Monthly Archives: February 2016

The unwelcome visitations of Mr Pip

Mr Pip is a particularly persistent and rather pernicious fellow.  He’ll turn up out of the blue and just sit there, tapping one foot against the chair leg in an irritating manner whilst making unhelpful remarks in a thin whining voice.  At other times, he’ll follow me around, reminding me of certain facts and then repeating them again and again and again, until I feel like screaming and pushing him down a steep flight of stairs.  Mr Pip wears a dark brown pin-striped suit, the trousers of which don’t quite meet his black socks (‘half mast trousers’, as my sister would describe them).  He has neatly combed back hair, small grey eyes, pale and slightly sunken cheeks, and thin lips with those lines between his top lip and nose which are generally achieved by smoking copious amounts of cigarettes. (Yuk!)  As if this wasn’t off-putting enough, he exudes a rather stale smell and he has extraordinary long and worryingly well-manicured finger nails (‘loidee nails’, one of my friends would call them).  I suspect he grew them on purpose so that he can occasionally prod me with them.

It was actually my Gran who originally introduced me to Mr Pip.  Following my A-levels, I lived with my grandparents for a year while I worked to earn money to get me through university.  One sunny Saturday morning, I came across my Gran sitting on the bench just outside the back door, gazing across the garden with a faraway look in her eyes.  I sat down to join her and after a few minutes of silent staring she announced with a sigh, “I’m feeling a bit pippy today.”  Naturally, I enquired what she meant by this, and she explained that it was a term she and her brother used when they were feeling a bit low.  “We’d call it, ‘feeling pippy’, or one of us would say to the other, ‘I’ve got the pip'”, she explained.  After this little conversation, we got into the habit of going for a walk whenever one of us was feeling a bit pippy.  We’d head out across the fields and usually end up exploring Brookwood Cemetery.  There’s nothing quite like being faced with the inevitable evidence of your own impending end when struggling to shake of a case of the pips.  Of course, fresh air and exercise tends to help, too.

Having experienced a particularly unrelenting visit from Mr Pip some years ago, which took more than fresh air to expel, I feared that perhaps I was simply an easy target for him.  However, he seems to visit quite a number of my eye buddies pretty regularly, too.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of literature out there about the emotional aspect of sight loss.  (Although, having said that, I did come across an interesting in The Guardian a few weeks ago, which is well worth a read:  However, one website which I’ve found to be a helpful source of information is the RNIB, which does cover this issue, pointing out:

“Being diagnosed with an eye condition can be very upsetting.  You may find that you are worried about the future and how you will manage with a change in your vision”… “Or you may feel depressed about the changes you are facing.  Perhaps you are experiencing feelings of sadness, anger or anxiety and this is affecting you on a day-to-day basis.”

So it seems fairly normal in this situation to experience visits from Mr Pip, but of course the issue is how best to deal with those unwanted invasions.  Despite my best efforts to try and push him down the stairs, he remains stubbornly resistant to such attempts, and when I get angry with him he merely lifts his thin lips in a mocking sneer and laughs quietly.  He can walk through walls and locked doors, and often appears in the dead of night to perch on the side of my bed and prod me awake, as he seems to have no use for sleep.

I still find that the best method of shaking him off is going for a good stomp through the countryside or along the coast.  Another effective method of banishment is the distraction technique.  This basically involves doing anything I really enjoy.  It’s generally something which takes a reasonable level of concentration but doesn’t require an excessive amount of visual concentration; for example meeting a friend, cooking, baking, or even writing this blog.  Listening to music also helps at times.  Good mood food also improves matters.  I suspect that Mr Pip is a ready meals man, and so the sight of a pile of healthy veg will often sent him running as he wrinkles his nose in disgust.  Conveniently, good mood food happens to coincide rather well with good eye food (see for further information on this).   Sometimes, as a method of ridding myself of the pesky blighter I’ll actually address him aloud, ordering him, “Sod off, Pipsqueak!”, or occasionally replacing that phrase with an alternative which is far more alliteratively satisfying.



