Gap-toothed, straggle-haired, scab-kneed, exploring the wide golden demesnes of the untrammelled infant mind, she is startled by the sudden flash and looks up with a wild surmise: captured forever where she sprawls playing purposefully on the kitchen floor. Six years old and mad as a bag of snakes, she looks it. Her beloved black leggings, speckled with tiny silver stars, have become colonised by galaxies of dust and fleshy suns where the thin fabric has yielded to the floor-foraging rub. Her floral T-shirt, a mess of roses, has sprouted a gallery of soily stains, and her specs are the crowning glory. Shining emblems of her unselfconscious insanity, the thin, grass green metal frames form ovi-oblong shapes rarely seen in nature or design. They are much too big for her face, and veer wildly to one side, cutting across the centre of one eyeball like kryptonite cheese wire and framing the opposite brow with a swooping upward slant.
It is probably the only moment in my life to date that I have ever been truly chic. My beleaguered parents, with what seemed a spectacular knack for spectacular humiliation at the time, knew more than I thought, for the perfect pair of glasses should indeed look a bit wrong. Those flimsily frameless affairs, whittled into near-invisibility by soft-spoken opticians determined to foreground your face, utterly miss the point. Spectacles symbolise defect and ostracisation: their women are blackballed bluestockings and their men house-bound, book-learnin’ milksops. Truly excellent specs should shout uncool, remain resolutely unruly, refuse to kowtow to such petty concerns as social acceptance, attractiveness or style. I am busy magnifying Roberto Bolano, they cry, I care not for your judgemental stares.
As all those frozen-forrid’d aliens currently staggering around London Fashion Week in seven-inch Eley Kishimotos and badge-encrusted jumpsuits clutching ziplocks of edamame know, downright wrong can be some kind of wonderful. The sad thing is that, beyond six, we can only carry it off with such sneering, superior knowingness that it becomes ‘wrong’, permanently attached to a pair of painfully arch apostrophes. And that leads to tame, fashionably condoned ‘wrong’ eyewear, such as the heavy black rectangles which have become unisexually popular and which aren’t really wrong, just crap.
The truth is, from age seven onwards you just have to go classic and dull; twenty years on from that photo in the kitchen, my perfect frames come in the stern, elegant shape of Oliver Peoples Larrabee, coloured a silky blonde horn hue. A little bit 50s, a little bit 80s, a little bit professorial, a little bit geek, they allow me to hubristically and rather pathetically imagine I could be Kim Basinger in her prime, reading The New Yorker in nothing but a Toast granddad shirt and a tie. They look great, but also serve as a constant reminder that my glory days of truly brave, truly nuts, truly beautiful glasses are irretrievably gone, like the holey leggings with silver stars.
Nevertheless, those louche Larrabees still wildly tilt on my wonky face like drunken mountaineers clinging to the North Ridge of K2. Somewhere deep in my bones, the irrepressibly cool six year old plays on.