I was on one of my regular jaunts to the States to visit the family. Gotta love cousin Cathy; she’s always happy to put me up (or is that put up with me?) and we’ve done many a trip together both in the US and elsewhere.
If I had to fault her (and I have to be careful as she’ll read this and may reconsider accommodating me again if I overstep the mark) it would have to be that she has cats. Always has had. Not just any old cat, but the kind of cat that allergic people like me react against quite violently. And by that I don’t mean that I end up kicking them, rather that I end up wheezing, coughing, sneezing and streaming and generally having a pretty horrid time around them.
Kicking them may well be a better option next time.
One day I was home alone with these vile creatures while Cathy was at work. It goes without saying that these feline monsters were exceptionally friendly – as are all cats to those allergic to them. They once even paw-dialled me from her phone, making a long distance call that she knew nothing about.
Once she got back from work we were due to go into Manhattan to attend a recording of Geraldo’s talk show which, for reasons now inexplicable to me, I was hugely excited about.
I spent the day trying to avoid the pesky cats but to no avail and no amount of anti-histamine would prevent my entire body reacting in protest. The eyes were the first to go.
Any fellow sufferers will know that the eyes are the worst affliction as the temptation is there to rub which naturally makes the streaming, itchy redness far worse.
I soldiered on valiantly with all the various ailments but eventually I could no longer leave my eyes alone and I rubbed and I rubbed and I rubbed.
And then I rubbed some more until I accidentally scratched the cornea of both eyes.
That stopped me rubbing.
It also got me administering some soothing liquid fairly rapidly by means of an eye bath.
The reaction to this was as immediate as it was terrifying. Due to having scratched the corneas, the liquid found its way under the outer surface of my eyes and filled the area underneath rather like a water blister does.
The whites of my eyes were now bloated to double their normal size, yellow in colour and very disturbing to look at. I could barely close my eyelids over the top of my now ginormous eyeballs and resembled a less attractive Marty Feldman, god rest his boggle-eyed soul.
I screamed and I panicked and I screamed some more.
I at least still had my vision but was worried this would be the next thing to be affected. I could make out the manufacturer’s contact details on the box and called them for advice. It took quite some time to get to speak to someone as there was no option on their automated service advising what number to press ‘if you’ve been a complete idiot’.
I ended up speaking to someone who was clearly undecided whether or not to offer any help, given that the wrong counsel might lead to me being permanently blinded.
Eventually I spoke to Cathy who in turn put me on to her mum (my Aunt Peggy) who, as a nurse, was able to calm me down and explain the likely outcome, which was that they would drain by themselves so long as I LEFT THEM ALONE.
Which I did.
Not long after, Cathy returned and, after she’d recovered from laughing at me, we made our way into the city. Obviously I was wearing dark glasses at this point so as not to scare the horses (or the easy-to-scare-New-Yorkers).
We met our friends and joined the audience queue outside. While waiting, we decided to practice our facial expressions for the outrageous stories we were about to hear from Geraldo’s guests. We perfected our gurning for shock (married a horse), horror (ate a family pet), disappointment (slept with own grandfather), disbelief (the fact that we were finding all this entertaining) and hilarity (my face) before making our way in (still sporting my sunnies).
The production team had spotted us being animated and led us to seats in the studio which were guaranteed to have cameras trained on the occupants in the hope that they would deliver appropriate reactions throughout the course of the recording.
The show began and we embarked on our sterling performances, at times outdoing those on stage. Before long, the Floor Manager gestured to me to take off my dark glasses which, although extremely reluctant to do so, I obliged.
For the remainder of the show, me and my gammy eyes continued to feature heavily in audience shots, at times in extreme close up and I think were mistakenly interpreted as displaying a deep emotion to what I was hearing.
At least, I thought, no-one I know will ever see this.
Later that year having returned to the UK, I was contacted by a friend living in California, checking whether or not I was the person in the Geraldo show she’d just watched and if so, what the freak had happened to my eyes.
I had apparently ended up featuring in pretty much every other shot of the hour-long programme.
Me and my stupid face.