For months now I have been peering at the outside world through a thick net curtain with the odd hole here and there. I haven’t become a ‘Nosy Neighbour’ though, my already limited vision has been exacerbated by cataracts.
My world of shortsightedness began a long time ago. In fact I was seven years old. The school sent home a note to my parents alerting them of the problem.They’d just assumed I was a clumsy child, who fell over a lot, and dropped things.
As the years progressed the lenses in my glasses became thicker – ‘ jam jar bottoms’ was the usual description.
Mind you, it didn’t stop me being “sporty”. I counted the steps needed before I took a metaphorical leap into the dark over the hurdles and high jump, before I took off for the long jump, and worked out which way to throw the javelin.(though, for the latter I did become aware of the the sports teachers always calling out, “it’s Judith’s turn”. Took me a long time to work out why I was so special – and I do wonder what would happen in these days of health and safety). In cross country I would follow the leading group of runners, until my friend told me the finishing line was a hundred yards straight ahead, when I sprinted to the front.
At sixteen, I had my first Saturday job, saved up for contact lenses – and never looked back – well, actually I did look back, and forward, and sideways – and upwards. I’d never realised there were so many stars!! Or should I just say… stars in the sky?
Fast forward a few decades, and suddenly the world became blurry again. Last year it was discovered I’d developed a cataract. I adjusted by writing on the laptop in eighteen font, in bold, and, when reading, altering the Kindle to around twenty words per page..
Which leads me to the ‘getting rid of the cataract’ scenario.
But first a (short – or really, not so short) aside. Two months ago I was diagnosed with a condition called TMD (according to Google, a disorder of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and the nerves associated with chronic facial pain). I was issued with a sheet of ‘DOs and Don’t’s’ –
1.Do not chew gum or pen tops ( Pen tops?!!! ).
2. Do not bite food with your front teeth. (When it’s almost impossible to open your mouth wide enough to get food to your back teeth).
3.Do not yawn too wide. (Try reading that without getting the urge to yawn).
4.Do not bite your nails. ( Anyone remember that horrid tasting stuff your mother painted on you nails as a child to stop that?)
5.Do not clench your teeth – apart from when eating, your teeth should be apart. (See point two)
6. Do not rest your chin on your hand (Even when totally fed up and peering at the laptop screen from three inches to read the last sentence you’ve written?)
Oh, yes, the cataract!
I was given an appointment for the surgery, followed by a rushed, last minute instructions to have a NHS PCR test, not the Government PCR test, which I’d already had (the two do not have systems that communicate with one another, apparently).
So far so good…
The following is a text I sent to a caring, empathetic and long-standing friend…
‘The test was a bit difficult,’ I wrote. “The fully PPI protected nurse said, “Open mouth.“.
Me: “I can’t” Explained about the TMD.
Nurse: “Well, has to be a mouth test, not a nose test. So, open wide. Wider.” Poking stick through my clenched teeth. “Say Ahh.”
Me “Argghh.” Heaving – gag reflex working well!!
Nurse (brightly): “There, all done.”
Me: Projectile vomiting.
On the way to the hospital for the operation, I explained the PCR problem to said friend, expecting sympathy. Her matter of fact response? “You’ll have to wear an eyepatch afterwards, you know. Would you like a parrot for your shoulder to go with it?”
Now, having explained the delay, I can get on with the real reason for writing this post. I’ve been wanting to write the following review for some weeks now.
What Lies Between Them by J.L. Harland (FREE delivery March 17 – 21)
I was sent an Arc of What Lies Between Them by the authors with a request that, if I liked the story, would I endorse the book? Would I? I’ve been honoured to tackle this task
” Emotional,sensitive and thoroughly satisfying.”
In addition I also decided to give an honest review.
I gave What Lies Between Them 5*
Elin Fiorelli, a career academic, has returned from three months in Finland to Brynderwen university, Wales. She thinks she has her future mapped out, a professorship within her grasp. But, her former lover, Michael Harwick, is now her boss. Her job is at risk and the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her with the secret she has kept buried deep within herself for so long. When her mother becomes terminally ill, trying to balance work and duty becomes more difficult. But Elin is resilient and as the year unfolds, she faces her past traumas, emerging stronger than before.
