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(17) Stella & life in the (not very) fast lane

My apologies for such a large gap since I last wrote a newsletter, we’ve had a ton on our plate in the last year which just seems to have flown by.

Stella Those with long memories might remember we left off back in Harry’s hearing aid emporium having just finished the interviews for the new member of staff who duly turned up for her first day at the new job. Now no doubt (you ladies especially) will be amazed, nay astonished to learn that she didn’t immediately fall for my twinkly eyed charm well not at the first attempts anyway (or the 253rd if memory serves)

I was probably still hankering after the floozies from the interview so not at the top of my game And it has been suggested that Stella might just have spent her formative years rather hoping for something with “Tall, dark & handsome” written on the label to magically turn up. In the words of meatloaf “2 out of 3 ain’t bad” but either way our early relationship could best be described as “workmanlike” rather than romantic. There was, however an upside to this, without all that hormonal fiddle faddle to deal with we soon became fast friends which served us well in the face of Harry and the corporate machine he represented. I was now living alone in my house in Bluecoat street just off the Mansfield road, or at least partly alone as I soon got adopted by a flea bitten moggie who soon had me pegged as a bit of a soft touch for cat food and a warm place to kip. Being a traditional sort of chap I decided on a traditional sort of name and the newly monikered Rover in turn being a magnanimous sort of cat and probably realising I was a whizz with a can opener allowed me to carry on living in his new home.

Stella stayed at Harry’s for about 6 months before deciding that there had to be more to life than yelling at deaf people and went to work in a building society where her ability to fill a wastepaper bin soon became legendary. We kept in touch and finally about a year after we had originally met I think she finally gave up on her childhood dreams of a knight in shining armour and settled for moving in with me instead. Life together was great to begin with but soon the cracks began to appear, Cat’s I realised can be remarkably sanguine when faced with a weeks’ worth of washing up piled in the sink. On the other hand the female of our species can get decidedly grumpy about such things, casting my memory back I seem to recall my mum being similar when I was a teenager at home but at the time I’d just thought “that’s mum’s for you”.

Soon I found myself hankering again for the bachelor life where pots and cups only got washed as a matter of dire necessity. In those days Optics was a much more attractive proposition as a career path than it is today and I rather feebly suggested she apply for the dispensing course in London, she easily passed the entrance requirements and before I knew it had decamped to London for the two years course.

Rover and I rapidly descended back into domestic sloth interspersed with frantic cleaning up prior to weekend visits home. By now I had left Harry’s hearing aid emporium and was working as a freelance locum at various practices in Nottingham, Mansfield and even Sheffield. This of course involved quite a lot of driving and having aspirations to being a bit of a lad about town I decided I needed some wheels with a bit of oomph. Life in the fast lane My search for a totally unsuitable set of wheels led me eventually to a farmhouse in the wolds that was advertising a Lotus Europa for sale, in boy racer terms this was the sort of thing an adolescent Clarkson would have drooled over being roughly two foot tall, you had to get into it on all fours, the seatbelt was like they use in fighter planes and when the farmer demonstrated it the passenger seat that I was sitting in wasn’t even bolted to the floor.

With some trepidation I clamped myself in and we promptly went roaring off down the narrow farm track with a 90 degree bend and a field looming straight in front of us, without letting off the gas we hit the corner at full speed, slamming the wheel over we hurtled around the bend like something on any kids “must do” list at Alton towers.

The G force was phenomenal, I was hooked and without further ado I parted with my cash and drove off into the sunset A decision I soon found I would have plenty of (stationary) time to repent.

Anyone who remembers the British motor industry of the 70’s will know that in those days we produced two types of car, the giants like British Leyland and Ford produced nondescript boxes on wheels that were good for 25 mph when going downhill Secondly we had let’s say the more “specialist” manufacturers who basked in the warm glow of nostalgia but seemed totally incapable of building or designing a car that could get from A to B without breaking down or falling apart with depressing regularity

My Lotus Europa definitely fell into this latter category, it only started when the wind was blowing in the right direction and my ever tolerant neighbours learnt plenty of new and interesting phrases as I wrestled each morning with the recalcitrant starter system. This all came to a head some time later when Stella and I went to a party in Northampton held by some of the guys who had been on the surveying course and now lived there. We turned up to be greeted by looks of surprise and I suddenly noticed money changing hands amidst much groaning and moaning. Evidently Horry had been running a book on how far we would get in the Lotus with long odds offered against it getting much further than the end of our street. Turning up 50 miles away was not expected and the one guy who put his money on “more than a mile” pretty much cleaned up.

The Lotus proved an absolute hoot, once coming back from a visit to the parents in Wales it was raining heavily and I hit a rather large puddle at speed, the effect was like a freezing car wash on the inside as the water squooshed through the non existent door seals,

I can still remember Stella’s scream as the cold water hit her.

The engine was held in by three bolts on either side, on one side two had sheared off and nothing would budge them, I often drove home from my day in Mansfield expecting the engine to fall out. Sure enough one evening just coming through Daybrook the back end suddenly locked up and I came to a swerving halt. Nothing was hit and slightly shaken I got out to inspect the damage. The engine still in situ, so what had happened? “Oy mate, your wheel’s fallen off” shouted a cheery passer by, the wishbone holding the rear wheels straight had snapped clean in half and the wheel was now leaning at a rather jaunty angle.

