It was time to venture back through the myopic portals of my family’s favourite optician, Charnley’s.
Me and Charnley’s go way back, right to when I was first diagnosed with astigmatism and was given my first pair of glasses (NHS style – long before Jarvis Cocker ever made them moderately cool) when I was 5 years old. At one time in my pre-teen years I held the town record for the sheer number of spectacle breakages. I was averaging about 7 times a year at one point and though my mum never believed me none of them were ever my fault. During one memorable incident one of the Dugglin boys went for a high ball during the lunchtime footie match and managed a kick worthy of the Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately his Clarkes managed to hoof my spectacles off my face and dislodge the lens which was later found (thanks to the direction of the headmaster) by the entire school being made to form a police line and march the full length of the playing field until we found it. Ah, those were the days.
But those times are long behind me now. It had been 7 years since I’d last graced Charnley’s with my presence and not only new glasses but an eye test was also long overdue.
I was fearing the worst. My dad developed glaucoma a few years back so there’s now a family history (though on the bright side I’m now eligible for free eye tests); I’ve been getting migraine “drop outs” in my eyes when I’m very tired. And removing my glasses in the opticians made me do something I rarely do at home: actually try and look at stuff with the naked eye alone. I was appalled. If I’d been around before glasses were invented I’d have stuck no chance in life at all. I’d’ve been a crap servant and frankly a liability as a farmhand – I can guarantee nobody would have wanted to stand next to me when it came to harvest time. A scythe is a nasty weapon in the wrong hands. Or with the wrong eyes.
So I underwent all the tests. It’s all very high tech now. Computerized. They test eye pressure and depth of field – not just “what’s the smallest row of letters you can read”? Some of the gizmos they use give you the feeling of being plugged into a virtual reality machine or a game station. I was tempted to ask my optician if I’d made it through to the boss level.
She – the optician – was very professional. Opticians are always very quiet and have soothing voices in my experience. It’s probably the result of the enforced intimacy. There’s nothing like having someone’s face so close to your own you can feel their breath on your eyelashes to make you whisper softly. Mind you, the ruddy great super-trooper she was bouncing of my retina spoiled the atmosphere somewhat. Any stronger and she would have scorched a hole through the back of my cranium.
Still, I can’t fault her thoroughness. My sight was put through an army assault course of tests.
At the end of it I was genuinely blinded with exhaustion. And fear.
I felt sure my eyes had deteriorated. I was turning into Mr Magoo. I’d need lenses thicker than Corona bottles. I’m going blind, aren’t I, doc, tell me straight?
How wrong could I have been?
My eyes have actually improved! I didn’t know that was even possible. I’m less short sighted than I was. Because – and here’s the clincher – I’m becoming more long sighted. Apparently that’s very common once you hit your 40’s. I’ll have a few years of improvement before the long sightedness fouls up my ability to read a book close-up and then my eyes will be buggered every which way but loose and I’ll need completely different lenses.
Ah well. In the meantime at least I can still try for the work’s darts team.
A new pair of glasses are now on order with – for the time being – weaker lenses to suit my vision. The frames I chose are as close to the ones I have now as I could find – I hate changing my facial furniture. I was tempted by the Dame Edna pink side wings but, frankly, I don’t have the cheek bones to pull it off.
Besides, when did you ever see Eric Morecambe wearing pink glasses?