I’m not a full time writer. Like many others, I have a day job; to be completely accurate, I have two. So holiday time is valuable and self, husband, son and aged border terrier were looking forward to a fortnight off in the splendid scenery of Northumberland.
My husband has a thing about castles. Something to do with his love of Bernard Cornwell novels, I think. He was desperate to visit the Holy Island and couldn’t wait to get inside a castle or two. It was going to be a fabulous week with plenty of time to develop the plot for my next novel. Even my son was resigned to the lack of Wi-Fi and happy to be reading and writing instead.
Saturday dawned and we set off for Northumberland via Kendall, arriving in Beautiful Belford late Saturday afternoon. We duly unpacked, scoped out the local area and found a very nice hotel which served mini bottles of prosecco; all seemed right with the world.
Sadly, there was a lot less of the world by Sunday, according to my husband’s left eye. We decided to drive up the coast to the historic town of Berwick on Tweed and spent a pleasant morning meandering around the ruins. As we drove further north to the Scottish town of Eyemouth, hubby began to complain about his vision. It felt like there was a contact lens stuck in his eye, he said, and his vision was a little blurry. He inspected the eye in the mirror, saw nothing to concern himself and decided to sleep on it hoping it would improve by morning. So we went back to our holiday let, cooked a meal & settled down for the evening.
By the next morning, my husband’s left eye was behaving very badly indeed. He could only see a small semi-circle of light and was sufficiently concerned to visit the local chemist and ask for directions to the nearest optician. There were two within a 15-mile radius, so he chose Specsavers in Berwick. It turned out to be a wise choice. They were extremely accommodating, took his problem seriously and rearranged their diary so he could attend that morning. So off we trekked to Berwick again, hubby in attendance at Specsavers while my son and I walked the dog around the ruins for the second time in 24 hours.
Long story short, hubby was diagnosed with a detached retina and macular. He returned to the car, ashen, clutching a referral note to Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary for that afternoon. Despite the diagnosis, he insisted on driving as he doesn’t like me driving his car and I don’t like it much either as it doesn’t have a real handbrake. Two hours later the four of us were at the top of a multi-storey at the hospital. Son and dog remained in the car while hubby and I booked him into the eye clinic where there was a 2 hour wait. I spent the next 2 hours flitting between husband, son and dog and taking son and dog to find a car charger as all the phones were getting low and we had no idea whether husband would be admitted or not.
In the end, it was not. The operation was urgent and could have been carried out at Newcastle but with the follow up care, it was deemed better to return to Cheltenham and have the operation there. This came as something of a relief as all I could think about during the wait was how on earth I was going to get his car down nine car parking ramps when I couldn’t use the brake. It was clearly on his mind too as he point-blank refused to let me try.
Going back to Cheltenham was a no-brainer. The operation was urgent and we decided to drive through the night and take his referral letter to Cheltenham General hospital first thing the next day. And when I say we, I mean me. Husband finally, and reluctantly, agreed I should drive as the eye drops were disturbing his remaining vision and he knew he wouldn’t be able to see when it got dark.
It’s fair to say that Hubby does not make a good passenger. Having driven straight back to Belford, packed and departed, I might have been concerned about staying awake, were it not for the fact that he shouted at me almost the entire way home. The conversations, of which there were many, went along these lines.
Him – “You should get into the left lane here.”
Me – “But the satnav says stay in the middle lane.”
Him – “No, the sign says go left.”
Me – “The satnav definitely wants me to stay in this lane.”
Him – “GO LEFT NOW!”
Me – “We’re on the wrong road.”
Him – “Well don’t listen to me. You know I can’t see properly!
And so on, ad nauseam, all the way home.
Fortunately, we arrived home in one piece, slept for a few hours and reported to the hospital the next day. The staff at Cheltenham General were fantastic, took it all very seriously and he was operated on the following day. Three weeks later and things are going well. He can already see colours and shapes and his vision improves daily.
On the minus side, we only spent two days in Northumberland of which one of those was taken up dealing with medical matters. The closest we got to a castle was driving past glorious Bamburgh Castle & we were compelled to cancel our boat trip to the Holy Island (they would have taken the dog too). But it’s a small price to pay to ensure the restoration of hubby’s sight and we appreciate how lucky he was to be seen by such professional medical staff in Berwick, Newcastle & Cheltenham. We will return to Northumberland again one day and the trip to Holy Island will take place before anything else!