Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Towards the end of my first term at the Finchley school where  my parents decided  to send me, Miss Kennedy, my less than accommodating teacher, was made aware that I did not understand English and that I was so short sighted I couldn’t see the blackboard.
  She did not take to this situation kindly and apparently rang my mother to tell her that I was as blind as a bat and that something should be done about it.
  When I got home my extremely anxious mother, sister, nanny and cook met me on the doorstep worried that I might not have seen a double decker bus and got run over.
  I was taken straight to the drawing room, told to sit in a deep armchair while my mother sat some distance away in another.
  She held up a blurred hand.
  'How many fingers ?' she asked.
  'Three.....four....two....?'  I tried.
   'Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu.....' my mother uttered in shock, and my sister sighed deeply  'So he’ll have to wear glasses, poor thing.'
  I was not sent back to the school for the rest of that term. Instead, I was taken by my slim, always elegantly dressed, attractive mother, to a number of Harley Street specialists who seemed more interested in her than me but who were all of the same opinion. I was short sighted, myopic, my sister had been right, I would have to wear spectacles with thick lenses which would not improve my angelic looks, rather the contrary.
  Armed with an impressive prescription, my mother took me to an optician who measured the distance between my eyes and the bridge of my nose, the centre of my pupils and the backs of my ears. Within days I was fitted with my first pair of very round spectacles and invited to look at my reflection in a mirror.
  Quite frankly, I didn’t much like what I saw, but I didn’t think my new appearance warranted the despair my mother displayed.
  'Mon pauvre, pauvre, petit,' she said, giving me a rare hug, 'You must remember that many important men have worn and wear glasses, so you are not the only one.....Schubert....Roosevelt..... Groucho Marx....' She had obviously looked them up for the occasion. And that afternoon, to add insult to injury, she ushered  my sister, Nanny, and Cook into the garden, handed them each a pair of old spectacles and took a photograph of me surrounded by all of them wearing the horrid things. The idea was to stop me feeling different, but it naturally had the opposite effect as the minute the photo-call was over, everyone whipped of their offending glasses and went happily about their own business.
  Later, my sister voiced the opinion that, if I had been brighter, I might have looked like a wise old owl, but as I was a bit dim I would have to be satisfied with looking like a frog, which I did not think at all funny as I was already being called ‘froggy’ at school.

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