Eye, eye, standby

Full recovery from our journey took a few days, but through necessity we plunged straight back into routine and the British weather obliged us for once by remaining sunny and warm; the lawns got mowed, the pool was returned from green to blue and the allotments were watered and weeded.

Sue visited Holdenby Hall on the 19th with the U3A History Group for a spot of Victoriana and followed that up the following day with a trip to the cinema with Charlotte, before enjoying an outing with her rambling group 24 hours later treading the fields of Leicestershire under what appears to be up to now, permanently blue skies.

On the 20th I took a phone call from the Doctor’s Surgery. They had previously attempted to call whilst on the road in Canada with the results of a recent health review, but I put it off until I returned to the UK (just in case it was bad news). However, everything was fine and there was no need to start taking a multitude of pills that quite a few of my friends seem to have been prescribed after their health review.

However, just prior to flying to Toronto I had noticed that I was having problem with the sight in my left eye, part of my vision was becoming increasingly distorted. Some 30 years ago I had a similar problem with this eye and after laser surgery removed the problem along with around 30% of the vision in that eye I adjusted to the quirks of seeing the world slightly different. By and large my brain and good eye would fill in the missing parts of an image during most situations, but this was not the case whilst playing sport etc. Playing squash became pointless as it wouldn’t take my opponent long to find out that I had a problem with a ball that came directly at me from off the wall (I couldn’t gauge where in space the ball was), things happened too fast and my brain had little time to compute its position from just one angle of view. I gave up squash. Tennis proved to be a less of a problem as shots directly at you are rare and the distance the ball had to travel gave my brain a chance. I would play the occasional air-shot and look a bit of a fool but the rest of my game was ok so opponents would never guess.  Catching a high ball in rugby would be a problem, but experience gave me an edge, so I was rarely underneath one and carried on enjoying the game for many more years. Golf was peculiar, when the ball is driven off into the distance, I have to concentrate really hard as to where it is going. If I lose sight of it for a brief second I am usually at a loss as to where it has ended up. Quite frustrating, and often results in a lot of hunting and lost balls. Though I love the game, I rarely play golf mostly because few of my friends enjoy the game and unfortunately all of them still work. Playing pool creates a different problem, I will occasionally catch the end of the cue against the ball prior to playing a shot as I can’t gauge the distance of the cue tip from the ball accurately enough (unless I really concentrate). I blame the beer for such lapses and smile sweetly at opponents enjoying the free shots I give away. Driving is fine, as regular visits to the opticians over the years have confirmed, though for the last couple I have had to resort to driving glasses, more due to the fatigue my eyes suffer from concentrating, rather than any loss of view.

Normally, when I first began to notice fresh distortion, I would have checked it out with the opticians straight away, but made the hard decision to delay as I feared I may lose my driving licence just before I was required to drive in Canada to see Gwenda. Luckily, there was no further deterioration and despite having to adjust to driving on the wrong side of the road we had no problems as the distorted part of my vision was filled in by my good eye and on the occasions I tested my vision with my left eye alone, the issue was off to the far left of my sight and remained small.

On the 26th I went to see the optician and as expected she requested an urgent appointment with the eye department at the Royal Hospital in Leicester. The vision in the left eye had reduced significantly from my last eye test, but surprisingly it had improved in my right. She could see no issues on the retina so suspected that the problem lay behind. The hospital rang a few days later and an appointment was made for the 9th of July. Sue drove me to the appointment as I knew I would be having drops in my eyes that would blur vision and prevent safe driving. After a couple of hours of ocular examinations, and an injection of dye to highlight problems, it was decided that I had fluid build up behind the retina and a course of three injections was needed. Thankfully my vision was assessed as being ok for diving. I had the first injection on the 12th. It is not pleasant having a needle go into your eye, but it is interesting seeing the chemical flood into your vision. I was concerned that I had a circular black hole in the lower part of my vision where the needle went in, but thankfully after 24 hours it disappeared. I was given antibiotic drops to take for the next five days, and apart from some soreness for a couple of days everything went well. It is early days, but I believe there has been a slight improvement to my vision, two more jabs to go!

Quite a while ago Sarah had seen a specialist for a problem that she had been having with her eyes. Some of her lashes were growing inwards and would require attention if more serious problems were to be averted. At around the same time as I was seeing the optician about my own eyesight, Sarah underwent laser surgery to remove the offending lashes. The procedure seems to have been successful and hopefully the remaining lashes have learnt their lesson, and will grow in the right direction from now on. They have been warned!

Charlotte continued to struggle with the pain from her two slipped discs, looking after a husband, two children, a cat, countless chickens and a home has not been easy for her and she has relied heavily on a large selection of pills to try to keep her family life as normal as possible, but it has been horrendously difficult and without strong pain killers it would have not been possible. Sue and I have helped out when possible but the situation has taken its toll on the whole family. Matters weren’t helped by an unsympathetic and unprofessional local pharmacy which reduced her to tears when recently she attempted with Sue to arrange the delivery of some medication. The officious attitude displayed was compounded by some outrageous comments from one of the staff in the hearing of all those present. A complaint was made to head office and an apology received, but quite rightly I do not think that  Suraj is leaving the matter there. Battling debilitating pain, lethargic GP’s and a NHS system that through overload has gone into slow motion has made life hard for our daughter.

