It’s not odd, it’s just eccentric

Upon updating my eye buddies on the RD Facebook support group site following my last appointment at Moorfields, I explained that the vision in my RD eye is just about 6/36 if I use the parts of my retina which are less damaged.  One of my eye buddies then commented, ‘I read with interest your comment on visual acuity and using parts of the retina which are less damaged.  I’m guessing you have to move your eye around to get something into view?  That’s what I need to do and wondered a few times if I’m meant to do that but never asked the question.’  I replied to confirm that this is indeed what I have to do with my RD eye, in order to get the top letters on the Snellen chart into view.  I can only read the first two lines but without using this technique, I’m unable to read the second line at all and can only just about manage the top letter.  I also explained that this isn’t ‘cheating’, as some people worry it might be, and that the ophthalmologist or optometrist will be able to tell that we’re doing this by the way we move our eyes when trying to read the chart.  I told her that there was a proper term for the technique but I couldn’t remember what it was.

I only knew that there was an official term for it as when I had an appointment with my first surgeon at Moorfields, I guiltily confessed to her that I could only read the first letter on the chart if I didn’t look directly at it.  She explained that my brain was learning to use the less damaged parts of my retina in order to read the chart, and told me the word for this technique, which I promptly forgot after receiving the unwelcome news that I’d be needing a third lot of surgery.  I do, however, clearly remember her smiling at my amazed fascination at what our brains are capable of in the grim face of sight loss.

After this little online chat with my eye buddy, we both went off and did a spot of research, and reconvened with the knowledge that the proper term for the technique is ‘Eccentric Viewing’.  You can find more information via the RNIB’s article ‘Understanding eccentric viewing‘.  We both agreed that it seemed a strange term to use, obviously being more familiar with the meaning of the word ‘eccentric’ as ‘somewhat odd’ or ‘unconventional’.  However, upon checking the Oxford English Dictionary, I found that the second listing of the word is ‘Not placed centrally or not having its axis or other part placed centrally’, so of course the term makes perfect sense for describing the technique of viewing something via a more peripheral portion of the retina, rather than using our central vision. 

My eye buddy was quite surprised by all this, telling me that no-one had ever mentioned it to her before, despite the fact that she’d been registered visually impaired with no central vision for over thirteen years.  We were also both surprised to discover that specialist training in eccentric viewing is available through various sight loss charities.  However, as we’d both been using the technique without realising it was an Actual Thing, we figured that in time we must just learn to use what we have without training.

According to various information available online, eccentric viewing seems to be used mainly to help people with macular degeneration.  The macula is the central part of the retina.  It’s roughly the size of a pin head but is very important as it’s responsible for our central vision, which includes most of our colour vision and fine detail.  This is why people with macular degeneration have trouble reading or recognising faces.  My first retinal detachment was unfortunately rather spectacular, with the macula detaching within hours of first starting to lose sight.  As a result it’s now badly damaged, and the subsequent complications, multiple detachments and surgeries haven’t helped matters.  I can’t read with my RD eye and if I stand right in front of a mirror and close my good eye, I can just see a blurry distorted haze.

A month after our investigations into eccentric viewing, my eye buddy was updating the RD support group on her own recent hospital appointment, and wrote:

‘Shout out to Emma for putting me on to this. I’ve had no central vision for years and knew I moved my eyes around to view but RD in both last year has left me with a different vision and also using my right eye which had been “redundant” for 24 years. I’ve been struggling with focus and working out how to look at things when Emma put me on to something known as Eccentric Viewing. I had some scans done last week and working with the optometrist was able to discover what part of the retina was my “now natural centre”. The left pics show what should be my centre, the OCT showing the gaping hole. The right is where I move my eye naturally to view with the OCT showing I’m using a portion of unbroken retina. Was interesting stuff, now I work to keep improving.’

Eccentric viewing - retinal photography and OCT scans, showing the natural centre of vision on the left, where the retina is damaged, and the new centre on the right, with the less damaged retina.

Retinal photography and OCT scans, showing natural centre of vision and new centre, when using eccentric viewing technique

I found it really interesting to see her pictures and hugely encouraging to hear how she’s now developing her use of this technique to make the most of her sight.  She agreed that I could use her experience and pictures in the hopes that it may help other people who come across my blog, so huge thanks to her for allowing me to do this!

