March 2021: A New Hope?

Mar 10, 2021 | Stuart's Patient Newsletter

I think I should confess that I’m a secret “Star Wars” fan.

I enjoyed the last couple of films, but particularly liked the first three. I remember vividly seeing the first one in 1977 – I’m still not sure why George Lucas started with Episode IV? We were living in Blyth at the time and myself and my mate Wally Wilson, queued around the block – no social distancing in those days – for over an hour before the film was due to start, to ensure we got in.
There was a sense of excitement amongst us young teenagers, not fully knowing what to expect. The old Wallaw Cinema in Blyth (it’s now disappointingly a Wetherspoons pub!!), always had a great atmosphere to it. The cinema was best described as shabby and always had the smell of stale cigarette smoke, but you always had a great sense of anticipation when you rushed up the steps to get a good seat when the doors opened. That night in 1977 we weren’t disappointed; we loved the film and I’ve watched everyone since.

So…. why am I rambling on about “Star Wars”?

Well, that first film was called “A New Hope” and memories of it came back to me this morning when I was walking the dogs at about 6.30am. I felt a feeling of a new hope; it’s the first morning this year that I’ve managed to walk without using a head torch, it was mild, the blackbirds were feeding hard and the snowdrops were in full bloom. It definitely felt like Spring and that feeling of a new start.

The sensation of Spring and the road map laid out by the Prime Minister last week, has given me a new hope for the rest of this year that life will get back to normal. We are starting to take delivery of the newly released frame ranges and it’s always exciting to see what the latest styles are.

One or two of the shops in Newcastle, while not yet open, have staff members inside decorating, putting new stock in place and generally getting ready to re-open. I’ve definitely sensed at positive change for the better over the last week in Newcastle, so fingers crossed it continues.

On reflection, while the last 11 months have been difficult to say the least, there have been some positives to come out of it and as Churchill said “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.

Firstly, there has been a lot less traffic on the roads, so on a couple of occasions I’ve cycled to pick up spectacles from the glazing workshop we use. Secondly, I’ve seen more of Maria, as I’ve done more paperwork at home. I’ve learnt to use Zoom and had virtual meetings with frame and equipment suppliers in America. None of these would have happened without Covid.
The new frame supplier makes individual frames, using facial recognition technology, to ensure the frame fits you perfectly. We are just starting to experiment with it ourselves so hopefully I will have more information for you next month.

I’ve also attended a virtual Sports Vision conference!

As some of you know one of my pet subjects is sports vision as it perfectly combines 2 of my great passions, sport and vision. I gained my post-graduate Certificate in Sports Vision in 2001 and am a keen member of the International Sports Vision Association. Each year there is a 2-day conference in America showcasing the latest research and latest equipment. I’ve never been able to justify the cost of attending in person, however, this year it was online!

So, I spent 6 hours last Saturday and 6 hours on Sunday night “attending” the conference. I’m sure it’s a sign I’m getting older when an exciting Saturday night is sitting in front of a computer listening to lectures. The way the England cricket team are playing at the moment, I feel I should offer them my sports vision services!

One of the major downsides of Covid-19 is that Maria has not been able to take the dogs to dog training, or puppy club as it affectionately known in our house. This is usually on a Saturday morning and if I’m off, I go along with them.

Both Leo, who is now 7, and Willow who is 2 will do anything Maria asks them however, my training skills are definitely a work in progress! Leo doesn’t actually need me to tell him what to do, he does it correctly even if I give him the wrong commands, the same cannot be said about Willow!!

I was walking with them around the local fields a couple of weeks ago when the snow was on the ground. Unfortunately, their leads got tangled and as I unwound them Willow’s unfastened, she was…. free!!!! and took off across the field to chase the pheasants that were feeding on the far side. My best recall commands, hand signals and whistle commands had no effect what-so-ever!

After about 15 minutes of running around like a headless chicken she came back. I would like to say it was my skill, but it definitely wasn’t. It was the fact that Leo barked (obviously some sort of warning bark) and she came straight back and sat beside him.

When we finally got home, I was moaning to Maria about how badly trained Willow was, to which Maria protested and took Willow into the back garden to demonstrate. For 10 minutes Willow did a series of perfect recalls for Maria – advanced recalls! – to prove that there was nothing wrong with Willow’s training. Maria took great pleasure in telling me that the problem lay with the handler, NOT the dog. I would love to know why dogs and children will do what Mum says but not what Dad says…. it’s another one of life’s mysteries!

One of the other positives over the last 11 months has been these e-Newsletters. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing them and am very grateful for the positive comments some of you have made. I’ve decided to continue with these rather than return at the moment, to our old-style paper Newsletters. To help with this we are trying a new format as I wanted to start including some images in the newsletters.

I know they are not everyone’s cup of tea, so don’t forget if you don’t want to read these ramblings, you can opt-out and I won’t be offended. We care about your data and will never use it for anything you don’t want us to, so at the bottom of every email is an unsubscribe link – you can opt out at any time and this WON’T affect the email and text reminders we send when you book an appointment with us.

As a business we’re very conscious of our carbon footprint and are always looking at ways in which we can reduce our effect on the environment. So, I hope you like the new format and as always, I welcome your thoughts on ways I can improve these ramblings.

Well, my Darjeeling tea is getting cold, so I’m off for a fresh brew. Hopefully many of you will have had at least one vaccination and everyone else will have theirs soon. We’ve all had our first vaccinations, as we are classified as front-line health care workers. We continue to have 2 lateral flow tests each week, in order to keep you safe when you visit us.

I really feel a sense of new hope for this year. Please look after yourselves, stay safe and I hope to see you soon.

Best wishes,
p.s. It was Maria’s birthday last month, and thanks to all your suggestions at Christmas she got a handbag, rather than the usual perfume, so she was very happy!