Friday, 29 June 2007

Chewing Spleenwort in a cave

When I turned up at the surgery this morning George was musing on the conflict that exists between wanting harmony between all people, and all people wanting something different from everyone else. It was a bit early for me, so I suggested he do some filing.

Some time in the past, George was a well-known personality in the Quantock Hills on account of his knowing every sort of fern that covered them. He was also uncommonly interested in the effects of the Spleenwort, a type of fern reputed to solve splenic poor attitude, something Bessy had an excess of during our walk this morning.

Mr Clobwright was also with poor attitude (as usual). His descendants, he tells me, were the first Britons to fashion large pieces of wood into things to hit people over the head with. Felix holds the view that it was far easier to invent things in the old days because everything was yet to be invented. Given the red rotundity of Mr Clobwright's face I didn't mention this, but congratulated him on his family's good fortune. Whether mankind in general has been as fortunate I couldn't say.

It does make me wonder, though, if George had been around when Mr Clobwright's ancestor was in the process of fashioning his first piece of wood, if a little Spleenwort mixed into his tobacco pouch might not have had an amazing effect on the history of the world. But then, they weren't chewing tobacco in those days were they?

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Anarchy on a seal's patch of ice

Drinking tea has become a rather wettening experience in the UK, when conducted in the open air. With the wet come tales of seals desperately sad on waking in the morning and realising their patch of ice is floating away from the north pole.

Felix has just returned from his metaphysical journey to the north in one piece. I asked if that is unusual and he took offence. It seems that Felix's journeys are designed to be so hazardous that any other mortal should expect to come back in several bits. Bessy would prefer there to be a loose femur among them if she were to have her way.

A gentleman looking much like an aristocrat of some sort stopped to ask why the wind was so cold. Felix replied that it had something to do with Thomas Paine who didn't much care for the high-born sort. I'm not sure that was what the elderly gentleman was after and mentioned an easterly from Siberia instead.

George was very cold too this morning, on account of his not receiving an email from our new leader. I suggested he would be less concerned if he weren't so keen to follow. He pouted his lips, turned his face sightly to the side, planted his hands on his hips, and said I was an anarchist and that no good would come of me.

He answered the telephone and handed me the receiver with Margaret on the other end asking about the Russian Steppe. Cookie said she didn't realise I was a ballroom dancer. George said I couldn't be because I couldn't follow rules.

Mrs Finkleworthy popped in for chat about her son's crooked teeth. I asked her if he'd had anything to do with seals on lonely blocks of ice. She replied that her son was a good and decent boy who was always early. Cookie asked if that meant he was aspiring to the aristocracy. I have no idea what she was talking about.

Which is why the seals are so interesting. It must be that they broke some rule or other when their bit of ice said farewell to the mother-ice. And if the seals broke a rule then, according to George, they and I share something. What a great sense of bonding I have with the world as a consequence.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

An opinion on eating Pistachio nuts

Bessy has an ear infection. Felix said that this is what happens when dogs start to examine their own consciousness and develop broader opinions on the world. I wondered if there was a scientific rationale for that but Felix insisted there wasn't a need for one. Intuition was as good as anything when it came to deducing the consequences of creatures expressing their opinion.

I said I thought this was nonsense and Felix poured his tea over my lap. I think he has a point.

George was waiting with his own opinion when I arrived at the surgery. I warned him that the consequences of him expressing - or not expressing - his opinion were totally out of my control and that, for all I knew, he'd have an infected ear by the end of the day. George scratched his ear with his freshly-painted nails, and said he thought I was spending too much time with the black dog. Seeing as Bessy is a white and grey sheepdog I figured George was expressing an opinion about something he knew nothing about, and decided to leave it at that.

Cookie had Mr Rodrick seated in the chair and bibbed-up ready for his endodontic treatment when I arrived later than expected. She was plugged in to her radio waves and he was counting his prayer beads. He had travelled extensively in the Middle East and, like everyone else passing through that part of the world, he said, had dreamt about swimming through sand. I asked if he was speaking metaphorically, but he said he had no use for big words.

This brings me to pistachio nuts which are harvested, among other places, in Syria. I bought a bag for Bessy to console her in her ear misery, as the consequences of her existential self-examination takes its effect. I've been where you are, I told her, though she didn't seem too interested.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Talking to slugs

It's been a tough few days for which I must apologise. The slugs that normally reside in the small garden adjacent to the surgery have taken to exploring the surgery itself. Not a problem for Cookie who has taken to communing with them as they transit patients. She believes that they have as much right to be there as the patient does. George on the other hand has a taste for such creatures with his coffee break. As you can imagine, all hell has broken loose.

