The Blog You Didn’t Know You Wanted To Read

brian-ariel-student-id-docxBrian Ariel studied at City before it was even known as City. Here he tells us how he went from studying Optometry to writing ‘EVERYTHING YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW AND NEVER BOTHERED TO ASK’.

Tell us about your time at City, before it was City?

Prior to becoming City it was the Northampton College of Advanced Technology and I was the only one of my peers, in the Ophthalmic Optics Department, to continue studying here under the new name. My class had 24 international students from Iraq, Israel, Tanzania, West Indies, Singapore and Austria, the rest were from the UK; and I have kept in contact with a handful to this day.

Some became well known like: (Graham) Cutler and (Tony) Gross’s fashion spectacles, a brand admired all over the world, and Neil Hershman’s eye clinics in English universities, and the late Arthur Ley’s optometry legislation in Tasmania. Some students were very young, coming straight from school, while others were already married.

At the time the student union was very reactionary and I stood out like a sore thumb with my Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and anti-apartheid badges on my lapel; but I still belonged to two societies – Jazz and Film.

My course lasted 3 year followed by a pre-registration year where I worked in various practices in East London.  I was registered as an ophthalmic optician in 1963

And when it was City?

After that in 1975-8 I did a Masters in Visual Science – another 3 year course. It was an intensive course and I had to attend one day per week. At the same time I was a contact lens practitioner, taking a diploma in film theory from the British Film Institute and raising a family!

I took a M.Sc. in the hope that I could work in British Columbia. Only afterwards did I discover that I would still have to attend University in Canada for one or two years. There was no way I was doing that!

So what did you do next?

Professor Robert Fletcher gave me a teaching post in Rome which I held for 3 years. It was in bursts of 2-3 weeks sessions per year. The post involved all aspects of optometry – and at various times I have had a special interest in several of these aspects; such as contact lenses, paediatric vision, colour vision and sports vision.

I then decided to report lectures for the Child Vision Research Society, the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), sports vision and across the globe for UK optometry journals. I am a member of AAO and I was a founding member of The Sports Vision Association.  I also lectured in and demonstrated sports vision equipment quite widely and contributed to the book Sports Vision, 1995.

 When did you start writing?

Seeing my name in print in the optometry journals spurred me on to write books. I have been interested in music for a long time and was curious when I heard songs as to who wrote them and the writers’ lives. This resulted in my book SONGS OF THE 20TH CENTURY, 2011

I’m also a collector of trivia and picked up bits and pieces on my many travels. Curiosity, once again, reared its head and I wanted to know why notable people hid behind pseudonyms and initials. All these bits and pieces of information and my many varied interests came to fruition in EVERYTHING YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW AND NEVER BOTHERED TO ASK, 2011

What has been the biggest challenge to your writing?

The time consuming research and the difficulty in publicising my books.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The launch of my books on my 70th birthday when I had a receptive audience and did a signing.

What are you up to now?

I am now working on the subject of the eponymous people in the world of optics.

I also work sparingly in my profession at the tender age of 77 and try to keep fit by running and swimming.  My late father said that I would be the fittest one in the cemetery.

Any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

My last 50 years in over 75 practices have been solely clinical and have always followed the ideal of compassion, not gain.


Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London:  Hampstead Heath

Favourite holiday destination:   The Azores

Must-check every day website: Google

Dream travel destination:  Norwegian Fjord Cruise and Wyoming

Cheese or chocolate: Both cheese and chocolate