Friday, February 02, 2007


London and Fuzzy Monsters

My glasses dropped in two last week. There were no suspicious circumstances: they were several years old, so it was probably just metal fatigue. It does, however, mean I’ve been awkwardly squinting at things to get them into even partial resolution. Peering closely at the computer enables me to read but gives me headaches, so perhaps I’ve been more grumpy. Out and about in the last couple of days, though, I’ve seen London through new eyes (with an effect almost the opposite of that cliché). I’ve experienced frustration, flirting, and a Doctor Who-related trick of perception, while feeling strangely insecure…

The Doctor Who connection first, as you might expect. In last year’s story Army of Ghosts, blurry human-shaped figures on the streets of London were invariably taken for the ghosts of dead friends and relatives, to the scorn of some reviewers. Well, the monsters that (of course) they turned out to be had form with hypnotic signals, so it didn’t seem that unlikely, and I can now confirm that my own experience of fuzzy, almost-human shapes on the streets has been very similar. With my brain starved of accurate information, it’s been filling in the perceptual gaps with patterns it already knows that fit the evidence. Or, to put it another, I keep ‘seeing people I know’ when in fact it’s only someone with a vague resemblance or similar silhouette. Friends, famous people, my Mum, even – rather disturbingly – me have all apparently strolled by, and after peering myopically at them, it turns out all of them were fakes. But, Russell T Davies, it turns out you were right after all. This is exactly how our brains make sense of things. At home, incidentally, I’ve been able to watch a little bit of Doctor Who on DVD, but it’s tricky: my method involves holding the two halves of my old pair clamped very carefully to the sides of my head, which does indeed restore my vision but is uncomfortable over any time. It’s also no use for typing, as I lack prehensile toes and nor am I from the Centauri Republic (my lovely Richard attempted to superglue them, but they fell apart again in an instant, and I’m told soldering would have as little effect).

I’ve naturally been getting closer to people than I usually would, mainly to make sure I can see them, though I’m sure there’s an undercurrent of trying to project a confidence I’m actually deprived of when lurching about without frames for the first time in over twenty years. One side-effect of this appears to be that people keep getting rather flirty. Make prolonged eye contact (because I have to stare to make things out) and lean in close (the same), and a surprising number of shop assistants have started making eye contact back, smiling, chatting and giggling over the counter. Yes, even the women. Is it the closeness, is it that I’m trying harder to project my personality, or is it really true that no-one makes passes at chaps who wear glasses? On the bright side, the long-worn grooves in the side of my head are slowly disappearing for the first time in decades, though I’m not sure it makes a lot of difference to onlookers.

The grooves will be back within a week, I hope, as I’ve now been for an eye test (aren’t they pricey?) and ordered a new pair of glasses and a spare (aren’t they very pricey?). Though I deliberately chose an optician’s for the test with two competing franchises within a minute’s walk, I was of course instantly railroaded into choosing expensive frames right after the test. They saw me coming (while my vision, of course, is impaired, and I cannot see). The chap who gazed into my eyes just seemed so convincing when he told a shop assistant which coating I’d need for my new lenses, how the lens for my left eye would need to be ultra-thin (and, no doubt, ultra-priced) because that eye’s much worse than the other one… Well, it all sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and as I barely caught one word in three, how could I possibly repeat it all in another shop? So I was well and truly suckered.

Now, my old pair were glasses that I really liked. The slim, lozenge-shaped lenses with the very thin frames were just the look I wanted, and for the first time when getting new glasses, I’d have gone for exactly the same thing again. Naturally, it couldn’t be that easy. “Police stopped doing that design years ago,” I was told. So there followed the long and uncomfortable process of trying to choose from a huge wall full of different frames, none of which I could see properly from more than about two feet away. Inevitably, I ended up relying on advice from the shop assistant, and however flattering he may have been about the effect of different frames, I can’t help noticing that – among all their glasses on Spring offer of 50% off – I managed to end up with two different styles at, er, 25% off. Ah well. Next time, I’ll aim to look for a new pair as soon as the ‘spare’ goes, and look round different shops to make note of different options before I’m in the all-too-persuasive grip of any one store in particular…

'dropped in two'

You can take the boy out of Stockport...
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