What does one do when caught in the middle? I consulted the zen monk who meditates beneath the beans in our very own garden. He never has told me his name and I respect the dignity that makes him do that. He told me to sit with him a little while. That was on Thursday and I've been there until now when I discovered somebody had taken to reading this blog. This alone surprised me as it is simply a greying dentist rambling to himself rather than his nurse. I was further surprised when I discovered the first blog had been recorded by Open Source Radio. I have asked Cookie if she could work out where to buy me a vinyl record of this. She told me that there was a bondage shop in the next town if I was into that sort of thing.

Sometimes I think there's a degree of in-communication between Cookie and me. But I'm optimistic this will change. Which is where the monk comes in. I've spent the last few days trying to reason with the slugs and will - after this brief blog -return to them. The monk said that if I could master slugs, I could master anything. But he was insistent I don't tell them to feed on his beans.

Update in a few days' time.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

George finds the dark soul of the flower

George took one look at the flowers I bought for Margaret on this, her birthday, and fainted. I remembered at that moment that George had spent some time running a flower shop in the Kalahari. His friend had a particular nose for new markets, George told me. However, just as things were taking off, they were accosted by termites so left for Brighton (UK) where they made a film about keys and other methods of entering the soul. I never asked to see it out of an uneasy feeling I might not like the consequences.

Anyway, Mr Reynold and myself ensured George was fine after a few moments of having his feet in the air. This was of benefit to Mr Reynold who was waiting for George to tell me he was there. Mr Reynold was particularly vexed himself today owing to his new wood, just in, being full of woodworm. Cookie overheard and suggested he put the wood out on a rainy night and wait for the birds to have breakfast. I could see Mr Reynold was distressed by the lack of comprehension on Cookie's part, and he asked if woodworm attacked teeth. I reassured him that there were no larvae to burrow away at his teeth, but plenty of bacteria - should he be consuming sufficient quantities of sugar. Seeing his face become more distraught, I distracted him by telling him about the termites in the Kalahari. Cookie tells me she has a friend who is afraid of termites and other little creatures that invade school time.

Going back to the flowers, Margaret asked if they were suitable for smoking. Slightly alarmed I said she could have a go but I couldn't be held responsible for their effect. Bessy was clearly unimpressed by my cavalier reply and grabbed the flowers from my hand. Margaret sneezed as she often does when personally affronted for some perfectly good reason, and I chased Bessy to the cliff edge. For a moment I wondered if in fact I had misunderstood Bessy's intentions and that she felt the flowers would take her somewhere she'd never been, even to find the key to her soul perhaps. Having doubts myself about the suitability of experimenting with one's soul at the edge of a cliff I made a lunge for the hound.

Bessy remains with us this afternoon, though not due to my efforts but the passing offer of a male escort of the four legged sort, and the beautiful flowers have journeyed out into the charm that is the English Channel. George may have known more than me when he saw them this morning. Perhaps he had seen into their souls and decided this was the only end open to them despite my intention that they should bring my wife happiness. What a responsibility that is for George to carry.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Counting butterflies and other ethical issues

Bessy chased a butterfly as Felix and I sat drinking our tea. Felix, in his understated manner, said she'd start world war three. I disagreed but, to be on the safe side, called Bessy and put the lead on her. Butterflies have a way of pitching up in unfamiliar contexts, though whether that concerns them or not is something I honestly don't know.

As we were removing a wisdom tooth this morning, Cookie removed her wires and asked if by removing the tooth I would be destroying something intimate within Joe Farfar's mouth. Since the tooth was already half way out of the socket I felt a twinge of guilt that, with all my experience, I had never considered this possibility. To be honest, I wasn't sure what Cookie was talking about but ceased the procedure out of politeness to her and her opinion. Seeing that I was waiting for her to build on her premise, she swiftly put the wires back in and said no more, leaving me with the ethical dilemma I wouldn't have had, had she not said anything.

I considered the options and decided that a tooth - like most people - has to find itself all out alone at some stage in its life, and now was as good a time as any. Joe seemed less than chirpy when, having spent the lunchtime deliberating the issue, I finally removed the tooth. I warned him that the wrong decision might have started world war three. He asked if I had made it. That posed another ethical issue so I didn't answer.

