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(14) The poor woman's Sacha Distel

Apart from Archie the other person I visited in London regularly was another old chum from college universally referred to as“GeePee” Hailing originally from the south of France via a stint in America before uni GeePee spoke perfect English and unlike your’s truly achieved great things in his optical career, my mum met him during my first year in uni and was immediately smitten by the smouldering looks and Gallic charm “Ooh, he’s just like Sacha Distel” she simpered. (didn’t get out much my mum) GeePee, or as he pronounced it “ZheePee” whenever there was a young lady of the comely persuasion within earshot (or in fact pretty much any female he met) this approach proved so successful that even I was tempted to try it once on an object of my unrequited affections at the time I can’t image how anyone saw through my flawless accent, rich Gallic tones overlaid with merest hint of Boyo and you ladies know I can “smoulder” with the best of them So why fact the whole room collapsed in helpless fits of laughter is still a total mystery Maybe the world just wasn’t ready Either way I never dared try it again

GeePee bought a practice in Pimlico from a chap who wanted to retire to Devon, By the simple expedient of placing an advert in the London evening Standard “Bienvenue a la centre optical Francais” He immediately captured a large chunk of the ex pat population and the practice proved a roaring success. He also started his doctorate on the pre corneal tear film proving the old axiom that a specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less until he knows practically everything about nothing. His inventive mind furnished us with a device called a tearscope which showed the tear film through interference patterns a bit like petrol on water. I used one for many years until it went kaput He was also the uncredited inventor of the first TV remote control I spotted a bamboo cane sitting next to his TV seat, when I naively enquired as to it’s purpose he demonstrated “Wiz zis I push ze buttons and change ze channels” A bit of a Bon viveur and raconteur he taught me a lot about the finer things in life, like not making wine in a home brew bucket, of all the things the crazy English did that I think shocked his family the most.


Practice news 1

This newsletter has been somewhat delayed as we have been rather busy, not so much busy in work which has been unseasonably quiet for the last few months maybe due to Brexit concerns or perhaps just the Christmas break extending longer than usual.

No we’ve been busy upgrading the way we work as we were gradually getting snowed under with hundreds and hundreds of record cards.

Something had to give so we bought a scanner and 50 million staples removed and several thousand piles of cards later we set about scanning

2 months later we pretty much finished what proved a mammoth task, (hence the delay in this missive)

One Saturday afternoon after we closed there wasn’t a square inch of the practice not covered in piles of cards.


Visual fields

This is another of my occasional missives on some of the tests we perform and why.

The first test most people encounter is the “clicky button” test in the small dark room before mine.

Basically you are asked to fixate the central dot and click whenever you see any other dots appear around the periphery of the bowl this is to measure sensitivity across the retina

After a few calibration clicks and knowing what to expect for your age group the computer works out what we call your “hill of vision” which is most sensitive in the centre and least at the periphery. By comparing it with “normal” for your age it can spot any anomalies.

These are rare but often significant and can show up single eye defects like you get with Glaucoma and diabetes

The eyes follow a complex pathway shaped a bit like a figure of 8 back to the visual part of the brain which is situated right at the back.

Any interference along this pathway will show up during a field test and using the diagram will pinpoint where the problem is.

This test can show up anything from brain tumours and haemorrhages etc

Glaucoma normally shows in one eye with a characteristic scimitar shaped defect

I must point out these type of defects are very rare in practice but nevertheless it is reassuring to know everything is OK

An ideal plot will be completely clear but it is quite common to miss a couple of points here and there particularly if your wearing specs and hit the edge of the frame.

Fortunately it’s easy to spot the OK plots from the bad ones and I’ll let you know if I’m not happy

When we get a questionable plot we normally repeat when it often magically disappears


The birthday present

Since my last missive another another year has ticked by Stella took me out for a very nice meal in town and bought me a video game for the PS4

I was a little surprised to receive a present as I have been known to be a tad “forgetful” in that department

The game was Resident Evil 7

In it you play the hero who is searching for his wife, missing for three years who in the meantime has been turned into a deranged psychopath who keeps attacking you with a chainsaw.

I can’t seem to shake the feeling there’s some subliminal message in there

If only I could see it


Practice news 2

You might have noticed we’ve introduced longer questionnaires prior to the test

This fits in with our new system of A4 record cards and a more comprehensive overview in general

An A4 sheet would get dog eared in minutes so is useless for long term records, now we scan them as soon as we’re finished and they can be stored safely out of harms way until we need them or they get shredded.

The questions cover 4 main topics:

(1) Your personal details such as address, email address etc (only give us your email address if your happy for us to us it to contact you and PLEASE write it clearly, one typo and it is useless) (2) Reason for visit such as need new specs, routine check etc (3) Symptoms like headaches, flashing lights or things you want us to investigate (4) Medication (bring a list if needs be we can scan it) and medical conditions we should be aware of

Why the French air force doesn’t actually fly (much)

Back in those days every able bodied Frenchman was expected to do one years national service, no exceptions.

GeePee got his call up shortly after qualifying and being a canny lad immediately avoided the crawling through the mud at 6 am brigade by (being fluent in both languages) offering his services as a translator.

In the days before the advent of the Eurofighter the French airforce was mainly equipped with American built planes like the F16 which of course came with copious service manuals written in English.

To have any chance of maintaining airworthiness said aircraft required a high level of hands on from the French technicians. The only spanner in the works being the total lack of English amongst the technicians, or as GeePee put it Zeez guy’s zay do not give a merdre” or words to that effect.

A deeply ingrained chauvinism against anything not French had stifled all attempts at reversing this trend

Like it or not the manuals needed to be followed and the top brass decreed that by hook or by crook English would be learned, unfortunately what the top brass wanted and what the top brass got were two different things and all attempts at forced learning ended in abject failure.

It was against this backdrop that GeePee took up the challenge Faced with such a daunting obstacle our hero took a typically innovative approach, before he left London he visited all the local newsagents and cleared out all their “top shelf” magazines.

For the benefit of those readers that have led more sheltered lives “top shelf” magazines were aimed at “The discerning gentleman” and popular before the advent of the internet.

They tended to contain lots of pictures and a very active “letters” page they also included the occasional article on vintage cars to add a bit of gravitas.

These magazines were distributed amongst his unwilling students who seemed to perk up no end once they espied the content the aforementioned “letters page “ proving particularly fruitful where enthusiastic readers imaginatively described the antics they and their better halves got up to when it was a slow night on the telly

Within a short space of time the whole class where enthusiastically embracing the whole learning of the previously hated parle de l’Anglais

The year passed uneventfully and by the time he was due for demob the whole class to a man could hold their own in conversational English.

This achievement was practically unheard of and so remarkable that the top brass offered him a job on the spot, something GeePee modestly declined as he high tailed it back to the UK on the next (non French) aeroplane

It was only some time after he left that the penny began to drop, whilst the students had accumulated an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of ways for your average housewife from Penge and a gentleman of the plumbing profession to keep themselves amused whilst the washing machine was being fixed such knowledge proved less useful when it came to deciphering your average F16 maintenance manual

In fact their new found talents proved practically useless

(apart from an unexpected upsurge in exchange requests noted by the Penge tourist board)

Oh well back to le drawing board


We have email

After fighting the vagaries of Microsoft mailmerge for what seems like a lifetime I’ve finally managed to get a working email system for mass emailing news reminders and the like

If you want us to include you on our mailing list please send a blank email to

If on the other hand you don’t want to receive emails from us please send an email to with UNSUBSCRIBE in the header

If you want to still receive normal reminders but no emails please include a note in the email..


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