Ed Lines

ABOUT four years ago, give or take a few months, I recounted how a grown man – me – was reduced to tears by the simple act of visiting the opticians. Well, I say opticians. It was one of those UltralaseOptimax type outfits in Leeds, I can’t remember which.
After years or either poking my eyes out after a gallon of beer in an effort to remove/insert a contact lens, or my specs steaming up like Gordon Brown on election night every time I bent down to open the oven, I ventured into my typically Yorkshire pockets – very deep, money generally only extracted under threat of violence or court proceedings – and decided to invest in corrective eye surgery.
Indeed I’ve just checked online and these two companies are still the market leaders. Optimax have a rather alluring offer of £395 (per eye) which, unless you’re even tighter than me and intend spending the rest of your life walking round with a squint like Marty Feldman, means it costs £790 to stop worrying about sitting on your specs, or falling asleep drunk in front of the telly and waking up with your eyes glued together.
Well, Optimax say £790, which is actually about the same headline price as when I went for the procedure. For that bargainbasement figure however, you get your eyeballs operated on with the laserage’s equivalent of a knife and fork, possibly by the teenage girl who was on reception but fancies trying her hand at being an eye surgeon (that or a pop star) while you are offered the single anaesthetic option of a piece of wood to bite down on – or not, please yourself you tight Yorkshire soandso.
By the time the surgeoncumsalesman has finished talking you through all the various painfree luxury upgrades, compared to the Japanese PoW camp reality of the ‘budget’ version you’ve signedup for (right before you go in for the op, mind!)  most people are shelling out in the region of £2,000.
For that they subsequently enjoy the surgical equivalent of having the Tooth Fairy’s big sister, the Eye Fairy, wave her magic wand over their mince pies.
Yes I know, the truth is somewhere in between, but you get the point, which is £395 per eye but only for people who like having a root canal done. Without anaesthetic.
In fairness, the staff talk you through the risks … 99 per cent success rate (it’s probably higher) and point out the fact that if you’re over 40 you’ll almost certainly require reading glasses, literally straight after the procedure. I didn’t strangely enough and never have.
But it isn’t all about cost. While Optimax try to tempt you with their £395, the Ultralase website plays coy and doesn’t mention cost straight up – they try to lure you in first with promises like “Ultralase laser eye surgery is painless and takes less than five minutes per eye.”
I suppose that depends on how you define ‘pain’. In my case the pain came later, but during the procedure itself it felt like you were having each eyeball  vacuumsucked out of your head while the laser does its work. It wasn’t exactly painful in the traditional ‘ouch’ sense, but neither was it a full body massage by a Playboy bunny. In her costume. Not that I’ve had one of those, mind you.
But for all those people reading this and considering the procedure I will say that the moment the laser work was done I could read the tattoos on a passing bus driver’s knuckles. And there wasn’t even a window in the room!
It worked a treat, that’s for sure.
Yes it was painful for a few hours after I got home (and at this point I have to qualify that by saying yes, I’m a man, and if we had to give birth then mankind would have died out generations ago).
But it was nice to get up at 4am to go for a widdle and not either fall down the chamber steps or damp down in the airing cupboard.
The freedom it brings after years of specs/contacts was truly liberating.
And all of that said, last week I had to go for some longrange glasses once again. Only a very mild prescription admittedly, but I was back to being speccy foureyes nonetheless.
I think I paid about £1,200 for my original surgery, so that’s worked out roughly at about £300 a year (oh, I’m not quite as tight as I make out – or brave!)
It’s been great to be glasses free for that time, and now it’s a nuisance hunting around for them when I want to watch the telly from the sofa in any more detail than swirls of kaleidoscopic colours, or trying to make out which player has got the rugby ball by squinting like a constipated Chinaman.
I suppose there’s still the option of going through £1,200 of knitting needles in my face again – I haven’t checked as to whether you can have it done twice – but for now I think I might just invest the money in a mega 50inch telly instead. Much less painful – so long as you don’t count the earache from the wife.

I FIND myself strangely calm, and certainly not in ‘Mr Angry’ mode, over the Conservatives’ decision to wield the axe on universal child benefit.
They have dropped a massive clanger – no surprise there – by contriving the ridiculous position of two couples earning a theoretical £87,500 salary and still getting child benefit, while one couple with a single salary of £44,000 are shafted.
But if we’re trying to strip down a broken benefits system, then child benefit for high earners has to be on the agenda. So why couldn’t they just be honest about it?
What I can very easily get into ‘Mr Angry’ mode over is David Cameron’s “aw shucks folks, yes I lied!” pantomime this week.
We’re not daft. We know the trump card of ‘massive debts left by Labour’ will be played throughout this Parliament and probably the next.
Brown and pals were still trying to waft whiffs of blame at ancient Conservative doings after 13 years. That’s what they all do. But Cameron admitted blatantly lying. “No cut in child benefits” spouted the Tories throughout the General Election campaign, time and time again. Then suddenly “oops, porky pie, folks!”
That’s the point. David Cameron is a liar, and joins the infamous ranks of other morally corrupt politicians like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. I doubt he’ll be losing sleep over his systematic deceits. He should.

NOTWITHSTANDING all I say above about the liar David Cameron, so many great noises are coming out of the Tory party during their conference – and of course in all the ‘briefings’ ahead of it.
Things like making prisoners work and learn a trade while inside; putting real meat into soft ‘community’ sentences. You’d think that’s common sense, but for a generation politicians haven’t had the guts to even say it, let alone actually do it.
Bringing proper structure and discipline back to the classrooms; giving teachers freedom to do the job without being terrified of repercussions; heck, even teaching British history – what will they think of next!?
Then there are proposals to take an axe to the compensation culture, to strip down the  health and safety rackets that plague every city, town and community.
And more, lots more. Wonderful, sensible stuff that appeals to virtually every voter except the feeble lefties who can’t see how they can make money out of it.
Of course you get the odd totemic whinge to appeal to the minorities – Sayeeda Warsi having a moan about an antiMuslim press despite the fact it’s the only reason she has her position. It was all right when it was helping construct your career, wasn’t it?
But that apart there’s so much to appeal to ordinary British people, by way of traditional, honest values.
And there’s the rub. So many good words. How many of them can we trust, for a moment, to see the light of day when the liar David Cameron can so glibly wash his hands of his deceits?
We keep hoping for something different from the last lot of allmouthandwind politicians. We hope in vain.
I don’t care whether they are Labour, Tory or Lib, just please, give us men and women of their word. Too much to ask? Seems so.

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