During the half century I’ve resided on this dysfunctional planet I’ve been confronted by numerous intriguing life questions. Among them an irritational compulsion to unearth what the Q stood for in the name of my childhood optician JQ Summers.

The affable Scotsman who practised his ophthalmic trade in a shop opposite the Cannon pub on Durham Road in Low Fell, Gateshead. And latterly in a property next to The Griddle sandwich shop.

If truth be told, I didn’t even know what the J in his ‘handle’ stood for either, although wasn’t overly fussed by that at the time. No, in the 1970s/80s, the young bespectacled GJ Strachan was more determined to learn the name extension of the middle initial adorning his spectacle case and lens cleaner.

While awaiting childhood eye tests in Mr Summers’ smallish shop, I’d often mull over the mystery behind the Q blazoned upon his practise’s branding. While my mum instigated a one directional conversation with his fragrant secretary Christine, my capricious mind would attempt to resolve the mystery. Seeking out a moniker commencing with the 17th letter of the alphabet, one which JQ’s parents could possibly deem suitable as a second Christian name.

Unsurprisingly, there was hardly a flood of names beginning with Q forthcoming. In fact the only sensible male moniker unearthed at that time was Quentin. GJ Strachan’s other epiphanies of Quadrophenia, Quintessential and Quagmire long since filed in a cranial filing cabinet labelled ‘Inane’.

For a brief time in 1976 I fed myself the notion Mr Summers’ middle name might merely be Q. This hairbrained idea fuelled by thoughts the genial optician maybe moonlighting as the British Secret Services head of the research and development….. An epiphany which swiftly joined Quadrophenia, Quintessential and Quagmire in the ‘Inane’ filing cabinet.


In the early 1980’s I occasionally drank with Mr Summers’ son Ian, who I knew through a mutual friend, Godza; a lad with who I played cricket. Known to his mates as Oxo, Ian was as affable as his old man. The Gateshead lad oft adorning an engaging smile, along with a sharp intellect which he kept well hidden so not to intimidate less erudite types. Incidentally, the origin of the nickname Oxo is as unclear to me as what the Q represents in his father’s middle name.

Although a friend on Facebook, I’ve not seen Ian since Godza’s wedding in the late 1990’s. A memorable day when old smiler Summers drunkenly attempted to convince our table that JQ once tested god’s eyesight. His unreliable revelation including news the Almighty is short sighted, although unless driving refuses to wear his specs out of vanity.

JQ Summers’ secretary Christine married Gateshead Fell 2nd team cricket captain Tony Tate sometime during the 1980’s. Despite me being a member of Tony’s team around that time, she still refused to end my years of suspense and reveal Mr Summers’ second Christian name. A stubbornness that initially frustrated me; however you can’t knock loyalty, irrespective of how blind.”….. Excuse the pun!

I’m unsure if Tatey knew/knows the answer to the Q mystery, though doubt he’d disclose it even if he did. After all Tony’s a gent; one who avoids tittle-tattle or troubling himself with the asinine gossip of the misguided…… The bl***y self-righteous get!

I never did find out what the Q stood for. I’m equally at a loss as to if my amiable childhood optician is still with us, or if he’s been reacquainted with the Lord.

If it is the latter, I’d like to think that as we speak he’s asking god “Does the chart look clearer with this lens, or the second one?….. Watch again. This lens, or the second?”



  1. Hi Gary, I’ve just been talking to Godza and Chris Smare and they reckon they know the answer to the Q mystery

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