According to Mlle B today is the last great day: thunderstorm from 7pm. (This is London I’m talking about, of course, the rest of you will probably continue to have gorgeous days.) I might not be sorry to see the real heat go; I never did really love sitting in the blistering sun… even as a kid I was happiest under a tree with a book.
There are no trees around Baroque Mansions you can sit under, and I can’t really read a book.
Here’s a story for you.
Nine days ago I lost my reading glasses. I put them in my bag, and went to the Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green to hear Don Paterson read – and a very interesting evening it was, too. Don read a different selection of stuff from the usual, calling it his ‘most Buddhist set’, including some wonderful new sonnets, several of the Rilke versions, and ‘Rain. I think he thought h was going to be reading to Buddhists. In fairness there were quite a few there, largely sitting cross-legged on the matting at the front of the room, but the rows of chairs that filled the rest of the room were bursting with Poetry Society members, friends and students and ex-students of mine, and other poety types. All looking kind of cute and human in their socks, since the first thing they do in the Buddhist Centre is make you take your shoes off. (Don clearly knew this in advance, and was wearing a lovely pair of dark socks.) It was a great evening, in that it brought out a different side of a poet whose work I already know, and it made me think about both poetry and Buddhism (or as people kept saying, ‘the void’ – maybe that was just Don, thinking about it!).
But I rang their office and they don’t have my glasses.
There was the 253 bus, that suddenly terminated at Hackney Central, causing me to get off in a hurry; but no, my glasses aren’t at the Stamford Hill garage, either.
There was my lovely friend’s house, where I went and spent the night just because we were having such a nice time catching up; but they’re not there.
So by Wednesday, when I went to my local chain opticians get my eyes tested to get the new pair I clearly need, I had a headache and my left eye was playing up quite a bit. (Actually, I’ve been aware for months that I probably needed a new prescription, but have been putting it off for the same reason I’m putting off the dentist – i.e., money – so it’s bite-the-bullet time.)
The good news is that the reading prescription has changed, so I don’t feel like it’s a waste, but the distance one is more or less the same. (The only thing wrong with the main ones is that they ‘appear to be quite scratched’, so I can just try and replace them on the cheap when I can.) We had a long conversation about what I need – reading only, ‘Reactions’ please (i.e., they turn into sunglasses of a sort), no need to thin them down – then a long sales spiel, masses of sales pressure, and eventually an order and a purchase. Thinned, with Reactions as the ‘free offer’ because it was two-for-one on the frames, etc etc, hideously confusing… But the main thing was, I need them ASAP: already have a headache. Saturday. They said come in on Saturday.
By Saturday I just had had an eyestrain headache for days. I went in (it was mayhem in the Kingsland Shopping Centre, the hipsters have not in any way as yet penetrated there) and guess what. There were my glasses. The prescription is the reading one. They were not thinned. And they were sunglasses. Polaroid, not Reactions. Give me a break.
I thought I was going to cry.
I had left a friend in a coffee shop nearby and dashed down to pick them up, too. And then proceeded to ruin her afternoon, as she patiently waited about 45 minutes while these people first tried to make it sound like that was what I had told their colleagues to order – as if I have any command of their poxy jargon and terminology – and then put the sale screws on me again.
The worst of it was, it reminded me on the day I’d have needed it most of how wonderful it was when I used to have real sunglasses – that actually get dark enough, not like the Reactions I get because it’s cheaper. They were really beautiful.
The girl is saying to get me what I need it will be ‘up to seven working days’.
Working! That’s like 10 days!
Nooo, she says, I’m sure we can probably get them for you by Friday.
Friday! That’s a whole working week. It was urgent last Wednesday.
‘You see, it takes longer, with the thinning.’
But last week they offered me the glasses by today – Saturday – on Wednesday, that’s a three-day service, and it was supposed to be WITH the thinning!
She looks at me blankly.
Okay, suppose we don’t do the thinning.
‘Oh, the thinning is very important, you see’ – and here she shows me an asinine thing on a screen demonstrating a lens getting thinner, as if it was the word ‘thinning’ I didn’t get – and I go yes yes but I don’t KNOW I need it because I haven’t seen them without it.
This is where she tells me the new (sun)glasses are not thinned. ‘You really need the thinning,’ she says. ‘It makes them much lighter, more comfortable’. I pick the new glasses up. They are no heavier than my normal ones. I hold them on a finger, and I hold my normal ones on a finger on the other hand. I do it again, switching hands.
‘These are lighter than my others’, I say.
She then switches to how the top of the lens projects beyond the frame. ‘It’s really not so attractive, with the thinning it is much thinner and is more attractive…
I don’t care, I say. They’re reading glasses. She burbles – no, burbles is wrong, it’s more like an automaton – again with the whole need, attractive, lighter thing. All of which I’ve just refuted.
That seals it. I’ve had a headache for a week, I just want the sodding glasses, my friend is in the coffee shop, I don’t want the goddamn thinning. When can I get them by?
‘It will still take the same time.’
But it was the THINNING that was going to make it take so long!
‘Ah well you see, the lab…’
She rang the lab twice while I was there. Once to see how fast I could get the glasses back with the thinning. And once to get them back without it. And despite this, she also told me one reason it would take longer was because it was Saturday, and thus not a ‘normal working day’. So the glasses couldn’t be ordered till Monday. Even though the lab was clearly open.
Anyway, I’ve reordered the glasses, without the fucking thinned lenses, I really don’t give a rat’s toss if they stick out at the top. Frankly. They’re reading glasses. And three days of no headache sounds like the main point right now. And I’ve had a refund of the £60 I paid to get them thinned, which is the other main point. I really hate these people. I might be able to put it towards sorting out my front tooth, where something disastrous is happening. A chip, a crack, it feels weird. And my new ones, which will be lovely and look like Jack Lemmon with those three silver dots in the corner, will be here on Wednesday.
Nothing comes easy these days, baby.
I need those Buddhists again.
Roll on Wednesday.
And now, to Chiswick, to sort out the fridge repairman for the aged aunt.