Friday, 25 October 2013

the events - our performances

Our performances were on Tuesday 15 October at 7.45pm and Saturday 20 October at 2.45pm. On Tuesday we arrived for 6pm, I guess mostly straight from work; on Saturday I aimed for 1pm but turned out it was meant to be 1.30pm, but I wasn't the only one. I guess because we needed less of a run-through on the Saturday - which is why we got there early. We went through all our songs with Jessie and Polina, with the lead-in often being done for us by Rudi and Neve, who were there for most of the time. We also got the volunteers for the 'frequently asked questions' and the 'what am I' statements (I volunteered for both on the Tuesday, and just the latter on the Saturday; it wasn't that I was mad keen, but some folk clearly weren't up for it, so I don't think I denied anyone an opportunity). After we'd finished rehearsing, which we did in the theatre space, we went into another room to wait (and from which we could go out to the toilets). Neither time were we there particularly long. The room we were in was I think being used as rehearsal space for The Scottsboro Boys, as there musical instruments there. When I went out to the toilet on the Saturday I went to the ones upstairs, which meant that I went through the queue who were waiting to get in to see The Events, which felt quite odd.

Both performances went pretty well, I think. Once they took us out of our room they split us up so that we came into the stage space from two different points, and encouraged us to get into conversation before we went on so that we would wander on naturally, still in those conversations, although as it happened I wasn't talking to anyone either time as we went on. I didn't notice it so much on the Tuesday, as I don't think we were waiting so long in readiness before we went out, but on the Saturday I got quite involved in a conversation with Marian, so that it took me surprise when we went out and all of a sudden we were around the piano and ready to launch into our opening song. Perhaps the 'getting into conversations' was as much to reduce that nervousness and anticipation before going on as it was about how we went out.

On Tuesday we started with Ho ro haradala, and got applause - it's the kind of song with the kind of finish that lends itself to getting applause. It went well enough that some folk wondered if we should do it again as our song on Saturday. (In our original open dress rehearsal, the play started and finished with one of the choir's songs, but they'd changed this for the performances to just one at the start.) Our plan for Saturday was Mingulay Boat Song, which we'd done at the open dress along with Caleb Meyer.

I said in a group email, 'I'm for sticking with plan to sing Mingulay. Makes it different, interesting to see what difference it makes to the experience for us, the actors, the audience, kicking off with a slower, more melodic, reflective, evocative song. Will it set a different tone? No one will whoop. Will people laugh when the boy speaks his first words which aren't 'ja tak' - which I wasn't expecting, and which they didn't when I saw the play. Did we put the audience in that place, singing such an up song, full of energy? It's fascinating stuff! (To a particular kind of mind...)'

What I thought would happen, did: we didn't get applause, and they didn't laugh when the boy spoke first. In fact, I'm pretty sure there was less laughter throughout, though I wouldn't credit that all to our opening song. I'm sure the actors do it differently and draw different aspects out every time.

I think each time I did my 'what am I' line I got a laugh, I'm not sure why; perhaps it was the line, perhaps it was because I looked intently at Rudi as I said it, perhaps I just sound funny.

In Tuesday's shamanic ritual Rudi lay down and put his leg in the air. Since nobody else did, I went and lay beside him and put my leg in the air too; nobody else joined us. I should have lain opposite him and put my foot to his foot, to create an archway, the required 'symbolic portal', but I chickened out of going that far.

We didn't mess anything up and it all went pretty well, I think. On the Tuesday some of started the Norwegian Coffee Song too early but we all carried on and started when Neve then indicated we should, but it didn't sound awful, and in fact Bethan (who was there for that performance) said she hadn't been sure if it was deliberate or not, so that was okay.

Friends and family, and other audience members we overheard, seemed to enjoy it in general, and think we did well, although some did find it a bit confusing, which is understandable. After the Saturday one, when I came out, a chap said to me we'd done really well; he also said 'I could hear *you*', which was a bit unnerving.

