Our house sits some 600 feet above sea level in a wooded valley overlooking Cardigan Bay. The garden runs to about a quarter of an acre and curves round the house on three sides with a traditional lawn/veg patch and seating area at the back of the house, a sloping wooded area at the side and shrubs and lawn to the front. Our long-term plans for it are still thoughts in progress - for the first year we mainly watched to see what grew - but the combination of work deadlines and last year’s non-stop rain mean that everything in has well and truly escaped, so this weekend we took action to reclaim the sea view.
The intermediate zone
The hacking back's fine... but what do you do with all the cuttings?
Preparing to shred...
One branch down
One tree down
We now know that every hour of hacking through the undergrowth creates two to three hours of shredding and log sawing. But the end result's worth it...
‘So what you need to do,’ says the kindly consultant ophthalmologist, ‘is throw away your gas permeable lenses and wear your glasses until the eye is healed. It’ll take about three months.’ Three months! ‘What’s the matter?’ he smiles, seeing my shocked face. ‘I love my glasses and, if I may say so, you look perfectly all right in yours.’
For the second time this year, a consultant has proved me wrong. Good job I didn’t go into medicine then. The joke horror eyeball with a scarlet cornea and swollen eyelid I’ve been squirting with antibiotic for the last week, is not, after all, a complication of a suspected blocked tear duct after my sinusitis, but has been caused by my eye quietly rejecting a very old contact lens. Despite being a very careful user of contact lenses (of anything, really), the lens has built up protein deposits which have sandpapered my cornea and caused all sorts of havoc. There’s nothing to be done other than to apply eye drops and wait for it to get better. But just to make sure he’s covered all the bases, the consultant flushes out my tear duct, a procedure which involves a long, gleaming hooked needle. I pick up a few Brownie points for bravery.
By the time Tom and I reach the car, however, I feel sorry for myself and have a cry, firstly because the prescription in my glasses is out of date and I can’t actually see very well, secondly I’m so very short-sighted that updating my prescription will cost an enormous amount of money and thirdly, to be blunt, I feel very vulnerable.
Perhaps it’s the association with unhappier times? My seven-year-old self who was admitted to hospital for a tonsils and adenoids operation which didn’t quite go according to plan? When I leave hospital, I realise I can’t see properly. The change is so sudden that when I return to school, a teacher is so convinced I’m simply being naughty that she stands me facing a corner of the room for an entire afternoon. Ma, I can tell you, is not best pleased when she finds out and storms the school. ‘And if anyone calls you Four Eyes,’ she adds when she and Dad send me to school with new specs I know they can ill-afford, ‘you tell them four eyes are better than two.’
Ma’s advice equips me against the bullies who try to pick on me for my poor eyesight, and later, as a thirteen-year-old with a bumper bundle of specs, braces on my teeth and the most persistent and appalling acne. Nevertheless, swapping glasses for contact lenses three years later is one of the most liberating experiences of my life so the prospect of wearing specs again for any length of time feels like a backwards step.
‘But you’re still you,’ Tom insists. And once I’ve got my head round the idea, I agree. One obstacle cleared. Tomorrow I’m off to the opticians to get my prescription updated… quite how I’m going to manage without a spare pair of glasses in the meantime will be interesting. Ah well, one bridge at a time.
And finally, I’d like to stress that I have regular eye checks and I’ve always been scrupulous about lens hygiene… but if your gas permeable lenses have reached an age that’s into double figures like mine, you may just want to think about replacing them!