For all you readers with properly working peepers, just be aware that next time you spot someone staring at something and moving their eyes all over the place like a lunatic, it may not be due to eccentricity; they could just be using eccentric viewing… 😉

Useful links:
The Macular Society – Skills for seeing
RNIB – Understanding eccentric viewing
Prevent Blindness – Eccentric viewing

 

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Blind fear: meeting Moses

My mum came to visit me recently and whilst she was here, she crossed paths with a lady living just down the road who, it transpired, had a daughter the same age as me who happened to be severely visually impaired.  With coincidences coming thick and fast, her daughter had also been treated at Moorfields.  Upon hearing that she was in the process of setting up a support group for visually and hearing impaired people, my mum obtained her contact details for me.

Without further ado, I emailed her explaining my long-held plan to try and get to know some people who are severely visually impaired in order to educate myself and also hopefully reduce my fear of further sight loss.  Unfortunately, so far I haven’t had much luck with this and have only managed to meet up with one person last summer, which I wrote about in my post, ‘Blind fear‘.  To my delight, my potential new eye buddy emailed me back swiftly and after a few messages back and forth we realised that we both had a lot of questions and so arranged to meet up for a cuppa that Sunday afternoon in a coffee shop in a local town.  After asking ‘How will I recognise you?’ and explaining, ‘I’ll be the tall, thin, nervous-looking one with short hair and dark glasses’, I then worried because of course I had absolutely no idea as to her level of vision.  ‘Would she think I was being thoughtless and stupid?’, I asked myself anxiously.  Maybe I should have told her instead that I’d be the softly-spoken one with the accent which people down south think is northern and people up north think is southern?  However, I needn’t have worried as a response came straight back, ‘I’ll be the short, thin, nervous-looking one with long brown hair and a white cane!’.

As I wasn’t entirely sure where the coffee shop was, I left in plenty of time on the day and after parking up, set out for the town centre with the aid of Google maps on my ‘phone.  After walking at a pace for a few minutes, I gradually realised that I seemed to be heading out of the main part of town, so I stopped to consult my ‘phone more closely.  I was heading in completely the wrong direction.  At this point, the heavens opened and a torrent of icy rain began to descend.  I pulled my hood up, clutched my increasingly slippery ‘phone with frozen fingers, and strode back in the opposite direction.  After a few minutes, I still hadn’t found the coffee shop and by this point I’d almost dropped my ‘phone on several occasions, my jeans were sopping wet, and my shoes were squelching.  I gave up trying to peer at the map and instead set my ‘phone to sat-nav mode, turned up the volume, stuffed it in my pocket, and followed the muffled instructions to ‘continue straight ahead’.  After a short while, it declared in a cheerful tone totally at odds with my situation, ‘Your destination is on the right!’  Peering through my dark glasses from beneath my hood, I muttered, ‘No it bloody isn’t!‘, causing a passing dog walker to eye me with consternation.

By this point, I was late.  I hate being late.  Especially when about to meet a Scary New Person.  I ducked into the doorway of Dominoes Pizza and fired off a slightly panicked message, explaining there I was and asking if the coffee shop was nearby.  A message pinged back immediately (phew!), telling me to go the opposite way and advising me what to look out for.  Thanks to these more useful directions, I found the place within the next couple of minutes and stumbled through the door, a dripping mess.    ‘Hello, Emma?’, I heard as I did so, and squelched across the floor to sit down, feeling somewhat embarrassed by my bedraggled state.  The embarrassment soon faded as I discovered my potential new eye buddy’s sense of humour.  ‘This is Moses‘, she informed me, brandishing her white cane.  She explained that he used to be called Michael but then she changed his name to Moses when she realised how effectively he parted a sea of people, enabling her to walk through.

Upon exchanging eye stories, I learnt that she’d had congenital cataracts which had been removed at six months but she’s never had IOLs inserted.  She has Nystagmus, macular degeneration, and damage to the optic nerve.  She told me all about her two retinal detachments – one in each eye, but a number of years apart.  To my surprise, I discovered that her visual acuity in each eye is currently much better than mine in my RD eye; however she’s lost a considerable amount of peripheral vision and effectively has tunnel vision.  I’m guessing this is the result of the optic nerve damage.  As a result of worsening vision last year, she had to surrender her driving licence, which must have been extremely difficult to do.  She also started long cane training – hence Moses.  She was on the verge of being registered as severely sight impaired but her visual acuity and visual field had mysteriously improved at her last hospital appointment so she hasn’t yet had to do that.