Cookie, I suspect, is seeking intimacy with the white rectangle she is always walking around with. I suppose these things must be possible in this day. It makes me wonder if it is possible for Bessy, instead of chasing the butterfly, to snuggle up and tell it secrets too. For the sake of the ephemeral thing they call world peace, I hope so.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Unsticking upside-down constitutions

George told me a friend of his in Japan was taking lessons in walking upside down on giant teacups. I believe George believes this is true and so I believe it must be too. Watching anyone doing something upside down is rather unappealing to me but, then, bats do it all the time. I suppose it all comes down to one's constitution.

Which is why this blog has arrived three days later than it should, Bessy having taken it into her head that she wanted to visit a caravan on Saturday. Margaret spent most of the weekend trying to lasso the donkey so that we might ride the cart. Unfortunately, due to the intervening time and the sight of Margaret running about the field, Bessy's inner essentials turned rather - well - upside down. So Bessy has forgotten about the caravan and we're all rested.

With regard to hanging upside down, Felix found a blob of chewing gum on the underside of his bench, which caused him some mild consternation. The gum was his, he said, but he was disappointed that nobody else had noticed. I said I'd mention it in the blog and he could see if anyone came to the bench tomorrow. But then he went all shy and said he didn't want anyone to see it and that as a dentist I should know better than to expose someone. So I promised I wouldn't say where the bench is.

But all this brings me back to the question of identity that I meant to pose at the start, but didn't. I think that's what links George's friend with the teacups, Bessy's lack of constitutional agreement, and Felix's piece of gum. It's all about defining who they are. And, by me discussing them, who I am. Which is all very wonderful in some way I haven't quite understood.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Bleaching Quails Eggs

Felix told me this morning that the quails were still nesting. I think this is code for something and so I nodded approvingly as we sat looking at the sea drinking our tea. Bessy likes quails eggs once they've been scrambled. I told Felix and he clearly took this to mean something terrible because he didn't talk to me after that. I left for a day in the surgery wondering if that was code for something too.

Still, when I told Mrs Winterbottom about the quails eggs she complained that every time she looks in the mirror her teeth remind her of them. She asked about having a dental face lift which made me think of one of those Salvador Dali paintings with sticks and rope supporting parts of a rather saggy-looking face.

I explained that having eggs for teeth would make the whole cosmetic process very fragile. I thought again of Felix's face when I had mentioned 'scrambled' on my way in and reassured Mrs Winterbottom that her ageing face was perfectly natural and dignified as it was. I suggested it was far more beautiful than mine even though she is twenty years older. She patted me on my knee and said there, there.

Talking of quails I noticed on my last trip to the Sahara the sun-bleached bones of a lost squirrel. I normally take to shooting the little creatures with bird seed in the garden, but seeing the little white bones lying in the sand I felt a pang of sadness and thought of bleached teeth.

Which brings me back to Mrs Winterbottom who tells me she's bought shares in a start-up cosmetic dental factory where people would walk in one end looking and feeling their age, but walk out only feeling it. I asked if the factory would operate in a protective environment, noting on her record card that she has an allergy to nuts. She looked at Cookie and tut-tutted. Cookie raised her eyes to the ceiling and rolled them round like ball bearings in a teacup, and said that people building factories knew how to secure nuts. Mrs Winterbottom seemed a little confused but didn't say anything.

George was texting his girlfriends at reception when I escaped the surgery. I asked him if he'd heard any news. He said that one of his textmates had told him there were some men getting together in Germany to make a gate. I said I didn't know anything about a gate - or any other access-restricting device - but that there were some very powerful men somewhere over there having a chat about the environment and other big things. Perhaps that was what Felix was talking about when he mentioned the nesting quails. But then why would he be so concerned by me suggesting the eggs be scrambled?

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Long live Convolutionaries!

I had a dream last night in which we were living under the Vendemiaire. This morning - wondering why I had dreamt of French Jacobins and months with names as poetic as Vintage and Mist - I wandered into the surgery and saw that George was consulting a severe Victorian book on penitence. He tells me it is for my benefit - it explains why I am why I am. Needless to say, I didn't respond.

Cookie was rather sprightly and told me she had taken to eating sushi for breakfast. I asked if this was some form of penitence. She didn't respond.

According to the romantically short-lived revolutionary calendar, we are in the month of Prairie. Cookie clattered around the surgery with her wires stuck into her brain (I've noticed recently that her brain now plays tunes) and I drifted off into a meadow full of lowing cows and yellow buttercups singing a song of wild freedom.

