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(16) The lion and the carrot

Being brought up in the early 70’s was a very different experience from today

Parents and school were far stricter and social mores were far more restrictive in those days

So when I managed to slip the bonds of home life and arrived wide eyed and awed in the city of London to begin university it was inevitable that I would let my hair down and attempt to go as far off the rails as possible.

An early opportunity presented itself with my first student Rag week in which we were eager to participate

My fledgling career so nearly ended before it had even begun when I was “escorted” off the roof of the NatWest bank near Old Street

We were given banners to publicise the event and some bright spark decided hanging them from the top a said bank would be a wizard idea.

Yours truly fuelled mainly by beer and enthusiasm volunteered to climb the scaffolding shrouding said bank at the time, the next thing I heard was sirens and flashing blue lights and shouts from below.

“Oy, what are you doing up there?”

Bellowed the rather belligerent looking copper from far below

“Rag week mate” I yelled back full of the enthusiasm of beer and youth

Even from height I saw his shoulders sag in a “Why me?” kind of way.

I was warned in no uncertain terms to come down immediately and once my feet were safely back on terra firma I was stood against a wall and endured a stern lecture about the possible consequences of my actions

I was let off with a warning.

If he had arrested me that would have been my optical career over before it had even begun.

One of the highlights of rag week was the various colleges penchants for pinching a rival colleges mascot then ransoming them back after a suitable donation made to a chosen charity

A few day’s later news spread around our campus of an early morning raid by our arch nemesis namely Imperial college London

Basically they had hired a coach and constructed a reinforced “stretcher” type system.

Then turned up mob handed at our union around 7 in the morning with cutters and “freed” our mascot which at the time was a massive 3 ton concrete carrot

(Nope, I’ve no idea what drugs our lot were on when they commissioned an 8ft tall carrot as our mascot either but the must have been strong un’s)

This had been proudly displayed in the foyer of the student union shackled with medieval looking irons to the central pillar.

No self respecting student was out of bed at this time to stop them so they had all the time they needed to cut through the metal retaining bands, drop the carrot onto the makeshift stretcher and leg it.

Such a nefarious crime and slight to the honour of our uni couldn’t go unanswered and a raid team of keen volunteers was hastily assembled to wreak revenge.

Imperials mascot at the time was a 4 ton concrete lion (Think market square)

Now at this point I should point out the difference between our respective establishments of learning

Imperial college London was a place where the finest minds minds were honed to perfection, where mind and body were in perfect harmony in the sort of way that allowed them to organise a raid when most normal people were fast asleep in bed.

My university was a place where all the thickies who couldn’t make it to a “proper” university ended up.

The oft repeated saying about a lack of organisational ability which ends up with the words “ a brewery” is in fact a misnomer Given half a chance our lot would have been more than capable of arranging such an event.

Unfortunately that was pretty much as far as their organisational abilities went ...

No where was this more apparent then in the collected bunch of half-wits who made their way through the London night.

A large set of bolt cutters accompanied us.

No one had figured how we were going to leg it carrying a 4 ton lion but we proceeded with enthusiasm undimmed.

We filed into an empty lecture theatre and told to sit quietly until the place emptied, after what seemed like an age all the lights suddenly came on and a group of white clad figures filed into the room

The genius who planned the raid hadn’t realised that this was the night their highly popular marshall arts club met and they looked fired up and ready to demonstrate their newfound skills on the rather weedy looking bunch that now confronted them.

It was made patently clear that we could leave or be used as practice punch bags….

our choice.

Heads bowed we started to file out and had made it to the steps leading away from the union when a bit of a commotion blew up behind me.

Marigold, who rather fancied himself as a proponent of the oriental arts on the basis of having watched some episodes of “Kung Fu”

(a popular 70’s TV show) had decided to grab the bolt cutters and fight his way out.

Ever ready to rise to a challenge half a dozen whited robed individuals leapt on him and to cries of “Take that you bounder” pummelled him to the ground

Posh lot were the Imperial boys

Our union was not best pleased to lose their treasured bolt cutters especially when they ended up on display alongside the carrot before being ransomed back

None of this stopped Marigold attaining instant legendary status and he was known thereafter by all and sundry as “Bob the chop”

Historical footnote

As far as I’m aware no one ever succeeded in nicking the lion

The closest one college got was to paint his anatomically correct nether regions red white and blue

Comprehensive eye examination What is the difference and why should I have one?

Standard eye examination Takes approx. 30 minutes and I perform the tests I feel are necessary Comprehensive eye examination Takes a full 45 minutes, I perform ALL the tests available to me and produce a report together with images of the retina and front of your eye Should I choose a comprehensive test? Short answer YES Long answer, if you have any family history or concerns about your eyes and vision I would definitely choose this option when booking. If you had a recent test (within the last 18 months or so) and feel everything is OK with your eyes then I’d see it as less important

But even so personally I’d always go for the comprehensive option

The interview

The late 70’s were a time when the words “Politically” and “correct” had never knowingly been combined in the same sentence.