We shared experiences, described how much we can see, discussed various methods of making various tasks easier, and joked about certain situations we’ve found ourselves in.  As someone who’s had eye issues since birth, she was extremely interesting to talk to as well as highly entertaining.  As always, the more I learn about eye issues, the more I discover there is to learn and the more questions I have.  I’m hoping that we’ll be able to meet up again soon so that I can ask a few more…

 

Goodbye, little Dizzy

After saying a very sad ‘Farewell to Gill‘, our faithful dog and one of my canine eye buddies, a year ago, my family and I feared that it wouldn’t be very long before we’d also have to say goodbye to his brother.  Dizzy (or Diz for short) was Gill’s brother and, like Gill, had also experienced more than his fair share of health problems in his later years.  Diz had also had most of his teeth removed, not that this had any effect on his huge enthusiasm for food… any kind of food, and even things which weren’t food, come to that.  He had a particular passion for devouring paper.  On one occasion, my sister had carefully cut letters out of wrapping paper to spell ‘Happy 100th Birthday’ for one of the residents in her workplace (an independent living home for elderly people).  She left Diz unsupervised for a couple of hours and upon her return was horrified to discover only six letters remaining.  “But maybe a gust of wind blew them out of the window or something?”, I suggested incredulously, as she dismissed my explanation with the far more unlikely one that no, Diz really had actually eaten them.  Fortunately, he suffered no ill-effects from doing so, but the 100-year old resident was a little confused upon reading the message, ‘–P-Y -0–H B—-D–‘, the next morning.  (Okay, I’m just kidding about that last bit… obviously, Lucy managed to replace the missing letters.)

Diz’s passion for all things vaguely edible meant that he made an excellent hoover and was frequently to be found underneath the long dining table of the home after dinner, carefully cleaning up all the crumbs.  As he so often gave the impression that he was positively starving, so desperate was he to find his next tasty morsel, the residents began to save tidbits for him.  Pieces of biscuit, a handful of breakfast cereal, yoghurt pots to lick out, etc.  Of course, Diz lapped up both the food and the attention, but Lucy was forced to have stern words with certain residents at various times due to Diz’s expanding neckline as she was concerned that his fetching pink collar was getting a little tight.  She also had to have further stern words with some of the residents who were a bit doddery on their feet and yet insisted on bending down to say hi to Diz.  “Sit down first, then say hello to him!”, she told them firmly.

Like Gill, Diz also experienced a touch of doggy dementia, arthritis, impaired hearing, and eye problems during his later years, the latter of which seems to be a particular weakness of their breed, unfortunately.  Although he didn’t have to go through ‘Canine eye removal‘ like Gill, Diz was prone to recurring eye ulcers which caused him to lose most of his sight.  As it had been a burst ulcer which led to the need for Gill to have his eye removed, Diz’s recurring ulcers were a particular cause of worry, and it was all a bit too close to home for me.  His impaired hearing was more of a problem for some of the residents trying to get past him with their wheelies when he was lying down in the middle of the corridor, totally oblivious to the fact that he was in the way.  Happily (and noisily), a solution was found in the form of bicycle bells attached to certain residents’ wheelies, which they used to attract Diz’s attention when they needed him to move out of the way.  He always did so amiably, whilst gently wagging his tail and keeping a hopeful eye out for treats.

Despite all his health issues, Diz remained remarkably chirpy and was the ultimate good dog in allowing Lucy to attend to his various ailments and administer eye drops.  His patience was perhaps unsurprising in view of his dogged devotion to her.  Such was his eagerness to remain close to her that he would frequently follow her when she went to the bathroom and try to push the door open with his paw.  We often joked that Diz seemed to have some kind of sixth sense where Lucy was concerned.  Even if he appeared to be in a deep sleep, the minute Lucy got up and left the room, Diz would stir, raise his head, and then trot out of the room to find her.  When she left her flat to go downstairs to work, Diz could often be found lying at the top of the stairs, patiently awaiting her return.

Dizzy’s devotion to Lucy was only matched by hers to him, particularly in the way she cared for him during his last few years.  I’m convinced that it was this which resulted in him keeping going for another whole year after we lost Gill.  But the time finally came a few weeks ago when we had to say goodbye to our little Diz.  You’d think that after such a long and happy life and a considerable amount of time spent anticipating the inevitable, that the end wouldn’t be quite so difficult.  But of course it doesn’t work that way, as anyone who has furry friends will know.  Now we have to get used to a Diz-shaped hole in our lives, too.  And again, it’s a very large hole for such a little dog.