It was a great experience, and I'd readily do something like it again. You can see why peple do amateur dramatics, just for the buzz, never mind money. Although I haven't been in the choir long, I did get the impression that it had raised our confidence about what we could do, in terms of ability, and also reflected that we're pretty good at being ready to and confident at giving things a go.

After both performances I did try to say in person or by tweet to the professionals involved thank you and how much I'd enjoyed being involved. Jessie said I had a good voice, which was kind - I tended to fear that all I had going for me was volume. Polina and others for their part expressed their thanks for the choir, both that we were good and our readiness to throw ourselves into things.

On my way off stage on the Saturday I squeezed Neve's hand and said think you. When I got home the Gilmours were still visiting, and Harry wanted to shake my hand, as doing so put him two handshakes away from Matt Smith; I did so, and told him the last hand I'd held was Neve's. Conversely, I wrote this on Facebook on Saturday evening: 'Cherub had a choice this morning: to go with Bethan to her choir rehearsal or to go with me to mine. If you come with me, I said, you might meet the woman we've seen in Doctor Who (Neve McIntosh, who plays Madame Vastra, was one of the two actors in The Events, which our choir took part in on Tuesday and this afternoon at The Young Vic). Cherub, unstarstruck, looked at me quizzically: "Why would I want to do that?" Why indeed. Cherub went with Bethan.'

case histories

I finished reading Case Histories by Kate Atkinson yesterday; it was a good read, and I'll read more of Kate Atkinson (she's been on my to-read list for a while). My nearest comparison would be Alice Thomas Ellis, but a bit warmer. I was a bit disappointed with the ending, though; on the one hand it seemed to peter out somewhat; on the other, the private detective hero found out two different murderers, but for no apparent reason that made any sense reported neither of these findings (and in one case the murderer was identified by someone else and you wonder why she wouldn't have then come forward herself in any case. Apart from that, most enjoyable.

private eye cartoons

Two Private Eye cartoons from 6 September issue.

Two pictures, side by side, of Paul McCartney on stage, with fans looking glum in one and ecstatic in other. Cartoon headed 'The importance of grammar demonstrated by Sir Paul McCartney'. In the first pic he is saying (in block caps in cartoon) 'Here's a song I wrote yesterday', in the second 'Here's a song I wrote - Yesterday'.

Man on laptop with handheld device, saying to unimpressed woman, 'I think you'll find that what I lack in charisma and personality, I make up for in social media presence.'

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

the events - in the audience

I saw the opening performance - first preview, rather than 'opening night', I think, whatever difference that makes - of The Events in its Young Vic run on Wednesday 9 October - the night after our last choir rehearsal night, but before our Super Sunday rehearsal.

It was good to see it as an audience member rather than a choir member. It didn't have the same impact as the dress rehearsal, of course, because it was the second time I'd seen it, but I did pick up more of it since I was able to concentrate on it rather than looking at the booklet to see where we were and thinking about our next bit. But from things said during later rehearsals, and in Neve's blog post about Dublin, there were also changes to the text in addition to those I'd actually noticed. I'd noticed, for example, that in the phase where Rudi plays several characters talking to Neve in succession that she gave a two-word intro at the start of each scene (the father, the journalist, the friend, the politician). The changing of the characters, and who Rudi was portraying now, was something that did take me a while to tune into in the dress rehearsal, and from comments after our performances (and some of the reviews) some people did still find it a bit confusing. But you could see that as adding to the theme of puzzlement, uncertainty, confusion in the play. In one interview I read or heard, rather than a review so it was I think an 'official' interpretation, part of the idea was that Rudi depicting all the other characters was partly communicating the sense that Claire was seeing The Boy in everyone. Another thing I only picked up from reading about it, I think, was that when Claire imagines killing a baby, she's imagining having killed The Boy at birth; I'd have got it eventually... The ending was more tense than I'd got the first time, re whether Claire was going to poison the boy or not, but again Neve's blog made me unsure how much of that I'd missed and how much was new.

