Friday, 28 October 2011


Just for once, a wee personal blog to thank everyone for understanding and patience when I suddenly went as blind as a bloody bat a couple of months ago.

My first cataract surgery (a doddle) went A-1 this week and now I have one eye (almost) back on the job. Its twin will join the team during the first week of December. Right now, the two Celtic green orbs are at war and I see double after more than ten minutes or so in front of a screen. Please bear with me a tiny while longer.

Meantime, authors especially, don’t blame your individual BeWrite Books editor or Tony on tech and design for delays. They’re as on-the-ball as ever. Hold ups are all my fault because I must take a close look at all, post-edit, author-editor corrected manuscripts as the supposed ‘fresh eye’ before we go to print and ebook-live. Surprising what such a third eye – detached from the initial and often extended editorial process – can spot and correct in the nick of time.

And for a couple of months now that eye's been on wildcat strike.

Promised pre-Christmas releases will be produced. Cross my eyes, they will.

What sets BeWrite Books above even the Big Six – let alone the self-publisher – is attention to fine detail. I don’t need to ask those authors we work with whether they’d prefer a slight delay in publication to slap-dash results. We don’t have slap-dash authors. They scream their preference from the rooftops ... quality -- title by quality title. Manuscripts can be in nit-picking edit for a year or more. BeWrite Books does not do slap-dash.

All on the BeWrite Books team agreed that my temporary blindness would not threaten that ethic. As a minnow in a sea of shark- mediocre- and trash-infested slush, it's our saving grace. You'll never know how much I need to thank Tony, Hugh and Sam for making the decision to hold rather than rush and risk flaws.

Just for fun, let me tell you about this rare galloping cataract hitch I suddenly encountered. It really does have its up-side.

I can identify to the very night when I first realised something was wrong. A full moon had just risen and was flashing its signal across the Mediterranean Sea to my wee terrace a couple of hundred yards above. But I didn’t see the usual dappled grey dish ... I saw a ‘moonburst’ – a pyrotechnic display of exploding silver lights, enhanced by haloes of vividly coloured rings.

Sure that this was a unique cosmic event, I called out Skovia and roused all the neighbours. They saw nothing unusual. Even with binoculars and the special glasses we'd saved from the last solar eclipse.

From there in, things got even more psychedelic.

As my sight quickly faded, day by day and, noticeably, hour by hour, lights became my world. Wonderful lights. The glint from a wine glass, a candle flame, a sparkle from Skovia’s bracelet or engagement ring; all became starbursts of fabulous colour. I couldn’t see the glass, the candle or Skovia. I only saw the shining of them. What a thrill!

For the first time, I doubted John Lennon’s claim that his Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds title was an innocent coincidence and that the song’s initials didn’t imply that marmalade skies and kaleidoscope eyes were the result of a tab of acid that tends to dilate the pupils and cause visual hallucination. Skovia had kaleidoscope eyes and I saw marmalade skies -- and I don't do drugs heavier than a decent Highland malt or pure Virginia tobacco in my meerschaum pipes. Maybe with a dash of Perique from St James' Parish where it's exclusively grown.

I traveled in early morning darkness to surgery this week. The long, long motorway, the deep tunnels to Nice with their white, red, blue, yellow signs, the tail lights of vehicles ahead and headlights of those whizzing by in the opposite direction provided an ongoing firework display I’d never believed could happen this side of heaven. Fireworks blaze and fade. But these explosions didn't burn out and dim; as long as I looked, they existed.

Even the utterly painless and speedy wee operation (which I’d dreaded, because I have a thing about eyes) presented a cubist surrealism and colour beyond my dreams.

It’s famously said that what doesn’t kill you strengthens you. I think that’s crap. Tell it to an armless and legless victim of a war or a car crash. Becoming housebound as I lost the ability to walk this past decade didn't exactly broaden my own horizons. It did encourage more hours at the desk, though.

But some seemingly daunting experiences like my last can – if you’ll pardon the expression – give you a new insight on the world around us. I saw things I wasn’t meant to see in the regular course of nature. This weird 'ailment' opened my eyes and my mind to the utter poetry of our surroundings.

For a while there, I lost the words, folks.


But I saw the light.

When I next look, your words will shine all the brighter. I’ll see the glisten of every facet of a phrase. A sentence could become a constellation.

I always prided myself on being a head above the herd in this crazy word game, but maybe I’ll be a better editor for being blind-sided by life butting in when I least expected it.

Happy weekend. Neil


  1. I'm glad your eyes are half back with us! I hope the next surgery goes even more smoothly.

  2. delighted at your progress and grateful for your vivid description of blindness.Plus being flattered by my book covers appearing in such company

  3. Wow - very evocative and yes, touching. Nicely said, Neil.

  4. Oh Neil, EVERYONE has "a thing about eyes" -- it's instinctive. But I'm so glad that you could "see" the beauty in what was happening (small compensation, eh?) even as you overcame your instincts to go for the surgery!


  5. I had detached retina, cataracts and a couple of others. I tend not to notice stuff until it is too late. But now I am fine and I was only almost too late. Keep your eyes open for more fun.