My 3 month sojourn at Harry’s hearing aid h’emporium was drawing to a close, during this time and despite my best efforts to the contrary the newly opened optical side of the business had been doing rather well.

Word came down from head office that for some strange reason they were rather keen to retain my services (must have been desperate)

And with this in mind it was decided that I should have my own receptionist

Someone arranged for an advert to be placed in the “Evening Post” and the day of the interviews duly dawned.

I can well remember stepping out of my room to a reception area full of hopeful interviewee’s, I hadn’t given it much thought but must have done a pretty good impersonation of the kid in the Jessop’s Christmas advert as my jaw hit the floor

Now I’d heard how famed Nottingham girls were for their beauty but it really wasn’t brought home to me until the day of the interviews. Maybe living in the sticks had got me used to a more rustic type of beauty but nothing had prepared me for this.

I’m not sure who had worded the advert (I never got to see it) but I was left with a strong impression that they’d run out of space before they got to the bit about qualifications.

Mind you casting my eye over the gathered ensemble I hardly felt inclined to quibble

Now anyone who has watched the interview episode on “the Apprentice” watching the candidates squirm under the gimlet eye of Claude and Margaret might picture a similar scenario here

Not having Claude as a mentor I chose to wing it.

The next few hours passed most agreeably, it was decided that we would pare them down and choose from the remaining candidates

Even Harry who was acting mainly as observer seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

Against all the odds the three prettiest made it through to the final round and the grilling began in earnest

It soon began to prove a bit too much for the innocent young lad doing the interviewing.

“Can you type?” “No” “Doesn't matter”

“How are you with record filing?” (Blank look)

“No worries”

By now I was a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights (and jolly nice headlights they were blessed with I can tell you)

As much as we were enjoying ourselves the same could not be said for Mrs Harry

”Chewing a wasp” was the phrase that sprang to mind when she emerged for the umpteenth time from her little room and fixing our unfortunate hero with a bit of a look asked quietly if she could “Have a word”

Harry went rather pale and followed her into their room from where an eerie silence emanated

Finally the door opened and a by now very pale Harry emerged

A short break was called whilst a fourth candidate was hastily added to the mix

Sensible shoes, a demurely done up top button and the ability to write her own name without moving her lips singled her out from the others.

I would have been happy with one of the floozies but Harry took over muttering something about how they’d lead me astray

My protestations that I was prepared to take the risk fell on deaf ears… rather ironic that. The sensible shoes had turned his head (plus the threat of dismemberment from Mrs H) The interview finished with

“One final question, Can you make a decent cup of coffee?” “Why Mr H” she said leaning forward seductively

“I make a LOVELY cup of coffee.”

(History was to prove this statement about as accurate as the other candidates claiming advanced secretarial skills.)

It mattered not, Harry’s little eyes lit up and, she was offered the job on the spot

All I had left to do was rather begrudgingly bid welcome to our newest member of staff.

And at that moment dear reader although I scarce realised it at the time my life changed

Her name was Stella.

Second practice?

It is extremely unusual for an independent opticians like Stella and I to have a single practice.

2 or even 3 is pretty much the norm with work divided between them.

In fact when we originally opened the practice in Lenton we were bidding for a second premises up on Mapperley top but it fell through at the last minute.

Since then we have tried a couple of times to establish a second practice

the closest was a house practice in Wollaton which again failed at the 11th hour

We don’t want anywhere too big as it would impinge on Lenton and we are a bid old for establishing a practice from scratch

Ideally we would like a small established practice just to fill in when we are quiet in Lenton

Also as an equal partnership “PD Rees” and “Mr Rees’s practice” have always been a bit of a bone of contention with Stella

Stella’s often hankered after a place of her own Doing it her way maybe even show me how it’s done Who knows….

Maybe one day Rodders?


As you’ll all know parking can be a bit of an issue when the shops are busy. What some people don’t realise is that when the front is full there are often spaces around the back and side of the shops.

Also there is parking along Arnesby road before 1pm and after 2pm

Be warned between 1 - 2pm there are restrictions and the traffic wardens appear from nowhere.

Also the area that used to house the Western club has now been turned into a pay parking area if all else fails, with the new university building going up over the road parking might remain an issue

The hunger games

Stella has decided she needs a new hobby, something that can inflict instant death on anyone who might be a bit prone to forget the odd birthday or anniversary

In true hunger games style she has taken up archery and has already got worryingly good at it.

Must learn to run faster Must learn to zig zag

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