My sight was fine till I neared 50. But glaucoma can stalk you without much warning. So your eye aches a bit, feels a bit tight. Do you check it out? Not me. Not soon enough. By the time it’s spotted, one optic nerve has shrivelled to a shred, constantly straining after a glimmer of light, as cross-eyed as Ben Turpin (for the silent film buffs.)
But let’s be honest, cosmetics aside, one eye can do ninety percent of what two can do. It doesn’t affect most things. But I’m on guard for further attacks. And here they come. Aggressive glaucoma with complications. Infections that leave you looking through dense fog within half an hour; that need an injection directly into the eyeball. Operations to replace the lens and to free up the eye-ball that’s sticking to the socket like a toffee apple. (‘Bad genes’ cries the wonderful Mr. Watts, the consultant who steered a passage through my crises.)
Now I see through a keyhole, draped with a fine gauze or a thicker gauze, depending on the light. But I still see. With magnification I can read and write. That’s important. And it underlines the vast difference between seeing something and seeing nothing. If I had to adapt further, to complete darkness, I’m not sure if I’d cope.
Julia shot me against a wild landscape because that’s what I’ve always related to. Not the gentle midland farmland I come from but the Pennines, the Peaks, the Moors. Even now, I can walk to the edge of my village and scan the rim of the opposite hills, getting that sense of space, of distance. Consciously breathing it in. Drinking it in. In case it fades.