“Neither use nor ornament”…

…and other bad ways for an optician to describe the glasses you’re wearing.

I have just discovered the most disturbing thing in the world. And it isn’t even on the Internet.

Instead, it’s the moment when you go for an eye test, and sit down, and they turn the light off, point out where the mirror is, turn on the typical letters-whose-size-decreases chart, and give you some fake glasses to cover up your left eye and ask you, with the right eye, to read the chart, and you sit there and say, “Er… God Almighty, that’s awful. Is the top letter A?”

Before you ask, it doesn’t help very much if the left eye fares better and gets you through the second line of “E, O” before descending into abject fuzz and rubbishness.

Apparently, though, I’m still pretty well off, with a ‘-1.50 sph’ in my right eye and a ‘-1.25 sph’ in my left, down from ‘-0.5 sph’ right, ‘+0.25 cyl left’ last time round, but I still need new glasses. Evidently these headaches I’ve been getting have more to them than I’d thought, but I’ll get onto that in a minute. For now, I’ve got no glasses.

This is because, having decided they were rubbish, they’ve taken them off me, so they can re-use the frame and save me money, because whilst the University will pay for my eye test, it won’t pay for my glasses because I need them for things other than work and work alone (like, eg, driving. I’m must “Never, ever, ever start the engine [of a car] unless I’ve got my glasses on,” says my new and really cool optician. Well, maybe not cool. Really very friendly, though).

So until they “give me a ring when they’re finished” I don’t have any glasses. Since I got sent, by work, for the eye test in case my current glasses weren’t good enough and were dragging me into mistakes, taking them off me altogether seems a bit random, but never mind.

On, as I say, to the headaches.

I have a problem with pain. Or, rather*, I tend to disregard aches. If, on the rare occasions when I’m cycling, I try to go really fast and all the muscles in my thighs start to hurt really badly and cramp up, slowing me down, I respond by trying harder, which, Ruth tells me, is the precise opposite of what I’m meant to do. Likewise, if sitting in front of a computer is giving me a splitting headache, I’ll stay where I am and maybe drink an extra bit of water and knock back a pill. I’ve thrown my back before now trying to carry really heavy things on the grounds that even if it’s hurting really badly, I probably just need to try harder.

I blame this entirely on my knees. My knees, as far back as I can remember, have given me trouble. Back when I was six, and couldn’t sleep some nights because they were so bloody agonising (I know it was six, because I got told off after it turned out I’d been dosing myself up on [the appropriate amount] of purple Calpol just to make the pain go away) it got dismissed as growing pains. Since then I’ve been told I have patella tendonosis, or, to put it another way, my lower leg is on a slight twist, thus screwing up the joints in my knees.

This got promptly ignored by everyone – I only got sent to the consultant who said “yes, it’s not just growing pains” at the age of seventeen, and then I saw the note my doctor had sent and it contained several heavy hints of “he’s just making this up, isn’t he?” Indeed, bar giving me lots and lots of ibruprofen for six years (which I stopped taking after it got to the point where I could take 800 mgs at a go and still not feel any change except getting more queasy), and, recently, agreeing to give me tasty co-cadamol instead, nobody’s ever really done anything. I had a physio, in Aber, but he said there wasn’t really anything that could be done, and I should use exercise bikes and things.

The upshot of all this is if I draw an exponential scale of “background pain” from one to ten, with zero being nothing at all, I have about one day a fortnight where I am, for the whole day, at less than one. Normally I’m on two, three or four. Today I’m on four, which, really, is like having a fairly nasty headache in my knees. Just the left knee today, I don’t know why the change round like that. Ruth’s told me off before, for not saying when it hurts, but I’m long since past the point where that does me any good…

…The downside of all this, of course, is that I tend to regard pain as “one of those things,” to be put up with, like “often it is cold in winter,” or “sprouts don’t taste very nice.” So when I get, eg, lots of headaches, I don’t think “Man, this is rubbish, maybe my eyes are having trouble and I need glasses,” but “Damn that hurts. I’ll take a pill,” or, “God, I wish this headache would leave over for a minute.” It’s the same problem with a bike. “Maybe I’m trying to go too fast” never occurred to me; I just thought “Sodding legs! Stop hurting!” and pushed even harder, with the result that when I stopped and got off the bike, the damn things gave way under me because I’d buggered up the muscles.

I don’t mean to whinge, of course, I’ve got it far less than some people, and in many ways I’m very lucky. I just find it really strange to imagine that there’s people out there where they get up and don’t think “Crap, this is going to be a bad day, my knees are stiff already.” Since that’s probably most of you, you’d all better enjoy it. And, then, when you’re old and having a hard time getting used to it, I’ll hobble up like a mean-spirited old git and tell you not to be such a wuss.

Hey ho. Back to the fuzzy-looking grindstone.

*and before Aber people start making snide or sarky remarks, thank-you very much.

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  1. On March 13, 2007 Jon says:

    Get some private health cover and get them sorted out.

    I once broke both my knees, and for a few years afterwards, I was bounced around between endless NHS fuckos as no-one wanted to take responsibility for the cost when ibuprofen was so much cheaper (incidentally, I’d not poison my body with painkillers ever again)

    I’ve had plastic knee replacements on both my knees, and it cost about 6 grand. I got a consultant who spend literally hours diagnosing the problem (I think I had about eight hours, one-on-one with the consultant in the end), and when I had the operation I was in and our within a day (AND they made me a full sunday roast dinner at 3am).

    So – the short of it is – get health insurance, don’t mention any of this until your initial probationary period is up (6 months? 12?), then get them to pay for it all.


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