COLUMN: September 15, 2016

TELEVISION PROGRAMME : Coronation Street (1994)
The smallest picture I could find of Jack Duckworth’s broken glasses

IT IS coming up to a year since I lost my favourite pair of glasses. “Lost” is probably not the right description. I know exactly what happened to them.

They were crushed under the wheels of at least one uncaring car after they fell out of my pocket as I crossed the road during an unnecessary walk.

This left me with only my second-favourite pair of glasses. The fact that they are now my only pair of working glasses and still my second-favourite pair should tell you how much I dislike these spectacles.

When I bought them I thought they were quite swish, with a sort of 60s feel about them. That much was true. When I got them home I realised they made me look like my grandmother. I am not saying there is anything wrong with looking like a 75-year-old woman, but that is not the look I am going for. I am aiming for “man in his increasingly less early 40s, or late 30s from a distance if you are squinting and it is dark”.

But it is clear my glasses have sensed my hostility towards them and so they have been plotting against me, waiting for the perfect moment to take revenge. That day came a couple of Thursdays ago.

I was working in London on a super-secret project and had taken the overnight coach to get there. My seat was next to the toilet. Consequently, sleep mostly eluded me and I was about as fresh as the last loaf left in the only shop open on Easter Sunday.

I rubbed my bleary eye under my glasses and they fell off. My colleague, a man I will call Phil, jumped with the shock of the event. “Sorry,” I said, “this doesn’t usually happen.”

“No,” said Phil, “that would make them rubbish glasses.” Here, I thought, was a man who understood why these glasses would be my second-favourite.

I slipped the rubbish glasses back on and continued with my work. “Hmm, I thought, “the right arm of these glasses seems unusually loose. As soon as I can I will have an optician tighten the screw holding it in place. That would be the responsible thing to do, as they are my only glasses.”

“Gary,” said Phil, “could you have a look at…”

I turned my head, eager to appear helpful and attentive for once, and my glasses flew off my nose and past Phil’s head, to his evident disappointment.

“Oops,” I said. I picked up the glasses and found the screw was indeed very loose. It was so loose that it was no longer there. The arm had, in flight, detached itself from the rest of the frame.

“You want to get them fixed,” Phil suggested. I explained to him that trying to find a glasses screw on a carpet would be like trying to find a glasses screw in a haystack, and, besides, I did not have a screwdriver of the specific size.

He recommended that I attach the arm to the frame using a sticking plaster, as Coronation Street’s Jack Duckworth would have done. I dismissed his suggestion on grounds of vanity, and dispensed with my glasses for the rest of the working day.

But when I left the headquarters of the super-secret project, it became evident I would need my glasses. I had no clue where I was. Everywhere was blurry, and I am not a Londoner.

I decided that if I clipped the arm back into the frame I could manage, just as long as I did not make any sudden movements. I began to walk and the glasses began to slip. “Wait”, I thought, “make gravity your friend. For once.” I cocked my head back and continued to walk, keeping my head very still.

It is hard to describe how I must have looked to the various pearly queens and jellied eel merchants I passed but if you can imagine Kenneth Williams walking a tightrope through a sewer, you are pretty much there.

Then I sneezed and the glasses fell off. That was it. I had to fly blind – literally, apart from the flying part – stumbling through our great capital like a mouse in a maze.

Eventually, I stopped. “Excuse me, sir,” I asked what turned out to be a young woman. “Could you tell me where Ladbroke Grove tube station is?”

She threw an anatomically-themed insult at me and walked away. I was standing right outside Ladbroke Grove tube station. Revenge, apparently, is sweet.

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