I went to Scots College when I was a kid. Scots College is a private boys’ school. Nowadays it is very expensive, but in the 80s it was only a bit expensive. My mother decided that Scots was best for a few reasons. It had a bus that picked up and dropped us off near her work, and the extra time I spent sitting on the bus let her work a better number of hours. Also, though, there was the fact of my father’s death, and the idea that going to a boys’ school might put some male influence back into my life. Then there was God. Scots was a Presbyterian school with a chapel and a Reverend, and two services a week. My mother has never been a fan of God but thought I should make up my own mind.
So I went to Scots College. I looked like this in 1982 (I am the only chap here wearing glasses).
If you looked at my class photo from 1981 you would see that I didn’t have glasses. In that respect at least 1982 was a significant year for me, and I was lucky I had Mrs Davies as a teacher.
One day in her class she asked me to read something off the blackboard and I discovered I couldn’t. It was quite a strange feeling because I didn’t think “oh, I must need glasses.” I didn’t know what to think. I laughed. Unimpressed, Mrs Davies asked me to stand up and read from the board. I stood up but it didn’t improve things. Instead of being told off however I was told to sit down and the lesson moved briskly on. Later, I suppose, Mrs Davies called my mother and told her I needed to get my eyes checked.
Going to the optometrist was a curiously comic experience. The optometrist had an entirely bald head and a white doctor’s coat. Although he always seemed to be smiling he seemed humourless. He had me sit in the large cushioned chair in his darkened exam room and then, in complete silence, manoeuvred various large apparatus on long metal limbs in front of my face. One particular examination was terrible. He took a small hand-held device with a little light and a magnifying glass at the end and examined each of my eyeballs with great care. This involved him bringing his face within a centimetre of my own. For some reason this always made me want to laugh. The desire was almost overwhelming. Sitting there with a strange man staring into my eyeball not laughing was hell.
Once I had my prescription we went to the oculist. The sales assistant recommended a durable brown plastic frame with completely flexible joints. “Indestructible!” he glibly assured my mother, proving that he had never had children himself. Any parent knows that anything in the known universe is capable of being destroyed by a child in less than a minute.
Over the years I had many pairs of brown plastic glasses and they all ended up with a patina of scratches on their unscratchable lenses, and a diverse collection of glue and tape marks on the unbreakable arms.
On my first day back at school with glasses Mrs Davies sent me off on an errand during the first lesson of the day. I thought this was a bit odd. Later at playtime my mate told me that while I was out of the room she delivered a frightening lecture to the class on the terrors that would await them should they ever tease a boy with new glasses. It must have worked because no one ever teased me about having glasses.
Many, many years later I learned that Mrs Davies had given up teaching to battle a disease that would ultimately leave her blind. Which was another thing I learned from school about life, and was perhaps a factor that contributed to my increasing scepticism about God as time wore on.