Not long after this unfortunate episode, Charlotte had another MRI scan and an appointment with the specialist. It was obvious that the spinal injections had not worked, the scan showed that one of the discs had turned black and the other was grey and on its way to the same condition. She was offered a choice of an operation or continued physiotherapy and a life of painkillers.  She chose to have the operation, though there are risks involved with this route. Because she has been suffering for so long and that her discs are deteriorating she has been placed on the ‘Urgent’ list, this means she may be called for an operation at short notice, so the family is now on standby to get her into hospital when called and cover what ever needs to be covered during and after the procedure. Recovery will be around 6 months, but I guess may be longer. In preparation for the operation she has stopped taking one of the strongest (but addictive) painkillers, Tramadol. The first week of abstinence produced the expected withdrawal symptoms but she coped well, proving she is a very strong individual. As a family we will help her pull through this awful situation and reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

*Since writing this blog Charlotte has been given a date for her operation. It is the 4th Sept., the same date as Suraj’s birthday. Fingers crossed that is a lucky omen.

On a much lighter note, though ‘football didn’t come home’, watching England progress through to the semi-finals of the World Cup was not the tortuous affair of previous excursions into this competition. At times they played well, produced the results they should have done and though they eventually lost to the Croatians, they weren’t a disgrace and I do believe they were the better team, though not the strongest (we can work on that). For once it was nice to host a BBQ for friends and watch an England soccer team not lose in the quarter finals. Especially as I had purchased a new HD, 3D cinema projector to watch the matches on! On an even lighter note I watched the semi-final along with Paul, Peter and an awful lot of more  sophisticated real ale connoisseurs at the Langtons Beer Festival, held at the Langton Micro Brewery. Apart from the match result, the accompanying music and refreshments were first class and ample.


On the 25th of July, I took Jamie and his friend Bill to East Midlands Airport to catch a flight to Rhodes. They hired a car while they were there and managed to get around the island enjoying the same kind of weather as we were experiencing in the UK. I picked them up just after midnight a week later.


Recently we seem to have been hitting a period when the electrical items around the home have decided to play up. First one of the ovens in our double oven died and this resulted in the purchase and installation of a new one. Next, the kitchen fridge decided to struggle to keep food fresh so, after cleaning out the filter, repositioning the face-plate and cutting down the base board to allow a greater flow of air and lowering the temperature control, things improved somewhat, but as the temperature for the last month or so has  been well into the 20’s, we decided not to replace it until cooler times and see how it performs then. Annoyingly the dishwasher came out on strike. It refused to finish its cycle and filled up with water. Again, I stripped it down, cleaned all the filters, flushed the piping and in gratitude for a bit of pampering it is now working fine. On a personal note, my mobile phone decided to play up. It is a windows 10 phone and I love it, but with an increasing number of updates it is running low on memory and is now becoming unstable. Unfortunately, it won’t permit me to reset it to free memory so I have bought a new one, a Sony Experia XA2 ultra running Android. Finally, with such high temperatures and no forecast end to the oppressive heat in sight, the air-con in my car began to struggle, so into the garage it went for a re-gas and now I drive in comfort. I wonder what will be next?

As in 1976 we are going through a rare period of dry and hot weather conditions. The lawns are yellow and brown, the soil is heavily cracked and the poor farmers, like me, are struggling to keep their crops watered. The cattle and sheep are eating the hay and silage set aside for their winter feed and we are beginning to get hose pipe bans around the country (but not in our region yet). On a more positive note, there appears to be an abundance of fruit. We have so many black currants that Sue has put a sign up at the end of the driveway and is selling punnets of them for 50p. Black berries seem to be dripping out of every hedge and I have never seen them so large, I am expecting a bumper harvest of grapes.



Sue has been out several times with her rambling groups, but due to the heat she has often come back exhausted. I have been out each day on my mountain bike, because I go off road and the ground is so hard it has taken its toll on my trusty steed. Over three days I had 8 punctures! Not thorns, but splits in the inner tube due to the rock hard uneven surface, riding is similar to holding onto a rampant jack-hammer at times. On a couple of occasions I had to call Sue to come and pick me up in the car when the inner tube split, was replaced by the spare that I carry and then this one split a few miles on! Events came to a head on one particular day when I inflated the tyres to make them more solid to try and solve the splitting problem and after a few miles of rough going, the inner tube burst through the tyre wall without splitting. Counting myself lucky I deflated the tyre, inserted the inner tube back inside and reflated it. Further on into my route for the day I was descending at speed down a disused railway bank which necessitated a sharp turn at the bottom to avoid a hedge. My disc brakes decided not to bite on hard enough and I buried myself in a rather nettly and thorny bush. After extracting myself, pleased that I wasn’t too roughed up I tracked along a freshly mown green lane, to bury the front wheel into a deep hole that was hidden by a covering of grass, being catapulted over the handle bars was more embarrassing than painful so after checking the bike was ok a set off again. Within 200m my rear wheel locked and I slewed to a stop. Dismayed, I  found that the derailleur mechanism had mangled itself into the spokes so badly that I couldn’t free it to allow the wheel to move. Sue had to come and fetch me again. It took three days in the bike shop and a brand new set of gears to put her back on the road. So far (touch wood) we have had no more incidents. I will never again complain about muddy tracks.

