MAKING A SPECTACLE OF MYSELF.
What is it with me and reading glasses? I suppose before I try and find an answer to that question I'd better provide you with a bit of personal history.
When I was a teenager I wanted to take and pass my driving test, but when I went through a practice run with some mates and they tested me on the eyesight bit, which involved reading a car number plate at a certain distance, it transpired that I couldn't do it. The wretched number plate was blurry, no matter which one I peered at, and guessing's no good when you have to get it right. I had slowly got to be short-sighted without realising it. So it was off to the optician's for me.
It transpired that I wasn't very short sighted, but my eyes were certainly not up to Her Majesty's standards when it came to the driving test.
Anywhere, there I was as a teenager with a pair of spectacles and for many years after that I regularly had my eyes tested and the prescription hardly varied from visit to the optician's to the next. I got used to having them perched on my nose. They became like old friends.
Yet in the privacy of my own head I started to notice that, whereas as a young bloke I could read with or without those glasses, as the years passed I had to take them off in order to be able to consume a novel. I suppose that happened when I was in my thirties or forties, so I then entered that weird world of taking the glasses off for reading and then sitting on them half an hour later because I'd forgotten where I'd put them. I soon became a dab hand at repairing them because I almost always broke them at a time when I couldn't get them repaired any other way.
Along came bifocals, when I was in my fifties, and they solved the problem, though I hated them. Bifocals may sort the problem out in a way, but they're spawn of the devil, especially when you're counting out change to pay a checkout operative and see a coin through both lenses, and one coin looks like two coins. Or stairs. Bifocals would have been cause of my early death as a consequence of a broken neck on stairs had I believed the evidence of my own eyes like you're supposed to.
Then, about four years ago, I was waiting at a bus stop and saw a bus approaching not so far away but couldn't quite read the destination plate on it. I took my glasses off to clean them and instantly became aware that the bus was the one I wanted â€“ and that was without my glasses anywhere near my face.
I got home and looked out of the window at trees and stuff in the distance and realised that I could see every detail of them almost perfectly without my spectacles and not so well with them. It seemed that what had started as a help when it came to focussing on car number plates had gradually become a hindrance when it came to focussing on anything.
Next time I visited the optician he told me it was quite normal for short-sighted people like me to enjoy improvement in distant vision in later life, but that it was at the cost of near vision. I didn't like the â€œlater lifeâ€ bit, but he was right. Without the reading bit of my bifocals I could hardly read at all. He then said something really illuminating. What I really needed, instead of bifocals, was reading glasses and if I liked he'd give me a prescription for a pair of those.
â€œYou mean, reading glasses like those they sell at the Pound shop?â€ I asked.
â€œWell, both of your eyes are roughly the same, so they'll do,â€ he admitted.
It was like I was being given a huge cash prize! Spectacles from the optician are either expensive and attractive or cheap and ugly. The frames in the pound shop can be cheap and beautiful. Not just cheap, but very cheap. I mean, less than the cost of half a pint of beer, and that's beautiful in itself! That optician, bless him, even added details of the very lenses I would need. â€œPlus 200 or 250,â€ he said. Trial and error subsequently demonstrated to my satisfaction that the +250 ones were best.
So that is how we get to the question about what it is with me and reading glasses.
Sitting where I am, on the settee with the laptop on my lap and a coffee table in front of me I have a pair of reading glasses perched on my face and six other pairs within easy reach. All of my jackets and coats have at least one pair in their pockets. There's a pair next to the bed so I can see my watch when I'm timing Dorothy's physio exercises. And odd corners of the floor provide a home for yet more. None of them cost more than a pound and the last two pairs I bought were fifty pence. Wherever you look at home they proliferate, as if someone was breeding them.
So why it is I can never find a pair when it's really vital to look closely at something really important?
Â© Peter Rogerson 14.11.10