Archive for March, 2017

Musical Dental Chairs

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

I was contemplating the other day on what topic I could write my next post. Donald Trump sprung to mind, but I’m keeping my powder dry on him until he has completed 100 days in the White House, assuming he survives that long! Atlanta’s worsening traffic congestion has a particular and undesirable impact on my daily life, but I have written about it before, and there’s nothing new to add.

Suddenly it fell into place. A recent visit to the dentist and the farce at the Oscar Ceremony reminded me of my late mum. She loved movies. I remember her telling me that she and my dad queued for hours to see “Gone With The Wind” when it was showing at the Albert Hall in Swansea way back in 1939. My Auntie Winnie was an usherette at the newly opened Plaza Cinema in the Kingsway, and she would give my mum and dad complimentary tickets for the latest blockbuster to emerge from Hollywood.

My mum particularly liked Hollywood musicals, and she would have had a soft spot for “La La Land.” I don’t consider “La La Land”  a great movie, but it’s a musical which is rather a novelty these days and hence its popularity. Hollywood was churning out musicals in the forties and fifties like a sausage factory, and I had the opportunity in the early seventies to watch them (the movies not the sausages) with my mum when BBC2 ran a series showing a Hollywood Musical on a weekly basis for longer than I care to remember.

She was a walking encyclopedia when it came to knowledge of movies of that era. I remember us debating who was the better dancer: Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, who was the better singer: Howard Keel or Gordon McCrae, what was her favorite musical: Singing in The Rain, Showboat, The King and I? It was none of these. It was in fact Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

She also revealed her stubborn streak. In 1965, The Sound of Music was a world wide hit, but she was so irritated with her friends constantly telling her how wonderful it was, that she refused to see it.

Several years later, my mum had just been discharged from a long period in hospital and on a whim I invited her to accompany me to a special preview of  “When Harry Met Sally.” It’s a gentle comedy, but little did I know that Meg Ryan would perform a fake orgasm in a diner leading an older lady to remark: “I’ll have what she’s having!” I slunk down into my seat, but out of the corner of my eye I, furtively glanced over to my mum who to my relief was chuckling to herself.

I have had  a love hate relationship with the dentist’s chair for nigh on sixty years. My first memory of the dentist was my mum dragging me up the hill to Cwmbwrla Children’s Clinic, courtesy of the National Health Service, which was housed in a foreboding, dark, and brooding Victorian behemoth of a building. The black dentist chair was situated in the middle of  a green tiled sterile room smelling heavily of disinfectant. Worse was to come when the mask was placed over my face to administer the dreaded “laughing gas.” I always experienced nightmares when I was “put under,” and I always wondered why it was referred to as “laughing gas” which was the furthest from the truth.

A few years later, I became a patient of Dr. Stares’ Private Practice in Treboeth who coincidentally looked after my mum’s teeth. I never met Dr. Stares because I was assigned to one of his partners who appeared to be obsessed with a revolving door. But one partner, Mr. Phillips, stands out. I was going through a particularly traumatic period in my mid-teens, having to make regular appearances at the dentist for extractions, fillings and more extractions. On one memorable occasion, Mr. Phillips experienced great difficulty in pulling one fat molar from one’s mouth. I was lying prostrate in the chair, white knuckles grasping the arms of the chair, half my face  numbed by a twelve inch syringe when Mr. Phillips placed his knee in my chest and yanked the tooth from my quivering jaw.

Give or take a few fillings and crowns, it’s thanks to my mum’s perseverance that I have my own set of teeth which I can flash whenever I see an old Hollywood musical.