We Prepare For A Holiday

Yes, the blue moon must have been glimpsed in the sky because Mr Litlove and I are going on holiday again. He is doing another chair making course, this time in a workshop on the edge of the Sussex Downs, and I will be going along for the ride with a box of books. We’re staying in a place called Library Cottage, which should bode well, don’t you think?

In an unexpected twist of fate, the injured member of the party this time is Mr Litlove. Last week he went for a routine eye check up and was sent to the emergency clinic at the hospital. There were some concerns about a thin patch on his retina, though what the upshot of this concern is, we are not entirely sure.

I dropped Mr Litlove off at the clinic at 10.30 in the morning. By 11.30 he had the drops in his eyes to enlarge his pupils and by 12.30 he was finally seen by a doctor. The doctor, however, wasn’t at all sure what she was looking at. ‘I wish your optician had said on the form where the problem is,’ she told him, ‘I can’t see anything wrong.’ Then, having checked the form again, ‘Ah, yes, she did say. Well, the retina’s a big place, you know.’ Once the doctor had located the problem, she still didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Twice she went off searching for a colleague to give a second opinion, and there were no colleagues to be found. ‘Perhaps I should pop you back in the waiting room and see another patient,’ she muttered to herself under her breath, while examining him again. Did she think his condition might deteriorate to the point of certainty within the next half hour? Or was he going to stay there indefinitely?

Towards two o’clock they let him go. The doctor decided he should come back for some treatment and told whoever it is who keeps the appointments diary that it had to be within a fortnight. ‘I’m actually going on holiday the week after next,’ Mr Litlove confessed. And of course there was no appointment to be had in the week ahead. The consultant four doors down was consulted and the message came back, ‘He’s fine, do it when he’s back from holiday.’ The reassurance was nice, Mr Litlove said, and would have been even nicer if the consultant had actually looked at him. But he’s experiencing no symptoms and in fact, he thinks that something similar happened to him four years ago. Only then, the test took place at the opticians and he can’t recall the outcome. Maybe he was supposed to go to the hospital and forgot to make an appointment? Maybe the opticians forgot? But still, if he’s had this for four years at least, it’s unlikely a couple more weeks will make a difference.

When I mentioned this to my mother on the phone, she remembered the same thing happening to my brother. When they next saw each other, she got the full story off of him, and would you believe it, but my brother has been seen twice for thinning of the retina, once 15 years ago, once about four or five years ago. He’s never had any treatment, and hasn’t been able to get out of any doctor how serious this all is. It strikes me as extraordinary, this lack of information that passes between doctor and patient. Why is medical knowledge treated as classified? Is it something to do with doctors being afraid of people sueing them? Or are doctors rarely certain what is going on with a patient?

Sitting in the waiting room without his contact lenses in and thus forced to read his rowing magazine with one eye closed and the paper held an inch from his nose, Mr Litlove said he thought this must be how the NHS runs an efficient service at a low cost. ‘You don’t worry about the patients’ time, but keep them all together so they can be seen when the doctors are ready,’ he said. ‘But your experience wasn’t one of efficiency,’ I told him. ‘How long did the doctor dither over your diagnosis?’ ‘Well I’d rather not have a doctor who is cavalier with my health,’ he replied. ‘I completely agree,’ I said. ‘So wouldn’t it have been good if she could actually have had that second opinion she wanted?’

So, we are going away hoping he’ll be fine, and having been told if he has any strange disturbances of vision we must rush him to the hospital. I have to say I am impressed by my husband’s stoic calm. I do not deal with these sorts of medical issues well. But I’m also quite sure that he’s had whatever he’s had for a long time, just like my brother. I think it’s one of those things that, if you’re unlucky can be problematic, but is most likely not an issue the rest of the time.

Talking of being unlucky, our neighbours who usually feed the cat in our absence are also going away too. So Harvey is headed for the cattery for the first time in his life. It’s an imposition to ask people to come round twice a day to feed him (and even that is a lot less than he’s used to, now he’s an old, querulous, whining cat) but at least we know he can keep his routine and that he’ll be safe if we board him. Harvey has already suffered the great indignity of having to get his shots updated and will not be at all pleased to learn his fate. The other evening, Mr Litlove was checking the cattery out online and was surprised to find they have a facebook page. ‘That’s good,’ he said, ‘Harvey can drop us a line while we’re away, let us know how he’s getting on.’ I could envisage it already: ‘O hai, hoomans. Kamp suks. Git me now.’