In a moment of madness I had joined the “Lotus owners club” that met in a pub in Swinderby Lincs once a month. When I finally replaced the Lotus with a shiny new soft top TR7 I made the mistake of turning up one last time out of nostalgia but forgot to hide the new car around the corner No one spoke a single word to me all evening.


Back to college

It was time to up my game and apply to provide what are known as Enhanced services or MECS.

This involved sitting a series of online modules followed by a trip to the LRH in London where I last sat my final exams close on 40 years ago My memory of that occasion was of calm no doubt brought about by a complete lack of preparation.

These exams were a series of set scenario’s with various “patients” no doubt lured in off the street by the promise of tea and biccy’s each acting out a set “condition” and given a case history and various clues I was expected to make a diagnosis and suggest a course of treatment

History repeated itself and I somehow managed to blag my way through these. This left one rather major potential spanner in the works. I was expected to perform a routine called slit lamp biomicroscopy which involved a version of the big microscope thing in my room, a very strong lens and headless Harry a dummy that had lots of miniscule writing on the back of each eye. I was expected to read made up words like Sooter38 and Pabble01 and record what I saw, a pass was 3 in each eye and I had 5 minutes to complete the task.

My confidence didn’t last, I couldn’t see a thing apart from a load of reflections and the slit lamp refused to move where I needed it to, my panic rose as I frantically searched for the missing words and when “times up” was called I wasn’t even close.

As I’d passed the other exams it was decided I’d be given a second chance.

I was moved to a different Slit lamp and everything immediately became clear,

I was soon whizzing around & scrawling the words I now saw with some ease. The nice lady examiner told me I was doing fine and “times up” scored 6 read in one eye and 7 in the other. My optimism proved short lived The rules stated the words were spelled correctly and written CLEARLY Unfortunately by now I’d worked myself up into such a tizz that my hand was shaking uncontrollably

She took one look at my indecipherable scrawl, shook her head and pointed. “Can you tell me what that says?” I looked and looked “nope” “and that?” …”nope” She looked at me with some pity “I’ll mark it as a borderline pass” I was still shaking like a leaf when I boarded the train back to Newark an hour later.

Frame sale It’s that time of the year when we need to clear our shelves a bit to make room for some of the latest frame designs.

This is also to make room for the new spring collection we will be getting in soon.

To keep things simple we are colour coding the sale frames with pink or yellow tags Yellow 20% off Pink 30% off


Please Read

Why we need to adopt a fairer fee structure for the work we do.

A large part of the eye examination that we have been providing under the NHS these last 30+ years is not covered by the very basic NHS fee we receive.

None of the equipment I use is paid for by the NHS.

We constantly need to maintain and upgrade the equipment I use as improvements come along. Unfortunately, as in dentistry, what we can provide under the NHS is now becoming too limited. Also since we last saw you I have been busy gaining further qualifications. These are in the field of enhanced services, glaucoma and cataract refinement, red eye and sudden loss of vision to name but a few.

This in turn has given me a wider range of tests to perform in my standard routine and shown me what tests I would expect if I were having my own eyes tested.

From now on a full (enhanced) eye examination will cost £20 if NHS entitled or £40 for a private test if a prescription is issued

Both will attract a £20 loyalty discount off any spectacles then purchased

Hopefully the loyalty discount will encourage people to book an appointment when they need a change of specs getting a better standard of test and still be no worse off.

Booking an appointment due to concerns about your eyes will mean that even if you do not need a change of specs at that time you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you are getting the highest standard of care for a relatively small cost.

The £20 loyalty discount will last for 2 two years or until a new prescription is issued.

Anyone buying more than one pair of specs will be better off to the tune of £20 per pair.

Some questions I have been asked:

So, what is actually covered in a free NHS test? Basically not a lot.

An NHS test only has to involves determining a prescription and a correction if necessary and what is called detect and refer.

This means we look for any abnormalities or pathology and refer onwards to the GP or hospital. No means of funding this is provided so only the most basic equipment is involved.

For years I have tried to provide a service above and beyond but as the NHS fee (allowing for inflation) is now only about half of what it was when I bought my first retinal camera it is no longer viable to pay for all this out of my own pocket. What about the comprehensive eye examination? The enhanced eye test that we now offer as standard actually includes more tests than the old comprehensive test so now will replace it.

But what if I just want a “free” NHS test?

To remain within the terms of our NHS contract we will still be offering the option of a “free” NHS test.

Anyone who is entitled to NHS and wishes to have a “free” test can do so but this will not include:

Visual field tests as routine,

retinal photo’s

or i-care tonometry as none of these are funded by the NHS.

I will however still be performing such tests as are deemed clinically necessary depending on presenting symptoms and relevant history Children still in school will get exactly the same test as before with photos for free.

But how will this work?

By changing to this way of charging everyone is paying fairly for the service they receive. If someone wants to buy their specs elsewhere they can in the knowledge that someone else isn’t paying for the equipment that I am using to test them. Actual

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