When we woke up yesterday, we had no plans at all. Just another school holiday day with the kids, trying to prevent sibling interaction from escalating to gunplay, and wondering how a nine-year-old who looks like he’s suffering from malnutrition can eat eight kilograms of food a day. Between meals.
By the end of the day, we had stripped all the paint off the inside of our bedroom, made a huge hole in the wall, and plastered it over. That’s how we tend to do things. Just wake up of a morning and decide to go ahead and build a carport or remodel the kitchen. We even had the children like that. Which was a hell of a thing to do on a whim.
Bu there is a piper to be paid. And so today we had to repaint the bedroom. And we had to go to Papachino’s, a restaurant round the corner. We didn’t want to go to Papacino’s, but somewhere along the way yesterday, we seem to have given our youngest the idea that we were going to “Cup of Chinos” today. We could have been firm, resolute sort of parents, and spent the day listening to a tearful monologue about how “we promised”, but life is too short.
And so here I sit, not have given myself any time at all to do a blog today. I haven’t even thought about a subject. But fear not. I’m just going to ramble until I get to about 700 words. Brace yourselves.
Actually that’s not quite true. I’m not exactly rambling. When I started out on this 100 posts in 100 days story, I made a list of possible subjects. I’ve ignored it since then. But today, with time being short, I checked it out. And there, on the very last line, it said “snorkelling in glasses”. Sorted.
I’m going to tell you a little story about being practical. I am quite practical. I can take things apart and put them back together again. I can see why things aren’t working. I can fix them with bits of wire and superglue so that they actually work again. But being practical isn’t always very practical.
I got my first pair of glasses when I was still in school. Since then, my eyes have been slowly but surely deteriorating. What this means is that every couple of years I go off and get my eyes tested, and come out with a new pair of glasses. Now I can’t really see without them. And have a drawer full of old glasses.
I like wearing glasses. They feel like part of my face. I tried contacts for a while, but just never quite took to them.
But there is one time when wearing glasses is a problem. Snorkelling. Not that I go snorkelling very often. But I have been lucky enough to go on tropical island holidays four or five times over the last 30 years or so.
Snorkelling over a tropical reef is one of life’s joys. You hang there in the water, suspended over a wonderland of bright, moving colour like a cloud. Soft coral drift gently in the current, while fish busily go about their lives. Hundreds of fish. Big ones and small ones, loners and fish that swim in tightly massed little schools or flash past in seemingly endless processions. Every pattern or hue you can think of is here; spots, stripes, splashes of blues and yellows and greens. And there are other creatures here, too; sea cucumbers lolloping obscenely across the seabed, tiny squids jetting past in little groups, turtles drifting past as if flying rather than swimming.
It’s one of the few things you can do in nature that lives up to what you see on TV. But there is one thing that they don’t show on TV. Goggles steam up. Add the warmth of your face, the coolness of the water, and a piece of glass together, and eventually your goggles start to mist up like a mirror next to a hot bath.
It’s no big deal. You can just flush them out with water and carry on. Unless you’re me.
I am, as I said, practical. And so, the first time I went snorkelling, I made a plan. I broke the arms off an old pair of glasses and fitted them snuggly into my goggles. Easy. Until I actually went snorkelling in them.
And then the mist rolled in. No easy little flush for me. It somehow seemed to take a little away from the experience. I would drift with the current, pausing to look down at a delicately marbled moray eel slither snakelike from its hole, or peer to one side and spy a barracuda, sleek and sinister, patrolling the deeper water off the reef. Then stop, lift my head out of the water, take off the goggles, take out the glasses, rinse the whole bloody lot off, put them back together, put them back on, and get my head back down.
Heaven again. An unlikely little yellow box fish would come fluttering past on wispy little fins, or a writhing mass of slithering black and white catfish would appear from behind a coral. Stop. Lift. Disassemble. Clean. Choke. Reassemble. Heaven again.
It was just the price I had to pay for the experience. Until we went to the Seychelles earlier this year. On the morning of the last full day there, I went out snorkelling one last time. Except that this time, somewhere in the middle of a demisting frenzy, I dropped my glasses. Oh dear. I sighed and thanked the gods this had happened on the last day.
I put the goggles back on, more to hold my snorkel in place for the long, blurry swim back than anything else. I put my head back down and set off. And stopped. Everything was clear. Crystal clear.
And not just the stuff right in front of me. Everything. I could make out every detail ’til the haze of the water itself wiped out the horizon. It turns out that water has different optical qualities to air. It brings everything right up to you. And I’m short sighted.
Thirty years. Stop. Lift. Goggles off. Glasses out. Clean. Glasses in. Goggles on. Over and over again. And all the time feeling pretty smug about the clever little plan I’d made with my old glasses. All for nothing. I’d never even bothered to check; never just slid the goggles onto my face to see what it might be like. Which isn’t very practical, is it?