Spending too much time indoors is shortsighted, so get outside for your viewing pleasure | Rachel cooke

For weeks, I have trouble getting new contact lenses. Whether it’s due to Brexit, the pandemic, or some other unknown factor, my prescription is still unavailable. This has never happened before and I have been wearing soft lenses since I was 18, when I begged my mom to buy them for me before I went to college, the better I could spot all the boys with whom I was hoping to get by in a distance.

These days, I don’t care as much about how I look in my Coca-Cola bottles as I used to. But even so, I can’t say I’m happy. My sunglasses are prohibited, as are my reading glasses. Worst of all, behind the plump thickness of my glasses, I feel (ironically) slow-witted and heavy, as if moving through thick fog.

In search of consolation, I picked up Through the glasses, a new book by groovy cultural historian Travis Elborough, in which he tells the long and often rather bizarre history of shows. It’s fascinating.

I now know, for example, that the earliest evidence of myopia glasses can be found in Italian ducal documents dating back to 1451 and that there were still auctions of Atlantic hawksbill turtle shells (used to make, among others, “tortoiseshell” frames) in London in 1939.

Elborough notes that myopia is on the rise. UK, twice over 10-16 years (one in five) are nearsighted than 50 years ago. In 2012, a study of 19-year-old men in South Korea found that 96.5% were. Why? One of the culprits could be the fact that our lives are increasingly being lived on the inside. Time spent outdoors can help protect against the development of nearsightedness, perhaps because light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, preventing proliferation of the eye that leads there.

Children, you have been warned. Leave your rooms immediately knowing that by doing this you will be able to continue reading your endless stream of Snapchat messages.

Emperor Osborne?

A bust of Nero in the British Museum. Photography: Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA

After being appointed chairman of the British Museum’s trustees, there is talk of the role George Osborne, David Cameron’s former austerity chancellor, will play in helping the institution reach an “ever wider” audience. Hmm. In 2002, I was sent to report on the state of the Conservative Party under the disastrous leadership of Iain Duncan Smith. What should be done with it? Who got answers?

Osborne, then the youngest Tory MP, spoke to me in his car outside a school in his constituency in Tatton, Cheshire. He agreed that things were bad. Its members, he told me, were too old: “What the party needs, Rachel, are people like you… ”There was a brief pause as I stood at attention, wondering what he could possibly mean and if I should be flattered or horrified. Then, at full throttle, he said it: “Ordinary people. ”Still, her famous 2013 Caesar-style haircut will suit the Roman gallery perfectly.

Fake weed sucks

No fuss, no insects: synthetic turf.
No fuss, no insects: synthetic turf. Photography: Alamy Stock Photo

When, if at all, will the government or local councils ban artificial turf? In confinement, selling stuff apparently pulled (even before the pandemic, 8m m² were sold every year). This is madness. Real grass absorbs carbon dioxide and supports the insect population; the false grass ends up in the landfill. But that’s not the only reasons I hate it. Homeowners spend their evenings proudly vacuuming their fake expanses of greenery as if they were rugs, a noise almost as annoying as that of a high-pressure hose or leaf blower.

Rachel Cooke is a columnist for The Observer

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