Marching for Moorfields: limbering up

Just incase my sister and I were in any danger of forgetting the fact that we’d signed up for the fourteen mile Eye to Eye sponsored walk on 13 March, Moorfields Eye Charity have been sending us weekly emails.  “Seven weeks to go!”, announced the first one, triumphantly with air of excited anticipation.  Shortly after receiving it, a somewhat more panicked missive pinged into my inbox: “Aaaaaaaaaaaagghhh!”, wrote my sister, “Seven weeks to go ’til Eye to Eye!”.  “Oh don’t worry”, I assured her, “there’s still plenty of time!  Have you done any practise yet?”  It transpired that she hadn’t really done much practise at all because – irony of ironies – she couldn’t walk too far with the dog.  Now, in the dog’s defence, he is now eleven years old and has a touch of arthritis which causes him to limp if he walks too far.  My suggestion that she take him for a quick meander then return him home and go out again herself for a longer walk was greeted with a gasp of horror, “Oh no, I couldn’t do that – I’d feel too guilty!”

Not to be defeated, during my next visit to Surrey I suggested a spot of Eye to Eye practise.  It was quite a family outing as my mum came too, along with both dogs.  Sure enough, our canine companions didn’t seem to grasp the concept of ‘marching for Moorfields’ and seemed to be under the impression that it was ‘having a good sniff at every post for Moorfields’ instead.  Unfortunately, I suspected that we wouldn’t be able to boost our fundraising total very much by adopting their approach, and we were also likely to get some very funny looks along the way.  We continued as best we could, but I couldn’t help thinking that the short distance we managed (I reckon it was only about a mile and a half) wasn’t going to help us an awful lot in preparing for our fourteen-mile trek.  On the other hand, it was actually pretty good-going that my sister was still ploughing ahead with Eye to Eye after an unfortunate incident several weeks back when one of her toenails fell off.  “Whaddaya mean, your toenail fell off?!”, I demanded in dismay mixed with incredulity when she told me.  Apparently it had been feeling a bit odd for a while before giving up the ghost and falling off completely, at which point it became very sore.  Matters weren’t improved by our aunt informing us darkly that toenails take AGES to grow back.  Hmmm.  So that would be longer than the few weeks we had to go until Eye to Eye then!  😮

Shortly after the toenail incident, our spirits were raised by Moorfields Eye Charity’s “Six weeks to go!” email, which announced that they had selected us as their ‘fundraising heroes of the week’.  My sister had already been aware of this, as they’d ‘phoned her to ask if they could write about us in the email, but it came as a complete surprise to me!  Needless to say, it gave us both a boost, as did the fact that we made it past our target of raising £50 for every mile we’ll be walking.  We’re hugely grateful to everyone who has donated so far, and every donation we receive gives us a little boost to continue and try to raise as much as we can for Moorfields Eye Charity.  The money we raise will be used to support sight saving research into retinal conditions.  For further information on the Eye to Eye walk, please go to:, and if you’d like to sponsor us in our walking challenge please do so at:  Alternatively, you can donate by texting: ‘LOOK48 £5’ (or the amount you wish to donate).

eye to eye practise in Pirbright


Flash, bang, wallop, what a picture!

Appointment day dawned, and a quick peek through the curtains confirmed what I’d already suspected after lying awake listening to the hoolie which had been blowing for most of the night: the end of the world was obviously nigh.  The sky looked as if yet another deluge of horizontal rain was imminent, it was bitterly cold, and part of the road was flooded.  In addition to this, my head felt as if the entire family of Borrowers had crawled in through my ear during the brief moments of sleep I had actually managed to achieve and were trying to tunnel out by means of hammering an escape route through my skull with tiny pickaxes.  Just to top everything off, my mum’s dog (who isn’t supposed to go down any stairs due to a slipped disc a few months back) decided to nudge open the living room door and gallop up the stairs gleefully to have a good sniff around.  When I glared at him and asked him what he thought he was doing, he just gazed back and wagged his tail.  It took me the next few minutes to coax him gently down again, one step at a time.  Obviously I couldn’t lift him, for fear of it playing havoc with my retinas (see for further explanation).  He’s pretty heavy too.  So I set off to Moorfields that morning feeling particularly out of sorts, but trying desperately to quash that irritating internal voice which insisted on running through all the worst-case scenarios as to what the outcome of the appointment might be.