Usually, I look after Mia during at least one day in the week when either Lee or Sarah work in Northampton and she accompanies Peter and I to Bridge 61 at Foxton Locks for lunch (usually Yorkshire pudding, sausage, mashed potato and mushy peas covered in thick onion gravy, heaven). With the recent temperature being so consistently high, like all other furry/hairy animals Mia has suffered in the heat. I have to ensure that she has frequent drinks and at every opportunity she finds shade and sits or lays down to recover. In this heat she is no lively bouncing bundle of mischief. I do feel sorry for the cattle and sheep we pass on our ambles, they are also clearly suffering and in many of the fields there is little shady sanctuary to be had.


Jamie has his apartment up for sale .

When he has viewings he brings his rabbit Maddy here, wisely he wants to give potential buyers the impression that they are purchasing an apartment not a hutch. We house Maddy in an old chicken coop of Charlotte’s and I have extended it with a wired run into a hedgehog box. I am not sure what she thinks of the situation, but she just sits quietly under the shade in her cage. She can be quite petulant, sometimes she will turn her back on you when you approach and at other times she seems eager to make contact. Unfortunately, we do not heave any of her favourite food (iPhone leads) and she has to make do with lettuce, dandelions and carrots.

As the schools have broken up, on the 23rd July Sue took Lucas and Ellis to the cinema as treat. They saw Sherlock Gnome, their reports were quite favourable but I profess to being dubious about that. I think Arthur Conan Doyle would turn in his grave. The following day, Sue went to see a more adult film at a Silver Screen session, before meeting up with me at Charlotte’s. I took Sue, Charlotte, Lucas and Ellis to Geddington ford for a lovely picnic. The boys played in the ford while i cooked sausages on a BBQ. It is a beautiful and historic spot, very popular with the locals for picnics and indeed it did get quite busy. The weather was gorgeous and we vowed to do it again. I had parked near the Eleanor Cross in the centre of the village and after packing up we went to read its associated information board. While I wandered over to look at the church I got engaged in conversation with a local resident who was very keen to relate the history of the village to us. Half an hour later, filled with fascinating facts and anecdotes we eventually managed to extract ourselves from our new-found Canadian friend. Sue and I would have loved to continue chatting to this very knowledgeable gentleman, but the heat was fearsome and the boys were getting restless, so we retired to The Star hostelry across the road to quench our thirst and cool off.


Sue and I have noticed a three-legged cat visiting the garden over the last week or so and today our next door neighbour Viv called to see if we knew anything about it. Apparently she has been watching it in our garden and was very concerned, she brought around some cat food to feed it. It is her intention to take it to the vets tonight and see if it is chipped. In the meantime Sue has bonded with the rather sad little creature by feeding and watering it then giving it the obligatory fondle. I have to admit to having my fingers crossed that the owner will be found and it moves on, or in this case, hops on.

Update on cat: The following morning Sue took it to the vets where they scanned and read the details on its chip. The owner lives just a few streets away, but when the vet telephoned they were out. The cat remained at the Vets. However, later that day whilst I was walking Mia in the park I came across a young pigeon that had fallen out of its nest. To save it from the many dogs that were around loose, I picked it up and took it home. It is now being looked after by Sue and I. We keep it in the hedgehog box that last week had Maddie in residence. It’s getting three meals a day and seems comfortable with the situation. I gauge that it is only a week or two from being able to fly, so our guest is temporary.

After my morning cycle through the parched fields around Harborough I decided to catch up with a bit of paperwork in my refreshingly cool study. First job was to go on-line and claim back some tax that the Inland revenue had overcharged me. Next I complained (on line) to my pension provider asking them to explain why they had reduced my payments by £13 a month. I moved on to research a cheaper energy provider than EON were forecasting for the next 12 months. I used the Citizens Advice website to compare providers. I was shocked at the number of companies there were, pages and pages of them. All of them cheaper, so I opted for the cheapest of all at over £260 less. They had good reports on Trust-pilot so we shall see. I finished off the bureaucracy by researching a cheaper car insurance quote for Sue. The whole rigmarole didn’t take long  and I did manage to keep my cool during the whole process, but I still preferred ‘the old days‘ when we didn’t have endless choices to make and companies trying every ploy imaginable to squeeze a few more pounds from you. I do feel sorry for those , not computer/internet savvy, life must be increasingly expensive!

Lee, Sarah and Mia have been improving their sailing skills over the weekends. They have felt confident enough to take top the water without their Admiral, the only challenge being the heat of the sun as there has been very little wind for several months now.


When Sue and I go away for a holiday I always make a video of our escapades, here is the latest one of Canada:




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