'If you don't stop reading in bed," my grandfather used to say, "You'll grow up and have to wear big glasses like beer bottles!" Infuriatingly, he was absolutely right. And I hate wearing glasses. They're not sexy. For anyone who says they are sexy, who was the heartthrob in ER? Dr Ross or Dr Greene? Yeah. They leave red marks, you have no peripheral vision and, worst of all, you can't lie on your side to watch TV. And contact lenses always gave me a horrible enclosed feeling, as if my eyes were in prison.
So for years now I've been promising myself laser eye surgery - just as soon as I could pluck up the courage. Call me a coward, but as far as I'm aware these are the only eyes I'm ever likely to grow, and paying money to have them cut up never came close to the top of my spending agenda. That is, until Lasik came along.
Lasik (laser in situ keratomileusis) is the hot new thing in the eye world. If you're reading this over breakfast, you may want to stop right here. Before Lasik, there was PRK (photo-refractive keratectomy), which - blergh - scraped away the front of the eye to reshape the lens that was causing you trouble. Your eyesight would be out of whack for weeks but, more importantly, it hurt. For days.
Lasik uses much more accurate laser to cut and roll aside a flap of surface cornea so that a laser beam can remove tissue from the inside of the cornea. The laser shaves off 39 millionths of an inch of tissue in 12 billionths of a second, it doesn't hurt, and your vision is improved within a few hours. It works best for low-prescription short sight - if you're over a -4, they may only be able to improve rather than rectify - and your prescription will have to have been relatively stable for a couple of years.
When people ask why I chose this form of surgery, I tell them that it is standard practice at my optician - which is true. What I don't tell them is that I originally chose my optician because he had a Japanese robot dog.
Some adverts suggest that the price of Lasik surgery is around £500 per eye, but I paid around twice that. I comfort myself with the fact that there are some things in life that you shouldn't skimp on, and this, along with sushi, is one of them. Plus, this is the optician that Sharron Davies went to, and a former Olympic swimmer wouldn't lie, would she?
It is a lot of money. On the other hand, I lose my glasses down the back of the sofa once every three months, and disposable lenses are about a pound a day. And then there's all the time wasted marching round the house going, "Where the hell are my bloody glasses?"
My consultant is very charming. He actually apologises for being French. It is a sad statement about this country that people are willing to cure our vision and still expect to get slagged off for their nationality. But, as it turns out, the doctor is merely the diagnostician, and the man in charge. You needn't have any worries about whether or not he has had too much coffee and is going to have a shaky hand. In fact, a robot does it. This fills me with both excitement and dread.
"Do you have any questions?" asks the consultant.
Yes, I have tons of questions. None of which are going to be very helpful here. Such as: "What if the robot gains consciousness and turns evil?" Or, "Does the laser start at the bottom of the table and work its way up, James Bond-style?"
I do ask: "Could I go blind?"
"No, that is impossible. Unless the machine fell on you from the sky."
And, "Is it true the smell of burning eye is horrible?"
"It's not very nice, no."
My nice consultant seems slightly disappointed in me when I ask for the optional sedative. (Quick quiz: a laser robot is about to cut into your eyes. Do you take the optional sedative or not?)
You lie under the laser gun thing and watch a big red spot above your head. They put on a "suction ring" to lift the eye up. In the literature it tells you that this may cause "a little discomfort". I am here to tell you that it is like getting your eyeballs pried with a spoon then sucked out with a vacuum cleaner. It is not nice at all. Fortunately, a cute male nurse lets me squeeze his hand tightly (I'm not sure if this is standard procedure). The actual bursts of laser (which sound like an electric drill) don't hurt at all. And it's very quick indeed; a couple of minutes, if that. They warn you, somewhat redundantly, not to talk. Although I do ask for confirmation that I am being brave (" very brave", they all agree).
Then you are led to a dark room - and the worst bit begins. I make my living out of writing and reading tiny print. But after Lasik treatment, you can't read, watch TV or use a computer for two days. I bribe a friend of mine with a bottle of Jack Daniel's to read to me from Roget's Profanisaurus for the first 40 minutes, but after that I'm pretty much on my own.
As someone who had been hopelessly addicted to the written word since the age of four, this could have proved an interesting time. Perhaps this was my chance to engage in a little meditation, or a greater appreciation of the world around me. Perhaps it an exploration of great music, or simply a time to stop and reflect a little. On the other hand, I could take huge doses of sleeping pills and sleep continuously for 48 hours.
You have an appointment the next day so they can check up on you. I was light -sensitive and on the first day couldn't read print at all; there was also a white mistiness to the air. But I tested slightly better than 20/20.
Woo hoo! I feel as if I have somehow achieved something personally. By the third day, all traces of counter-effects have gone. You have to wear glasses all day for two weeks - sunglasses outside, plain-glass glasses inside - and hideous plastic bug-eye protectors at night. I am tempted to pick up my boyfriend from the airport wearing the bug eyes and refuse to take them off.
If you drive, you're probably safe to do so after a few days. Just remember: no eye make-up, and no touching your eyes at all. Also, you can't get your eyes wet, so showers become out of the question, unless you're a contortionist. No eye rubbing for four weeks, no swimming for eight, and no contact sports for eight weeks. Although I confess I don't know any speccy kids that do contact sports.
I do, though, keep sneaking my plain glass spectacles off. Just to have a look. My eyes are like puppies - they can't quite believe it every time I let them off the leash. My eyesight is so good . I almost don't believe it myself until I get to shed the red-nose spectacle mark in a fortnight. But then, there'll be no stopping me. (Not for 12 years, at least, until I get my age-onset hyperopia.)