Houston, we have a problem…

Not much progress on projects recently. I’ve been a visual artist for most of my working life, and as such, I’ve probably taken my sight for granted. However, I’ve recently been reminded of just how much I rely on good vision, and on good eye health. I’d noticed my eyes weren’t quite as reliable as they used to be – but recently things have been going rapidly downhill…


I’ve worn glasses all my life. When I haven’t worn glasses, I’ve worn contact lenses. Both my eyes are bad, but my right eye has always been particularly poor. Consequently – I think I’ve always had vision which is compromised, to some extent at least. But you learn to deal with what you have.

That said, I’ve managed to follow a career as a visual artist, interior and graphic deigner, craftsman and hobbyist – right up until the present. I do recall a blog post on this site, last year, where I referred to my eyesight as, “not being quite what it used to be”. I put it down to advancing years, at the time, and kidded myself that my always somewhat compromised vision might somehow continue to cope, as it always had done before.

I’d worn contact lenses for years – quite happily, in fact. They were always the best way to rectify my short-sightedness, whilst avoiding large pieces of unfashionalbe face furniture which, as all wearers will know, can be a pain in the arse at the best of times. Years of happy contact lens wear, however, eventually gave way to regular changes in prescription, as I got older. There came a time when it just made more sense to pick up with spectacles again.

I visited one of the large, “supermarket-style” type establishments on the High Street and, as the years went on, I felt I was being treated as little more than a cash cow – with regular prescription changes fitted into ever more expensive frames. And there were glasses for all occasions to consider. Glasses for long sight, glasses for reading, bifocals, varifocals, sunglasses etc. etc.

It was at one of my regular eye exams at the supermarket-style outlet, that the opthamologist noticed that my right eye, “had early signs of a cataract” – “but don’t worry” they added – “it’ll take many years to become anything problematic”. My right eye was already poor, and things had got trickier with a large, dark “floater” which had decided to thicken up and station itself right on my focal point. I had learned to flick it out of the way when I was looking directly at something – but as the cataract developed, I just seemed to depend more and more on my left eye anyway – to the point where I think my brain just pretty much filtered out much of the blurred information coming in from the right.

And then towards the middle of last year, I noticed my right eye was not only clouding, but also distorting. Things began to look like I was looking through a crystalline jelly. More worryingly, things were progressively getting worse by the week. I worked on a couple of freelance web design projects and found I was now working only inches away from the screen. I could still see fairly well at close range – so carried on with most of my guitar projects – although reading tab notes when playing, became impossible.

Since I do most of my work at home, I managed to carry out most of my day to day, without too much trouble. But I really started to notice problems whenever I went outside. I don’t drive, (haven’t ever driven. I gave up riding motorcycles too a few years ago after a nasty near-miss), but just going out of doors and switching to a longer view point really was disorientating. Even walking down the pavement became a problem, and the ever present traffic became, seemingly, way too threatening. In the dark, or even at twighlight – car headlights begin to dazzle, lamp posts and bollards hide in the shadows, and I noticed I could no longer recognise familiar faces in the street.

Then right at the end of the year, just after completing the gilding on the gold leafed Stratocaster, I noticed that my left eye was also getting worse. And quite quickly too. Not just blurring, but also clouding and becoming distorted. I took the holiday break as an pportunity to get my eyes checked over by an independent opthamologist in town. A quick examination, and an equally quick diagnosis. Cataracts. Both eyes. Recommended for surgery. Bugger.

So I now find myself in a bit of a rut, while I wait for the NHS to do its’ thing. Even typing this is only possible by crouching over the screen, (with large type and heavy contrast to assist). I have an assessment for surgery in mid-February. It’s entirely possible that surgery will dramatically improve the situation – perhaps even leading to better vision than I had before – but the sobering thought is that all this effectively shuts down any project work I’ve been looking at, as well as any opportunities to make some honest income. January is normally the time I begin make plans for projects for the coming year, but with things looking a bit uncertain in the short-term, it looks like a quiet start to the New Year this time around. And not necessarily a good time to catch up on my reading…

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