 

A great big ‘BOLLOCKS TO BREXIT!’

After my somewhat surreal experience a few weeks ago, Staring into the eyes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, I decided that I really did want to go on a proper shouty protest against Brexit, where I could yell ‘BOLLOCKS TO BREXIT’ without fear of potentially being sacked from my job.  On the plus side, I knew that The People’s Vote March, to be held in London on 23 March, would provide the perfect opportunity for this.  On the minus side, I’ve always detested crowds and loud noise, and this feeling has intensified since my eye problems began.  In addition, I tend to experience difficulties in crowds due to the loss of peripheral vision on my right side as well as the extremely poor vision in my silicone-oiled-filled right eye.  The number of times I’ve crashed into people or even trodden on toes and then had to face accusatory eyes glaring at me is somewhat embarrassing.

However, when an old uni friend of mine, Vicky, contacted me to say that she was considering going on the march, and this vague consideration suddenly escalated to the booking of a train ticket, I was suddenly committed.  It was to be her first protest march as well, and she was also very nervous and not keen on crowds.  So I couldn’t leave her to go it alone, could I?  And anyway, I told myself, it certainly wouldn’t be as bad as eye surgery!  [Pauses to shudder.]  Therefore, the decision was made: we were going!

It turned out that we wouldn’t be alone, as Vicky informed me that her three friends were happy for us to tag along with them.  Luckily, they were Seasoned Protesters and so knew all the ropes.  I briefly wondered whether their knowledge extended to how to get out of jail if we were arrested, but decided not to worry about that potential minor complication.  As an indication of just how little we knew about the protesting scene, when I asked Vicky if she was planning to take a placard, her reply was, ‘What, you mean one of those signs on sticks?’.  ‘Yes!’, I confirmed, wishing I still had the ability to roll my eyes, before telling her that I wasn’t planning on taking a placard as it could end up being an instrument for a potential head trauma (you remember the advice… ‘Don’t get a head trauma!’).  Instead, I told her that I’d be proudly sporting my anti-Brexit t-shirt, and waving an EU flag (if it arrived on time in the post).  Vicky, on the other hand, excelled herself in crafting a detailed placard on blackboard paper using chalk pens.  Upon hearing this, I scanned the weather forecast anxiously, hoping that it wouldn’t rain on the big day.

Luckily, the EU flag  arrived in time and I was delighted to discover that my little rucksack contained an in-built flag holder.  (Oh don’t be silly – of course it’s not for ear ‘phones… the hole is just right for a mini flag pole!)  This proved handy for me in not having to clutch the flag for the entire day, but not so handy for people behind me as the top of the pole ended in a spike sharp enough to potentially gouge an eye out.  Mindful of the need to reduce waiting times in eye clinics, I did attempt to remove the spike, but it wouldn’t budge.  I shall have to find a solution if I attend any future protests.

I met Vicky at a ridiculously early hour in London, in an ironic attempt to avoid crowds on the trains.  As a result, there was much hanging around, punctuated by cups of tea.  We whiled away the time by playing ‘spot the marchers’ and reading placards.  A simple, ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!’ was a favourite of mine, along with a more detailed cut-out of a red bus emblazoned with the adapted lyric, ‘The lies on the bus go round and round!’.  When we eventually met up with Vicky’s Seasoned Protester friends, I was particularly impressed by their creations, which ranged from a double-sided Star Wars themed placard (hugely helpful in keeping the group together as it was so visible) to the hilarious, THIS IS A MARCH, NIGEL!’.  There was also, ‘OWN UP!  WHO TROD BREXSHIT THROUGH THE HOUSE?’ and a mock newspaper headline, ‘POOREST ARE FORCED TO PAY FOR TOFFS WARPED PROJECT.  AGAIN.’  I was also slightly overwhelmed to find that the ‘three friends’ of Vicky’s had grown to a group of fourteen!

