Mr Pip is on the prowl again. While most of us are bemoaning the end of summer after reluctantly switching the heating on and setting the clocks back, Mr Pip looks on gloatingly as he points a skinny well-manicured finger and curls his thin lips in a satisfied smirk. He seems to enjoy these dark, damp, chilly mornings, and takes delight in taunting me through the thick duvet just after the alarm clock has announced that it’s time to move, informing me gleefully: “It’s cold, and dark, and miserable outside.” When I fling back the duvet in his face and pad, shivering, across the room to peep through the curtains, I see that he’s quite right. It is cold and dark, and it makes me feel miserable. I suspect that Mr Pip crosses the paths of a fair few people at this time of year, so you may well be familiar with him already. If not, you might like to read ‘The unwelcome visitations of Mr Pip‘, which provides a full description of this most unpleasant fellow. I’d strongly advise you to cross the street and avoid him if you spy him approaching.
Mr Pip is irritatingly omniscient, so as well as being aware of my dislike of the short, cold days and the challenge of driving in the dark at this time of year, he also knows fully well that appeals season – my favourite time at work – is now over and I’m suffering with a bad case of Appeals Withdrawal Syndrome. Symptoms of this include: a reluctance to go to work, more frequent purchase of lottery tickets, increased frustration when the lottery people don’t select the correct numbers (i.e. mine), excessive yawning, and an almost overwhelming desire to hurl a stapler at my office buddy when she persists in talking to herself all day when I’m trying to concentrate.
Naturally, Mr Pip is also aware of the fact that I have a check-up appointment at Moorfields the week after next. “They might find something wrong and want to operate again”, he constantly whispers into my ear, spitting slightly as he does so. “Maybe they’ll whip you straight into surgery again”, he continues gleefully, “Or perhaps they’ll tell you that they need to remove your eye altogether!” He claps his hands in delight and prods my forehead with his skinny fingers until he sees me reaching for the paracetamol, whereupon he announces, “A-ha! A headache! It must be your eye pressure increasing! That’ll mean they’ll want to take your oil out. They’ll take it out; they’ll take it out; they’ll take it out and throw it away, and then your retina will detach again!”, he sings, mockingly. He dances around me, tapping his shiny black shoes on the floor in an irritating rhythm which causes an answering drum to beat loudly in my head. Each time I summon up the energy to try and swipe him away, he simply dodges and laughs again as if he’s having the time of his life.
Sometimes it’s not even possible to escape Mr Pip when I go to sleep. I’m convinced that he has the ability to shrink himself down until he’s the size of a Borrower, whereupon he creeps through my ear and into my brain where he settles down and narrates bedtime stories to me from inside my head. Stories about being late to hospital appointments; stories about writing down the wrong information from the consultant in my little eye book; stories about being trapped in some kind of dark underground world filled with dangers; being chased; unable to see some horrendous threatening presence looming, coming closer and closer, faster and faster, until it’s right THERE! And then I wake with a huge jump, heart pounding, and raise my head to stare at the dim rectangle of light coming in through the curtains as I open first one eye and then the other to check that I can still see.
As is usually the case, there’s no point in applying logic to the problem of Mr Pip or attempting to argue with him. Pleasant distraction seems to be the only thing that really works in banishing him for a while. Fortunately, I’m reading rather a good book at the moment and retreating into a fictional world is always an effective method of escapism. There are also cakes which need baking, in preparation for an imminent fundraising event for Moorfields Eye Charity and Marie Curie. Despite Mr Pip’s constant whining voice telling me that it’s cold and damp and grey outside, at weekends I layer up and go out for walks, defiantly pointing out to him that the air is still fresh, there’s much beauty to be found in nature, and it’s good to make the most of these short hours of daylight. This causes Mr Pip to sulk, and he hunches his skinny shoulders and scuffs his shiny shoes along the ground as he drags himself away like a moody teenager. Perhaps I should treat him as such and, next time he starts whining in my ear, tell him in that particular parental tone favoured by parents who also happen to be teachers, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Yeah, pipsqueak!