Friday, 30 May 2014

LASEK Laser Eye Treatment in More Detail

I thought it might be useful to write a more detailed post on my laser eye surgery treatment in case anyone else out there is looking in to having it done. It's always handy to read/hear about other people's experiences, especially if it helps set minds at rest.

I've considered having laser treatment for quite some time (years, possibly even a decade), but things never came together - either I didn't have the money, or the time, or the inclination, or I couldn't find somewhere to have it done that I felt comfortable with. And then, bam at the beginning of this year everything came together and I was on an absolute mission to get those eyeballs laserized (that's the technical term...)

I didn't feel comfortable going to a 'high street' optician to get this done. Can't quite put my finger on why that is, perhaps feeling a bit like one of many on a conveyor belt, or perhaps like a walking £-sign, or wondering whether I would end up seeing different members of staff each time I went in for an appointment, or even that the company might go bust before my treatment was complete. So, I set to Googling and came up with LaserVision at the Bristol Eye Hospital. The fact that the clinic is located within the NHS hospital and is run by one of the hospital's own consultants instantly put my mind at rest; I figured that if anything went wrong I would be in the right place for it to be put right! There was also an extra sense of reassurance that an institution like the NHS wouldn't allow some fly-by-night company to set up on its premises. Can you imagine the outcry?

So, one evening in January I sent LaserVision an email requesting details and the next day they phoned me to make an initial appointment. As I mentioned in a previous post, there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing before I went for the appointment as the clinic wanted lots of information about my eyes, including previous prescriptions, opticians, etc. it took me a while to remember where I'd had my eyes tested before and to track down old prescriptions, but I finally got there. The appointment cost £40; I thought perhaps this would be taken off the overall total if I went ahead with treatment (especially since it cost nearly £4,000!), but no, it's an added extra. Just so you know.
< Towards the end of January hubby and I drove up to Bristol and I had my appointment. Everyone at the clinic was lovely, very friendly, welcoming, reassuring, professional - everything you want when you are putting your eyeballs in their hands. My appointment lasted about three hours as there were some very extensive tests carried out, lots of standard 'trip to the optician' tests and several more that involved measuring, adding coloured dye, checking the cells at the back of my eyes. There were also tests that involved having drops put in that dilated my eyes - this meant I couldn't drive myself home so I'd been told to make sure someone was with me to take me home. I also met Mr Jaycock, the surgeon who would carry out the procedure if all the test results pointed to a good outcome. Luckily for me, they did; there was a little concern about the cells at the back of my eye (or was it the front?, already I'm forgetting the details), and this was one of the reasons that Mr Jaycock recommended LASEK surgery for me rather than the more common LASIK. There is a slight difference in the procedure which also means a difference in recovery time, but I wasn't going to argue with the expert. Mr Jaycock said he would take a few days to look over all the test results and confer with colleagues and then call me to confirm that all was well.

We came up with a date of 2 April for the surgery and I then spoke to the receptionist to book myself in and sort out the finances, assuming all went to plan. The clinic has several options for payment, including the one I went with whereby you spread the cost over two years with interest-free monthly installments. Why not keep the money in your own account as long as possible?!