And finally, what books am I taking? You’ve been very patient waiting until now to ask. I am taking:

Pleasantville by Attica Locke

Early Warning by Jane Smiley

Alfred Hitchcock by Peter Ackroyd

This Is Not About Me by Janice Galloway

I’m halfway through a thriller that I’ll take too, and then I’ll probably not be able to resist throwing one more book in. I’m thinking either Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (which I am one of the last remaining people on earth not to have read) or Us by David Nicholls. Have a great week next week, and don’t forget to visit our new Extra Shiny, out on May 14th, debuting our book club with Laline Paull’s The Bees – which is now looking like a controversial choice!

16 thoughts on “We Prepare For A Holiday

  1. Poor Mr. Litlove – anything to do with eyes makes me feel iffy so I sympathise! As for extra books – “The Sussex Downs Murder” by John Bude would be a good one! You could tour the locations….🙂

  2. Poor Mr. Litlove and poor Harvey too who I am sure is certain he is the one who will be suffering most in this situation. Odds are in Mr. Litlove’s favor regarding his eye. And besides how can anything go wrong when you are at a place called Library Cottage? Have a wonderful time and enjoy your pile of books!

  3. Fingers crossed for Mr L and for Harvey, too. Nice selection of holiday reading – I loved both volumes of the Galloway. I’ll be joining you next week, in spirit at least, reading Early Warning. Have a lovely holiday!

  4. I wish all of you well on your separate journeys. This cat is back in your part of the world on 16 June. Fabulous to see you again yesterday of course. Work on handedness, in nature all neutrinos are left-handed, so keep a few on your person as a cross-check🙂 P x

  5. I’m happy to report that this level of inefficiency and vague communication also exists in the for-profit health care of the United States. A couple of times I’ve left doctor’s offices with the explanation that whatever was wrong with me, it was likely to have killed me by the time they got around to seeing me, so…to hell with it.

    Enjoy your holiday, and I hope that Harvey does not plot an elaborate revenge for his temporary relocation.

  6. Mr. Litlove’s experience does not bode well for us in the US with the Affordable Care Act, which has proven to be not so affordable and not terribly care oriented after all. I do wish him good-luck with his eye. I agree that with the name “The Library Cottage” you simply can’t go wrong. And you are not the only person on the planet to not have read “Major Pettigrew…” I bought a copy a while ago at a book sale and still haven’t gotten to it. Have a wonderful, restful holiday!

  7. I have an eye condition myself that took an ophthalmologist months to diagnose and I ended up having to convince HIM that the cause in my case was something other than what he thought. At least he saw a doctor and any half way decent doctor would have been able to see if things looked off. I hope you guys have a lovely holiday unmarred by stuff like this.

  8. Oh my. That experience with the doctors seems… stressful. I know doctors have to learn some emotional distance from their patients as a coping skill, but it would be nice if they had a training session, while at medical school, on how to communicate with humans without scaring the pants off them.

    Have a lovely holiday!

    My library has ordered The Bees but it has yet to arrive, so I fear I won’t be taking part in the book club discussion. Bother.

  9. Poor Harvey…perhaps it will make him grateful to come back home? One can hope.
    Library cottage does sound lovely. And the eye issue does not sound like it’s too time sensitive.
    I read Major Pettigrew and don’t consider it a major omission from anyone’s diet of novels.

  10. Have a pleasant vacation! And I SO agree about doctors who treat medical knowledge like it’s classified. The number one thing I value in my doctors, when I am trying out new ones, is that they tell me what they think is going on and why. I acquired a new dentist just this past week, whom I shall absolutely be keeping and recommending to people, because both the dentist and the hygienist did a lot of useful explaining.

  11. Enjoy your holidays! I had to check on the map where Sussex downs might be (i thought it was closer to Dorset than it actually is, I am very influenced by my watching Broadchurch on DVDs these days). I hope Mr Litlove is better and makes a beautiful wooden chair.

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