The choir for that performance was the Morley Chamber Choir, from Morley College. They were good, but very polished; too polished for my taste, and certainly for depicting a 'community choir', but that's hardly their fault. Their own song was a spiritual from Tippett's Child of our Time, I think. (They wrote about it in their programme note; each night there was an insert in the programme telling a bit about that evening's choir.) Neve in her Dublin blog made a similar comment re some of the choirs sounding too professional; perhaps that's why they seemed to like Morris, we're not too good! It was interesting that at our dress rehearsal we got applause after our song, but they didn't; partly perhaps because it wasn't a song with a big finish that prompted applause, but I think more so that people weren't sure that they should applaud and because no one led off confidently then it didn't happen.

In a conversation on our first performance night, I think, Polina said that it was interesting the difference the choir made; for example, if it was a more professional-sounding choir singing something religious at the start then it seemed to draw out the religious/spiritual elements.

The only thing which I tipped off my fellow choir members about as a result of seeing it was that at the end during the applause and bows, Neve and Rudi turned to the choir and bowed, and the choir, possibly taken by surprise, didn't bow, and it looked a little odd; so I did say they would do this and we should be ready to clap.

Funnily enough, when I got to the theatre, about twenty past seven, Neve was outside, and I held the door open for her to come in behind me.

Monday, 21 October 2013

the events - choir rehearsals and super sunday

So in the weeks leading up to our Events performances we rehearsed the songs at our regular rehearsals, and then on Super Sunday (which for us was Sunday 13 October, at Morley College), which is a rehearsal at the start of the week (Sunday or Monday) for all the choirs involved that week.

Doing the songs at our own rehearsals went pretty well. They had dropped one altogether ('that girl beside the fire', which I hadn't been that keen on anyway, a bit staccato, a bit tricky, a bit cold and the best bit was at the end when it went warm and harmonic, which was rather like 'we're all here'), and made changes to others (most notably to us the start of Bonkers, cutting the 'boom's and the 'tss tss' headphone leak rhythm). Apart from Bonkers, the other songs were the Norwegian Coffee Song, Soul, How Great Thou Art, Gavrilo Princip and We're All Here; also, one female choir member had to hum a lullaby-type tune under a speech by Claire.

Rosie in the choir would record the rehearsals of particular songs and email them around, which was a great help. The ATC had also prepared recordings of each piece, with different parts drawn out in the balance to help you learn your part. Those were helpful initially especially, although it was hard to pick out your own part particularly even on the specially done ones, and were also done more formally than our style, so as we made our own recordings of our own rehearsals I tended to rely on those.

Also, each choir made different decisions about what they would do with the harmonies. Because ours is a non-music-reading choir, Michelle had decided not try to teach us all the harmonies so we did more in unison - in particular, How Great Thou Art (except a couple of folk who could read music did the harmonies) and Gavrilo Princip (which I think was unison first time through then harmony second time through on paper; the harmony sounded good, especially when I heard it on the joint rehearsal, but unison had its own power too).

There were bits we were pretty at ease with, and others that were a bit trickier. Preparing for the dress rehearsal in particular we were a bit ropey in one bit of How Great Thou Art because it's the kind of tune that there are slight variants of, so even those of us who knew it (and I was surprised how many didn't seem to know it at all) knew different versions of it. But moreso there was a bit in Bonkers I found very hard to find the note for, and the Soul section was quite hard to get to grips with.

The Super Sunday rehearsal was good, but I felt a little less confident at the end of it, though I didn't let on, because I was sure we would pull things together in the pre-performance rehearsal on the Tuesday evening. It was quite similar in structure to the first rehearsal we - and I guess all the other choirs - had with James and Polina, except this time it was assumed we knew the music. Sally Christopher, the woman who had been involved in getting the choirs on board, was there to introduce, then Jessie Maryon-Davies, who was the pianist for this week's performances, warmed us up and ran through all the music. (She was very good.) Then in the second half Polina came and we went through the songs again in their place as she described the action to us.

