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(8) Final exams (part 1)

I knew my year on Skye was finally drawing to a close when I received notification that the first lot of final exams were to be held in Birmingham 2 weeks hence.

I’d actually known about this for a while but it had rather slipped my mind.

I headed down anticipating some decent drinking sessions and the chance to impress a few of the girlies on my course with my newly polished & practiced Scottish burr.

I arrived to find the bar practically empty, no one seemed to be around. After a lot of searching and banging on doors I was somewhat nonplussed to find everyone with either their nose stuck firmly in a textbook or in a high state of dudgeon over they’re perceived unpreparedness.

Textbooks? Revision? Exams?


I suddenly realised there was something I should have been doing this past year that didn’t involve sitting in a pub.

Still too late for that now so I spent the evening regaling a couple of no hopers and a bored looking barman with my exploits.

The next morning dawned bright and early, unlike your scribe who was a teensy weensy bit the worse for wear. bright eyed and bushy tailed was not the phrase that sprang instantly to mind when I peered into the mirror.

The exams were in the format of us being hauled up in front of a panel of “experts” and grilled on each chosen specialised subject which were things like Glaucoma, Diabetic retinopathy, Contact lens fitting & complicated dispensing cases.

Often these were accompanied by practical lab style tests.

The exam panel included:Herr Flick (Gestapo)Claude Litnor (Apprentice)and a couple who looked like they’d served time working for the Spanish inquisition.

Fans of “The apprentice” will be familiar with the format when the final candidates get interviewed.

Historically pass rates were not much above 50% and any half decent bookie would have given very short odds on me failing the lot.

Especially taking into account:

(A) I had received zero preparation throughout the preceding year.

(B) I had done no revision at all coming up to the exams(

C) It was universally assumed amongst my contemporaries that I was a bit thick.

I decided to wing it.

What followed was not a pretty sight. I tried various forms of skulduggery at one point even resorting to a Glasgow accent in the vague hope they’d cut me some slack if they thought I had a speech impediment.

It proved just about the longest day of my life.

Once it was all over everyone disappeared and I returned north more miffed that I’d failed to regal anyone with my exploits on Skye than my seeming inability to answer some admittedly tricky questions.

Life up there had changed and I was greeted by Katy who eagerly asked how I’d got on?

It’s a strange fact of life that any city dweller who visits an island paradise wants nothing more than to up sticks and live there whereas the locals want nothing more than to escape to the bright lights of the big city.

Some months prior to my departure Katy and I had taken to “walking out” I naturally assumed it was my easy charm and winning smile that she had fallen for.

Looking back through the fog of time I might have to concede it’s more likely that she saw in me her eventual ticket to a life filled with fancy things like black and white TV and music not played on a fiddle.


Practice news

My trusty fundus camera finally gave up the ghost recently and I needed to replace it toute suite. The shiny new model duly arrived and after a few hiccups updating the software it was up and running.

I thought the old model gave impressive pictures so was a bit blown away when I saw the quality of images the new model provided, offering 20—25% better resolution

I’ve posted a few before and after pictures up on the website and facebook page:

PD Rees Opticians

In these you can clearly see the retinal nerve fibres which are invisible under traditional viewing methods.

Historical note

The advent of modern digital cameras allowed us to see the nerve fibre layer divided into the form of “bundles” for the first time.

Using this knowledge a team of specialists found they could correlate the shape of cupping of the optic nerve head produced by excess pressure within the eye with loss of function of the nerve fibre bundles.

This brought the whole theory of Glaucoma and it’s detection forward by leaps and bounds.

The team of specialists were based at the QMC just up the road.

Yet another unsung contribution that Nottingham has made to bringing us a better world.

Acuvue Oasys One days

I’ll admit when these were announced I was sceptical as to how useful they would prove.

So far we have received some very positive feedback, time will tell if they fill a niche.

One of the most successful promotions we have ever run is back.

If you wear single vision or bifocal lenses

For any complete pair of glasses you buy with a Crizal UV coating you can have a free pair of single vision lenses , either tinted or clear, with a Crizal UV Easy coating. All you pay for on the second pair is the frame.

If you wear Varifocal lenses.

Again, for every complete pair you buy with a Crizal UV coating you can have a free pair of Varifocal or single vision lenses that can also be tinted.

For any other type of lenses we can also offer 50% off the usual cost of the second pair. This discount applies to the least expensive lenses.

If you have a suitable frame you wish to use.

Unfortunately due to the terms of the offer and the amount of work involved we are not able to offer the second lenses free into your existing frame.

We can however provide this service for an additional fee of £25 if you wish it.


Final exams part 2

I’d sat 6 of the 9 exams in Birmingham and much to everyone's surprise (not least yours truly) I was informed that I’d somehow managed to blag my way through all 6

I suddenly realised I was just 3 more exams away from being fully qualified and the possibility of earning more than £22 a week.

Maybe it was finally time to knuckle down and concentrate a bit.

The final three exams were on:

(1) Visual fields ie the big machine with the dots although in those days we used a “lollipop”

(2) Slit lamp theory That’s the big instrument that sits just to your left when sitting in my room used for examining the front of the eye (usually for contact lenses) think of it as a microscope on a stick.

