Now my left eye has been ‘done’ I’m back to being in self-isolation for 10 days.  If I’ve understood Boris correctly, no longer 14 days, just 10.

My sixth visit to St Thomas’ Hospital this year (that’s counting assessments and follow-ups, not just interventions) went according to plan.  Of course, I was a dab hand at everything this time having had my right eye done as recently as June.  What a pity we haven’t got eyes in the back of our heads: after four visits I’d be a model patient.

I was second on the list this time so I had to sit in chair number 2 in the waiting room, a demotion I slightly resented. ‘My’ chair (number 1) was by occupied by a fellow who was accompanying his father, a grumpy old man (well, he was probably my age!) in a wheelchair.  Amusingly (for me), the relationship between them was strained and they kept arguing about everything: where to hang his coat, where to put his wrist watch for safe keeping, where to place the small side table. The son even managed to spill a plastic cup of water over his dad, whether deliberately of accidentally I’m not sure, and a row ensued about how best to mop up.

Chair number 3 was occupied by another old man.  He lived in Luton and had been driven to hospital in a private ambulance.  Despite having a 10am appointment, he had arrived at 6am and had to sit in the garden waiting for the Day Care Eye Unit to open.  Despite arriving two hours before me, I’m glad to say he was not allowed to jump the queue. He told me he’d enjoyed lockdown because planes had stopped flying over his garden.  I didn’t dare tell him that Luton University is my favourite oxymoron.

So, with only three of us, we were vastly outnumbered by staff.  I gathered there had been some cancellations (people taking fright I suppose) and I could hear the surgeon in a side-room phoning people to ask if they could please come in earlier than planned.  Apparently no one could because transport had been booked for a certain time. It occurred to me that the surgeon might be trying to drum up business because he was on some sort of bonus system?

The operation passed off happily and after a cup of tea and biscuits (I had, as usual, to open the packet with my teeth!) I was free to go.  Amusingly, my wife couldn’t collect me because she had an appointment at the opticians to be fitted up with new specs.  So, I sat in the hospital garden, in the shade provided by a young oak tree, watching children chasing pigeons and hospital staff enjoying their break sitting in the sun.

My new eyes are wonderful but, of course, my varifocal spectacles that I used to wear all the time (so that I couldn’t forget where they were!) are hopeless.  Wearing them makes anything far away fuzzy and wearing them for reading is still necessary but far from satisfactory.  Nevertheless, I’m still at the stage of leaping out of bed in the morning and, with nothing else on, putting my specs on through force of habit.

And now, under house arrest back in Windsor, I’ve returned to the bosom of my familiar routines: walking round the terrace 20 times twice a day, feeding the tomato plants, writing short stories, painting watercolours, phoning family and friends, reading (at present, three volumes of short stories by W. Somerset Maugham. I thought it was time for me to see how it’s done! The collections I’m reading were published in 1951 and are far from being politically correct, lots of ‘n’ words for example.)

Meanwhile, my bicycle patiently awaits me and my 83rd birthday looms.  A friend of a similar age that I phone weekly, reckons that we oldies will have to live with the virus for the rest of our lives. Next time we speak I must ask him whether he is assuming there won’t be a vaccine anytime soon, or that there will be, but we will no longer be alive!

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