We were all sat in our massed parts rather than in choirs, which meant that our lower ladies (and a couple of ladies from other choirs) were sitting with the tenors, since that was the part we were singing. (Essentially I seem to be the only tenor at the moment in Morris, which is why I'm a lower lady; I don't mind being a lower lady.) There were bits I was more confident about afterwards, and it was interesting to hear the other choirs doing harmonies we weren't doing (the Gavrilo Princip was the only bit I thought it would have been good to have got, if we'd had more time).

But there were bits where there had been slight changes from the versions we'd been working from in our rehearsals. Those were the bits I was a bit concerned about, not because they were difficult, but because about a third of our choir wasn't there, and I thought that on the Tuesday night we were either going to have to unlearn the changes or cement them and also have the others learn them. At our last choir rehearsal we had practiced for the first time an ending for Bonkers which involved just three voices, including me, but when I saw the play (the day after that rehearsal, but before the Super Sunday) they sang that with all the voices so I was neither surprised nor disappointed when that was how it was done at Super Sunday.

Monday, 14 October 2013

the events - tour coverage and basking in reflected glory

In the weeks since the dress rehearsal I have been basking in reflected glory, as The Events went on with great success to the Fringe, via a first public performance at a festival in Norfolk, and then to Glasgow, Oxford and Dublin. It's at the Young Vic now, then in November going to Hull, Bristol, Birmingham and Plymouth.

As part of the dress rehearsal, I couldn't help but feel partly responsible for the success in Edinburgh. Also, they had taken photos at our rehearsal which they then used for press photos, so in quite a few of the reviews and articles they used photos which included some of the choir (though not me). The full set of photos is on their Facebook page here.

Here is a set of links to reviews and related articles which I've noted over the weeks (mostly through links from Tweets). They're just in the order I noted them, and mostly Edinburgh-related.

Telegraph, 2 August ('What do we do about evil?', interview with David Greig and director Ramin Gray). British Theatre Guide Edinburgh review. A Younger Theatre Edinburgh review. Telegraph Edinburgh review. Guardian Edinburgh review. What's On Stage Edinburgh review. Scotsman Edinburgh review. Times review (can't see much of it through the paywall, though I'm sure I saw the whole thing at the time). BBC Scotland Edinburgh-related article. Arts Desk Edinburgh review. Postcards from the Gods blog Edinburgh review. Evening Times interview with David Greig. Irish Times Dublin review. Oxford Times Oxford review. Another Irish Times Dublin review. Patrick Lonergan blog Dublin review (long, interesting reflection). Entertainment.ie website Dublin review.

On the Actors Touring Company blog, apart from my email, were these. Interview with Ramin Gray and John Brown (director and composer, transcript of Youtube interview after first rehearsal with a choir). Christine ventures into the Events (an account of a rehearsal). Nick Williams on winning a Fringe First ('I acknowledged the massive team effort, and then talked about our brilliant choirs. They truly are the heart of the show, giving energy and enthusiasm and trusting us to take them on a journey through dark waters.'). Stars and Awards (including a Fringe First and the Carol Tambor award). The Choir Whisperer (by Sally Christopher, the choir coordinator) (giving special thanks 'to the Morris Folk Choir for jumping in at the deep end for the open dress'. 'It'll be alright, people will come' (interesting blog by the stage manager). Do it, do it, do it (post by one of the Edinburgh choirmasters and a choir member, title being the advice to any choir thinking of doing it). Neve in Dublin (with some interesting insights into text changes and working with the choirs).

There's also an ATC page on Youtube which has a number of videos, including a good trailer and audience reaction clips set 1 and set 2 after the open dress rehearsal.