We set off through the streets of London, following the sea of blue and yellow, bobbing with banners and placards.  I needn’t have worried about the peripheral vision issue as by the time we joined the march route itself, we were so tightly packed that we were only able to move at a shuffle, so it wasn’t really a problem.  In any case, there was no pushing or shoving and everyone was very friendly, as neatly summed up by another placard stating, ‘TOO POLITE TO RIOT’.  Every now and then, a loud-voiced member of the crowd would start up a chant, favourites being, ‘What do we want?  No Brexit!  When do we want it?  Now!’ and of course, ‘Bollocks to Brexit!’.  At regular intervals, a mighty roar of indignant voices would swell from the front and carry backwards, growing in volume as it did so.  It was incredibly therapeutic to be able to take out all the frustrations at the current chaos of our country simply by yelling until my throat hurt.  Occasionally, a member of our group shouted at the top of his voice, ‘GIVE US A SAY, MRS MAY!’, causing ripples of laughter.

Considering how angry so many people are about Brexit, the atmosphere was remarkably good-natured and jubilant, with plenty of humour along the way.  Perhaps it was because we all felt that we were doing something positive to make our voices heard.  If other people’s MPs have been as useless as mine in responding to emails, they probably also found that the shouting helped to release some of the pent-up frustration.  So we marched and shuffled and shouted and laughed; and at times we stood still, patiently squeezed together with barely room to take a step forward.  We made it to Downing Street, at which point it became increasingly clear that we weren’t physically going to be able to make it to the end of the march due to the huge weight of people.  It was around 4:30pm by then, and some of us were experiencing an urgent need to track down some facilities.  So we gradually extricated ourselves from the sea of people and made our way, rather appropriately, towards Waterloo station.

News reports from reputable sources have consistently put the turn-out to the march at over a million people.  I, for one, know many more people who are anti-Brexit but didn’t attend the march for one reason or another.  Whether all these people will be listened to by our government remains to be seen.  As well as her shocking non-myopic short-sightedness, Theresa May does appear to have an increasingly urgent need to get her ears syringed, so I’m not holding my breath.  As a long-term patient of Moorfields Eye Hospital, with a job in education, I’m already experiencing first-hand some of the damaging effects of Brexit and the Tory government.  Brexit needs to be stopped, before it causes even more damage.  To those readers who haven’t yet signed the petition to revoke Article 50, please sign it here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/241584.  (You need to be a British citizen or UK resident in order to sign.)  For any readers who may be fed up with me banging on about politics… sign the petition, let’s get Article 50 revoked, and then I can return to writing only about eye issues.  It’s win-win!

On a lighter note, big thanks to Vicky and her amazing Seasoned Protester friends, who helped to make my first protest march such an uplifting and hugely fun experience.  You are all fantastic!  🙂

A picture of our group, holding their placards.

Our group, holding their placards

Presbyopia and my new varifocal lens

Following my previous blog post, ‘Staring into the eyes of Jacob Rees-Mogg‘, my office buddy pointed out that it contained only very tenuous links to eye issues and she suggested that perhaps I should set up a politics blog instead.  So I thought I’d better make sure that this next post is strictly eye-related and not mention anything about the current political chaos at all, or the fact that I strongly believe that revoking Article 50 really would be the best course of action.  Bollocks to Brexit!  Oh… oops.

So, crashing on… you may remember that back in October in a post entitled ‘Headaches on repeat‘, I wrote about a particularly bad spell of headaches I was experiencing.  The constant daily headaches had made me fear that the silicone oil in my eye was causing my eye pressure to rise, and the worry and the headaches chased one another round and round until eventually I couldn’t stand it any more and headed to my optometrist for a check-up.  I was relieved to find that my eye pressures were fine, but the optometrist told me that I’d reached that magic age of needing varifocals.  Or in my case, just one varifocal lens for my good eye.  The vision in my bad eye is so poor that a varifocal lens wouldn’t make any difference.

When I told various people the outcome of my appointment, the overwhelming response was along the lines of, ‘Oh yeah, it’s an age thing’, and groans of, ‘They just make you have more glasses as you get older!’.  However, no-one really seemed to understand why, and instead viewed the need for varifocals as some kind of conspiracy by optometrists to make us feel old and wizened whilst at the same time extracting as much cash from us as possible in the purchase of expensive specs.  So I thought I’d explain…

It’s true that it is an age thing, but it’s perfectly natural and really not worth getting in a flap about.  It’s called ‘presbyopia’ and it’s a refractive error.  Refraction is the bending of light as it passes from one object into another.  Basically, as we get older, the lens in the eye becomes less flexible.  This affects the way it reflects light onto the retina, which means that it makes it more difficult for us to focus on objects in close range.  So that’s why things like reading small print become more difficult. Typically, people start to notice the effects of presbyopia by the time they hit their mid-forties but of course everyone’s different so it does vary.  It just means that people who have never needed glasses in their life can quit showing off about it, as they’ll find themselves needing reading glasses.  And people like me, who are short-sighted (myopic), suddenly find that they either need an additional pair of glasses for reading, or bifocal or varifocal lenses instead.

