I always prided myself on my navigation abilities.
I started my sales career well before the arrival of satellite navigation and so belong to the generation of sales people who carried a spectacular map collection in the boot of the car. Any self-respecting rep’s set of maps included a gaggle of ordinance survey maps, A to Z Town maps and most importantly for ‘Road Warriors’, a ‘Little Chef’ map of the UK.
In the late 80’s, one of my sales managers loved ‘Little Chef’ restaurants so much that he issued all of his sales team with a copy of the map and he wouldn’t even bother to tell you what town you were meeting in for a day out together, he would just say “Meet you at number 208”. No day out was the same unless it started with a ‘Little Chef’ Olympic feast breakfast and enough free refill coffee to keep you awake for a week. Such a shame they are all gone now, mostly replaced by Greggs, McDonalds and KFC.
My equivalent of satnav back then was a list of sequential directions written in my own little shorthand on a notepad which was clipped to a suction mount holder stuck to my windscreen, and this served me well for many years. Eventually though, I started to notice that I kept getting lost. I couldn’t understand it, and it rapidly got worse.
The cause finally became evident in a moment of ‘butt-cheek clenching’ terror!
I was hurrying to an appointment just outside of Hemel Hempstead, in fact it was my first visit to Hemel. I came thrashing down a dual carriage way when at the last minute I saw this strange road sign which was a large circle with six smaller circles around it. However, I saw it so late that by the time I worked out that it was a huge roundabout, I was seconds from ploughing through the middle of it, which would likely have resulted in collapsed front wheels and a large skid-mark in the centre of the roundabout along with my underpants!
As I came to a halt (and watched a cloud of my tyre smoke drift past) I looked around completely confused by this monster of a roundabout and why I had not seen the sign until the last moment.
I must have circled the entire thing four times before finding the road that I needed, and arrived at the customers late and stressed, but at least I realised that the reason for my navigation problems was my eyesight. I was almost passing signs before I could read them!
I decided to get my sight checked and so booked myself an eye test. At the opticians I went through all of the usual checks, and with the test done, the optician sat and considered his notes for a moment before announcing with a chuckle “Well Mr Hannah, when corrected, you have great eyesight, but you wouldn’t get me in a car with you without glasses”,
I duly parted with a stack of cash and drove very carefully until my glasses were ready to collect.
The day of collection finally arrived and the optician fitted my new glasses and held up a mirror for me to inspect them. This proved to be a bit disappointing as I had hoped to see a kind of Michael Cain sophistication reflected in the mirror but my reflection looked exactly like Scott Adams’ cartoon character ‘Dilbert’.
Anyway, because of that, I left the opticians with the glasses still in their case in my pocket. I was wandering through Argos in Leicester (using it as a short cut to the car park) when I decided to put them on. Big mistake, the world snapped into such sharp focus that I actually lost my balance and started staggering around.
I found the level of visual detail overwhelming, a new clarity of vision.
Same glasses, a new perspective
I experienced another moment of clarity of vision the morning after my diagnosis.
As shocking as the news had been, I actually slept really well the night after the doctor’s call. I woke before my wife, so made myself a coffee and sat, looking out of our holiday home patio doors at our deck and the woodland around us.
Everything seemed different, with colours more intense and I felt like I could see more detail than the day before. Looking back, I can only think that subconsciously I was not sure how much longer I would see these things.
I’m normally quite a noisy person, liking music over silence but this morning, I just sat and listened to the soundtrack of the world around me. The wind was blowing the trees around and was accompanied by the gentle rumble of traffic on the nearby A1. As the mornings were getting darker, I could still see the lights of traffic on the A59, queuing to join it.
Normal people, having a normal morning. Some would no doubt be grumbling about the traffic, others singing along to the radio and at least one rear view mirror being used to fix makeup! A normal day, will I ever have one again?
What I realise now is that I am taking in the sights and sounds around me in more depth, almost gorging on these sensory experiences as if trying suddenly to get a greater appreciation of the special nature of ordinary things. As we have travelled around Yorkshire since the diagnosis, I find myself trying to take in every view with as much detail as possible, however the beautiful countryside and the classic architecture of Harrogate just add to my sudden sense of impermanence.
Most of the buildings and all of the countryside existed before me and will be around long after I have gone.
I find that even the most mundane of things can trigger a moment of melancholy at how the ordinary events of the world will carry on without me. So now I see everything in a new and special way, ‘Life in HD’ you could say.
After a diagnosis like mine, the clutter and trivia of life is cleared away and you are left with only clarity & truth.
The Brain Tumour charity has been a great help to me since my diagnosis. They have a podcast which is always of interest to people with tumours and their families and also have the ‘Brian App’ ( yep that is spelt correctly, it is ‘Brian’) which offers advice and the ability to track your symptoms, appointments and treatments.
My Brainstem Playlist.
Since my diagnosis I have found myself looking at life differently including reflecting on my past life. Music has always been important to me so I decided to put together a playlist that includes songs that I love, songs that remind me of places and times in my life, and tracks that I have discovered more recently that help me to keep positive. I hope it’s something that you might enjoy too and always play it in ‘Shuffle’ mode.