Friday, September 02, 2011
Apologies For My Extended Absence. I Have Been Held Hostage By My Teeth
I would apologise for my absence from these pages if I thought anyone had noticed, but the sad truth for a silver - verging on ferrous oxide - surfer such as myself, is that the internet has become overrun with celebrity, filth, and irrelevance. And that's just the Daily Mail.
In truth, I have been unwell. My teeth have been playing up again, and I have been forced to endure a series of sadists with poor communication skills in the vain hope of finding a solution. My problem is age (and how many times do I say that to myself of a damp autumn morning?). It was my misfortune to be born at a time when the ethos of dentistry was changing. My mother, Mrs Elder (or Ma'am) talked fondly of her 21st birthday, because on that day, along with the key to the door (and a 16 hour-a-day job mashing raspberries at the cannery), she was given a full set of mahogany choppers. Her teethy teeth were removed, and donated to science. I understand they reside in a glass jar in the Surgeon's Hall museum, next to a two-headed pygmy in brine, where they are often mistaken for a masterpiece by the punk charlatan, Mr Damien Hirst.
By the time my teeth had succumbed to a lifetime of jube-jubes, the National Health Service had introduced a new ethos: to preserve the teeth by any means necessary, without regard for the pain and inconvenience this may cause to the patient. Over the years, this philosophy has been modified somewhat. Currently, it can be characterised as preserving a bit of tooth at all costs, with the emphasis on costs. So it is that even when dentistry is free, one's practitioner will find a way of charging hundreds of pounds, while also making sure that the work is completed to a ludicrously tight schedule. Most of my appointments are scheduled to last 30 minutes. but I have noticed that they tend to unfold with the rhythm of a 10,000 metres race, rushing aimlessly at the end, before sending me out into the daylight in a state of collapse with mysterious flecks of red plastic attached to my face.
I hope it is not racist to mention it, but I was happier when dentists were British. It may be a small point, but the ability to converse with the patients - who, like passengers on trains, are now thought of as customers - made the whole gruesome business a little more bearable. I am not saying that these British fellows were better dentists: my old scale-and-polish man was a terrible alcoholic who learned his drilling technique on Piper Alpha. But if I am going to be humiliated, I would like to understand the nature of the humiliation as it is happening. My last dentist, Mr Ceaucescu, was an angry Lithuanian, whose smalltalk extended to three words: "Open", "close", and "goodbye". That is not to say that he offered no entertainment. A flatscreen television on the ceiling showed the films of Mr Vladislav Starevich in endless loop. He was particularly find of Terrible Vengeance.
Oddly, I didn't intend to write about teeth. I turned on my computer because I felt the need to say something about trams. But I suppose that can wait. When it comes to trams, I fear Edinburghers will have to get used to waiting.