And ATC's Storify page has these Story sets of Tweets: Open dress rehearsal (there are three of my tweets in this one); Edinburgh first night reactions; sample of Fringe responses; the events in Glasgow; the events in Oxford; and the London previews (the first of which I was in the audience - there's a Morris tweet in this one).

the events - the post-dress-rehearsal email

This is what I said in my email to ATC after The Events open dress rehearsal:
'I was in the Morris Folk Choir at the rehearsal of The Events last night. It was a great play, and great to be a part of it. Thank you.
'I had cried, for the first time in many years, the morning after Andy Murray's victory at Wimbledon. We had been talking about it at work, and I said that what I was thinking about most was the mixed feelings there must be in Dunblane of pride in Andy and sorrow over his fellow schoolchildren who never got the chance to grow up and do things with their lives. Which made me cry.
'It would make me a little cross when people would complain about Andy Murray being insufficiently cheerful. When you've sheltered in an office while someone is shooting your fellow pupils in another part of your school, you have the right to be dour from time to time.
'Nobody feels like singing *all* the time.
'But whatever you've been through, you do still feel like singing some of the time.
There's a lot packed into that 2% of DNA which is just us.
'Best wishes for the tour, and thanks again.
'Iain MacDonald'

I have that text not because I still have the email, but because they put it on their blog.

I had been keeping an eye out for Events coverage, on places like the Young Vic website and the Actors Touring Company website, and I think it was after I'd sent that email to the ATC that I said to Michelle that it was a shame the choir didn't have a Twitter account, as it was another way to promote our events etc and we could mention our involvement with The Events; I also said that I'd had a look (!) at likely possible names to see if they were free, and that I'd be happy to set up an account and then let someone else run it (I thought I was a bit new to be muscling in myself). Michelle said set it up, and run it, so I did.

I think it was the day after I'd set it up that ATC got in touch to thank me for my email - which I'd sent a few days earlier - and asked if they could put it on the blog that they were setting up for The Events on their website, which they were giving a bit of an overhaul. They said they'd credit me, and give a link to me on Twitter (I'd also tweeted them); I said no problem, but could you include two twitter addresses, mine and the choir's, as although it was a personal response rather than an official choir response it would be good to give the choir a bit of a plug, and they said fine. (They did then give the blog post the title 'Message from London Morris Folk Choir', which I was a bit embarrassed by, but no one in the choir seemed to mind when I told them about it apologetically.)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

the events - choir rehearsal and open dress rehearsal

James and Polina from ATC came along to the Morris rehearsal on Tuesday 23 July to introduce us to the music for The Events, and they did it really well. Polina (Kalinina) is an Associate Director with the Actors Touring Company, whose production it is, and James (Slimings) was part of the team coaching the choirs on the music; Polina talked us through the production and James taught us the songs. They (or colleagues) were doing this with every choir. We rattled through it in around our usual two hours of rehearsal, though they said they usually intend to give it three hours. They had sent through the music to Michelle just a couple of days before, I think, and she sent it round. There was some apprehension between then and the rehearsal, but there was also mutual encouragement, and a lot of encouragement and positive feedback on the Tuesday.

(In The Events, by David Greig, there are only two actors (someone playing Claire and someone playing all the other parts), plus a community choir who sing and take a limited part in the action, and are onstage throughout. The idea is that wherever it is performed a local community choir would take part, rather than using a choir of actors. The intention may have been to have a different choir for every performance, but some choirs are doing two, including ours. The actors in this production are Neve McIntosh and Rudi Dharmalingam; I've seen Neve before, though under a lot of make-up, in Doctor Who, while I don't think I've seen Rudi before (he was in the original production of The History Boys).)

So the next day, Wednesday 24 July, we went along to the Young Vic after work to do it with them in the open dress rehearsal. They had chosen Morris for the dress rehearsal because Morris had been one of a number of choirs involved in an Events-related workshop during a choirs weekend on the South Bank earlier in the year, and they'd obviously liked Morris's attitude/approach in some way. (They had had a small choir of actors during the rehearsal period, to help them rehearse.) As I think would be the pattern for all the performances, they had another run-through of the music, plus the staging, with the choir, then a short break, and then the actual performance. The run-through was run by Polina, but also involved the director and the composer; there was a different pianist, Magnus rather than James. The open dress rehearsal meant that there was an audience, but it was of people associated with the production or the theatre in some way (I spoke to people afterwards who were trustees/board members or who had been in the rehearsal choir, for example).

