New glasses for me are part of a saga. Readers living in Israel will recognise this drama - I could almost call it a tragedy - only too well. For everyone, I urge you to read on, we have a happy ending...
About three years ago I went to my local optician in Jerusalem and was told that I needed reading glasses. I stuck my head firmly in the sand and went about my business as usual. Over the next year I noticed three things. 1) I, an avid reader, had stopped reading for pleasure as it was no longer comfortable. 2) I was zooming in for larger and larger print on my laptop. Let's face it, three words per screen view is ridiculous. And 3) I couldn't read the ingredients on food items in the supermarket. I was fed up of having to raise my glasses and squint in order to see the sugar content and E-numbers.
At the time I didn't realize exactly how expensive this would be to rectify. As I couldn't afford the luxury of comfortable vision, I asked my parents to pay for the glasses as my birthday present. How sad is that, that your parents have to buy you specs for your 49th birthday?
In the end I bought one pair of multifocal glasses with the cheapest frame that looked decent and one pair of sun glasses (also with a cheap frame) with just the distance lenses. They threw in reading lenses on an old frame that I provided. The whole package came to about 4,500nis (at the time this was about £750). I put it on my UK credit card and the bill came to my parents. I think 'shocked' would be an appropriate word here.
"Next time do it here at Fastlens," said my mother. Since then I've spoken to various friends in Israel who need new glasses and just can't afford them. One friend, a family man with a good job and a working wife, described it as one of the most upsetting experiences of his life. "I'm not talking about a luxury holiday, a car, or private school fees. It's a pair of glasses so I can see, for goodness sake (he may have used stronger language). I'm 40 years old, and I can't afford the basic necessity of a pair of glasses so that I can see!"
|Quick selfie of new glasses. Sorry no make-up and forgot to smile.|
Last week I went into the opticians in Jerusalem and had an eye test. I bought my prescription for 200nis (about £36) as I wasn't buying glasses from them but needed to take the prescription away with me. In the interests of research and because they were eager to show me how reasonable their prices are, I was offered one pair of multifocals with thin lenses at 3,900nis (£696) plus the cost of frames which start at 400nis (£71) but realistically wouldn't cost less than 600nis (£107). They 'generously' said that a pair of sunglasses for distance only, was included in the price. So that's about £803.
Here's what I did. Two return flights to London from Tel Aviv with Easyjet came to just over £700. On Monday morning I took my prescription into Fastlens in Edgware and ordered one pair of good quality, thin, multfocal lenses at £250 and a frame for £40. As we were coming to London anyway for the Bar Mitzvah, I paid £290 pounds for my glasses plus the £36 pounds for the prescription = £326 (1,826nis) in total, instead of about £803 (4,497nis). They were ready to collect by Friday morning.
In return for naming my optical heroes and linking to their website, Fastlens made me a pair of distance sunglasses (worth about £65) free of charge. I was going to write this post anyway just without mentioning any names. That would have been a shame though as I am more than delighted with this whole process especially as it's something I'm likely to have to do every few years for the rest of my life.