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Cedar Gansey, Week 8: 3 September

“Well, I’m back”, exclaims Sam Gamgee at the very end of The Lord of the Rings. And so are we. But whereas Sam went on an epic quest to defeat evil, then saw his injured master finally depart in a mystical allegory of death and eternal life, we went to Northampton and back. (Though there were times—while searching for something to eat in Charnock Richard motorway services, for example, a sort of cross between Dante’s Inferno and Tolkien’s Desolation of Smaug—when I thought I knew just how Sam felt.)

Sunset over Edinburgh

It was lovely to spend time with family and friends, and to experience the joys of 21st century civilisation. The latter included ordering something online and have it arrive the very next day. This was a special treat for us: usually when Amazon invites us to track a package it involves checking in to find out if the courier has harnessed all the huskies to his sled; as though Lewis and Clark, on eventually reaching as far as the Snake River, had asked one of the Blackfoot Indians they encountered to sign for delivery.

Trees by the lake, Delapre Abbey, Northampton

I had a strange experience last week, almost certainly a migraine. But it was a new type for me. One night I realised I was having difficulty seeing out of my left eye, and then I noticed a curious phenomenon: there was a shimmering strip of light, jagged like the blade of a saw but with more pronounced triangles, just to the left of wherever I looked. It rippled and I had the sensation of light cascading over it, like a brilliant migraine Niagara Falls. I shut my eyes, then blinked rapidly, and after some minutes the effect went away, to be replaced with a splitting headache and a disconcerting feeling of vertigo. The lights and the headache haven’t recurred, but the ground seems further away than I remember.

The Avenue, Delapre Abbey, Northampton

On the plus side, knitting is a fun activity that doesn’t involve standing up; and I’ve made good progress. I’ve finished the first sleeve and am fairly embarked on the second. If I apply myself (I have another week’s holiday ahead of me) I might even finish it this week. I usually err on the loose side of sleeves and cuffs, so that I can roll them up past the elbows if I feel like it. This time—remembering what it’s like to go outside in a Caithness wind—I’ve opted for a close-fitting cuff.

Meanwhile I keep looking out of the corner of my eye, hoping to see again whatever it was I saw last week. But I can’t help feeling short-changed, somehow: other people have life-changing visions of angels or UFOs, and what do I get? Still, the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door I can tell them that no, I haven’t seen God or any of his angels; but on the other hand I think one of them might have left his saw behind…

15 comments to Cedar Gansey, Week 8: 3 September

  • Gordon,

    What you experienced the other day is called “eye migraine” … I get these sometimes, nothing to worry this are NOT the sign of something more serious or sinister.
    All the best
    from a Gansey knitter in Ireland

    • Gordon

      Hello Alexander, and thank you. That was my guess, since the flashing lights and headache haven’t come back. (I’d quite like the vertigo to go as well, but I’ve always had a problematic relationship with my inner ear; we agreed to see other people a while back, and it’s never been the same since.)

      Happy knitting!

  • Dave

    Well I’ve finally twigged where far, far away is. I should have guessed from the accent.

    • Gordon

      Bilbo was quite fond of cake
      And his quest led him on past the lake,
      But the dragon was killed
      And the readers were thrilled
      By a hobbit it’s quite hard to break…

  • Linda Abraham

    I also get ocular migraines, though there is no pain with them. Mine seem to occur more with eye strain, poor lighting, small print, or too much screen time. I close my eyes and relax a couple of minutes and that usually helps them depart. Knitting does not contribute to them …ever. 😊Hope that helps you to avoid another…..

    • Gordon

      Hi Linda, and thanks – though oddly enough it came on while I was knitting. Two thoughts struck me at once: “Oh no! Not the left eye, that’s the “good” one”; and “Aaarrrggghhh! Don’t tell me I’m allergic to knitting now!”

      But probably a combination of bad posture, poor lighting, and staring fixedly for too long. It hasn’t come back, and I’m still knitting, so fingers crossed!

