So that the blind may see

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.

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11 thoughts on “So that the blind may see”

  1. I first got glasses in the seventh form. I was having trouble reading the blackboard in English class and it suddenly occurred to me – maybe this wasn’t normal. On my way home from the optometrist with my brand new specs, I was amazed at how much stuff I could read. I hadn’t even occurred that a sign on a building a few blocks away would be legible. But the biggest surprise – stars twinkled! They weren’t just bright dots, they shimmered and twinkled.

  2. Love seeing the old photo of the you and the class. I remember stifling the laughter at the eye doctor’s, too. I got my first pair in kindergarten to fix a lazy eye. The kids did make fun of me. You were lucky to have your teacher give them that lecture. I remember “losing” my glasses all the time and the teacher sending notes home to my parents. I eventually stopped wearing them altogether a few years later and now that I’m in my early 40s, I am back to wearing them again.

  3. I’m surprised you were the only kid with glasses. That was so nice of your teacher. The other kids must have been terrified of her since they actually listened.

    I got glasses in first grade. I think it cemented my status as teacher’s pet and “the smart kid” pretty well. Thank goodness I didn’t realize how much they increased the level of dorkiness.

  4. Strange how you don’t notice that you can’t see. I remember the weird effect of looking down – glasses made the ground sort of bulge up at me.

  5. I briefly wore contacts at university, but then got an eye infection. Other than that I’ve had glasses for the last thirty years. I can’t imagine not having them so I guess corrective surgery is out – it would feel a bit like having something amputated I think.

  6. In my last year at school I wrote a speech about how wearing glasses and staring into the middle distance makes you appear super intelligent.

  7. I know. Strangely, these bulky brown plastic glasses appear to be almost invisible in this photo. Go figure.

  8. A lovely tale there JP. What an amazing and sensitive teacher Ms Davies was. You were lucky indeed. I had to start wearing glasses at age 13 in Form 2 (Now Year8). It was the worst time to get glasses. The teasing and taunting was awful but I stood my ground and the kids in the class soon stopped. That was the year when we had a lot of bullying in my class, mainly by girls to other girls. It stopped eventually once our male teacher cottoned on to what was happening but it was most unpleasant.

    I recall as soon as I bought home my new glasses, my Dad gave them a try out. He was shocked to find how much clearer he could see with them ( He was 43 then). So he trotted off to the optometrist and got his eyes checked out. He never stopped wearing glasses after that, for the rest of his life and he was a high school teacher!

    Now my younger daughter is needing her first pair of glasses at 20. She is not at all worried and has picked out t nice fashionable pair. As she is majoring in Acocuntancy I joke to her – you can’t really look like a proper Accountant without glasses my dear (LOL).

    Long live glasses (I have never bothered with contacts as they seemed such a hassle with allthe cleaning, care and frequent replacement).

  9. Fantastic post. Really liked the writing in this one and, wow, what a great teacher. I can’t help but wonder what teachers could do differently today in regards to bullying. As a teacher, you probably drew a lot of influences from teachers like this? The photo is priceless.

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