Ouch


I didn’t do a blog post last week.

In fact, I’ve been away and I just got back. I spent ten idyllic days touring the windswept islands of Pain and Discomfort and, although it had its moment, I’m glad to be home again.

The weekend before last (Gosh, that sounds so long ago) was a Bank Holiday. I think my face must have known that and fancied a bit of mischief because, on Friday evening, just after everything useful had closed up for the weekend, one of my teeth started to kick off big time.

My teeth are generally very well behaved. They chew up all the dubious stuff I shove in there and they assist me greatly with the quality of my everyday smiling. But, once in a blue moon, one or another of them acts up and, when that happens, prompt action is required.

But there is no prompt action possible for a regular toothache on a Bank Holiday weekend or indeed, as it turned out, in the week after when my dentist – the best dentist in the world – is on a very well-deserved break. It’s was Friday before we finally got to meet up, my world-beating dentist and me, and even then the solution was not clear cut.

I have a thing, you see. I think a lot of people have it. I think a lot of people have a lot of my things. This particular thing is that I find it hard to accurately identify where my tooth pain is emanating from. I know it’s on the left-hand side, that much accuracy I can manage, but it gets difficult after that. Is it on the top or bottom? Back tooth or second-to-back tooth? It’s hard to be sure and, in fairness, the X-Ray machine was finding it similarly hard to be certain-sure too. So on that Friday visit we did what we could, using the fairly useless data I could provide. Some potential fixes were applied, fingers were crossed that these fixes would do the trick, and I went back to work.

Round about the time that everything closed up for the weekend, it was becoming increasing clear that the fixes were not going to do the trick. For that second weekend, I kept a diary of discomfort. By the time I got back to the world’s best dentist on Monday, my diary ran to four pages, the last page written on both sides… so that’s five pages, Ken.

I don’t want you to feel too bad for me. Hell, I really don’t want you to feel bad at all, I’m just writing here. The pain was by no means unremitting. In fact, it came in distinct waves, each of which lasted for ten minutes or so. The discomfort presented itself with a cheery initial, “Hello, here I am again,” followed by a fast increase in intensity and then a five-minute 'full on' session of hiding away somewhere with head in hands, wincing quietly, then finally a fade away and gone… until the next time two or three hours later.

Amazingly enough, even as I prepared to see the dentist again on Monday last, I still didn’t know which tooth was menacing me so. But before I went back, I made a concerted study of my mouth. Where was the pain? No, where was it really? If I could only tell TBDITW which tooth it was, then she could really help me. So I went to work and finally, after a series of grimace-inducing tooth clenches and a programme of solid taps with a biro on the suspect locations, I finally knew for sure where the errant tooth was. (It was lower left, right at the back (Wisdom Tooth) in case the lack of this knowledge might keep you up nights.)

I sashayed into the dentist’s office with my now redundant discomfort diary and the solid knowledge that I knew the where the troublesome tooth was. In 30 minutes she had me all fixed up.

I had promised myself that the world would be a fabulous place once the pain had gone. Everything would be in 70mm surround sound, 3D, with buttered popcorn. Everything would glow and shine. In actuality, I was something of a jumping twitchy hot mess for a fair few days after. Disaster seemed to lie around every corner and nothing was particularly good. I’m fine now again. I’m out the far side. Thank you for your concern.

But pain… man, pain…

I’ve written about it before elsewhere in these pages. I don’t think it’s necessarily right to simply say that people who deal with pain on an everyday basis are brave per se. We have to play the cards we are dealt if we are to stay in the game. But, here’s one thing for sure, those people who live everyday with pain and who still manage to find joy and pleasure and personal development in their lives… they are truly brave. I see a number of such wonderful people almost daily on my social media meanderings. They get more done that I ever do. They see more and treasure more than I ever do. And they are in constant pain.

Kudos, people, you know who you are.

Me in pain, on the other hand, is a rather inward-looking miserable person. Largely silent. Not really caring much about others or about the bigger picture. Just struggling to get through and wishing it was all bloody gone and secure in the knowledge that one day soon it will be. A luxury that many people do not have.

So, apart from a rather boring account of me and my fairly average toothache, perhaps this post can also be taken as a hat-tip to those of my friends and family who deal with this shit all day, every day and who do so much better than I will ever do. They minimise the amount of time they dwell on it and maximise their lives.

I’m reminded of actor Jim Kelly who played Williams in ‘Enter the Dragon’. When asked (by The Evil Han (who else?)) about the possibility of eventual defeat, he replied.


                                         *                               *                                    *

The title of this piece, ‘Ouch’, can also refer to that other pain that lingers around these days.

On Friday last, it was the shared birthday of two of my bestest friends, both alas gone too soon. Dear Una and Dear Simon, both of whom did so much better with their own trials than I did with my meagre toothache. Although they didn’t know each other, both are being remembered with joy on this their birthday weekend.

That part, at least, is as it should be.

