On a Sunday which lived up to it’s name I spent several happy hours walking along the beach all the way from North Berwick to the neighbouring village of Dirleston. Sipping some beer on a long, sandy beach with an arching sky of blue above you must be one of life’s simple pleasures. A 99 cone and shucking your shoes for a spot of paddling in the surf add to the pleasure. Warm sand underfoot contrasting with cool tidal water from the Forth and North Sea washing over my tootsies, sloshing over and back, little grains moving between my feet. How deep can you wade before the waves hit the bottom of your shorts? Always a fun game. Then lounging like a wee lizard on a rock to let the sun dry off your feet.
Today I am paying the price for spending far too many hours in the bright sunlight. Nope, no sunburn – I had slathered on sunblock all over before leaving the house and my shorts-encased legs are still the pale blue-white (Daz legs!) they were before I left. No, I found my eyes were very tired after nearly five hours of beachcombing. I figured last night it was a combination of lots of fresh air, miles of walking, sand getting in my eyes (the breeze blew dry sand across the wet in fascinating patterns) and the glare of bright sunlight from sea and sand.
But this morning my eyes were still rather painful. When I opened the blinds the early morning sunlight was like hot pokers in the eyeballs. I made it as far the end of my road but even the morning light, filtered through my very dark shades, was causing me a lot of pain. And I could feel the pressure building up in my head, like a balloon inflating behind my forehead. Fearing a migraine I retreated back to my flat and phoned in sick before entombing myself in my little boxroom study/library. Having no windows I could sit in total darkness surrounded by the scent of hundreds of books. All the better to watch the fascinating spirals and zigzag patterns which played out on my eyeballs… Major ouch. Alas, nothing to do but ride it out like a storm. It didn’t last too long but as any migraine sufferer will tell you, you’re washed out for hours afterwards. Even when I could venture back into my living room which is very airy and light I had to wear my shades as my eyes were still far too sensitive. Now the sun has finally gone down and my eyes feel a lot better. Who needs vampiric blood to be overly sensitive to bright daylight? You just need Celtic blood. Still, it was a fun day the day before, so it was worth it.
As I watched the coloured patterns play out on my eyes during the migraine though I was reminded of a passage in Stephen Baxter’s challenging Evolution. An early modern human suffers from migraines, but obviously her primitive hunter-gather tribe have no medical knowledge. She begins to attribute the images the headaches cause to spirits and gods and begins drawing the spirals and patterns in the dust, then later in ink on her face. Before long others too begin to copy these basic tattoos and it becomes a cultural signifier, showing who belongs to their group. Pure supposition but it would be nice to think the pain would cause some good.