Saturday, April 28, 2012

Swimming again!

A long pause for me from 'Early Modern Whale'. Over this last year, my right eye has been sore, preventing me from reading at night (hot tears would just flow). More and more floaters appeared in my vision, intensely dark, or sometimes I had bright spots of light, or brilliant zig-zag lines in crescents. All this, I manfully (read, 'stupidly') ignored, regarding it as just one of those things that happen as you get older. Then, one Saturday morning, after a particularly massive reticulation suddenly floated into my vision, I began to see millions of grey snowflakes if I looked up into a bright sky. Finally I was encouraged to get along to the eye unit at the hospital.

After this (the 'snowflakes' were blood cells), I was rapidly scheduled for a vitrectomy for a retinal detachment that was occuring. My consultant surgeon, Mr Vincent Tanner, made no fuss about it: "It's what I do", he said. Those operations are his normal Friday afternoon, and the routine is that they work. I do not know how the operation was ever devised, and I have restrained myself from all Googling or Wikipedia consultings about the process. But a gas bubble is injected into the eye, and then you undertake 'posturing' for five days, lying prone while the gas bubble, floating upwards, gently presses the retinal tear back into place. The bubble gradually re-absorbs, a process that finished for me a couple of Tuesdays ago.

The bubble in your vision starts off by filling the field of view. Then it's down to sloshing about in what you perceive as the lower half of your field of vision, then it's as though you are holding an opened umbrella down at waist level, then a quart tankard of ink. One irritating day, it split, and a tiny bubble travelled round the outside of its parent bubble, like a futile video game installed in your head, for you could not control its progress. Finally, deliverance comes, and you no longer have a continuous distracting reminder of the mechanics of vision, of the processes of your body, and things revert to one seeing just what is out there to see.

Anyway, part of the recovery is gentle exercise only, just to be on the safe side. So it has been steady riding when out on the bike cycling, and you are advised not to swim. Until yesterday, when I rejoined the regulars at Friday 'Senior Swim' during a break from marking assessed essays. It was a pleasure to be back in the swim, compounded when the pool guard tried to throw me out for being under age - they haven't seen me there for a while.

This reminded me that back in March (with a still quite big bubble in my eye), I was driven to Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. The National Trust seem in this age of the mobile phone camera to be far more relaxed about people taking photographs of things. I had always wanted pictures of the Mortlake tapestries of 'Hero and Leander' that decorate the main stair, and have never been able to find very much on the web, so at the top of this post is Leander arriving at Hero's Tower. Hero's expression is beautifully caught, the tapestry makers have her exactly trying not to look knowing.

This, says the NT guide, is Leander departing on his swim across the Hellespont, with his sister wringing her hands in anxiety. I recall a heavy father in Marlowe's poem, it's ages since I read Musaeus. In fact, I can't recall a literary version with a sister. Perhaps Dr Cleyn thought his designs would look more attractive with an extra young woman. I like the Cupid with the guiding light. To conclude, here's the same Cupid, his torch extinguished, after the final tragedy. But that's over-ambitious swimming for you, I will hold back on the Bosphorus for now.

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