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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Saturday, 26 October 2013
I sometimes think that as one gets older booby traps are set to try, test or annoy us.  Take your pick.
             For example I have to go to see my retinal surgeon regularly - I know, it sounds scary, but it isn’t.  Friends invariably become squeamish when I mention eye surgery to them; but honestly, it doesn’t hurt, going to the dentist is far worse.
            My surgeon is like a magician when it comes to restoring sight - first you can‘t see then you can! Policemen looking younger every year is one thing but it’s something else when your consultant looks as if he’s just been allowed to wear long trousers for the first time.
            Going to his consulting rooms is, I imagine, similar to a social meeting of the mafia - his patients tend to go in for rather large dark sun glasses.  There is also a tendency to shuffle given that deteriorating sight is often inflicted on the, shall we say, more mature members of society.  Hence there is a plethora of walking sticks and various walking aids.
            The wait in the car park, on one visit, was somewhat prolonged as, with bated breath, we watched two very aged patients negotiate the steps up to the front door.  Both had severe mobility problems plus the aforementioned sun glasses.  Now these steps are steep.  And when I say steep I mean it, a mini north face of the Eiger steep.  Going up is fretful, coming down is, shall we say, stimulating and must be agony to observers, “Will she? Won’t she - get to the bottom unscathed?” they must ask themselves.
            Often, in such waiting rooms, people sit and ignore each other - them there black specs would make it easier to do.  But I’ve found that those with bad eyesight are often sociable folks - it’s the same at the eye hospital.  Perhaps having restricted vision reduces inhibitions, easier when you can’t really see who you’re talking to, so can make fewer judgements about them.
            This time we got going quickly, helped by a very jolly and friendly woman who was not a patient, we began to chat and chat and then some more.  Having dealt with various hot news topics - the usual ones, crime, the youth of today, drugs, reality television, and our collective agreement on our feelings for the government and especially NICE, we inevitably got on to the subject of THE steps.
            Everyone was in accord that going down was a dodgy exercise especially for the partially sighted (I should point out that due to the Magician’s skills I am now an ex member of this band - Yippee!)
            ‘My dentist is on the first floor,’ a quiet creature ventured.
            ‘That’s nothing compared to my dentist’s. Two flights and very.’  A lady robustly informed us - having watched her somewhat precarious arrival I clucked in sympathy and then everyone muttered in agreement.  I admired her, she was obviously one of those no nonsense women who are the backbone of the shires and who are handy to know in wartime.
            ‘It’s a mystery to me why my physiotherapist’s treatment room is in the basement.  To make matters worse the steps are covered in moss,’ an elderly gentleman added his pennyworth.  This was becoming quite competitive, I thought.
            ‘Why are lawyers’ rooms always on the top floor of Georgian buildings with no lifts?’  The speaker was right.  Nearly everyone had a story of the legal profession skulking in the attics.  One man swore that he needed oxygen when he got to the top and was convinced that was where he would one day croak it.  I forbore to ask if this lawyer was the one who held THE will, it seemed a bit tasteless.
            Why was it?  We puzzled.  The indomitable lady put her finger on it.
The problem lay, she said, with the city we were in, a beautiful, perfect, Georgian gem - Historic Buildings wallahs would stamp on any change to steps.  ‘So, the blind and lame, just have to put up with it,’ she barked, and I doubt anyone would argue with her - about anything, come to that.
            I was itching to get in with my example.  ‘I know a chiropodist and his staircase is vertiginous.  You see these poor people with poorly feet, needing crampons to get to him.’
            Everyone congratulated me on my fine illustration.  I was excited now.  I reckoned I could top that.  ‘I attend the local Parkinson’s Association meetings and guess where they are held, on the FIRST floor.’
            Gasps of astonishment went up.  I reckon I had won the great steps debate with two fine examples.
            After seeing the magician and receiving a good report on the state of my retina - Yippee again!  I set off down the steps and, guess what, I tripped.  And it crossed my mind, as I hung onto the hand-rail for dear life, Georgian city or not, what about ’ealth and Safety?

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