The Fault in Our Stars

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Been reading The Fault in our Stars by John Green recently, the main characters in the book are sixteen year old Hazel and seventeen year old Gus, both of whom have cancer. It’s a lovely novel and John Green has obviously had some experience with cancer in teenagers or done his research thoroughly. And it’s a funny book too, gallows humour as we ex nurses call it, the story and characters resonated quite a lot with me because of my time working in hospitals.

However, there’s another character in the book, one of Gus and Hazels friends from the support group called Isaac, he has a rare form of cancer that’s cost him the sight in one eye and early on in the book he goes into hospital to have the remaining eye removed to stop the spread of cancer. Our sight is our most valuable sense, without it we really are severely limited, we lose a lot of our independence, losing our sense of taste is hugely inconvenient but it’s not on the same scale as losing our sight.

Strangely, John doesn’t explore this at all, Isaac goes into hospital and comes out again completely blind but it set me thinking, if I knew I was going into hospital to lose my sight in a few days time, what would be the last things I’d choose to look at?

I think there’s the obvious, my boys would be at the top of the list, I would ‘drink them in’. Knowing that I’d never see their faces again would be hard to take; in the years to come they would always have that youthful (and admittedly somewhat spotty) face, even when they’re bearded family men with teenage children of their own. And there’s so much in the future with my boys that I’m looking forward to, not being able to see their children’s faces, well, I can’t imagine how that would feel.

However, what else, at the end of the week you are losing your sight forever. Well, I’ve particularly enjoyed the colour of the trees this fall so I’d be out there drinking that in too but there are other pleasures that I’d miss terribly. Right now I can pick up my latest book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and read it, unless you get the unabridged edition audio books tend to skip bits, I suppose I could cajole/coerced/blackmail someone very patient/gullible into reading the actual book to me but it’s not the same, we all read at our own speed and even in these Kindle days there’s still a certain pleasure from holding the dead tree version in our grubby mitts; the smell, the feel and reading at my own speed.

And then there’s driving a car and the freedom that gives me. I know Al Pacino drove one as his blind character in Scent of a Woman but I’m not quite sure I’d get away with that in Londons green parks – plus I don’t know my left from my right so I’m bound to crash into a tree! And I think I’d miss the simple pleasures in life, being able to see a fresh orange as well as taste it and smell it, and flowers, and not bashing my head on the kitchen cupboard every time I walk in there. And art, I’ve haven’t got around yet to see Gustav Klimts The Kiss (above) and I can’t imagine not ever being able to see that one day, I have a few other favourite painting, imagine never being able to go to a gallery and see them, I’m sure the staff of the National Gallery wouldn’t be too happy if I started groping their paintings, wouldn’t they..?

However, there’s a restaurant in London that does something that seems completely illogical, it’s called Dinner in the Dark and the general idea is that you eat in complete darkness. It’s pitch black in the dining area and you’re taken through double sets of doors to your table by blind staff (as they are skilled at negotiating obstacles in the dark) and have a choice of four ‘surprise’ menus. The owners know that ‘the first taste is with your eyes’, sight is the dominant sense but they want diners to enjoy the smells, textures and flavours of the meal so it’s lights out time. I suspect a lot of the meal is ‘hands on’, trying to balance garden peas on a fork in pitch black is never going to work and I dare say most diners come out with at least some food down their front. I know I would, even when the restaurant’s fully lit!

Oh, one last thing, if you ever go to this restaurant then you will be pleased to know that the toilets are well lit, you aren’t taken there by a blind guy and have him pull your trousers down and assist you with your aim!