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(4) The heroic holidaymaker

The MacKinnons

The MacKinnons (not their real name) were the sort of family who make Jeremy Kyle leap out of bed in the morning They would have been reality TV gold. Well that is they would have if someone had actually invented reality TV Or in fact if anyone had a TV up there in the first place.

I well remember my first encounter with them,. Dad was walking down Portree high street flanked by two of his son’s, people were moving onto the road or crossing the road to avoid them.

I couldn’t help notice both the son’s had less than pristine knuckles, whether this was from bashing people or simply from dragging them along the pavement behind them I could only speculate,

I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask.

A huge sprawling family nearly all had “form” If you think of the Gallaghers in “shameless” you probably get the picture.

One day a couple of the locals (Archie and John as it happens) were sitting in the bar on the harbour having a quiet lunchtime pint when in walked Mr Mac

“Hello boy’s will you have a wee dram with me?”

Normally this would be the cue for excuses and a swift exit but as he blocked the door and Mr Mac wasn’t the type to argue with they agreed to have one

“Don’t worry boy’s Mrs Mac has gone to get the social, the drinks are on me”

Some considerable time and several drinks later Mrs Mac turns up steaming drunk

Och no, I’ve drunk the social” she wailed.

This was the perfect cue to disappear which the well practiced locals promptly did.

A few day’s later the West Highland free press carried the dramatic story “Tourist saves local woman from drowning in Portree harbour”

Evidently a quick thinking visitor dived in when she saw a local woman fall into the water.

A bit more digging and the journo would have established that she was steaming drunk at the time and was chucked in by her enraged hubby.

Mr Mac was no stranger to the limelight in fact his court case involving a sheep made the Scottish Daily record. His one line defence to the judge is part of local folklore to this day.

Moving on swiftly

(Historical note the "Makinnon's as I describe them didn't actually exist, they are in fact no more than a literary invention. The events I ascribe to them actually happened but to various other people and the details changed just enough to protect the innocent)


My computer specs (part 2)

Last month I described the single vision specs I use for working on a desktop computer set around a metre away.

These work fine if I’m only working on the computer but are not so good if I have notes in front of me to read as well.

This month I have been trying a lens specifically designed for the task.

Basically it is a varifocal which has the top half focussed at computer distance (most people I’ve asked report a working distance of between 60 - 90cm I have mine set just beyond a metre)

Then they get stronger at the bottom to bring normal reading into focus.

For sitting at a desk they are brilliant, anyone who spends any amount of time on a desktop would probably benefit from a demonstration.

For non desktop work they are less useful so definitely a niche lens but what they do they do very well.

My computer specs (part 3)

Just to complete the picture I have been experimenting with a third option which is a bifocal lens, top half set at computer distance , bottom half set lower than normal for reading. So far I’ve concluded that:

For a computer set fairly close around 60– 70cm with reading at a normal 30-40cm the office type lens works best

For a computer set further back around 1m+ and reading at the same 30-40cm the bifocal seems to be lens of choice.


More T Vicar?

Living in the world of the here and now it’s sometimes difficult to imagine how important was the role that religion played in these far flung communities. I had witnessed exactly the same thing the previous year on a fishing trip to the far south west of Ireland at a place called Coumeenoole (where they filmed Ryan’s daughter) Religion was very much the glue that bound these communities together. There was a hierarchy within the church community and top banana (apart from Roger) was the Reverend Thomas “call me Tom” MacDonald Immensely likeable, Tom had a real presence and commanded your attention as few people can, it was easy to see why the locals hung on his every word.

Outside work Roger was an Elder of the Church of Scotland and a great chum of the Reverend MacDonald.

Roger and Tom needed a project and like manna from heaven a lost sheep had just landed somewhat unwittingly in their midst. A sheep that needed saving and although he didn’t yet know it, this was his lucky day.

By now Roger obviously had me pegged as a bit of an argumentative bugger on whom the gentle ebb and flow of theological debate would probably be wasted.

With this in mind Tom settled on a rather more direct approach.

I suddenly found the Reverend was booked in for a sight test and (oblivious to the real reason for his visit) I was determined to do my best to impress the great man.

