where information from a few seconds ago is stored for decades before being prompted back to focus by some trigger. Particularly as you get older there’s just so much stuff in there, and sometimes a failure to index the memory correctly doesn’t help. When being introduced to someone unless I repeat their name back to them at the time I haven’t a hope of remembering, and they’re forever consigned to the group of people I greet with a generic ‘Hi there…’. Repeating their name on introduction helps with indexing the information.

But it’s been short term memory that’s let me down this week. Started with me dashing in to work early Tuesday on my way to running a couple of heavy training sessions in Huntingdon. Lots to prepare, not much time. Almost ready to set off again when someone popped their head round the door and asked if anyone had a white car outside. ‘Me’ I piped up. ‘Well, it’s just rolled across the car park’. Forgotten to put the hand brake on! Luckily I was in so early there were no cars parked in the row behind. Cue much leg pulling at work.(Note to family and friends… DON’T tell my wife about this, she’ll worry about it).

Next day I left the hot tap running in the bathroom. At least the suspicion is on me… yes, I was the last person in there, yes, I washed my hands. But how could I leave the hot tap running…  not just dribbling but on enough to drain the hot water tank.

We can typically hold four items in our short term memory for the space of a few seconds. This can be extended by a process called chunking. My best party trick uses chunking to remember items written on ten pieces of paper, each shown to me for a split second. I can then repeat all the items back immediately, or even repeat them jumbled up (e.g. what was number seven, what was number two?). But problems with short term memory usually happen because your attention gets shifted before you correctly store the information… that’s the source of my problem, since I’ve generally got several things on the go at once.

Still doesn’t explain the phenomenon of my car keys. Used to drive me insane when I regularly ‘lost’ them, only to be found in the boot lock, left in the toilet etc etc. Then daughter Beth bought me a key fob that emitted a loud beep if you clapped your hands nearby. Unfortunately it was too sensitive and went off at the slightest noise, driving me and the whole house even more mad than when I kept losing the keys. Wasn’t too sad when the battery expired… but in the six months since silence has happily reigned again I’ve not once lost my keys!

Shaved my beard off this week after generally annoying the family with it for two years. Don’t know why, just did it on the spur of the moment. Of course, if you’re going to do such a thing this time of year is just about right… look a bit of a divot (and a bit like a panda) if you shave it off mid summer when you’ve got a tan!

Another group of three treatments on my blinking bladder started Monday, so meant a quiet day catching up on reading, listening to radio recordings and messing about on the laptop. I’m completing a scaled map of our allotments since there’s never been such a thing. Will post it when it’s ready. Also went to see Alison, the town clerk, with our chairman Richard to discuss a few things, including the problem of cars messing up the allotment tracks in the winter.

Had one of our quarterly Hill Rise Allotment Association talks on Friday, this one about weeds and weed control. Very interesting… made me realise where I’d been going wrong. Apparently one flowering weed can send out between 1,000 and 10,000 seeds, each of which will be typically viable for five years… although poppy seeds may be fertile for hundreds of years! The top twelve inches of soil are therefore full of weed seeds, so disturbing the soil to take out the current crop of weeds only brings more seeds to the surface to germinate. The trick appears to be to pull out or lightly hoe the weeds that pop up without turning over the soil too much. Came away with an attractive and informative book ‘The Encyclopaedia of Arable Weeds’ for £3.50, normally £25. There’s a web site you can use, to access click here.

The Pashley bike is off the road again… if you’re behind the curve on my bicycle battles over the last two years pop ‘bike’ into the ‘Search this blog’ box on the right and make sure you give yourself half an hour or so. The latest problem concerns the five speed Sturmey Archer hub gear, which has stuck in first gear. Popped the bike back to suppliers Halfords in Huntingdon. Got a call a few days later… Pashley won’t cover the cost of a replacement since the twelve month guarantee expired in August. Oh, and the Halfords mechanic isn’t confident about tackling this type of gear so can I please take the bike to a Pashley specialist in Cambridge? Thanks a bunch!

Email to the Cycle to Work Scheme manager at Halfords, who was really helpful in getting the original Gazelle Impala replaced with the Pashley, just resulted in him forwarding to the customer services team. ‘Helpful’ reply told me they wouldn’t help with the cost since it was out of warranty, but would give me a reduced price extended warranty for any future problems. How does that help if their mechanic can’t handle a Pashley????

So I’ve fired off the following email to them…

Hi Andy... I'm disappointed at your response. I'd be obliged if you could refer this case to your manager & let him read the following.

Unfortunately you cannot purely rely on the 12 month warranty which Pashley restrict themselves to. The Sale of Goods Act places a responsibility on you as supplier of the bicycle for up to six years after purchase that the item purchased was fit for purpose & of satisfactory quality. In this case a part described as having 'total protection against the elements, completely shielded from knocks, maintenance requirements being thus minimal', fitted to a bicycle costing £600, has failed & requires replacement after just 15 months.

Unfortunately if I do not receive a satisfactory response within the next seven days I will have no option but to raise a case in the small claims court in Huntingdon.

Thanks, John

I’m going to wait until next Thursday and then take the bike to the Cambridge repairers come what may, since I’m missing my bike. I’ll just take Halfords to the county court for the cost of repairs.

Paige’s fifth birthday this week. At the party her and Izzy played pass the parcel together, with Paige ‘surprisingly’ winning most of the rounds… doesn’t really work with just two but it was funny! Lots of Christmas plays this week for the grandchildren, video footage below as well as some photos from the week.


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