(3) Colour vision theory If I had to have a chosen specialised subject this would be it. Our head of department at university had invented most of modern colour vision theory and boy did he like making sure we knew it.

Mind you it was a fairly easy concept to grasp and required very little actual study or textbook reading so was right up my street.

I actually felt pretty confident in my knowledge of these subjects and approached the final lap with a marked lack of trepidation.

I was given a choice of venue for the final leg and thought it would be a nice change to sit the final round in Glasgow tech (as it was at the time) which had just become the sixth university to offer Ophthalmic optics as a degree course.

In the pantheon of dumb ideas I’d had during the preceding year little did I know that this was going to prove the clear winner.

I had read but couldn’t believe that the rarified upper echelons of the world of academia is riven by petty jealousies and feuds. This seemed too ridiculous to be true and I dismissed such notions out of hand.

I bid my final farewell’s to all and sundry and with the callowness of youth promised Katy I’d keep in touch. I actually assumed she’d find someone else five minutes after I’d left and to be honest my mind was too much on the upcoming tests to worry too much about sentiment.

I arrived in Glasgow as the Taff who’d come from the Isle of Skye

What could possibly go wrong?

The first hint all was not rosy in the garden came with the decidedly frosty “welcome” I received from all and sundry.

Not a single familiar face and the faces around me told me very clearly that the poncy stuck up git from that southern university with their superior attitude was very much about to get his comeuppance.

To be fair quite a few of my contemporaries (no names no pack drill) Did rather fit that description so maybe the locals did have a point and a bit of an axe to grind

First up it was Slit lamp theory or as it turned out “Let’s see how much we can bugger him up if we do this..”

I was shown an ancient machine and expected to perform an examination on a paid stooge.

There are two slit lamp designs and this was the “other” type dating from WW2 We’d briefly been shown one in our first year at Uni and I racked my addled memory cells trying to remember how they worked. Everything was backwards and they had deliberately nobbled it to test the student’s knowledge.

No doubt the local were well versed in how to set one of these up but when I tried looking through it I couldn’t see a thing. I tried to set it up but almost immediately got “Time’s up, you obviously don’t know what your doing” thrown at me and the exam was over.

Shellshocked I now found myself facing the self same examiner who produced a kind of long lollipop stick and asked me to perform a Visual fields test on the same patient.

This involved bringing the small target in from behind their head until they said they could see it. “Yes” “Yes” “No” At last I was getting somewhere. I’d found an area where they lost it so started moving the target slowly round plotting the area of loss.

With that the examiner snatched it from my hand with “You can’t plot the blind spot with a confrontation test” and the second exam was over.

Of course until I’d completed the test how was I to know if it was “only” the blind spot I was plotting? But by now he’d made a swift exit which might have been fortuitous for both of us as I was overcome with a considerable urge to punch his lights out.

I’m not sure how that might have gone down in a professional examination but hey, we were in 70’s Glasgow before all that “City of Culture” nonsense so I doubt I’d have been setting a precedent.

Just colour vision to go surely I could redeem myself here. A shock of red hair and a pleasant smile greeted me.

“Why do we dark adapt when performing a lantern test?”


“Why do we dark adapt when performing a lantern test?”

A lantern test was an ancient red / green light test used by the navy in WW1 to make sure boats didn’t crash into each other too much.I don’t think anyone had used the test for the last thirty years and I tried to gently steer the conversation towards the far more modern testing methods and the subtle nuances they uncovered.“

Why do we dark adapt when performing a lantern test?”

Try as I might I couldn’t shake him off his bloody lantern test and I think by now even I could see the writing was firmly on the wall.

To add a final layer of insult to injury I now got hauled up in front of their “review” panel who could scarce hide their delight that despite having returned to each examiner and seeing if they could cut me some slack (as if) unfortunately I hadn’t made the grade having fallen at the final hurdle.

The drive back to Wales was a gloomy affair with shock gradually turning to anger.

I’d been brought up to believe our elders and betters always knew best

(A concept our three kids have always found nigh on incomprehensible. Mind you that’s hardly surprising considering the halfwits tasked with bringing them up) and had sat mutely through the whole horror show.

If anyone, no matter how highly qualified tried to pull nonsense like that on me these days they’d get torn a new one in no uncertain fashion but in those day’s I was nowt but a callow youth and could do nothing apart from fume.

As a final kick in the nuts the failures were summonsed to our old Uni in London for another “performance review”

There were a lot of people in the same boat but I got singled out.“Well you didn’t do very well” was the verdict delivered in the best ‘Told you so’ voice imaginable.Actually I didn’t think I’d done too bad compared with my much better prepared contemporaries,I kept that thought to myself.

And so there I was faced with 4 months without work or income until the resits.

After it was all over I buttonholed the relevant Prof “Why do we dark adapt when doing a lantern test?” I asked eagerly. From his expression I couldn’t tell if he thought I was taking the P or was just plain twp.

Either way without another word he turned on his heel and stalked away.

I left none the wiser.

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