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(10) A life in Devizes

So finally I was fully qualified and able to take up my first position with a small group of independent practices centred around Devizes in Wiltshire.

I was to work in some of the small market towns joined by some of the best driving roads in the country, just what my inner boy racer longed for. The practice I spent most of my time in was right next door to the Wadworth brewery and dray horses pulling barrel laden carts were a common sight.

I needed a car to travel between practices and soon picked up a Triumph 2.5PI from a local farmer for a song.

This was the same model of car that Princess Anne drove around in back in the day and was testament to the fact that once upon a time Britain could produce a fantastic automobile.

Pace of life was sleepy by modern standards and after Skye I slipped straight into it.

Each day I passed a strange looking character who habitually stood thumb out trying to hitch a lift, curiosity finally got the better of me and I soon found myself a fascinating new friend.

Pete was particularly blind from childhood diabetes but far from allowing himself to wallow in self pity his passion for all that life had to offer, his particular passion was motor sport and without fail he made the annual pilgrimage to Le Mans His knowledge on this particular subject was quite encyclopaedic and he had numerous anecdotes from when he’d stood shoulder to shoulder in the gents with the likes of Ayrton Senna and Jackie Stewart and the conversations they’d had.

One night we were sitting and chatting in The Black Swan a local pub near where I worked named after one of Drakes fleet The blackened beams taken from the actual ship were so hard an ordinary nail would simply bend if you tried to hammer it in. when I noticed we had drifted well past chucking out time, the lights were dim and the curtains drawn. I’d heard about the legendary “Lock in’s” but assumed they were very much for long term locals.

It turned out Pete’s dad, an ex boxer from sarf London owned The Black Swan and by dint of offering him a lift was now elevated to the inner sanctum of a select few locals.

I well remember a lunchtime conversation in a pub near one of the other practices that I worked at where two old codgers were discussing their absent chum and dismissing him as an outsider as he’d only lived in the village for 20 years so my elevation by local standards seemed meteoric.

In the nick

My new work colleague was a recently qualified DO I’ll call Mary Mary was a pleasant enough lass engaged to a local farmer called Bill.

She thought optics was a serious business for serious people.

Mary and I didn’t get on too good in the beginning as I often caught her disapproving stare when joking with a patient.

I did however wear her down in the end and we eventually became fast friends

One day we were sent to the local nick to test and provide specs for some of the inmates.

Your average lag is quite simply massive involving much stretching on my part to swap lenses, at some points I thought Twizzle would have been better suited to the job.

As the clinic wound down Mary was no where to be found a bit of checking then suddenly all hell broke loose with alarms and sirens blaring and people running and shouting, this went on for about ten minutes whilst two very nervous looking guards tried to usher me quietly out into the waiting area.

When things finally died down a rather sheepish looking Mary appeared with two very relieved looking guards, evidently she’s taken herself off to the loo and managed to get herself locked in.

Her soto voce call for help was soon drowned out by the general pandemonium and she decided to wait quietly for it to all die down.

The prison authorities had concluded that when she suddenly disappeared one of the prisoners must have abducted her

Cue red faces all around.

Oh no it’s the Major

Wadworth brewery made proper beer in the old fashioned way

Some of my favourite memories from this time involved visits to various village pubs, these were invariably picture book thatched buildings where the beer was served direct from wooden barrels lined along the back wall behind the bar.

6X is still freely available to this day but the favourite local tipple was called Old Timer and the poster boy was an actual retired local major.

The major was a bit of alocal legend having famously been convicted at various times of being drunk in charge of pretty much everything from a car to a pram and an ironing board.

These last two I could scarce believe but bore testament to the potency of the local brew


The colour vision test

I’d barely started work when I got a very dapper middle aged gent in for testing.

I got a subtle clue what to check: “Which one’s better the red or the green?”

“Is the green is the one on the left?” and on a hunch I got out the colour vision test.

These are in the form of “plates” with numbers hidden in carefully chosen patches of colour.

In an instant his demeanour changed from open and friendly to closed and defensive.

I was surprised at this but persisted with the test, when he realised I wasn’t going to stop he blurted out

“This is all completely confidential isn’t it?”

Somewhat taken aback as to why it was such a big deal I shrugged it off with a rather blunt “of course” but when he failed every single plate curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why it was such a big deal?

His reply surprised me “you’re the only person in the county who knows about this”

“OK but it’s hardly the end of the world is it?

