Devotees of my Facebook page have noted that yesterday and today I changed the images appearing at the top. The confluence of rivers Eden and Eamont near Langwathby has been replaced by the family in 2007, so Hugh is there holding his young daughter, and Christine and I in Trafalgar Square in about 1953 have aged a few years in a portrait taken in (I think) Binns photography department in Carlisle, by which time I was stroppier and hated having my picture taken. Still not keen.
I remember that checked shirt. I remember mother fussing about its collar and my hair. She was a great fusser. Trained as a nurse in Wrightington Hospital and Bradford Royal Infirmary, her approach to motherhood was clinical in the extreme. Everything had to be just so. A woman from the village whom I’d not seen for half a century told me that she’d never seen a boy’s toy cupboard as tidy as mine. She obviously thought this reflected on me and I didn’t have the heart to disabuse her. Having said that, those that know me will understand that I am the tidiest of men: a place for everything and everything in something else’s place. The consequences of a free-spirited lad being thus regimented can for now be left to your imagination, for that is not what today’s billet doux is about.
Should you study the photos of the infant yours truly, you will note that my left upper eyelid droops. The jargon word is ptosis (πτῶσις: falling, dropped). A developing ptosis can point to a number of neurological conditions, and it may even signify a tumour of the apex of the lung which invades the neighbouring sympathetic chain, for the nerve supply to some of the eye apparatus reflects a fascinating evolutionary and embryological history that need not concern us today. In my case, ptosis was present at birth. It is congenital. Yes, girls and boys, I’m a freak, a force of nature.
Why a left ptosis?
Who knows? Birth injury? Perhaps the forceps happened to press on the wrong place. But I think not. Ever since my left retina “detached” in 2006 and sight on the left deteriorated and then vanished, I’ve concocted another story about my beloved ptosis.
I think my left eye and eyelid have always been substandard. Vision on the left has always been iffy. Looking back (yes, ha ha, very funny) I’ve always screwed my left eye shut to read. I’ve always had to turn my head more to the left than the right when taking in a view. I’ve never had a good aim in throwing or catching or kicking. Playground fights at Langwathby school never ended well for me so I Iearnt to fight with words.
My lack of hand/foot/eye coordination meant I was the last to be chosen for teams. Mercifully this didn’t happen very often for Miss Metcalfe of truly blessed memory had the extraordinary notion that school was for reading, writing, sums, geography and a bit of history. I have written about her in a previous blog https://ramblingrector.me/2013/07/19/the-happiest-days-of-your-life/
I was therefore hopeless at cricket and football. Penrith Grammar was a rugby school and the only bit of that I even mildly enjoyed, for I had good thighs, was shoving in the scrum – no aim needed once one’s grasp of the opponent’s scrotum was secure. In the main I thought, and think, rugby an incredibly silly game. All those rules – why?
Now, leaving behind the subject of eyes, this set me thinking about why some children are better than others at sporty stuff.
The spinal cord is like an electric cable containing bundles of wires (nerve fibres) each with its own insulation, some carrying impulses from the brain, others to the brain (never, note never, do wires sometimes carry impulses one way and sometimes another – unlike railway tracks that can be signalled bidirectionally). Now, hear this. It takes years after birth for insulation (myelination is the jargon term, myelin being the insulator) to develop fully – indeed in some cases it’s not complete until the late teens. This is one reason why teenagers can be so ungainly and need so much sleep; myelination must be very tiring. Actually, by this reckoning I’m living life backwards. But I digress.
Here’s my theory, so. If myelination is early, then chances are you’ll be well coordinated early, good at sports and win the victor/victrix ludorum prize, your proud parents donating a cup to be awarded at subsequent sports days for other swaggering toads. If, on the other hand, myelination is later than usual, then you risk having the shit kicked out of you by the jocks for being a clumsy lumbering git.