Seán Mon­crieff

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE - SEÁN MON­CRIEFF

Ilive with some­one who, when I’m driv­ing, likes to com­men­tate on the other driv­ers and the driv­ing con­di­tions and check whether I’m pay­ing at­ten­tion to traf­fic lights, gear changes and what­ever she hap­pens to be talk­ing about.

Thus when I sailed past the turn we were sup­posed to take, a frank ex­change of views en­sued; and this time I lost the ar­gu­ment even more spec­tac­u­larly than usual. I had missed the turn be­cause I couldn’t read the sign.

It took a do­mes­tic ding- dong to shake my brain into fi­nally ac­cept­ing that the data com­ing from my eyes wasn’t as clear as it used to be, and that this had been hap­pen­ing for some time. Once this men­tal door was kicked in, I no­ticed that there was so much else I wasn’t see­ing well, par­tic­u­larly tele­vi­sion, which was like a mov­ing im­pres­sion­ist paint­ing with sound.

For the first time in my life, I needed glasses.

So off we went to get the two- for- one deal at Spec­savers. My Jew­ish His­tory Pro­fes­sor pair were cho­sen for watch­ing TV and my Ag­ing Gay In­te­rior De­signer glasses I put in the car.

And the world re­vealed it­self in newly minted high- def­i­ni­tion, es­pe­cially the tele­vi­sion, which had been in high def­i­ni­tion all along. Game of Thrones, I dis­cov­ered, was full of gra­tu­itous nu­dity. Peo­ple even said the glasses suited me. But for some time I didn’t carry them on my per­son; they had spe­cific telly/ driv­ing func­tions that didn’t im­pinge on my life in gen­eral.

The pho­to­graph that ac­com­pa­nies this col­umn was taken dur­ing this pe­riod of self- delu­sion. Be­cause of the de­fault ev­ery­thing- is- grand set­ting in my brain, I was dizzily un­aware that wear­ing glasses is pretty much the same as smok­ing crack.

Once you start, your de­pen­dency swells un­til it en­gulfs your life. Some­how, na­ture and op­tometrists have con­spired to cre­ate a burn­ing need from which you can never es­cape.

Soon peo­ple I know were telling me that they had waved on the street but I had looked straight through them. Be­cause I couldn’t see them. I re­alised that in any crowded en­vi­ron­ment I would need glasses to find friends and avoid en­e­mies.

Now that what we laugh­ingly call sum­mer is due to ar­rive, I’ll have to go back to the op­ti­cians to get pre­scrip­tion sun­glasses. And when I do they’ll in­sist I get an­other eye test and sor­row­fully shake their heads at the re­sult be­cause the glasses I got to help my eye­sight have ac­tu­ally made my eye­sight worse.

But this isn’t the fault of the glasses. It’s time. It’s my brain, pro­tect­ing me not from the re­al­ity of my de­te­ri­o­rat­ing func­tions, but from the piece­meal de­cline to­wards mor­tal­ity it­self. Glasses are the first step on the down­ward stag­ger to­wards the Great Fall. My eyes are lit­er­ally rot­ting in my head, and be­hind that, my brain.

Soon the vi­a­bil­ity of all sorts of ba­sic tasks – wash­ing, on­line gro­cery shop­ping, karaoke singing – will be com­pletely re­liant on ac­cess to my glasses; which, in my dotage I won’t be able to find, even though they will be per­ma­nently af­fixed to me via some chain around my neck. And when it’s pointed out where they are, I will promptly for­get what I wanted them for any­way.

In­stead I’ll sit down to watch a film I have seen be­fore but I won’t re­call. I’ll spend a lot of my time point­ing at it, yelling ‘ who’s he now?’ ‘ What’s she do­ing there?’ un­til I fall asleep and drib­ble over my­self.

To­tal over­re­ac­tion, I know. Plenty of peo­ple wear glasses, and their lives are fine. Any­way, she says that I should worry more about choles­terol and af­ter that, my prostate. What­ever that is. And I will. Not now though. Ev­ery­thing is grand.

Glasses are the first step on the down­ward stag­ger to­wards the Great Fall

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