After hearing various stories from people who couldn’t get on with varifocals at all and hated them so much that they returned them, I was a tad nervous about how I’d cope with my new lens.  I figured that my eyes would either take the view of, ‘Oh for God’s sake, what NOW?!’ at the prospect of yet another visual change to get used to; or they’d be totally cool with it, as in, ‘Well this is a total doddle after multiple retinal detachments; what’s all the fuss about?!’.  Fortunately, the latter response won the day and I seemed to get used to my lens pretty rapidly.  I wasn’t quite so quick at getting used to seeing myself wearing my new specs, doing a bit of a double-take each time I caught sight of myself in a mirror.  But I’m used to that now too… just about.  It may be fluke, but I haven’t had a long stint of headaches since getting my new specs.  However, I don’t want to jinx things on that front as ironically I have had mild headaches in the past couple of days.

So if you’re in your mid-forties or beyond and you’re struggling to read up close and can’t focus on your dinner to see what you’re eating (it’ll probably be just as well after Brexit as we won’t want to know what sort of ghastly stuff is making its way into our food)… what?…  I mentioned politics again, you say?…  Oh dear, sorry, where was I?  [mutters to self: ‘Focus now, focus!’]  Yes… if that’s you, get yourself off to the optometrist’s because you might just have presbyopia.  🙂

Staring into the eyes of Jacob Rees-Mogg

Now calm yourself, dear Reader, and pop that bucket away.  Brew yourself a calming cuppa, settle down, and I shall proceed to explain the cringe-inducing title of this particular blog post…

It all began on Friday morning.  The day dawned to reveal my little corner of East Kent covered in a thick white haze.  Fortunately, this wasn’t a result of a sudden dramatic worsening of the cataract in my good eye but merely a blanket of fog, which became more and more impenetrable as I journeyed closer to work.  Almost like a symbol of impending doom or a dire warning of some malignant presence hovering on the horizon…

All became clear when office buddy number 1 burst through the door with horrifying news she’d heard on the radio whilst driving into work: Jacob Rees-Mogg was going to be giving a talk on campus that very afternoon.  Yuk!  Happily, an anti-Brexit demo had been planned from 1:30 to 2:00 which coincided with our lunch hour, so I instantly suggested that we tag along to offer our support.  She agreed with alacrity and proceeded to compose a chant in preparation: ‘Mogg, Mogg, your views are like smog, polluting my lungs with your noxious fumes.  I am agog, Mogg… like fungus on a log, you creep along spreading decay and offensive political fog!’

Whilst sharing the news and drumming up support from colleagues, we were surprised to learn that a couple of people had never even heard of the Mogg.  Or so they claimed.  Perhaps they’d just managed to push all knowledge of this odious little man to the furthest corners of their brains, like an old floppy disc shoved to the back of a dusty drawer.  But anyway, for those readers who aren’t aware of this most unpleasant character, let me enlighten you…  He’s the Conservative MP for North East Somerset, a strong supporter of Brexit, and often regarded as a potential candidate for the next Tory Dictator leader of his party.  With an estimated worth of over £55 million, he can clearly afford the Nanny for his six children and it’s therefore perfectly understandable that he’s never changed a nappy in his life.  His voting record reveals that he’s voted against laws to promote equality and human rights, against same-sex marriage and equal gay rights, and against euthanasia.  He’s also voted against giving EU nationals already living in the UK a right to remain.  He’s voted in favour of university tuition fees, and against a tax on expensive homes (I wonder why?!).  He’s also voted against smoking bans.  I could go on, but I may start to spit.  Oh, just one more little gem though… he’s completely opposed to abortion, even in cases of rape.