Luckily Mr Jaycock soon called to say all was well with the test results. He asked me to make an appointment for about a week before surgery for more tests/checks. Another excuse to pop to Bristol and shop, oh ok then! At this appointment more tests were done to check my vision and the health of my eyes, luckily all was still ok. It seemed to take ages for the date to come round, and then it happened to be right in the middle of the week when I was decorating the tea room in preparation for re-opening! I thought about rescheduling, but once the tea room was open I figured it would be ever more difficult to take the time out. I arrived at the clinic at 12.30pm and had more tests done to make sure nothing had changed with my eyes since the last visit. Then I saw Mr Jaycock again to go over things one last time and sign the 'if anything goes wrong it's not your fault and you told me, so bad luck' form. Then I was told I could either wait in the clinic or go out and have a wander round town. Obviously I wasn't going to miss the chance to look round the shops (for the last time in my glasses, no less!) so I went out for a bit. The clinic phoned me when it was time to go back. I called in at reception, left all my bags there and one of the members of staff walked with me up to the theatre ante-room. I was then handed over to a theatre nurse who took my glasses (wouldn't be needing them again...) and popped them in a bag for later, put a lovely shower cap on my head and then dripped about 400 different drops into my eyes to numb them (thank goodness.) And then I was taken through into the theatre when Mr Jaycock was all gowned up and waiting for me (along with three nurses.) I lay down on the operating table and one of the nurses offered me a blanket as the theatre was quite cool; it was actually quite nice to have for the security aspect as much as the warmth! And then it was time for the procedure to begin. And this is where I'm going to finish this blog post before it gets unfeasibly long. I'll be back soon with the next installment.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Book Review No.6: Hiss and Hers (an Agatha Raisin cosy crime)

Oh, what to say? I do love this series but, honestly, some of the books are SO badly written; in fact, as the series progresses the books seem to be getting worse and worse. Why is this? Is the author arrogant enough to think that fans of Agatha Raisin will continue to buy the books as the quality of writing descends further and further into the mire? Or perhaps the author is unaware of how much her writing has changed for the worse. What about the editor(s) and publishers - why are they letting these terrible books continue to be published?  I can only assume it's the cha-ching of the cash register. Unfortunately, I'm helping to perpetuate it (although saying that, I did actually pick up this book in a charity shop so no extra money in the MC Beaton coffers from me this time round.) I had a quick Google of other reviews for this book and plenty of other long-time Agatha fans seem to be in agreement, which makes me feel sad but vindicated at the same time. Clearly there are lots of us who really enjoy(ed) this series, but are considering calling time on it now due to the poor writing. As I've said before, when I read cozy crime I'm not expecting Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare but that doesn't mean that the story can't be put together without it feeling like the author is simply churning out drivel to meet her publisher's deadline or, worse, that she doesn't actually care any more. 

The plot. Umm, what was it? I started this book on the return flight from Hawaii, so it was a while back and I'm struggling to remember what happened. It was pretty absurd, to be honest; several deaths and/or near misses involving adders. There were lots of tangents, lots of page-filling for no apparent reason, lots of loose ends. 

The blurb on the back reads: Agatha has fallen in love again. This time it's the local gardener, George Marston, she has her eye on. But competition for his attention abounds. With shameless determination Agatha will do anything to get her man, including footing the bill for a charity ball in town just for the chance to dance with him. But when George is a no-show Agatha goes looking for him - and finds he has been murdered.

Quite honestly, I can't recommend this book at all unless, like me, you are an avid Agatha Raisin fan and you can't bear not to read all the books in the series. Otherwise, you should definitely give it a miss. I think I might have to say goodbye to Agatha now, or at least read some reviews of the next in the series before I commit to reading it. Life is too short to read dreadful books!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Visit to Mapperton Gardens, Dorset

On Tuesday my dear friend Rachel and I met up at Mapperton Gardens near Beaminster in Dorset. Despite this being a mere 20 (or so) minutes drive for me, I'd never been there before (neither had Rachel.) As luck would have it, the garden is one of the many accepting this year's Gardener's World 2-for-1 entry card so it was an absolutely bargain at just £3 each.
The house is only open for a few days a year (mostly in July and August) as the Earl and Countess of Sandwich live there, so we had to content ourselves with a wander round the outside of this gorgeous Jacobean manor.

And then it was time to explore the gardens. Not a bad start - anyone for croquet?

I rather liked this little 'gazebo' down in the corner. I wonder if hubby could construct one in our garden?
Especially if he pops a little fire in the corner to help keep the chill away.
The majority of the garden is set down in this secluded valley spot, which reveals itself as you descend some steps from the corner besides the gazebo at the edge of the croquet lawn.
At first glance it reminded me of the Blue Peter Italian sunken garden designed by Percy Thrower back in the late 1970s (showing my age), perhaps this is where he got his ideas...