I thought the play was very good (full of questions and issues without trying to give definitive answers and solutions), the actors were very good, as was the pianist, and I thought we acquitted ourselves well. It was well received by the audience. The actors and others involved in the production expressed their appreciation, and we were able to do likewise; it was good to be able to talk a little to both Neve and Rudi afterwards. It was interesting that most of what I talked about was the experience of doing it, still buzzing about it, but in the days afterwards what I thought about was the ideas in the play. I said in an email to the choir afterwards that it was one of the best things I'd ever done. I also sent an email to the ATC saying something about my experience of it.

(In fact, I did wonder to myself if the actual performance of it wouldn't go as well as the rehearsal, partly because we would be more familiar with it and so in danger of being less engaged, but more so because we would be expected to be better having had more time to practice. We shall see.)

me and morris

I'd been thinking of looking for an additional choir, as well as London Gallery Quire.

I went for LGQ when I was looking (in 2010, I think) because you didn't need to be able to read music, it was a kind of music I fancied (not big classical, more traditional, at the folk end of things, not a pop song or gimmicky choir, familiar in style from some of Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band), and it was on a good night for me (there are sites where you can find lists of choirs in your area; I did my research).

I'm very happy with LGQ, but thought I could manage another, as it's only fortnightly. I also wondered if I could find something more folky. I had quite some time ago tried a folk choir at Sharp's, but I didn't stick with it; we most often sang foreign songs in unfamiliar arrangements, and it never felt like I/we were making much headway; I don't remember if there was something that changed that created a point to leave, perhaps a change of day or simply an end of term. (In fact I see I've noted that I saw them in July at the British Library; they were very professional but I'm not sorry I didn't stick with them, as the professionalism and the arrangements weren't my cup of tea.)

I had seen the Morris Folk Choir at Sharp's folk club, during a singer's night, a couple of years ago. One of them took some photos on the night, including a couple of me while I was singing. Afterwards I spoke to Michelle, who was the leader of the choir. Earlier this year Flickr had a relaunch with lots more free space for free customers, which drew me back to it, and I think it was then that I saw those photos again. I don't remember if I'd been thinking of the Morris choir before that, or if that prompted it. Anyway, I found their website again, and saw/heard them elsewhere online. I saw they were on Tuesdays, and thought I'd give them a go.

I went along (to a room upstairs at the Hope and Anchor on Upper Street, where they meet) on Tuesday 25 June, which I think may have been the first Tuesday after I'd decided to see what it was like. I'd noticed on the website that it said that they currently had a full complement. I'd also noticed that the last Tuesday of the month was usually a folk club, with a shorter, open rehearsal beforehand, and I thought that would be a good way to see what the choir was like without crashing a rehearsal. I wasn't sure of the set-up, though, or even if there was definitely a folk club on, so on the day I sent messages to the website email address and the Facebook page, but didn't hear anything (I had left it till the afternoon, so wasn't completely surprised), so decided just to go along anyway.

I'm glad I didn't get a reply, because they'd probably have put me off coming, because it turned out there wasn't a folk club at all, as they were having a concert on the Saturday so had decided to rehearse for that, so I turned up in the middle of the rehearsal. They were apologetic, but I didn't mind, and in fact it suited me better, because I just joined in with them as they were rehearsing. It was mostly solidly folk songs, with some modern songs, but I liked the arrangements.

I didn't go along to hear the concert, but I did go along the next Tuesday for the next rehearsal, but found no one there except a woman who was about to do a try-out for her Edinburgh Fringe comedy show. She was Catriona Knox, and I stayed for it, and enjoyed it. Again Michelle was very apologetic when I emailed to say I'd gone along but no one was there - I hadn't got onto the emailing list yet, so didn't get the email saying the rehearsal was cancelled because the pub had let the room to someone else and so they had a social meeting in a pub elsewhere.

