I had been living in the dark for a long time. My old glasses had become so scratched and ineffective that I was embarrassed to let anyone get too close to them. They were the glasses of a blinking, short-sighted hermit who fears the outside world; someone who seems to wear a permanent head-to-toe film of dust and has never thrown away an issue of the Radio Times. I am only a few of those things. Something had to change.
I realised that my old glasses and I could stay together no longer when I was chatting to someone at work, me standing by her desk, her sitting looking up at me. After I had finished my long question about pictures or fonts or similar, she made no attempt to answer the question, but just said with some incredulity, 'Can you actually see anything at all through your glasses?'
If you are any kind of spectacle wearer (of any significant prescription, at least), you will recognise the sensation that comes over you when the optician hands you your new glasses and you put them on for the first time. Suddenly, it is as though you are under the influence not just of opthamological science, but of some powerful dose of hallucinogen, and you must, for the next few hours, behave like someone on drugs in a film.
'Wow. Everything looks so real. Doesn't it? Doesn't it look real to you?'
'The colours… they're so bright. How can the colours be so bright?'
'I can see the whole world moving all around me. It's ENORMOUS.'
'Your face… it's just… amazing.'
'I mean it. My God, your face, it's like I'm seeing you for the very first time. You. Are. Beautiful.'
Drugs are, of course, bad for you. Finding yourself in a place that's unfamiliar or threatening can turn the experience into a nightmare. I can tell you that H&M in Bromley on a Saturday afternoon is about the worst place for this to happen. No sooner was I through the door then young fashion's summer palette of neons was making my eyes scream. Giant teenagers were marauding towards me, while I cowered and swayed. Everything was too close and also, far too loud.
It was terrifying.
All I could do was run, run through the streets, run down the hill, to the sanctuary of Waitrose. Then everything was alright. Eyes still demented, obviously, but all the better to see the organic rice pudding with.