Harry Turner's Episodes of Personal History
Cataracts 2    | HISTORY Page | Obituary Page |

The Problems

9 November 1976

I get so involved in my own activities that I lose track of the passing of time, and only surface sporadically to keep in touch with people. Partly this obsession to concentrate on doing the things that have been neglected in past years, is triggered off by the knowledge that my time left in which to do them is strictly limited. I still "waste" time I suppose, but I make progress, too, and can see some concrete results for my efforts.

It seems a long time since the depressions of last year: apart from the work-stress situation, I suppose some of the trouble was a resentment at the realisation that my sight was deteriorating and that I was losing the ability to do so many things that I'd just taken for granted. I'm so visually oriented that it just seemed about the worst thing that could have happened to me. Of course, it isn't, and though I tend to count the seconds I spend away from what I want to do, in a sense I am fatalistic and accept the situation and am determined to keep on exploring my visual preoccupations as long as I am able.

I don't get anything like the amount of reading done that I used to. I have difficulty in reading newspapers unless the light is very good – which means I never get chance to catch up with the papers while I'm commuting on the train. I tend to hawk around an anglepoise lamp when I'm at home so that I have enough illumination to read; one of these days, I can see myself walking around with a miner's lamp on my forehead in the effort to unscramble the faint xeroxed copies that seem an indispensable part of meetings at work.

I've given up going to the film society because it became impossible to read the subtitles on foreign films: I'd be working hard deciphering them only to have them snatched away before I was halfway through, and making myself unpopular with incessant mutterings of "What did it say? What did it say?". . . I have occasional trouble focussing on the TV screen and have to sit nearer than most, but the same complications arise with subtitles.

1978 February
From a letter to David Scott Blackball, In Touch, BBC Radio

I am a graphic designer by profession but the effects of cataract during the past few years have made it increasingly difficult to work normally. Since the deterioration in eyesight has been gradual, I have been able to accomodate myself to the change to some degree, but seem now to have reached the stage where it is impossible to deal with detail work. I must be one of many people in this position . Can you put me in touch with someone, or some organisation, who might have helpful information on the problems arising from cataract?

1978, March
From a letter to Anne Theakstone, In Touch, BBC Radio

I have been to see a specialist about the cataract and am due to go for a further visit in July, when I will raise the matter of low vision aids. As I mentioned earlier, the deterioration in vision has been so gradual that I have had time to adapt to the situation in many ways. My real problems are just starting I suppose, since while my right eye has lost all useful vision for some time, I now find that my 'working' left eye is also affected.

I find myself very dependent upon light levels and directed illumination when working, with problems from glare and awkward reflections. Conventional working methods have to be modified: it is no longer possible, for example, to lightly sketch in a design as a guide to finished work. I can no longer distinguish such details. Instead I draw an initial sketch in black ink on detail paper, then use a light-box instead of a drawing table, so that I can see the sketch relatively clearly through the paper on which the 'finished' work is drawn. It is far less strain to work in this way, with the light coming through the paper. I realise such tricks are a temporary measure, but at least they enable me to turn out a fair quota of work.

I have reading problems too (I'm short-sighted) and have not yet found a satisfactory magnifier... The closed-circuit TV sounds as though it could solve many problems for some time to come, but I'd have to sell my record collection (or some other family heirloom) to meet the prices quoted!

Just at the moment, I have a feeling that time's running out on me so far as doing the things I enjoy – drawing and painting – and there's a slight irony in the fact that I recently interested a publisher [Dover Books of New York] in several books on design, essentially concerned with perception and perceptual problems.

Reading becomes an increasingly tortuous process, a continual struggle to retain the place, to retain sense and continuity. As the mists obscure all but a few letters at a time, I find myself slipping back in search of a lost word. Printed type gets greyer, merges with the grey page... It's no longer possible to skim over a page to get the sense. There's no pleasure in it. ■

to page topSole © RFV&SDS, 2009.email address to contact