At Oxford some 30 years ago, I remember introducing a guest speaker to the Oxford Union. He was a distinguished elderly gentleman, who had succeeded in the world of commerce. “We are pleased to see Mr X with us to-night” I declaimed. “He is very old and very rich. In fact, he has two dentists; one for each tooth.” Mr X had the sense to laugh – not least because it displayed the falsity of my claim about his dental count.
I am neither as old nor as rich as he. But I have two dentists. One performs the task of the jobbing builder, responding to erosion, subsidence, and decay. The other resembles the civil engineer who deals with underpinning. One concentrates on what is above the surface, enjoying the freedom of the open space. The other, like a mole, is more at home in the subterranean.
Both are high quality professionals and fully paid up members of the human race. I say that not only because it is true; but because I see from my diary that I have a number of engagements with them in the near future. “I happened to be surfing the internet, Sir George and I read this column about your dentist.. Oh, I’m sorry; did that hurt? I thought that tooth was dead…”
They work in perfect partnership, Dentist A invading a dental Hades and bringing it to order; Dentist B then constructing a dental monument for me to flash at Jeremy Paxman and a million viewers.
And so it was last week. Dentist A had excavated. The site had been disinfected, lined, cleaned and then blow-dried. For all I know, Dentist A had inscribed his initials on the wall. He then inserted a temporary tooth, in due course to be replaced by a listed building crafted by Dentist B.
I asked him about the robustness of this temporary structure, and was advised that, so long as I avoided apples and toffee, it was fit for purpose.
I took my leave, and resumed my constituency duties. I visited a flour mill in Andover and a pre-school playgroup in Overton. What my hosts made of the visit I know not, as half my mouth was still deep-frozen.
At lunchtime, I popped in to a pub, and demanded the sandwich with the softest filling. This was delivered to my table, with an eighth of a tomato, three thin slices of cucumber, a sprinkling of cress and a paper napkin. I consumed the sandwich carefully, and felt something hard against my tongue. “Lucky I felt that” I said to myself, “It could have done injury to the tooth”. In fact, it couldn’t, because it was the tooth, instantly rejected by the gum.
I put it carefully in the paper napkin, and finished the meal. I drove off, wondering which of the two dentists was most likely to repair the damage. He that I had last seen, but who had given me an architect’s certificate certifying completion; or he who was going to put in a new one. While I was working this out, I remembered what I had forgotten. The paper napkin, nestling on the plate next to two unconsumed cucumber slices.
Have you ever asked a landlady if you can look through her dustbin?