On Wednesday morning, I was sitting at the PC doing nothing in particular and wondering whether to make a cup of tea when I felt as if I had something in my right eye. You know that irritating, scratchy feeling when a grain of sand or grit gets into your eye. I tried the traditional remedy of pulling the eyelid down and over the bottom lid to scrape off whatever it was but to no avail. The discomfort wasn’t great but it was making me blink so I went into the bathroom, took some water in my hand and bathed the eye, hoping to flush out the interloper. To no avail. In fact, it make the pain slightly worse.
Being a bloke, I decided that the grit or whatever it was had scratched the inside on the eye socket and that that was what was now causing the pain and that it would cure itself eventually. Female readers probably know, but I will remind you anyway, that we blokes always apply two principles to illness and injury: 1. It isn’t serious and doesn’t need professional attention; 2. It will get better by itself as long as I ignore it. So I ignored it and waited for it to get better.
I spent the evening lying on the bed with my eyes closed as I found the irritation was less that way, presumably because eyeball movement is then less. I was confident that it would be better by morning. When morning came, it did seem a little better, confirming my blokeish philosophy. However, during the day, the ache worsened until it was as bad as previously. When I looked in the bathroom mirror, I saw the lower half of the eye was bloodshot. That worried me but, being a bloke, I knew how to deal with that. Yes, you guessed: ignore it and it will go away.
When I picked up Tigger from work at 4 p.m. she noticed the redness and a slight discharge from the corner of the eye. Ignoring my protestations, she proposed that we get off the bus at Old Street and go to see Mr Shah for his advice. Tigger, you see, being female, lacks blokeish traits and is apt to be rather sensible. Mr Shah runs a small but excellent optician’s on the corner near the Moorfields Eye Hospital and has been very kind and helpful to us in the past. I was sure he would give me a quick once over and assure me that the thing would get better by itself. So I agreed to go.
“I’m sorry,” said the receptionist, “but Mr Shah is away today.” She advised me to go to the Moorfields Hospital which has a walk-in clinic. “It’s very good,” she said, and so it turned out. Like any A&E department, patients are assured of a longish wait but in the meantime I was seen by two nurses and a registration clerk which at least made me feel I hadn’t been forgotten. While waiting, we became aware of another patient, an elderly man, rejoicing in the name John Doe. Tigger looked at me and suggested he ought to be wearing a name tag tied to his toe. The name did seem odd, especially as the gentleman turned out to be American.
Eventually I was called to see a doctor. It was a lady doctor, about which I was very pleased. Call me sexist if you wish but for certain things I must say I prefer female nurses and doctors. All those I have met so far knew their stuff but were also careful and gentle without compromise to thoroughness. And you do need to feel confident in someone who is poking around in your eye. This lady doctor was extremely gentle and extremely thorough and I am grateful to her.
“Poking” turned out to be the right word. It turned out that I had a small piece a plastic embedded in the bottom of the eye socket. How it got there I have no idea. It’s a complete mystery. Use of a cotton bud failed to shift it so the doctor decided to use a needle. I am squeamish at the best of times and having a needle brought in contact with my eye should have induced a state of panic but the doctor’s calm assurance worked wonders. In a trice (or two) the offending object was extirpated.
I was now sent off to the pharmacy with a chitty to obtain antibiotic drops. “Just as a precaution,” said the doctor, “as we don’t know where that piece of plastic has been.” Apart from in my eye, presumably. So we repaired to the pharmacy, took a ticket and sat down. Low and behold, who should sit next to us by Mr John Doe. Mr Doe turned out to be one of those quiet and charming Americans whom one occasionally meets and who make one wish that all Americans were like that. (What’s the smiley for “tongue-in-cheek”? – Ed.)
He was elderly and had been a truck driver. He was still working (he didn’t say as what) because, lacking a health care system, Americans had to work to pay for medical attention. Moorfields was the fifteenth medical institution he had visited for treatment of his chronic condition which was reversed eyelashes: apparently, they grow inwards and have to be removed periodically.* He cheerfully remarked that he never tells them his medical history (hence, I guess, the name “John Doe”) and that each tells him something different. He seemed quite entertained by that. Moorfields, he asserted, was the best place he had been to so far. The pity was that they had told him they would only treat him the once, presumably because he was not an NHS patient. Mr Doe said he admired our society and that we had “a nice little country here”.
The conversation would have gone on for longer but I was at this point called to the window. When I sat down again to wait for my drops, it was Mr Doe’s turn to be called. While he was still at his window, I was called to collect my drops and it was time to leave. I have a feeling that John Doe, whatever his real name, is quite an interesting gentleman but it is most unlikely that we shall meet again. Ships that pass in the pharmacy.
I will just same that Mr Doe’s comment that we have “a nice little country here” was very pleasing to me. I am not a nationalist or even particularly a patriot; I do not say “My country, right or wrong” or think we are superior to all other nations. I despise chauvinism, no matter from whom. But yes, I do love living here and I will say so quite frankly. I cannot imagine emigrating. The present cold weather makes me grit my teeth and fantasize about spending the winter in a warmer place but in my heart I know the cold will pass and that it’s just a good excuse to muffle up in warm clothes and drink plenty of hot tea. (Mmmm, tea.) In a word: Tiger loves his jungle. Especially now that the pain in his eye has subsided…
*I wouldn’t normally publish someone’s medical history but I think it is allowable in this case as “Mr Doe” himself made no bones about telling a complete stranger and I am pretty sure that “John Doe” is an assumed name.