Halfway back from shopping, the snow came. I stopped in a doorway, noticed I was carrying two bags as well as a handbag – never a good idea – put everything down, put up hood, stuffed prescription glasses into pocket, collected self and walked on. A bit further on I checked pocket and handbag for my glasses, not found, but didn’t worry.
Arriving home, I looked through everything. Then I called lost property at the supermarket.
Drew a blank.
In the past I would have inveighed against tomfool self but this time I did sums, checked when the optician was open, looked out spare frames, put new prescription in handbag and commended myself to heaven.
Beshert: meaning, fated, it’s meant.
The next day, on the way to the supermarket, over the road from the opticians, I remembered the doorway where I had paused – Waterstones – which was open.
A woman asked if she can help me. I said “It’s a long shot. I wondered if anybody handed in a pair of spectacles.” She opened the drawer and there they were.
I thank her, I thank heaven, I forget sums.
I was nine when I first wore hideous pink plastic NHS glasses but what they did was wonderful. A year later, after another test, as we left the hospital grounds, my mother took the specs off my nose and tucked them into my pocket. I protested “The surgeon told me to wear them !”
“Yes” she said. “They did the same with your sister and now she can’t get out of bed without them. I don’t want that for you. You’ll manage.”
Of course you would rather be without glasses, especially when you are young but film and fashion helped me to see that frames might be glamorous and I began to yearn for big heavy ones, the opposite of rimless or small. The short sighted seemed to divide into three main groups – those who wore glasses, the contact lens wearers and those who pretended (“Of course I can see !”) The latter wouldn’t do for me. I wanted to see and hard contact lenses were not an option. I couldn’t get them into my eyes.
Somewhere along the line, I was encouraged to have a slight tint in the lenses which coincided with the increasingly frequent installation of strip lighting. When I came back from the US, this was regarded as a bit precious. Then a boyfriend sent me to his eye surgeon father who suggested the tint and I have stuck with an eye surgeon ever since.
And then everyone went mad about soft contact lenses, the Botox du jour. I had one wonderful year of pretending I didn’t wear glasses. I also had ulcers on the retina requiring a dash to Moorfields eye hospital, seeing double with atropomorphine: having a lens dry on the eye on the plane out to South Africa: and endless tearing and losing of lenses (I am hamfisted) till the purveyor of same declined to make further fortune out of me and explained that occasionally there is someone for whom extended wear lenses just can’t be done – and I was she.
The eyes do not have it.
Since then I have worn glasses. My eyesight briefly improved and the wonderful Mr. Mushin – who once described my eyeballs as eccentric – explained that this was a temporary consolation – age would in due course dim any fresh light. But my colour perception has always been good and I once asked him warily if it were possible, that I seemed to see better on holiday. “Yes” he said. “More relaxed.”
And I read with interest that Sir Arthur Evans who codified the key to Minoan civilisation in Crete was able to work in his short range of sight with exceptional clarity, though in everyday life, he needed glasses.
The eye is a country of infinite variables.
I rarely wore glasses in daily broadcasting – you wear a headset, both was a bit of a tangle. But then I rarely wore shoes or rings either. I wanted feet on the approximate earth (First Nations) and nothing to get in the way of what my hands could feel ( I don’t know where that came from).
But now I cannot do without glasses much, finding varifocals unbearable and have become my father’s daughter all over again with reading glasses and distance glasses – and the same opportunities to misplace them.
And even if (thanks to my mother) they are in my pocket – they are there, cherished, respected and – even though it has taken sixty years – liked.
Love it Anna another great piece