So, upon the dot of 1:15pm, we gathered ourselves together and headed towards the relevant lecture theatre.  Our group consisted of four English people, one Northern Irish, one French, and one Lithuanian – none of us stupid and none of us rich, so it was pretty obvious where we all stood on the idiocy of Brexit.  Although we’d debated crafting appropriate placards to wave, lack of time, materials (unless we’d ransacked the office stationery cupboard), and work pressures were against us.  We’d briefly considered sticking yellow stars on office buddy number 1’s deep blue exercise ball and hurling it at the Mogg, but it was pointed out that a) this probably wouldn’t do much damage, and b) getting arrested during our lunch break probably wouldn’t aid our bid to avoid redundancy in the forthcoming restructure.  Various suggestions of taking rotten fruit or eggs to throw were also reluctantly discarded for the same reasons.  We therefore marched empty-handed, but confident that the huge numbers of protesting students waving their placards aloft as they blew whistles, banged drums, and chanted at the tops of their voices would be sufficient.

As we approached the area we were somewhat perplexed that we hadn’t passed any protesters on the way.  There was no raucous row disturbing the gentle birdsong, and no crowds thronging the entrance to the building.  We began to wonder whether the whole thing was ‘fake news’.  It was then that we espied a handful of students unfurling a giant Led By Donkeys banner, containing Jacob Rees-Mogg’s words spoken back in 2011, in parliament: ‘We could have two referendums. As it happens, it might make more sense to have the second referendum after the renegotiation is completed.’  [As an aside, for anyone not aware of Led By Donkeys, have a read of this uplifting article: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/07/billboard-campaigners-brexit-led-by-donkeys.]  As we sauntered down past the entrance, trying to look casual, a police car containing three coppers drew up and parked opposite.  ‘A-ha!’, I exclaimed, ‘He must be coming, and they must be expecting a protest then!’

We perched on a picnic bench nearby in the weak winter sunshine and observed proceedings.  The handful of students were still grappling with the banner as a few people milled around.  We then spotted a camera and noticed that one of the students was being interviewed.  Office buddy number 1 advanced to investigate, and before we could so much as chant, ‘Jacob Rees-Mogg is a filthy frog’, she was standing with the students clutching a placard which declared, ‘LEAVE MEANS LIES’ and wearing a mask of the aforementioned amphibian’s face.  She claimed that she’d just approached to ask a few questions, but office buddy number 2 disputed this, observing that her behaviour had almost exactly mirrored that of his eighteen-month-old daughter when she spotted another child with a toy that she wanted to play with.

Anyway… once office buddy number 1 had firmly identified herself with the protesters, she was eager for others to join her, gesturing wildly in a manner that couldn’t be taken entirely seriously from behind a Mogg mask and persuading loudly, ‘Come on you lot!’.  I advanced slowly with one eye (my good one) on the police car and before I knew it, I too had a placard and mask thrust into my hands and then we were all encouraged to move into the lobby of the building.  Upon seeking further information from a fellow-protester standing next to me, I was informed that this was to be a silent protest (how disappointing!) and that no, there wasn’t a shouty protest planned for later (damn!).

As we stood jiggling our placards with me trying not to laugh whenever I turned to chat to my colleague in her alarming Mogg mask (I’d opted not to wear one as it would have further restricted my already limited visual field), a steady stream of students flowed past us and into the lecture theatre.  Then the doors were closed and we waited, observing a small throng of people just inside the other entrance across the lobby, with one balancing a giant camera on his shoulder.  We edged closer across the floor and the students’ aching arms holding up the banner suddenly gained a new lease of life and proudly held the banner aloft as we watched a posh car pulling up and suddenly Jacob Rees-Mogg was mincing his way into the building.  Our silent protest evolved into a few cries of ‘Shame!’ and I was sorely tempted to shout something rather more hearty.*  Instead, I simply shot him (not literally) my best withering glare – the one that has been known to make small children cry.  Then he was gone, into the confines of the lecture theatre where I sincerely hope the students gave him hell.  We reluctantly relinquished our placards and trudged back to the office.

* In retrospect, having been alerted later to the fact that we (briefly) made it onto the local evening news, I decided it was just as well that I hadn’t yelled ‘Bollocks to Brexit!’.

