Gill Sherry

Seeing Stars

We’ve all been there. Waking up on New Year’s Day with bleary eyes and a fuzzy head. Trying to focus on the brand new calendar hanging in the kitchen, January’s picture of your favourite footballer, your preferred dog breed or the breathtaking Cairngorms, not quite as clear as it should be.

But regardless of how fragile we might feel the morning after the night before, there’s no denying January 1st represents new beginnings. It draws a line under the previous year and looks afresh at whatever lies ahead. It offers motivation by the bucket load. The willpower that had been buried beneath a mountain of mince pies suddenly appears with a set of bathroom scales and a bag full of fruit and veg. The inspiration that had been swept under the lounge rug to make room for the Christmas tree now emerges with a note book and pen and a host of fresh ideas. Or does it?

For some of us, January is a just a reminder that we’re another year older, the act of hanging a new calendar on the wall nothing but a guarantee of more grey hairs and another pair of sensible shoes. Maybe it’s a Capricorn thing, the goat’s list of characteristics does, after all, include being somewhat pessimistic. In my case, having just celebrated a December birthday, there’s no avoiding the fact that I’m nearer to 60 than I am to 50.

But there’s something else – other than my birth certificate, my arthritic toes, and my fierce intolerance of loud music – that confirms my gradual decline towards old age. Remember those bleary eyes I mentioned earlier? Well, it’s not just my new calendar I struggle to see.

Some years ago, when my eyesight first began to deteriorate – the result of advancing years combined with constant screen use – I opted to use daily disposable contact lenses. It was a vanity-led decision that resulted in numerous eye infections and eventually/inevitably to a pair of glasses.

Varifocals were less common in those days and I soon tired of the glasses on/glasses off scenario, my eyes constantly struggling to adjust as I moved from my desk, to the car, to the TV etc. So I looked into (pardon the pun) laser eye surgery and took the plunge.

The good news is, it bought me over five years of perfect 20/20 vision without having to worry about lenses, lotions, glasses or infections. The bad news is, it was never going to last forever (your eyes still decline with age even after laser surgery) and I’m now back to squinting at my calendar, my phone, my laptop…

There is, of course, nothing to stop me having more laser surgery. Apart from the fact that I’m still traumatised from the first time! I appreciate it’s a delicate operation that no doubt requires a steady hand but constantly being shouted at to ‘KEEP STILL!’ is not going to do much for my already jangling nerves. Let’s just say the surgeon needed to work on his bedside manner.

And then there was the smell. Convinced it was my own eyeballs melting, the surgeon’s previous words of reassurance were long forgotten. I’d been told the burning smell was simply the odour of vaporised tissue from the cornea (oh, that’s okay then) and was completely normal during laser surgery. Whatever it was, I can still smell it today.

Suffice to say, rather than returning to the operating table for more refractive surgery, I opted for a new pair of glasses instead. Not only were they odourless, they were considerably less expensive.

I must admit, my trusty varifocals serve me very well indeed regardless of whether I’m reading, driving, watching Gogglebox or picking my weekly fantasy football team. And with vanity having exited the Sherry household (well, the female side of it, at least) some years ago, along with my 4-inch heels and above-the-knee skirts, I’m more than happy to be seen sporting a pair of glasses.

Prior to this, I was content to wander around spectacle-free, only putting them on when the need arose i.e. to read a menu or study a cocktail list. I would happily browse the shops searching for that must-have bargain, once believing I’d found it in the form of a beautiful, leather handbag. I took it to the till, £60 at the ready, only to be told by the young, perfectly-sighted assistant that it was actually £600. Lesson learned.

Mr S, it seems, has yet to learn this particular lesson. Despite having once paid £4,230 (instead of £42.30) for a couple of pizzas and a bottle of wine, he still doesn’t bother to put on his glasses before entering his PIN in the card machine. I wouldn’t mind, but it took about ten seconds for them to debit his account but more than ten days to process a refund.

Of course, there are certain circumstances where glasses simply aren’t an option. In hotel bathrooms, for example. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve washed my hair in shower gel or mistaken the conditioner for body lotion. Why must the labels be so small?

And in the local swimming pool, where glasses are most definitely surplus to requirements, how am I supposed to set the combination for the locker when my glasses are nestled inside? Walking the dog in the rain isn’t ideal either. I nearly kicked him the other day thinking he was a clump of seaweed. No need to call the RSPCA, wee Maverick was a good six-feet away from my size fives!

I’m sure I’m not alone in my vision-related frustrations. I know for a fact I’m not the only one to take a photograph of something with the specific intention of enlarging it. Go on, admit it!

But minor irritations aside, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing glasses. Because the other great thing about being closer to 60 than 50 is that I no longer concern myself with what other people may think. Glasses or not, you begin to see things clearer when you reach a certain age. It’s incredibly liberating and for that reason, I’m looking forward to whatever this new year has in store.

One thing’s for sure, it won’t include laser eye surgery. But don’t let me put you off. Research shows that it’s both safe and effective. Although, you might want to invest in one of those nose clip thingies… You might look like a synchronised swimmer but it will stop that unforgettable smell drifting up your nostrils.

By the way, the other thing about Capricorns is that they don’t beat around the bush. Those born under the tenth sign of the zodiac believe honesty is always the best policy, even if it does come across as a bit blunt. Sounds about right!