"That's Not the Cat, it's a Black Bin Bag"OR Seeing is not Always Believing

Like a bounty hunter catching up with his prey after a long hot chase through the American Midwest, my degenerative myopia has finally caught up with me. And, just to prove that there’s some truth in this Spaghetti-Western-themed metaphor, I was recently forced to ‘surrender’ my driving licence to the DVLA, thus scuppering a long-held ambition to drive my own ice cream van. Life hey?


But it’s not all bad. I received a bright yellow membership card to the ‘sight impaired Copacabana club’ and it now occupies the space in my purse where my driving licence used to be (a state of affairs which in Yorkshire might be referred to as a ‘bit of a bugger’). The card has a big illustration of an eye on it and there’s a diagonal line through the middle of the eye while the left side of it is shaded out. Proof indeed, if anyone needs it, that I’m not perpetually drunk, just half-blind. I also get free travel through the Mersey Tunnel, as long as I don’t go through it more than 200 times in one year – although if I take over the driving I can go through an extra 50 times – I’m kidding! It’s an extra 60.

The Cat Thing

Three months ago, we got a new cat. A lovely friendly black cat, who got himself lost the first time we let him out (idiot). That evening we went searching for him around our local streets and eventually found him. It was, however, the first time I realised that searching for things was no longer one of my best skills. I thought I’d spotted the cat a number of times during our search. But no (I was repeatedly informed), it wasn't the cat, it was a 'black bin bag', ‘a car tyre’… ‘a drunk’. You get the idea. So, as the title of this section suggests – for me, seeing is no longer believing. In fact, I can’t rely on my sight for anything anymore and if it had been entirely up to me, by now the cat would be in Ellesmere Port, (although that would serve him right - right?).


“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes … About Sound & Vision?”


Thanks go to Mr Bowie for this drug-fuelled sub-heading. And yes, the question of vision (or lack of it) has always been on my mind since I started wearing glasses at the age of 6 (more about that later) and then much more significantly after I was made aware of the precariousness of my sight in my early 20s (also known as The Detached Retina Years …) But honestly, I’d never given a huge amount of thought to other people’s sight loss (sounds a bit selfish really, doesn’t it?), until it started to have a huge impact on my own life eighteen months ago. Since then, I’ve spent more than a few hours hunched over a hot laptop checking out that font of all modern human experience … YouTube.  Joking apart, there are some fantastic blind and visually impaired YouTubers out there, who demonstrate very adeptly that sight loss, and how people deal with it, is completely different for everyone. Indeed, how much (and what) a person sees (or doesn’t see) is dependent on many different factors, including their individual diagnosis, the mildness or severity of a multitude of different kinds of symptoms, and how far down the road they might be in terms of deteriorating sight. Some people balk at the idea of calling themselves ‘blind’, particularly if they still have some functional sight, preferring instead to use ‘visually impaired’ or ‘partially sighted’. That’s a whole ‘nother chapter in itself, but it does raise the question of what ‘blindness’ is. What do you actually see if you are blind? Do blind people see nothing, only darkness? And if that’s the case, what the hell do partially sighted people see? Well, the simple answer to that is … there’s no simple answer. Sorry, couldn’t resist.


However, it does seem that very few people have absolutely no sight at all. And even those that do, still have some light perception. In fact, not many people only experience ‘darkness.’ I kind of get that, because I have areas of complete sight loss at the very top of my field of vision, after sections of my retinas became detached. When it first happened, I did experience these areas as patches of ‘darkness’ with no penetrating light. But now, after thirty-odd (very odd) years, the ‘darkness’ is no longer there, and instead I see ‘nothing’ – which is a really impossible concept to explain. All I can say is that I think that my brain no longer registers those areas at all. When I bump my head on an open kitchen cabinet door or an overhanging branch, it always comes as a complete (and usually painful) surprise. If I put my hands up and wiggle my fingers just above the level of my eyebrows, I don’t see the fingers wiggling. I see nothing. No shadows, no light, no darkness – just a void of nothingness. I know, makes absolutely no sense, even to me.


Later on I'm going to tell you all about my detached retina operations and the consequences of a macular hole. But before all that we need to go back to the beginning, so:

Now you can read: Indiana Jones and the Spectacles of Doom OR In the Beginning