I was signed up to the email group, and read back through emails, which gave me a good flavour of the choir. I remember liking the swopping of information about folk gigs and folk songs there was. I also noticed the info about the choir's coming involvement in a play called The Events at the Young Vic. The emails also indicated that they were looking for a few more men, so the website was a little out of date in that regard; I think I picked up more recently that there is a waiting list for women.

I went back on the next Tuesday, by which time I was pretty sure I was going to give it a go, and the Tuesday after that. And the Tuesday after that, 23 July, was the night James and Polina from the Actors Touring Company came to rehearse us for The Events dress rehearsal the following night.

Friday, 4 October 2013

son of stickler - follow-up appointments

I had my follow-up appointment on Friday 20 September, two weeks after the surgery, at 10.40. I was seen pretty quickly for the initial measurement and assessment, but then saw people come and go for the rest of the morning. The chap who saw me saw I was still there and went to see why. I'm not sure whether I was being saved up or had been overlooked, but someone had my file. I saw a doctor soon after that - I'm going to guess she was Spanish, though I didn't catch her name, though she was very communicative and helpful. She had a look, wanted to have a better look and get the senior doctor (it was Ms Obi's clinic, so may have been her) to have a look too, so put some drops in and asked me to wait to be seen again in about fifteen minutes; it was about 1.15, so I asked if I could go and eat something, which I did.

So, they said that the op had gone well, but that there were two things which concerned them. One was that the pressure in my eye was still too high, as it had been at the time of the operation. (In fact, the ?spanish doctor wondered to herself why I'd been given my follow-up appointment as part of their clinic, which I gathered was more of a glaucoma-related clinic, but I guess worked out it was because of this high pressure; glaucoma, it turns out, is caused by high pressure in the eye.) I was prescribed Azarga, two drops a day. I'd still be on the Maxitrol, the post-op eye drops, going down from four to two drops as scheduled the following day for another two weeks. Azarga is one of those drops with a big list of side effects and who shouldn't take it, and where they ask you if you have any problems with your heart (nothing beyond hypochondria, I thought), and where you have to press the corner of your eye for two minutes after putting it in so that it doesn't get into the rest of your body too much.

The other was that the lens was not sitting in the central position in my eye that it should be, but was slightly to the side. This was not because it had been put in wrongly, but because the sac in my eye in which the lens sits was off-centre. They didn't want to go back in (the sac is held in place by, I'm calling them threads, and I guess trying to adjust them would be major if in fact possible at all), but wanted to see me again, I presumed so they could see how I was coping with this off-centre lens; if I was coping fine, I guessed, that would be fine, and if not they would have a think.

They made me a pair of appointments for Tue 1 October at the same clinic, first for a thorough eye test with the optometrist before being seen by the doctor. (On paper I had 1.30pm appointment with Mr Lim the doctor and 3pm with the optometrist Ms Patel, but they told me to to turn up for the 3pm appointment, as the doctor couldn't see me usefully until I'd had the eye test.) I wasn't cleared for getting a new eye test with a view to getting new glasses.

I remembered on the way home that in the post-retina-op process there had been talk of something being off centre so that my vision wasn't hitting the best place on the back of my eye; I guessed this was the same thing and was sorry I hadn't remembered during the appointment. I wasn't sure whether it would have made any difference in any case - I don't think they thought the off-centredness was a result of the cataract op, and I'm not sure if it was a result of the retina op or if it was something I'd always had or had been developing because of the Stickler's. (I had remembered to mention the retina op and the Stickler's in this appointment.)

I wasn't worried about the high pressure or the off-centre lens, they being under care, but was disappointed about the 'not yet' on getting new glasses. I still had the micropore tape on the right lens.