Fortunately, there were no train disasters on this occasion and we arrived in plenty of time and settled down for the long wait.  Eye dilation and pressure checks were duly done, and then we waited a while longer.  We’d just started to wonder whether they’d forgotten me and we were debating putting ‘Operation Toilet Visit’ into action, which usually works a treat (i.e. just when one of us nips to the loo, I’m called to be seen), when we heard my name being called faintly from somewhere down the corridor and around the corner.  I cautiously followed the summons, and realised that I was being called by someone I’d never seen before, which always makes me feel slightly more nervous.  He asked a few questions about exactly what treatment I’d had, and then clocked my sister sitting in the chair just behind me, notebook open and pen poised.  “Do you have a question?”, he asked.  “Oh, we’ve got lots of questions written down here”, she admitted.  “Don’t tell him we’ve got 14 questions!”, I desperately tried to communicate to her via sisterly telepathy.  However, unlike my very first consultant, he didn’t seem at all phased by this and just said that it would be helpful to know some of the questions so that when he examined my eyes, he could look at the things I wanted answers to.  My chin was already firmly on the chin rest of the contraption at this point, otherwise it would have dropped a fair distance.  We made the most of the invitation to ask questions and then he proceeded with the usual business of “Look up, look up and right, look right, look down and right, look down, look left”, etc.  He then stopped, and drew a few diagrams and scribbled notes in my file.  This part always seems worse than the most effective cliffhanger in a particularly intense psychological thriller.  I’m always desperate to ask whether everything is okay, but at the same time I don’t want to interrupt the accurate recording of information so I clench my teeth and force myself to wait until all scribbling and drawing has been completed.  After what seemed like at least an hour but was in reality probably only five or ten minutes, he said that everything looked good (wehey!), the detachment hadn’t progressed beyond the laser line and didn’t seem to be any worse, and he was just going to fetch ‘the Prof’ to have a look.

Along came ‘the Prof’ and repeated the drill: “Look up, look up and right, look right…” etc.  Much to my delight, he said that the adhesion of the retina was better than it had been when he first saw me back in October, and he also said that the PVR appeared to be less active.  (Wehey, wehey!)  Then he asked how I felt about the prospect of further surgery.  I resisted the urge to stick my fingers in my ears, crawl underneath the nearest table and wail loudly in agonised terror, and instead settled for quietly admitting that I’m frightened of more surgery because of everything that’s happened but that regardless of how I feel, I will do whatever they advise is clinically best for my sight.  To my relief, he said that there still isn’t any rush for surgery, and advised me to return for a further check in a couple of months.  There was then a bit of medical talk between the two of them, which I did my best to follow but mostly failed miserably, and a discussion on whether to use oil or gas in the next surgery (“Eeeek – gas?!”, I thought), and some further questions from me on how to limit the possibility of PVR developing again after further surgery.  I was then sent off to Medical Imaging for a spot of retinal photography.  (Cue today’s musical accompaniment, available at:

I’d never had retinal photography done before, and it was actually really interesting.  I wasn’t too keen on having my head physically pushed against the machine and having to keep my dilated eyes wide open while I waited for a horribly bright flash, but it was fascinating to see the images on the screen afterwards.  The guy who did it seemed quite happy to show us the images and explain various things, pointing out the optic disc, the fovea, the macula, and then going on to indicate the marks which showed where I’d had various treatments.  The areas of cryotherapy and laser were clearly visible as bright yellow blobs, lines, and dots.  Being the sort of person who likes order and tidiness, I stared at the mess that was the image of my right retina in fascinated dismay.  He pointed out a giant floater on the image of my left retina, and then zoomed in on some strange marks on the right one and explained that they indicated the oil in my eye.  He even gave us a little history lesson of the machine itself, telling us that it was invented by a Scottish man whose son had gone blind because something had been missed in his diagnosis and so he went on to invent a machine which would take a picture of the entire retina.  I was tempted to ask if I could have a copy of the images, but suspected that it wouldn’t be allowed.  Plus, I’d probably just get depressed every time I looked at them.  So off we went, into the windswept streets, following the green line to the tube station as we discovered that the world didn’t appear to have ended after all and that relief acts in much the same way as a warm blanket.