“Well as I’m head of the art department at the local comprehensive if anyone else found out I’d probably be out of a job”

Some years later I was regaling a chum with a version of this story (Different time, different part of the country so no danger of anyone putting 2 & 2 together) when a look of the penny finally dropping came over his face.

Said chum had begun his working life as a diabetic nurse, the standard test was to get some wee add a testing agent and colour match it to a chart which ranged from orange (good) to brown (bad)

My chum spent many a happy hour trying to discern the slightest difference across the colour range and in the meantime people kept keeling over on him.

Deciding maybe nursing wasn’t the vocation for him he applied for a job at British telecom and was soon being routinely sent out to fix faults on telephone lines

This invariably meant being faced with a mass of subtly differently coloured wires in a junction box.

He mimicked his standard testing method.


As he randomly touched what to him were similarly coloured wires in the hope of making a connection.

Apart from his wife accusing him of appalling dress sense and being a bit rubbish at snooker

No one had ever thought to question his colour vision.


Practice news (update)

For those of you who know and love the dreaded “puffer” we finally have an alternative.I’ve been using the new Icare for the last month or so and I’m very impressedAccuracy seems very good and the consensus is that it is far easier on the eye than the puffer.


A small appointment

As a rule most people will be due a full sight test every two years.

But what happens if after say 9 months you lose/break/scratch your specs or simply fancy a new pair?

Personally I wouldn’t want to use a prescription that maybe 9 months out of date if I were considering purchasing a top end pair of specs.

Equally I wouldn’t want to wait for the two years to be up if I’d sat on my specs or seen a nice new design that had caught my eye.

Maybe my working requirements had changed with a nice new kindle or tablet or a change in the office which meant working on a VDU at a specific distance.

A change of hobby where I was struggling to play golf and write my score or whilst fishing trying to see a float out on the water and tie a small hook.

I can never find my reading glasses so a spare pair would be useful.

Those are just a few of the issues I’ve struggled with of late, no doubt you can think of other examples.

None of the above require a full eye examination as I know my eyes haven’t changed but my requirements might have.

What a small appointment is for:

A quick check to see that your prescription hasn’t changed

A quick check of your pressures or visual fields if I have asked you to let me check them before your next test.

What a small appointment is not:

Firstly it is not a cut down sight test, if you feel your eyes have changed in any way or you require any other kind of check you will need to book for a full appointment and charges might apply.

If a prescription is greater than about 18 months old I would normally recommend a full test in case other changes have occured

Small appointment recap

If you book in for:

(1) An up to date prescription check when buying new specs

(2) A fields or pressure check that I have asked for

(3) A photograph or other test I have specifically asked for

There will generally be no fee’s to pay

All other checks might incur a charge

Please enquire at reception if you are not sure.

Practice news (Brexit)

After the seismic events of last Thursday the main topic of conversation on practically everyone’s lips is “What happens next and how will it affect me?”

I can’t claim to understand the bigger picture despite almost non stop reading on the subject but as far as the practice goes it should hopefully be “business as usual”for the foreseeable future

When the 2nd most asked question on twitter after the vote was “What’s the EU?” you have to wonder what bright spark thought it would be a good idea to let such a momentous decision to be made in such a way

Either way what’s done is done and I’d just like to add the wish that this once great nation can put it’s differences aside and learn to pull together again.

Hay fever

Dry itchy eyes around this time of the year?

Have you ever considered you might suffer from hay fever?

Back in the day when they used to attach a number to pollen count it was generally accepted that a count of 70 was enough to set your average hay fever sufferer off.

Nottingham, being in the centre of the country would regularly get levels of 200 and over.

Some summers it would rise to as much as 500

These days they have dumbed it down to low/high/very high

These exceptionally high levels meant that people who didn’t see themselves as “Hay fever sufferers” were actually being dragged into the net without realising it

For thirty years I’ve been seeing people around this time of year with streaming red eyes and no idea why.

If you seem to suffer itchy, red or watery eyes try keeping a diary of what the pollen count is from the weather forecast

I have started a page on my website with more info


For as long as I can remember tinted prescription spectacle lenses have been available as either Grey or Brown

Well not any longer, we now have a comprehensive range of colours of varying depths and even some really snazzy mirror tints

I can’t do justice to the range here so please call in or visit the website or our facebook page to get an idea of what’s available

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