59. Being practical.

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.

He's practically fading away!

He’s practically fading away!

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.

"Any plans for the day?" "Not really. Should we get some of those?"

“Any plans for the day?”
“Not really. Should we get some of those?”

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.

Gather round, everyone, while I tell you about nothing.

Gather round, everyone, while I tell you about nothing.

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.

Or aesthetically pleasing.

Or aesthetically pleasing.

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.

A large part of my face.

A large part of my face.

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.

Unless you're in Australia, where everything will try to kill you.

Unless you’re in Australia, where everything will try to kill you.

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.

Doesn't the city look wonderful at this time of year?

Doesn’t the city look wonderful at this time of year?

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.

My addition to the world of practical design.

My addition to the world of practical design.

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.

I love being at one with nature.

I love being at one with nature.

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?

35 thoughts on “59. Being practical.

  1. narf77 says:

    My children all suffer from their father’s affliction…short sightedness. They all needed glasses in their teens and I am the only one who has so far managed to remain glasses free (although I can see that changing in the near future…) and not only is snorkelling a chore, you need prescription sunglasses just to go out in the sun AND be able to see…try cooking in glasses Mr 23Thorns and try leaning over the pot of boiling noodles to see if they are done…My children rest their case! For once my daughters are actually going to give a damn about one of the blogs that I follow! If they should EVER want to head into the water to be one with the killer Australian aquatic throng, they can do so with glasses free impunity thanks to Mr 23Thorns, man of the moment and keeper of the glassy troth. Cheers sir, I am sure that their glasses wearing offspring (should they ever decide to have any) will thank you for your scientific experimentation.

    • 23thorns says:

      I broke my last pair of glasses when I opened up a hot oven and the world suddenly went white. One day, I hope to be spat at by a spitting cobra just so I can say that 30 years of nerdhood was all worth it.

      • narf77 says:

        My children are all “old school” about glasses. They don’t want contacts and my youngest decided at age 6 that she wanted to have glasses ASAP. Shows what peer pressure can do even amongst the nerd population.

  2. JennyO says:

    Your caption under the photo about Australia water life wanting to kill you had me snort … lol. Have you ever tried spitting in your mask, wipe the spit around, then rinse? It keeps the mask from fogging 😉

  3. Kendra Dawn says:

    You have such a fun writing style! A fun tip is that if you spit on the inside of the goggles and smear is around, they will fog more slowly:)

  4. haha that is awesome!

  5. reveriewriter says:

    Bwhahaha! Sorry, don’t mean to laugh at your pain, how annoying. Topical, since I’ve just been snorkelling and, since I’m in Australia, the sharks must have already eaten ‘cos I’m still alive … you ever try spitting in the goggles? Or using baby shampoo? Stops ’em from fogging up.

  6. holmesr64 says:

    Australia gets a shout-out! Have to admit though, although we dine out on the fact that deadly animals roam the country at will, 99.999% of us have never seen one. And would freak like a lily-livered (insert preferred object of amusement) if we did.

    • holmesr64 says:

      oops- double entry…

    • narf77 says:

      “SSHHHHHHH!” (quiet sir! We have managed to keep the riff-raff out of here by perpetuating that myth and you are just about to blow it! We can’t have everyone knowing that we really live in paradise or they will ALL want to live here 😉 )

      • 23thorns says:

        If it’s there, Mrs 23thorns will find it. She once got stung by a bee and a bluebottle in the course of a three minute walk on the beach. She’s under strict instructions never to leave her hotel while she’s in Syndey.

      • narf77 says:

        I have 1 thing to mention here Mr23 Thorns… “The Sydney Funnelweb Spider”…probably the most poisonous spider known to man, loves frequenting inner city dwellings…she has our winter on her side though…it might be active but it’s slow. Anything black and hairy is to be avoided at all costs Mrs 23 Thorns… “Danger Will Robinson!”

  7. holmesr64 says:

    Shout-out to Australia! Have to admit though, while we dine out on the killers that roam natural Australia at will and how terribly brave we are, 99.999% of us have never met any of them. And would freak as much as a lily-livered Brit or somesuch if we did meet them.

  8. anna mosca says:

    LOL, I never know if what you write is true 😀 but it’s always entertaining!!! Is it true that water holds different optical quality to air?? That would be very interesting! I love snorkeling too and having a place on the coast I go as often as I can, sure is not the Red Sea but quite nice as well… but my eyesight is fine so I’ve no first hand experience of wearing glasses under the goggles.

    • 23thorns says:

      Neither do I, some of the time:) Bu the water thing is. That’s why straws and things look bent when they go into the water at an angle.

  9. mariekeates says:

    I’ve never been snorkelling but at least, if I ever do, I will know not to worry about the glasses. Now of you could just invent something that stops them streaming up the rest of the time and stops the rain from making me blind when I’m walking you could be on to something. I might even buy your invention 🙂

  10. sisteranan says:

    Nobody ever counts how many times it takes for something to get invented… they just reel back and oo in amazement at how practical the thing is once it’s in the world. wtg

  11. Ashana M says:

    Good to know I can go snorkeling anytime I feel like it. Maybe all of us short-sighted people should just carry jars of water around our heads?

    Oh, but then there’s the breathing bit…

  12. smallpebbles says:

    Well, at the very least, you gave the fish some more inane human entertainment!

  13. kokkieh says:

    You can also get prescription diving goggles. Just saying. 😉

  14. retrobob57 says:

    Well, this is relevant. I’ve worn glasses since the first grade. It seems like they fog up or steam up every time I turn around.

  15. Jocelyn Hers says:

    Sympathy, sympathy. I could never go swimming (sea or pool) without worrying about glasses or lenses. Then I had cataracts treated, and, such is the wonder of modern medicine, I don’t need either glasses or lenses. Bliss.
    Wait until your nine year old is sixteen or so, eats the equivalent of dinner at five, is ravenous at seven, and has a “small supper” at ten. If he has friends over multiply by number of friends times two.
    The really annoying part – they stay thinner than rakes.

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