George looked in to tell me the Judge was waiting for his appointment. I said I was roaming through my subconscious and the Judge would have to wait. One must, after all, make time to commit enough sin to make the penitence worthwhile. George fluttered his mascara-laden eyelids in disbelief and left knowing, no doubt, that he needed to do much more reading on my behalf.

In the meadow there was a fish carrying a revolver which was stuffed full of daisies. A rhino appeared with tinsel wrapped round its horn and asked where the nearest loo was. He had a black country accent and said he'd scalded his left buttock taking a bath. The fish was on his way to the South China Sea to make peace with his brother by carrying out a symbolic shooting-of-daisies ceremony. The rhino lowered his trousers and relieved himself behind a tree.

Cookie prods me and tells me George is in a huff. I tell her he needs a facial. She tells me he's already gone for one, leaving the reception desk empty. He's left a note explaining the dark route I have taken and that, for now, he has to abandon himself to his senses. I consult the judge who says he thinks George is a Convolutionary. Long live the Convolution, I say, and let's have a calendar with prosaic day names to go with it.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

CJD under her nails

The other day might have been an ordinary one: wake up; take Bessy out for a walk on the Downs; have a cup of tea with Felix on the bench where he's staking out the lighthouse; do some work; go home; brush Bessy's teeth; sleep. But it wasn't.

The previous night I had read the Chief Dental Officer's letter to his esteemed colleagues (I think I'm one of them but the word esteemed conjures up ideas of people puffed up in some way and so has a faintly distasteful feel to it for me). The letter concerned endodontic files and CJD. Not so much to worry about. I stopped letting Cookie retain and sterilise files months ago after I found she was making artistic configurations with them and oranges, something like a pomade I think - but without the cloves.

Being one for not thinking whilst peeling fruits that happen to be lying around, I felt a bit queasy at the idea I might tuck into said artistic configuration, and that it would be full of patients' personal acquaintences. Not that I don't love my patients, it's just that their bacterial flora simply aren't as pleasant as them - and are unseemingly attached to endodontic files.

So I handed the letter to George. He's a fantastic receptionist and has taken to going through the stereotypical motions of the position in order to prove a point. I haven't worked it out but he promises to tell me in due course. George is sixty seven years old and so I extend every courtesy to him that I can with the faint idea that someone might do the same to me one day. This involves letting him speak to his girlfriends regardless of whether there's a patient waiting to be attended to or not.

So George took the letter from me and promised to file it with all the other bits of paper I never read. It was then that the first feeling of queasiness gripped me. It was his nails - manicured to perfection and painted a perfectly monotone pink. They were beautiful and yet I felt repulsed. I had to turn away and I felt appalled to think that I might be succumbing to some sort of hidden prejudice. I have always prided myself on allowing free expression in my practice - and pink nails were George's perfect right to wear.

The disquiet continued. I tried to take my mind off the nails by recalling Felix's report on the lighthouse - there had been no movement and the imminent launch of the twenty-three year old rocket out of the English Channel was still on hold. I had always thought Felix was a little on the eccentric side until Cookie said we were entering another cold war with Russia over American missiles in Eastern Europe, and that global warming wouldn't be enough to prevent it.

Despite the threat of global warming being shown to be all hype, I could not take my mind off George's nails. I left at the end of the day without saying goodbye to him. And then - as Margaret served me bangers and mash for dinner I saw her nails. She'd been to the nail parlour in the village (it doubles as a post office and will paste stamps to your fingers if requested) and spent the best part of the afternoon chatting with Mei Wong as she - and this was the crux - polished and filed them.

There on the edge of the plate were two thumb nails - brilliantly designed and perfectly smooth and evidently retained on plate long enough for me to notice. I choked and recalled the Chief Dental Officer's letter warning of the risks of re-using files. I was gripped with fear for the well-being of my wife.

'My dear,' I said. 'Does Mei Wong re-use her files?'

Cookie's great idea

I'm a dentist, and I have a nurse called Cookie.

She has wires sticking out of her ears most of the day and - for fear of appearing out of touch - I tend to keep my thoughts on through-brain irradiation to myself. I wondered once if she might benefit from the experience. But events have failed to prove this to be the case.

Still, on Friday last week, with rubber dam stretched like an elastic lettuce leaf across Mrs Pinkleblower's enormous mouth, Cookie removed one of the wires from her brain and asked me if I had said anything. I told her I had been speaking to her for the past half hour, to which she stared at me with what appeared to be disbelief. She said she hadn't heard a word but if I wanted to 'ramble on' I should start a blog.

So I have. And this is it.