I loved this story. And I think it was mainly because I was so fascinated by the protagonist, Elin. She encapsulates so many of the facets of any woman’s life: the struggles to be recognised in a male dominated environment, the guilt of conflict between self-fulfilment with the pressures to conform in society, the familial love that juxtaposes duty and yet sometimes underlying resentment.
And then there is the Dean, Michael Harwick, the elusive figure from Elin’s past, whose actions set her on her path for the life she has since led. And which, despite devastating trauma, has given her the strength to achieve the highest respect in her field of work.
The descriptions of the main setting, Brynderwen university, bring the place to life: the sounds of the campus, the lecture halls, the students union, the canteen, the sights of the grounds, the inner offices of the Dean and tutors, the atmosphere of academia. But there is also the background of the home lives of the characters: of Elin and her demanding, yet desperately ill and lonely mother, of Sue, her friend, divided by loyalty to Elin but also to her job. .All set against the bustling life of Cardiff and its people. The authors bring so much of the city to life on the page.
An excellent plot, engaging rounded characters, great dialogue and a good sense of place to keep the reader enthralled from the first to last page. Couldn’t ask for more.,
What Lies Between Them is a story I thoroughly recommend.
About the Authors:
Two authors with one voice makes: J. L. Harland. Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett enjoy the creative process of working together and producing stories that have a unique, blended voice. Their debut novel, What Lies Between Them’is published by Dixi Books in 2022 and they are currently editing a sequel. J. L. Harland short stories have been published in anthologies and online and a novella is out on submission. Their website, jlharland.co.uk, has a blog on writing where further information about their work can be found. Individually, Janet Laugharne’s poetry has won or been placed in competitions and appeared in Black Bough, Atrium Poetry, Sarasvati and The Dawntreader (forthcoming). Jacqueline Harrett’s crime novel, ‘The Nesting Place’, featuring D.I. Mandy Wilde, is recently published with Diamond Books.
Links to J L Harland:
Buying link for What Lies Between Them:
Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3tWxtzz (FREE delivery March 17 – 21)
Reblogged this on Thorne Moore and commented:
A review of What Lies Between by J L Harland (both of them), written by a one-eyed, parrot-wearing Judith Barrow
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This does sound like a worthwhile book to read. Thank you. I also had a cataract operation last year but both eyes at the same time. No eye patch, just sunglasses the first evening. It is so wonderful being able to see a bright world and no glasses for the first time since I was 8.
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Thank you, Liz, I think it is a good book. And it’s wonderful to be able to see distance through the one eye. Hopefully, it won’t be long until I have the other eye ‘done’. I was told to wear the shield for seven days, and avoid screen time for the week. I didn’t realise how much I would miss the outside world… and writing!
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So how did the op go? Hope the parrot is settling in well 🦜.
I hope the cataract surgery went well. I love the patch and parrot idea! One of my favourite Halloween costumes was a pirate.
Loved the account of your short-sighted sporting activities! Glad you’ve had the first eye done and are able to spend short sessions at the screen again – just don’t over do it!
This is a lovely review of What Lies Between Them. I’m seriously tempted by it. 🙂
Well, thank you for your contribution, Alex. LOL. So tempting to be here, but being careful… honest! And do check out this lovely book, if you can – well worth a read.. x
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HI Judith, your facial muscle condition sounds most irritating and painful too. I hope the tips help. I chew pen tops and bite my nails. Eeek! Maybe its because I am a woman in a very male dominated world and bankers and lawyers are very arrogant. This is also why I can relate to Elin. I think this sounds like a great book.
That TMD is no fun at all Judith and sorry that you had that on top of the cataract, although officially beneath it!! Glad you have had the first eye done and I remember the difference it made to my mother. A parrot on the shoulder is a good look… terrific review and looks like a fascinating read. ♥
Thank you for your kind words, Sally. Alex (Trish) is so generous with all her suggestions ( yes, it was she!!). And thanks for your comment on the review, I did enjoy the book, I must admit. xx
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