…Had a medical at school. Eeeuuchh…
This was the moment, though I didn’t record it in my diary, that I was informed of something that (cue grown-up Kevin Arnold voiceover) changed my life – utterly.
Medicals at my primary school were held in an unpleasantly musty and forever over-heated room adjacent to the stationery cupboard. To reach it you had to go up a staircase that could only be accessed via the staff room, a domain pupils were normally forbidden from even glimpsing through a crack in the sliding door.
Hence the whole endeavour was already loaded with uneasy, lonely significances, and that was before you even got the the part where you had to strip down to your underwear*.
On this occasion, along with all the usual probing and poking, our hearing and eyesight were also being appraised.
My ears were considered fine, though as it turned out events early the following year would prove traumatically otherwise.
It was my eyesight, however, that prompted the nurse to deliver a piece of news that has informed and influenced my life ever since.
I’d done OK on the reading-letters-off-a-piece-of-card-on-the-far-wall test, even making it to the bottom line. But I’d had real difficulty with some of the identifying-the-numeral-hidden-within-a-pattern-of-coloured-dots tests, and it was this which led the nurse to (a little too triumphantly, I felt) announce that I was colour-blind.
“What?” I think I said, rather pathetically.
“You are colour-blind. Partially colour-blind, to be precise.”
I remember crinkling my nose in confusion.
“It means you cannot tell your reds from your greens, dear.”
“But I can,” I insisted.
“You may think you can, but you cannot. And I’m afraid this will have consequences for you in later life.”
“I’m afraid it means that…”
I stared at the nurse, trying not to look too aghast.
“I’m afraid it means that you will never be able to be a fighter pilot.”
I hurried away from that place, believing I had got away lightly.
Ever since then, whenever I have mentioned my colour-blindness to friends or colleagues, the response has almost without exception been: “Does that mean the grass looks red?”
*I can’t imagine this is allowed to take place today. Yet at the time it merely seemed an inconvenience or a bit humiliating, and not suggestive of anything seedy or corrupting.