It’s been a day of heavy, grey cloud, driving easterly winds, and rain sloshing down pretty much nonstop. Down here, in such weather the world becomes a Somme of mud in which trench-foot is an ever-present danger. On entering one’s house, the functional nature of coconut matting triumphs effortlessly over any fluffy interior design ideas about form: sod the form, what we need here is stuff that scrapes off the damned mud.
Today has also been a milestone on the way back to normal life: the end of fifteen months of having implants fitted. Over time, my dentist and I have moved onto te-toi informality while doing battle with what’s left of my ageing jawbone. Romanian über-specialists (called Grigor, would you believe?) have been called in, plate-makers and screw designers using complex 3D software have designed things that clip and unclip without me having to be dragged around the surgery….and now, at long last, Fabienne la dentiste was able to say this afternoon, “Voila John – c’est fini!”
All up, the process has cost me €13,000. That may sound a lot – probably because it is – but it’s of course ‘only’ £9800. And on top of that, it is worth remembering that I wasted €6,000 on Greek dentistry which proved to be an almost complete waste of time. Think of all that in the context of what a New York dentist quoted for the same job some years ago: $38,000. Or in the light of what a Lyme Regis dentist wanted five years ago: £40,000.
In short, “medical tourism” is well worth considering, but caveat emptor applies as always: be more thorough than I was, and do your research beforehand. Grigor the Romanian may sound as if he lives in a spooky castle and has curved fangs on either side of his mouth, but research showed that he is one of the foremost dental surgeons in Europe.
Anyway, as I bade my dentist au revoir (because there will still be the odd adjustment along the way) I found myself thinking about just how terrifying and basic dentistry was when I was a kid in the 1950s.
I was born with seventeen teeth too many. This was one of the many unfortunate things I inherited from the Irish side of the family – Auntie Molly had the same problem – and between the ages of eight and nineteen, this curse necessitated endless sessions in the dentist’s chair. The family dentist was a chap whose surgery was on Cheetham Hill Road…the house itself a stubborn tooth that remained intact despite the Luftwaffe’s attempt to raze Manchester to the ground.
It was a grand, late-Victorian dwelling displaying all the confidence of Imperial Britannia. The waiting room was the size of a basketball pitch, and the ceilings were at the sort of height ripe for conquest by the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary. The walls, I remember, were covered in original oils depicting wide thoroughfares down which men on horseback and elegant Edwardian ladies promenaded in that era immune to change immediately before the Great War. It was the kind of room in which voices echoed, and little boys of my age were told to Show Some Respect.
The dentist was called Mr Green. He was quite a likeable old chap who had been pulling the teeth of the Smedley Lane Wall side of the family since qualifying soon after the relief of Mafeking. Once called to The Presence, patients had to scale a generously broad staircase up to his surgery. Over the years, this ascent came to represent for me the act of scaling the side of a giant vat of excruciating pain into which I was about to be tossed. It held for me the horrible inevitability of Martin Balsam walking up the stairs of the Bates Motel in Hitchcock’s Psycho…only to be stabbed to death by a rabid, mother-fixated Anthony Perkins.
In those days, the anaesthetic of choice among dentists engaged in tooth extraction was nitrous oxide, a substance for some reason called Laughing Gas. I never grasped the humour involved in the stuff. The procedure began with a horrible steel thing clamping your mouth open, followed by a World War II surplus Bomber Command mask being thrust over the facial orifice to the sound of Mr Green advising “Breathe deeply”.
These days in W H Smith, there is a genre (I’m not kidding) called ‘tragic childhood’. Today’s psychiatric mores would have you believe that – as a result of these experiences – I really ought to have become a serial killer specialising in the brutal elimination of dental students. The fact that I turned into nothing more dangerous than an adman turned offensive blogger might perhaps suggest that David Cameron’s imagined Non-Violent Extremists are nothing like as fearful as the benignly smiling dentists of yesteryear.
On the other hand, today has been a terrible day for reality on the macro canvas of humanity. Alison Saunders – she of the cps scourge of Evil Blokes – is now pressing for men accused of date rape to provide solid evidence that the woman involved consented to sex. I’m left wondering what ‘evidence’ La Saunders might think admissible: a Selfie of one’s member being sucked by the willing lady as she holds a piece of paper up to camera saying “I’d like it up me later”?
I am not a man given to sexual crudity. But the lunacy of this planned reverse legalisation of the most natural thing in the world – by which every advanced species procreates – invites the most basic satire. This is Ms Saunders’s proposition:
‘Police and prosecutors must now put a greater onus on rape suspects to demonstrate how the complainant had consented “with full capacity and freedom to do so”’.
Using one word beloved of the indigenous peoples, might I ask “How?”
Why has 100% of the onus been gradually in recent years placed upon the man? Where is the basis of blame? Where is the acceptance by the female gender of responsibility?
Alison, I submit as follows:
Men are not like women – and vice versa. Men take signals such as short skirts, rubbing up against them, fluttering eyelids, sensual cuddles and closely-gripped dancing as signals. Those signals suggest to we poor, unable-to-evolve men, “She’s up for it”. Even more astonishing, women willing to get their kit off and climb into bed – having watched the bloke do the same thing – are suggesting to said blokes “Let’s make love”. I mean, what the fuck else might such rituals suggest?
Of course no means no. But after half an hour of yes-please-yes-please-yes-please-yes-please, why on God’s Earth would any human – male or female -expect the answer “No”?
I am not here to justify – or excuse – rape. I am here to ask women to stop pretending their gender must always – ineluctably and without exception – be the unwilling victims of sexual intercourse. Free will lies at the core of our legal system: without recognition of that, the most heinous crimes imaginable could be tolerated. All of us at one time or another tempt…and are in turn subject to temptation. Second thoughts are one thing. Double standards are another.
Earlier at The Slog: The continuing mystery of the secret Samaras/Troika ‘deal’.