Like black holes in the sky

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Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky

– Pink Floyd, Shine on You Crazy Diamond

When Roger Waters wrote those words about the band’s former and founder member, Syd Barrett, he was referring to the spaced out look that Syd had acquired from excessive amounts of acid (LSD), which was almost certainly the cause of his personality change and break down. I discovered this week that you can achieve a similar effect by visiting the Addenbrooke’s Eye Clinic in Cambridge.



My daughter, when she first saw me after returning from the hospital, said I looked as if I’d been doing drugs (and how would she know that exactly?), or more flatteringly that I “look like David Bowie”.

A minor deterioration in vision on Monday prompted my GP to refer me to the eye clinic to rule out the very rare but extremely serious risk of detached retina, which was duly eliminated, I’m relieved to say, by the first doctor. But she wasn’t sure if there was something else that needed attending to. So I was given some extra strong dilation drops to keep my eye open for the eye surgeon to check. After a long wait, he confirmed there was nothing that needed an operation, but only after a wrenching physical examination. The dilation lasted over 24 hours and had only just started to adjust in time for MFin alumni drinks in London yesterday evening. It’s not the best way of greeting former students, to appear looking like a junky. I mean there are pressures in this job but even so….

Things I learned in the eye clinic

1. The eye, despite our squeamishness about it, is remarkably robust. The pushing, pulling and very extended forced opening of the eyelid that I endured would have been classified as torture if done by anyone other than an eye surgeon (“this might be a bit unpleasant” – too bloody right).

2. The only compensation, other than being told I had healthy retinas, was the free light show. I’ve never seen such a vibrant display of brilliant colours, shapes and patterns, not even the 4th July fireworks in Washington DC or New Years’ Eve fireworks in Hong Kong (equal best to date). Perhaps this is what people who really do take acid see. In which case they need only go to their local eye surgeon for a cheaper, safer experience.

3. Cambridge has an excellent eye clinic, so long as you’re not in a hurry. Or perhaps it seemed longer because I couldn’t read my phone. Normal service has now been restored.

And thanks, Laura, for moral support.

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