On Tuesday 1st Oct - this Tuesday - I went in for my 3pm eye test first. The optometrist's name on my prescription was J Mehta, so I presume it was her (of course she told me when I went in, but I never remember). She gave me a full eye test on both eyes (whether or not it was relevant, I told her re the retina, the stickler's and the cataract). At the end she wrote me a new prescription, and said that, as long as the doctor said it was okay, I could get new glasses on the basis of that prescription, which took me by surprise. She went to talk to the doctor while I waited in the corridor, and in no time at all I was in to see the doctor.

I had still had the micropore tape on the right lens, and explained why when she asked, that it had been too disconcerting after the op when the glasses lens was too strong for my needs, which she was fine with. But she took the tape off to measure the strength of the glasses, and I found when I put them back on that they weren't as disconcerting as they had been. And as I sat in the corridor I was pretty sure that I could cope and get about now without putting the tape back on. I have; I guess my eye just needed that bit more time of recovery (and also, of course, there's the good old adaptable brain adjusting). The day after I was still covering the right eye up for reading and computer screen, but I don't need to do that now so much. The wateriness, grittiness and light sensitivity have all pretty much gone too.

The doctor - the ?spanish woman again, with as per last time a once-over from the senior doctor, Mr Lim in this case - tested the pressure again and was very happy with it. She said I should stop the Maxitrol on schedule and just carry on with the Argaxa, and that would be us; as we talked, however, she realised I hadn't been on the Argaxa before but only since the op (ie I guess that I wasn't a glaucoma patient); so she said I should stop the Argaxa when I stopped the Maxitrol (that is, yesterday as I write), and they made another appointment a month hence at which they would test my eye pressure again. If it was fine, then that was fine, it was obviously high related to the op, and was now back to normal; if it was high again, then it might be a permanent after-effect relating to silicone and I would need to go back onto the Argaxa (I guess forever).

As far as the off-centre lens went, she didn't mention that specifically at all. But she said that the eye test done today had shown that I could get a prescription that would take me back up to 6 (in both eyes, I presume) - I presume that means normal vision - and so it was apparent that their concern in the previous appointment was that they would not be able to do that. Again she said, apparently to confirm with me, that the target for the outcome had been such that I would still be short-sighted and need glasses; I said yes. The senior doctor had a quick look and was happy. I was sent off having been told that I could now get new glasses.

Yesterday morning I went into the Institute of Optometry and spent over an hour choosing frames and lenses. I came out £585 lighter, and should get my glasses in a fortnight. The lenses are expensive, only partly because I'm getting light-reaction built in, which will help since I am more light-sensitive in the right eye since the retina op. I looked at quite a lot of frames without regard to price, and came down to two which were both equally expensive; still, they're going to be on my face all the time, I will hopefully have them for a number of years, and it would potentially be a false economy to put very expensive lenses into cheap frames.

As for my eye, we'll see how it feels - how they both feel - when I have my new prescription glasses.

As far as the eye lens goes, Douglas said that a colleague of his has had both his done, and it is disconcerting because both his pupils now appear to sparkle. I haven't noticed such an effect. What I did notice immediately after unveiling the eye the day after the op was how different the colours were from each eye. Everyone says it's much brighter, which is true, but more than that, everything was whites and blues compared to browns and yellows; it was very striking when you alternated between eyes. I don't know if this is all to do with the lens or also to do with the fact that the right eye since the retina op has been full of aqueous rather than vitreous fluid. Either way, I anticipated that the brain would adjust to balance this out; the effect does certainly seem less marked now; I wonder how it will be with the new prescription. There will be more adjustments for the eyes and brain to make then anyway, of course, both for the correct prescription but also for the physical differences in the glasses lenses. The woman in the optician's was taking quite detailed adjustments and measurements, especially in relation to which point on each glasses lens I would most naturally be looking out of, given the position of my pupils, and she indicated that this in particular was quite different from the way my current glasses were configured and would take a bit of getting used to.

So, a couple of weeks till the new glasses, another couple more to the next appointment.