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Saturday, July 06, 2013

There used to be a time when the only concrete proof I ever had that I'd been somewhere, was a parking ticket and a restraining order. But these days, my every move seems to be certificated and signed off by a doctor...

Although if you're going to have someone keeping an eye on you, it might as well be an ophthalmologist. I'm just glad she was the only one to sign it. If Ambroise Paré had added his initials, I wouldn't have been able to show it to the children.

Anyhoo, as the quality azured certificate above indicates, I spent yesterday in Southampton, hobnobbing with the eye team. It was a long day, as the train between here and there stops at approximately three-hundred-and-fifty-two stations, each about twenty yards further on than the last. Which is handy, as if you sleep through your stop, you can get off three stations later, and walk back in about two minutes flat.

Southampton appears to be populated by taxis which are 'pre-book only', meaning that they're not licensed to pick up passengers on the street. As a result, if you walk up to one of them parked outside the station, they won't let you get in until you've phoned the number on the side of the car and spoken to an operator. At which point they instantly accept that as a 'booking', and let you climb aboard. It's a nice way of getting around the law.

The five minute drive to the hospital cost half as much as the two hour train ride from Brighton, but it meant I was there in time to down a cup of coffee in one gulp before the meeting began. Southampton General Hospital is a fascinating place. Entering the main building is a lot like walking into Legoland: not only is it huge, but all you can see are shops stretching out into the distance. It's like a cross between Bluewater and Heathrow. And you can only consult a doctor once you've walked past Burger King.

Lunch was included, so I was expecting a Whopper and fries, but as it transpired, we received a mouth-watering array of sandwiches and filled rolls, plus some afternoon cake to die for. Possibly from diabetes-related complications. Not that the food was my main reason for attending. I was mostly there for the freebies. And I'm pleased to say that I came away with four pens, two posters and a mouse mat.

I also took this photo...

That was the result of a close encounter with a young, female ophthalmologist, who took me into a dimly lit room, and then leaned in close and invited me to take a picture. So I snapped a microaneurysm in an OCT scan. It's the burning ring of fire, up, up, up from the mouse pointer.

The walk from the academic block to the eye department was a bit like hiking the Appalachian Trail, but without the extramarital affairs, and took in the mortuary viewing room (which looked dead good), and enough wrong turns to confound the most ardent of stalkers. It's a miracle the blind can ever find it.

But between there and the lecture theatre, I had an excellent day. I spoke to people from five different screening programmes, learnt some eye-opening facts, watched an intravitreal injection, and heard enough stories to fill a book. Which I'll probably have to write under a pseudonym to avoid being sued. It might have taken me three hours to get home (half of which was finding the way out of the hospital) but it was well worth making the trip.