Friday, 17 August 2012

The eyes have it

Lurking in the air somewhere last Sunday was a carrier of conjunctivitis. Somehow it found its way into my right eye and 24 hours later I looked as if I had walked into a tree. Unfortunately my arrival at the local surgery was just too late for an appointment, but I was invited to drive to a nearby village hall for 10 o'clock where open surgery was being held, and I would definitely be seen.

With some effort I made it to said surgery by 9 o'clock and parked in the deserted car park. By 9.30 the next "patient" had arrived and by 10.00 o'clock I was silently willing the computer to respond more quickly to keyboard prompts whilst agreeing with doctor about the problem. Duly supplied with a free prescription I headed home via the dispensing chemist. Unfortunately I was the only one at home so with some difficulty I read the microscopic instructions wrapped around a tube of what looked like good old "golden eye ointment".

Have you ever tried putting ointment into your own eyes, or eye drops for that matter?

"Head back, in front of a mirror, pull out the lower lid with one hand and holding the tube between thumb and forefinger of the other hand  insert about half an inch of ointment into the lower lid. Then blink twice". Hm.The first half inch dribbled down my cheek. The next half inch thickened one eyebrow. The third attempt was definitely much closer to the eyeball which started to water in response to being stabbed by a plastic point - however the opaque sticky mass joining top and bottom eye lid did seem to be evidence of success.

On my annual eye tests there is a moment when a massive howitzer type of machine is wheeled forward ready for the eye pressure test. This involves a puff of air onto an exposed eye ball. If ever Pavlov needed to test his theory about reactions on humans he would have done well to use this test. Just the thought of it is making my eyes damp now. When the moment comes in the eye test my eyes are already watering and the eyelids refusing to stay open now matter how hard I try. It's time for gritted teeth and a real mental effort to stare down the howitzer barrel.

Later applications of eye ointment by my wife started to produce the same reaction. I was reduced to lying on the bed, head pressing backwards as the plastic applicator approached, to a point where I was making a deep impression in the mattress. This does nothing for male ego or self esteem. 

The episode has made me very wary of pollen and dust around trees or shrubs - and very thankful for the national health service. So much so that I will be miking a small donation to a charity working for eye care in Developing countries in order to re-establish a bit of personal dignity.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Man's best friend?

Recently I was persuaded to look after a small cocker spaniel whilst his owners went on holiday. The thought of twice daily short purposeful walks in the local countryside was quite attractive and all his food had been provided so no difficult shopping decisions were involved.

His bag of dried pelleted food was in fact huge. In contrast the scoop for the twice daily ration was rather modest, being around the equivalent of a half pint mug. But what happens to that dehydrated food inside the dog? How is it possible that his internal organs can produce so much waste material - so regularly? Within minutes of feeding the conveyor belt went into action. So it became a race to get the lead on and out of the house within minutes of the last noisy slurp from the water bowl - not forgetting the need for at least two small plastic bags in the pocket. So much for gentle walks with the dog!

In the house he revealed another side to his nature, one of totally loyalty and fascination with my every move - every single move. I discovered the meaning of "dogging my footsteps" with a vengeance. Movements around the kitchen, especially with hot pans, became a challenge. Off to the garage for a screwdriver? I had a friend checking every corner and shelf. Into the greenhouse for tomatoes? Quick scent checks of all the contents seemed to be the order of the day. What about mowing the lawn - surely he would just settle in a corner and watch? No chance. The occasional ball of grass cuttings looked appetising, as did tree branches and other debris on the vegetable patch. I had planned to harvest some potatoes but thought better of it. Pulling out weeds suddenly seemed to be setting a bad example.

In the evening I  had a full and frank discussion about possession of the easy chair and we came to an agreement about not nudging small tables containing food and drink. It was agreed that computer leads could be crossed, with care! In return, Dog was allowed to bark (once)  in welcome of visitors and stretch out either on a dog duvet or in his basket. He was also allowed - in fact encouraged - to sleep contentedly for periods of the day, provided that he also slept at night - a time period that had to last until at least 07.00. because paws on wooden stairs can be deafening and also signify yet another un-successful man-made stair barrier.

So we settled into a mutually acceptable routine.

 He could do as he pleased and I would fit in. I just had no answer to his trump card - a facial expression that knew exactly how to tweak the heartstrings.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Once upon a time

The coal man used to have a horse-drawn cart. Coal delivery one day included a large fresh organic deposit in the road and quick as a flash my father was out there with his spade and wheel barrow to collect the bonus for the vegetable patch. 

Over the past week the banking gurus have decided that the period of "austerity" will be with us for a while. They speak of financial and material austerity. But it's a relative phrase and for those of the "baby boomer" generation there's some way to go before we get back to conditions of our childhood. Sharing was more common and self reliance seemed to be the natural way of things. When the first (black and white) television arrived at a neighbour's house it was exciting to be invited to watch Queen Elizabeth's coronation or a Cup Final. Simple events were fun - like playing games in the park, or going for walks and bike rides. Clothes were mended when torn; shoes repaired when the soles and heels wore out and cardboard boxes featured in many toy creations.

Last week we spent a warm summer day with grand-children doing simple activities. A good hour was spent in a fantasy land of bacon sandwiches, ham salads, cakes and ice cream with cherries dished up from a make-believe kitchen inside a play area hut. An Olympic horse jumping session followed using a springy thingy in the play area itself, then we were off to the river bank for a picnic. Curiosity levels ran high as a large French family settled on a nearby wooden picnic table and the ubiquitous bags of sandwiches, crisps, snack bars and fruit appeared on both tables. On our table it became important to sort out the bread crusts so that ducks and swans could be fed when their turn came. Two grand-daughters (with a combined age of 7)  than decided it was time to paddle in the river - certainly without skirts and tops and definitely with a grandpa and  rolled up trousers.

Next day I called in to see grandson, who greeted me through  the end of a large cardboard box, big enough to form a tunnel . Simple pleasures do still seem to satisfy - even or especially during so-called austerity times.