Age: 52 | Location: Exeter, UK
How many rucksacks does one person need? Just one? Two even? The Doctor thinks it’s six. Maybe more.
I’ve asked him whether there is one thing he spends more money on than he should and he’s answered without a second thought.
‘Rucksacks. I have probably six or seven but there’s always a need for more. Different colours, different style, different size.’
Then I ask him what he’s saving up for at the moment.
‘Walking the Cape Wrath trail.’
The trail is a two hundred mile hiking route along the west coast of Scotland, he explains to me, which he’s wanted to walk for a long while. He’s hoping to go with friends in a few months time, his first holiday since a trip to Ireland for a family reunion the previous summer.
Then he adds: ‘That involves possibly another rucksack.’
If there are any situations that require a rucksack, I think to myself quietly, a long hike is certainly one of them.
Beyond rucksacks, there are three other things that The Doctor is passionate about.
The first is cheese.
‘I find it very hard to avoid cheese. If there’s cheddar in the fridge it’s very hard to avoid eating it.’
The second is his family.
He tells me that the person he most wants to impress is his wife, who is in the next room cooking breaded sweet potato with katsu curry sauce for their dinner.
He tells me that his most proud achievement is not really his own, but those of his children. Their starting school, their sporting achievements, their graduations: ‘seeing them develop their own personalities and self-confidence.’
He tells me that the best gift he’s ever received was from his father. ‘It was my first pair of binoculars, when I was about 10. I wanted to be like my Dad and he had binoculars and telescopes, so the fact that he had given me my own felt like a big deal.’
Interestingly, he adds that his father has impacted him more than anyone else.
And the third, which is perhaps the most obvious, is his job.
The Doctor is an eye doctor. He looks after people who have visual conditions or problems with their eyes, including carrying out surgery. That means, really, he’s The Opthamologist.
It’s a career which requires years of training, decades of practice, and a lifetime of hard work. Eyes are complex, small, and often difficult to fix, but The Doctor loves the feeling of making a difference to the lives of his patients.
‘I don’t see all of them for follow up, but the ones that are really appreciative are often those who have long term squints, who have become very self-conscious about them. They come back after their surgery, and I’ve got their eye straight, and they want to hug me because I’ve given them back their self-confidence.’
Recently, The Doctor has been campaigning to have more young children screened for eye problems in his area. Although there are some places where it’s already common practice, it’s it's really patchy across the country. He’s worked hard to establish it where he lives.
‘It’s taken me about 12 years to finally get that established here. Now all North Devon kids get screened at the age of four, or just after they start school. If you pick it up before the age of 8 than you can do something about it.’
He begins to go into detail, a long and detailed scientific tangent about the visual networks needed for people to see. ‘It’s almost like a software problem’.
I wish I’d had The Doctor as my doctor when I was much younger.
His day starts at 6:30, when his alarm goes off. ‘That doesn't mean I get up at 6:30. I normally snooze it for about 20 minutes, by which time I’m actually ready to stand up. I’ll go for a cup of tea, shortly followed by a cup of coffee. It has to be in that order.’
He has a cup of tea just before he goes to bed too. Peppermint tea.
As he puts it:
'Tea bookends the day.’
For breakfast, since he can’t have cheese, The Doctor mixes it up. ‘Normally, if I’m not trying to lose kilos, it would probably be a bagel with banana and peanut butter. At the moment I’m trying to do porridge and raisins.’
He has to look smart at work, so dresses mostly in the same thing - if he’s not in scrubs that is. Only at weekends can he pick out his favourite pieces from his wardrobe.
‘There’s a shirt, a paisley shirt, that I bought in about 1984, which believe it or not is still hanging up in my wardrobe. It's one of the early items from Next. When Next first started it was actually quite a cool clothing brand, and did some really nice stuff. Then it got sold on and became a bit tired.’
I ask if there’s anything in there he regrets buying.
‘I’ve got a sequin jacket too, but I don’t regret that whatsoever.'
At 52, The Doctor still celebrates his birthday in style, ‘with a swim in the sea and a pasty on the beach.’ A swim isn’t out of the ordinary though, when you live so close to the coast. In the summer, he tries to swim everyday.
A guaranteed way to make The Doctor laugh?
‘Farting noises. It’s universal.’
And the last time he cried?
‘Pretty recently. My emotions are easily manipulated by a film. I think the last one was Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. It’s crazy. Crazy good.’
His biggest fear is losing his mind, yet he suspects he’ll die in a freak gardening accident.
He has a big garden, full of chickens and green lawns and chopped up wood, so it’s certainly possible, but I have a hunch that it’ll be a much more peaceful death. Perhaps at sea, since he loves living beside the coast so much.
To end, I want The Doctor’s best advice.
Not an apple a day in this case.
Instead, he thinks we should all read War and Peace, by Tolstoy.
‘It’s completely absorbing and remarkably current.’