A picture tells a thousand words

Aaargh, my eyes, my eyes!

My mother always warned me that too much television would make my eyes go square. These days we know that myopia is basically genetic and there’s not much you can do to prevent it, but I was convinced when diagnosed short-sighted at 8 years old, that I had brought it upon myself, not through excessive TV, but from reading under the blankets (sometimes even actually under the bed) by torchlight.

Well, last August I had my eyes laser corrected and it’s been plain sailing for the last few months until today. My eyes burn and ache. I’ve been sitting up night after night, staring fixedly into a screen scrolling through thousands of images of Northern Ireland during the Troubles and through thousands and thousands of stock images of weeping women, crying children, war scenes and fields of barley. It looks like my mother may have been right all along about the eye-damaging dangers of too much screen time.

I have been looking for the perfect image to send to Philadelphia to start constructing the cover of my debut collection of short stories, The Accidental Wife. It’s easier said than done, finding the image, painstakingly tracking down the copyright owner and then falling off the chair in shock upon finally finding out the fee for using these important historical documents. Leaving aside the thorny issue of the fiscal space, the act of searching through these images has brought a lot of emotion up to the surface and has also created a deeper horror and loathing of the events currently taking place in Aleppo and elsewhere. It’s a bit of a moral quagmire to be scrolling along through these stunning images until the voice in your heads shouts That’s perfect, that’d be perfect, and you pause for a moment and look again and realise that you are looking at the shattering of someone else’s life.

I am deservedly excited about the book, but the act of reviewing the images has made me wonder, how many authors, musicians, ballerinas, sculptors, woodcarvers and mathematicians are currently growing up without an education in the Jungle in Calais or in the colossal refugee camps just inside the Lebanese border.

I will go back in a day or two and try to find my perfect picture. But in the meantime, if you want to sleep at night, don’t type ” black and white image children playing war conflict” into your search engines.


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