Tom meanwhile saw a higher calling and wasn’t the sort to let my asking silly Can you see it now?” type questions stand in his way.

What ensued was pure Father Ted meets the two Ronnies

OK Tom, if you can read the letters”

“A S F T

T !!!

You know Paul that ‘T’ looks so much like the cross our good Lord gave his life on to save us all..”

Later on: Now look at the OXO and tell me if the lines line up”

“You mean do they form a cross? Did I tell you about the cross upon which our dear Lord …?

and off he’d go again.

Normally Roger would have appeared after 20 mins or so and halved my prescription and yet today he was strangely conspicuous by his absenceA lesser man would have given up long ago but not the Reverend who was made of sterner stuff.

A test that should have taken about 20 mins took over an hour.( I should have twigged on when he read perfectly with his own specs no doubt provided earlier courtesy of best chum Roger) When he couldn’t swing it out any longer I guess he finally admitted defeat and we went out to find two old dears waiting for their now well overdue appointments.

Their eyes lit up when they saw their idol only to be accompanied by withering looks for me for making them late for whatever social event they didn’t have to go to.

I also couldn’t help note that uniquely amongst the locals the Rev had the full prescription in his specs and read the bottom line of everything I threw at him.Maybe Roger answered to a higher power than Rasmussen after all.

I decided upon reflection it was probably best to keep that thought to myself.

I mentioned to Katie how long the good Reverend had kept me, Nice chap, bit eccentric” was how I described him.

She gave me her best “Surely you’re not that dim?” look, shook her head and said nothing.

Tom, when I saw him looked wistful but was always polite. I still remember him with great affection to this very day.

Anyone who’s met me will know I’m not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer but it was only years later during a heated “Owd Roger” fuelled debate along the lines of “Why are we here” I was minded of this event and finally the penny dropped…..


This is the first of a series of notes on common eye conditions which can affect some people during their life.

Cataract Common amongst the older generation something like 90% of over 60’s will have cataracts to some degree. The important thing to remember is that in only about 10% of these cases will they have any noticeable effect on your vision. And cataracts are one of the easiest things to cure with a fairly simple operation. To understand how a cataract forms think of what happens to the white when you boil an egg, the white changes from clear to opaque and if you punch a small hole in the shell beforehand the white plothers out all over. What is happening is it is expanding. The white consists of millions of clear cell’s, when you boil the egg the cells die and in doing so change in two way’s, they expand and then change structure and go opaque. The crystalline lens in the human eye has a very similar structure to the white of an egg, millions of cells which start life clear but change as you get older. Most people don’t put their heads in a pan of boiling water for three minutes so the effect happens much more gradually often over a period of up to ten years.

Initially odd cells start to change and expand this has the effect of changing the shape of the lens and thus altering the focus. Later the cells start to go opaque and that causes the foggy vision associated with a cataract.

The lens is the same size as the iris but you only look through the central pupil area so you could have a great big polo mint of a cataract around the outside which will have no real effect on your vision. Conversely a small amount of opacity in the centre of the lens can have a much more detrimental effect on your vision.

There is a simple way of determining this effect, normally you would expect to see better outdoors on a sunny day than a dull day. A central cataract will have the most effect on a small pupil so as the sun comes out and excess light hits your eye the pupil closes and clear vision disappears. Fortunately a simple solution is to put a tint on the lens which cuts down the excess light, the pupil remains more open and vision stays good.

Once the blurring becomes unacceptable it’s time to consider a cataract operation, these day’s this is a relatively simple procedure where the lens is replaced by a clear substitute.

I cannot comment from personal experience but the number of people who tell me it’s the best thing they’ve ever done convinces me that I wouldn’t hesitate if and when I need it.

What happens next

After a cataract operation the specialist will normally want you to let things settle for about 4 weeks before having a retest, this shouldn’t be a problem as most operations will aim to return prescription to plane lens and most people can see well enough to drive without specs straight after the operation.

What can go wrong?

It is very rare for the operation to fail to provide a significant improvement in vision. Sometimes the lens capsule can cloud over (think of the skin under the shell of a hard boiled egg) anytime in the months after the op. A very simple clean up with a low powered laser should help sort it out.


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