Don’t make a spectacle of yourself!

My grandmother’s glasses. She died in 1978.

I was looking through my grandmother’s box of treasures today and found these spectacles. You can’t tell from the photo of course but they are tiny. I thought I would wash them and try them on. I had no idea she had such a tiny face.

I’ve been thinking a lot about eyewear etc recently as a lot of people I know have been concerned about their eyes- me included. Part of the problem is of course increased screen time. I’ve been doing a lot of work on the computer and finally began to feel the strain. I went to Specsavers who reassured me but it set me reminiscing. Not a difficult feat, as you may know.

I began to think back to when I first started wearing glasses. We used to go to an optician in Troy Court, in High Street Kensington. His name was Dr Gunstone, which fascinated me as a name. And I remember he was very nice. I didn’t want to wear glasses of course – I was about seven or eight, and I knew, just knew, that people would laugh at me. On the other hand I couldn’t see very well. So at school I gave in. I hated watching tv – the screens were tiny, even at school (we didn’t have one at home) and I had to sit close to it.

But then we were always being told that tv was bad for your eyes – a bit like now- in fact.

Anyway, back to Dr Gunstone. He showed my mother all the available frames for children which came free, courtesy of the national health. Think John Lennon but pink or baby blue and brown. I had no choice. My mother plumped immediately for brown as she though they were more elegant! She was right no doubt, but it was not a concept I nor my classmates had in the forefront of our minds.

School became a bit of a nightmare for a short while. I wasn’t the only one with specs. I wasn’t the only one to be called four eyes. But I was the only girl with brown frames. Like a boy. To add insult to injury my hair was always cut very short. You can imagine!

But year after year we went back to Dr Gunstone and as time went by the frames became more interesting and I got used to the occasional teasing. Eventually I was allowed to choose my own frames and by the time the swinging sixties were in full flight I had gone through some quite exciting and quite enviable frames. I wish I had them now. One pair was even made of wood. Gives timber framed construction a new meaning.

And then dr Gunstone was no more. We transferred our family loyalty to Dr Schwarz in Maddox Street. He was very old, quite eccentric and very very softly spoken. The whole family saw him, or rather he saw to us all, including my first child. We started taking the children as soon as they could read their letters. I was leaving nothing to chance.

Did I mention I didn’t like wearing my glasses as a teenager? My father in fact encouraged me not to, so if I was going out, I didn’t. Until one day I went on a date. We went to see the Thomas Crown Affair. I’d been dying to go out with this particular boy for ages so when the opportunity came, I was dressed up, made up and had my glasses well hidden in my new handbag. Oh the excitement! We sat in the cinema and stared at the screen.

I listened to the dialogue. But cinema is visual. We were sitting towards the back. I was getting s little bored. Then suddenly I noticed a rustling on my right. Ooh. Was he going to reach for my hand? The anticipation was agonising. But no touch was forthcoming. I looked to my right. He wasn’t groping for me at all. He was searching for his glasses! He found them. Put them on. Breathed a large sigh of relief and said, Thank goodness I can see the film now.

Well blow me down. I wasn’t going to be outdone. I rummaged in my nice new bag for mine and put them squarely on my nose. Then we looked at each other and laughed.

I was cured and have worn my specs ever since. (the relationship did not last!)

Dr Schwarz, who was Swiss, had a much nicer assortment of glasses for me to choose from- the spec was a terrific very large red pair which I wore through the eighties

But the poor man was very old and finally expired. We were bereft as a family. But a minor miracle of sorts. I was in Holborn and noticed some very wacky glasses in an optician’s window. I walked in, made an appointment and didn’t look back until last year when Dr Horwitz retired. Again we went as a family for about twenty five years. It helped that we used to go to his house on a Sunday morning – so convenient for everyone! In the end he became a family friend, always full of advice and truly helpful in times of emergency

When our son was singing in the Royal Opera House in the chorus of Turandot, we couldn’t get tickets to watch him. And this is when your optician, who is an avid opera lover,comes up with the goods and arranges for me to sit in a box during the grand dress rehearsal. I am forever grateful!

But he too has retired. So it’s back to Specsavers. Could be worse!

3 comments on “Don’t make a spectacle of yourself!

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