And here's a lovely line-up of topiary inspired by jelly tots. I'm such a heathen.

Beautiful summer house overlooking what I thought was a swimming pool, but I think was/is in actual fact a fish pond. Wasted on the fish, in my opinion.
The gardens then open up from this formal area into a more wild section with lots of specimen shrubs and trees. Of which I managed to take zero photos. Blogger fail.

And when we had finished our wandering we were able to refuel in the lovely Sawmill Cafe.
A delicious goats cheese and caramelised onion tart with a wonderful array of salads. And there may have been treacle tart and clotted cream for dessert...
All in all a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Mapperton if you happen to be in the area (or even if you're not.)

Monday, 5 May 2014

A Lyme Regis Mackerel Fishing Trip

Bank Holiday weekend and guess who ended up working two out of the three days? Bah. 
Still, at least I had the day off on Sunday which, weather-wise, definitely turned out to be the nicest of the three, so perhaps the Fates were on my side.
On hearing that the weather was due to be rather nice, we headed off early for our favourite seaside spot, Lyme Regis. Hubby had promised DC that we would go on a boat, so we made our way straight to the Cobb to see if any boats were heading out to sea. What luck - a kindly captain said he would take us out there and then, just the three of us with an entire boat to ourselves! One little boy was VERY pleased.

Slowly, Lyme Regis receded into the distance.

West Bay became but a dot on the landscape
And we set about the important task of pulling in our lines every now and again.

After about 30 mins of nothing, our patience was finally rewarded with a single solitary mackerel!
Apparently it's a bit early in the season.
But, despite only catching one little fish, we had a really great time. We fished, we kept a look out for pirates, we laughed when the boat bounced on the waves and made our legs go all wibbly-wobbly, we loved the feeling of the sun on our faces (there might have been a little regret later that the redhead amongst us didn't apply suncream) and the wind in our hair, and we enjoyed seeing Lyme Regis and the Dorset coastline from a different perspective.

And the sea air certainly made us sleep well that night.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Book Review No. 5: Round Ireland With a Fridge

Waaaah! No time to blog at the moment, what with working at the tea room, shopping for food for the tea room, baking for the tea room (although admittedly hubby does most of it - what a star he is), and trying to do all the other things that running a business entails (most of which I'm just making up as I go along since I've never done any of it before...)

This review is long overdue, since I actually read this particular book when we were in Hawaii back in the middle of February. I think I've mentioned before that when we go on holiday I trawl through my unread book case (non cosy) and specifically pull out books that have been in there for a long time so that I'm forced to read them rather than letting them sit on the shelves for another month, year, decade. I also try to choose books that I might not mind leaving behind (I like to keep books for the most part, don't ask me why, it's just one of my [many] foibles) to make room in the suitcase for a souvenir or two. Hence, this book was chosen. 

I've no idea how long this book has been on my shelves. I'm sure it came with us when we moved from Reading three years ago, so it was time for it to have its moment of glory (and to then be left on the plane from Maui to San Francisco, in the hope that it would go on to reach a global readership.) 
Tony Hawks makes a drunken (isn't that always the way?) bet with a friend that he can hitch-hike his way round Ireland with a fridge (the clue was in the title, wasn't it?) And this book follows his journey. What more can I say? To be fair, the book was mildly entertaining and it wasn't boring in the 'then I did this, then I went there, then I met this really funny chap who said...' way that these books often can be (I'm looking at you 'Join Me' by Danny Wallace as reviewed previously.) Tony Hawks's writing style is fun, informative and engaging, although you probably have to be in the mood for this sort of book to not find it a bit juvenile. Luckily, being on holiday, I was in a more accepting mood than I might otherwise have been and I did enjoy it for what it is. I'm not going to recommend it, if you like this sort of book you'll probably get on with this one as it's well-written, if you don't, you won't.
Quite the reviewer, aren't I?