Note: For those readers wondering how this post relates to eye issues… well apart from the title (which refers more to the Mogg masks than the man himself), obviously the other link is the worrying fact that our government is extremely short-sighted in a sense totally unrelated to myopia.  Unfortunately, this particular form of short-sightedness can’t be corrected by prescription lenses or laser surgery.  I suppose brain surgery could be a potential option…

Newsflash! Emma’s retina currently more stable than the UK!*

After my Moorfields check up appointment scheduled for Monday 7 January was postponed on the afternoon of Friday 4 January (have a read of ‘Postponing pre-appointment panic‘), I decided that I definitely wasn’t going to get all worked up and stressed out about the rescheduled appointment, just in case it was postponed again.  Naturally, this brilliantly cunning plan worked an absolute treat.  As the day of my rescheduled appointment dawned, I leapt out of bed feeling refreshed, revitalised and raring to go, exuding the boundless energy of an eighteen-year-old as my eyes sparkled with the joy of simply being alive.  My mind was blissfully peaceful as I embraced the sound advice firmly based upon scientific fact to simply ‘be positive and believe that everything will be okay’.  I giggled girlishly at the glorious simplicity of this new approach, as I skipped to the bathroom for my morning shower of rose petals and delusion.

…What?  …You don’t believe me?  …Sarcastic, you say?  Who, me?!  [Pauses to splutter indignantly.]  My dear Reader, as if I would indulge in that very lowest form of wit!  …Oh okay then, here’s the actual version of events…

Unsurprisingly, my brilliantly cunning plan failed miserably.  Night after night of broken sleep, punctuated by bizarre dreams, meant that on the morning of my rescheduled appointment I dragged myself from my bed like an eighty-six-year-old with severe arthritis and a dodgy heart, feeling exhausted and grumpy as I peered blearily into the mirror to check out the dark circles beneath my eyes.  My head churned with various scenarios of what my impending appointment might bring, and I sighed heavily as I trudged to the bathroom for my morning shower.  Midway through lathering up the shampoo, the shower cut out leaving me standing, shivering, with my eyes tightly closed against the foamy tide until, fortunately, the shower spluttered into life again.  Even breakfast didn’t cheer me up, due to the fact that my sister appears to be mentally preparing herself for post-Brexit food shortages by keeping hardly any food in the house.

My morning did improve somewhat upon our arrival at the station, where we discovered that because my appointment was an hour later than normal, our train tickets were £12 cheaper.  I later discovered from a long-suffering reluctant expert in London transport that this was because we’d narrowly missed being conned by the ‘milk the commuter’ fare.  Happily, this also meant that there was plenty of space on the train, and the tube wasn’t rammed to bursting point.

Upon arrival at Moorfields, we descended to the clinic and settled in for a long wait after spotting the wall-mounted screen declaring the stats: ’58 patients, 6 doctors, 1 nurse.’  Surprisingly, only a few minutes passed before my name was called for the first check with the nurse.  After peering at the Snellen chart with my bad eye and moving my eye back and forth until I was able to correctly determine the two letters on the second line, I then proudly rattled off the letters on the bottom line with my good eye.  Although clutching my little eye book with a pen poised, my sister was so engrossed in her own world that she neglected to note down the results, and the nurse suggested that it might be necessary for me to sack my eye secretary.  After the pressure check, the nurse turned towards aforementioned eye secretary whose job was at risk, announcing clearly, ‘That’s 21 in the right and 20 in the left!’.  A shower of ouchy, stingy dilation drops later, and we were seated back in the clinic waiting for the next bit.

The second wait was also remarkably short and before I knew it, I was in the clenched teeth, crossed fingers, and chin on contraption position, and the usual drill of ‘Look straight ahead; look up; look to the right; look down and right’ etc. commenced.  In checking my good eye, there was a rather long pause after the instruction to ‘look right’, causing my anxiety levels to rise with each passing second; however all was well.  It transpired afterwards that she was checking the area of my previous tears in that eye.  ‘The Prof’ then came to have a look, and much to my relief, the conclusion remained as before: stable, continue monitoring, no surgery for now.  In the absence of a miracle or a cure for PVR, stability is the next best thing.  I breathed a sigh of relief, as we trooped up the stairs and into the cafe, where we celebrated stability with steaming cups of tea.

*Bearing in mind that this stability has only been achieved via an eyeful of silicone oil and 360 degree laser and that my retina is still partially detached beyond the laser line, this doesn’t say much for the UK.  Whilst I’m delighted from an ophthalmic point of view, I’m despairing from a political viewpoint.  If you live in the UK, please write to your MP and tell them to revoke Article 50.  Bollocks to Brexit!