“Drink to me only with thine eyes” sang Ben Jonson to Celia. I am not Celia – she is long dead, as is O rare Ben Jonson – but I thought I’d give it a go. Usually, of course, we drink with our mouths, but I am particularly well placed to drink with my eyes. Regular readers will know that I have been undergoing a series of injections of a needle directly into my eyeballs. My reasoning is that, consequent upon this treatment, I have several holes in each eye through which I might imbibe liquid.
For my first attempt at “being Celia”, as it were, I propped up on the mantelpiece a picture of Ben Jonson. This was a mezzotint tinted by the noted mezzotintist Rex Tint. I would try to keep my eyes fixed upon this as I drank. I then opened a can of Squelcho! and poured the contents into a tumbler. Transferring this to my eyes was not as simple as I had imagined. I found I had to tilt my head back, until I was gazing at the ceiling, rather than at Ben Jonson. I solved this problem by putting down the tumbler, taking the mezzotint from the mantelpiece, and affixing it to the ceiling with a couple of blobs of a proprietary brand of rubber cement I then picked up the tumbler again, tilted my head back, gazed adoringly at the mezzotint countenance of Ben Jonson, and poured a modicum of Squelcho! first into one eye, then the other.
To my dismay, not a drop of liquid entered either eye. It just ran down my face, so that I resembled the startlingly angular woman in that Picasso picture, though not quite so angular, nor so girly, of course.
Drying my face with a nearby tea-towel, I determined upon a different approach. I jettisoned the tumbler, removed Ben Jonson from the ceiling, and replaced him on the mantelpiece. I then opened a second can of Squelcho! and decocted part of the contents into a perfume bottle atomiser air bulb invention. I reasoned that spraying the Squelcho! at my eyes would provide greater force than namby-pamby pouring, and the liquid would be impelled through the holes. Gazing once more at O rare Ben Jonson, I duly scrunched the air bulb in my manly fist. Alas, this proved no more effective than pouring. The Squelcho! just ran down my face, the same as before. I tossed the perfume bottle atomiser air bulb invention under the sink, mopped my face with the tea-towel, and hit upon a third approach.
Clearly the spray was too weedy. What I needed to do was to force a jet of Squelcho! through a hosepipe at high velocity. This would surely force the liquid through the several pin-prick holes in my eyes.
Reader, it did not. I spent hours designing and constructing a contraption comprising a length of rubber hosepipe, a large plastic canister, an electric motor, some valves and nozzles, and umpteen cans of Squelcho! All I got for my troubles was a terrific headache, awful pain in my eyes, and vision temporarily impaired even more than usual.
Having had a long lie down in a darkened room, I made one last desperate attempt to drink Sqelcho! to Ben Jonson only with mine eyes. This time, I simply filled a large bucket with the contents of yet more cans of the remarkably fizzy fizzy drink and plunged my head into it. I shoved corks into my ears, held my nose between thumb and forefinger, and kept my mouth shut. Eventually I had to remove my head from the bucket and slump on the floor panting for breath, or I would have died. It was with disblief that I realised I had not managed to ingest a single drop of Squelcho! through mine eyes.
I mentioned all this to the consultant at my next appointment at the eye hospital. She gave me a funny look, the import of which I could not quite decipher, and said:
“Mr Key, let me try to explain something to you. It is really a very simple matter, such that a small child should have no difficulty grasping it. When we plunge a needle directly into one of your eyeballs during your regular appointments here, the needle is astonishingly thin, and the resultant hole in your eyeball is microscopically tiny, so tiny it is even tinier than Tinie Tempah. It is such a tiny hole that it closes up and seals completely within a very short time after the injection, almost certainly before you have even left the hospital grounds. I am afraid there is no chance whatsoever of you drinking to Ben Jonson only with thine eyes.”
This gave me pause for thought, and I became dejected.
But my dejection did not last long. As I pranced, half-blind, out of the hospital, it came to me in a flash that being Celia did not mean I had to be Ben Jonson’s Celia. I could be another Celia entirely. I could be Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter! I bent down, plucked a piece of grit from the ground, and shoved it into my eye. Then I sashayed off to the railway station, went into the tea room, and waited for someone to come up to me saying “Can I help you? Please let me look, I happen to be a doctor.”