  • Kirsten

    Hi Gordon
    As a fellow migraine sufferer I thought I might join in. My migraines are normally boring pain-only ones, but a few times I have experienced intense flickerings of light in one eye for about 30 minutes which is rather a freaky experience, especially the first time. When it is not followed by a headache it is called eye or ocular migraine, when it is followed by a headache it is called migraine with aura. The ones that are not preceded by a lightshow are not surprisingly called migraines without aura:)

  • Gordon

    Hi Kirsten and thanks for the reassurance. The last time I had flickering lights in one eye it turned out it was caused by the retina peeling away from the back of the eye like old wallpaper – the effect was like a row of red landing lights rippling from bottom to top. Very strange.

    Speaking as someone who has troubles with reality at the best of times, I’d really like it all to stop now, please!

  • =Tamar

    You’ve been to the eye doctor, just in case, right?

    My occasional ocular migraines take the form of blobby white things that run along the lower edge of my vision. When I relax my neck muscles, they go away. The blobs, not the muscles.
    Oh, and sometimes at night the darkness flickers until I turn on the light and make things stay still. And relax my neck.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, of course I have to quote the opening lines of Bob Dylan’s superb “Red River Shore” at this point: “Some of us turn off the lights and we live/ In the moonlight shooting by/ Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark/ To be where the angels fly…”

      I spent an hour today being closely examined in both eyes by a consultant up from Inverness – he thought he’d come up to check out if I have glaucoma (probably not); instead he spent his time looking for, well, other things. More on that next week.

      I always thought ocular migraines should give one the power of prophecy, though presumably that’s oracular migraines instead! Best of luck with yours, though.

  • E

    Migraine with aura, indeed. I had a similar incident a few years ago, sitting in a very important meeting and all of a sudden started seeing jagged light patterns, although mine were more in a circular pattern, and within hours had a nasty painful migraine. I’ve had migraines since at least 25 years, and that was the first one preceded by aura. Like you, I think, my first thought was retinal detachment, but when the standard migraine pain set in later I was reassured.

    I have my own new warning symptom – phantom smell of cigarette smoke. Yippee…

    • Gordon

      Hi and thanks for the reassurance. It’s 25 years since I experienced anything like that, and back then the doctor was concerned enough to get me checked out for a brain tumour! Migraines really do suck, don’t they? (Though at least I’m spared phantom cigarette smoke, which I can’t feel would improve the experience…)

      Hard also not to wince, recalling Sean Connery in his underpants in the bizarre SF movie Zardoz uttering the immortal line, “Stay close to me, inside my aura!”…

  • Dee

    Hello Gordon, I hope the vertigo has improved. Migraines are bad enough without that, and the disconcerting light shows. I knew that zig-zag lights were migraine aura, but when I saw a bunch of little balls of light, my first thought was the “shower of stars” that one is warned about in connection with retinal detachment.

    I must let you know you have company, when it come to thinking “Oh no, not the “good” one!”. I’m currently applying it to wrists – haven’t been able to knit or crochet for months due to injuring the wrist/hand which had previously been my “good” one.

    • Gordon

      Hello Dee, and yes, I seem to be getting over whatever it was that hit me so hard, thank you. Which is lucky as I’m catching a flight to Edinburgh on Sunday!

      The two things I was told to watch out for with retinal detachment were the shower of lights, as you say, and the curtain of darkness dropping over your vision. The good thing is, if you get to a hospital right away, they can fix it. (Mind you, the last time I asked an eye specialist about my risk of this they said cheerfully, “You don’t really have to worry about this now, anything that was going to detach has pretty much detached already!” Huh.)

      Sorry to hear about your wrist. You never think about redundancy in the human body until something like this happens—you never, as the song says, know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Hope you get better soon.

  • Dee

    Thanks so much Gordon. I’m going to try some new exercises and topical treatment for that wrist. And I’m branching out to some different handcrafts and maybe a bit of machine sewing to try to fill the gap in the meantime.

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