The Ocean is a Harsh Mistress



That title makes it sound like this will be some kind of a high-falutin’ thing but I promise you it won’t be. In fact it may be the least high-falutin’ thing you read all day. How’s that for a boast?

The title is a nod to a great song. ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ by Jimmy Webb. My pal Warren Bennett put me on to the Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny version which is now a firm favourite of mine. You can click on the picture above and listen to it while you're reading if you want. The whole album is a great listen.

The title of the song is also the title of a book by Robert A Heinlein. Heinlein was the first writer I ever took out of the Adult Library after, aged twelve, I finally got my grown up ticket. There was a big monster on the cover. That did it for me.

My title may be a variation of the song and book title but it's also true. The Ocean is indeed a harsh mistress. As usual, I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You’ve known it all the time, I’m learnin’ it these days.”

Let’s get to it. It won’t take long.

This week, I had some work to do at a place down by the sea. Just for a day, well, a few hours actually. Drive down, do it, drive back again. As it turned out, the day I picked for my little mission was one of those glorious days.  Sunshine, blue skies, all that good stuff.

Knowing it was going to be lovely and knowing I’d be there a while; I stopped into a garage and bought some lunch. A two-euro tuna salad sandwich, reduced because it was right on its sell-by date, a can of 7-Up Zero and a bar of Cadbury’s Mint Crisp. This last item might be a mystery to some of you as I don’t think the Mint Crisp is available everywhere. Let me just assure you that it is a wonderful thing and you should seek it out if you can.

So, I did the thing I had to do. I kept the head down and worked pretty hard and, all the time, I had my peripheral vision on the sea. I promised myself that, when I was done, I would take my soggy sandwich and my can of pop and my Mint Crisp and I would go down to the sea and sit a while and munch and enjoy the day.

The time came. I went to the car to retrieve my vittles. The sun had played her part. The tuna was warm, the once freezing can of pop was fast losing its cool and, worst of all, the Mint Crisp was flaccid in its wrapper, melted and liquefied.

Undeterred (well, maybe a little deterred) I took myself down to the ocean’s edge. It was there that I had my idea. The day might have been warm but the Atlantic Ocean, the edge of which I now stood upon, was unfailingly cold. I could put my Mint Crisp into the Ocean, weigh it down with a rock, leave it a while, and then remove it, restored to solidity once more.

It was a good plan. I did it.

I rested the bar of chocolate in two inches of clear ocean water and put two rocks on top of it to stop it from moving around. Then I went back a few paces from the oceans’ edge, sat on a rock, and ate my warm tuna.

Here’s the thing and maybe you can guess it. It had crossed my mind as a sort of a joke but I didn’t think it could really happen.

But it did.

When I went back to the ocean’s edge to retrieve my Mint Crisp, it was nowhere to be found. It was gone.

Oh I know what you’re thinking now. The old fool lost track of where he put it in the water and he went back to another place. In fairness, there might be some truth in that but I wasn’t more than a foot or two out and I paced up and down scanning the water for my bar of chocolate and not a single square of it could I find.

When I realised what had happened, I felt foolish that such an obvious thing had passed me by but I also felt something else. I felt how quietly and quickly the effect had crept up on me.

Effect? What Effect?

You know what effect.

The tide.

The tide had eased on in as I was eating my sandwich and sipping my 7-Up. I only took a few minutes and you wouldn’t think the tide would advance so far in so short a time. But it did. I know for sure it did because I marked a coloured stone in my head as I searched for my Mint Crisp and even in the short time that I hunted for it, this coloured stone became first covered and then distant and then lost in the Ocean.

This is what had happened to my Mint Crisp. Slowly and quietly and without being noticed, the Ocean had swallowed it whole.

The Ocean is a harsh mistress. It advances on you without you ever noticing. While you look the other way, it will dampen your soles and cover your shoes and, if you dally long enough, it may even ease you away from the shore. It will drag you down if you don't keep a weather eye on it.

A bit like some other things I could mention.

Give me a Clue


People who drive have largely given up on using their indicators and it’s driving me mad.

On every street in every city there's a nobody who won't tell us about their next manoeuvre. 

I’ve learned to enunciate my swear words very clearly so that these drivers can clearly lip read my displeasure as they swing across in front of me without any prior hint of their intentions. For sure, they know a lot more about my emotional state then I know about where they intend to go next.

Even worse than the hoards of cretins who never use their indicators are those who switch on their flashing light when they are already half-way around the corner. What earthly use is that to anyone? I’ve already had to stomp on my brakes to avoid you. What’s the point of telling my you’re going to turn after you’ve already gone and done it?

It’s always been a thing but now it’s become more and more and more and more. People are buzzing all over the gaff and not giving a solitary damn about who might benefit from knowing about it.

Neither does this ill behaviour break down usefully in terms age or wealth or gender or anything else easy like that. Old and young, male and female, rich and poor, all are making their right hand turns with no regard for anyone but themselves.

Ironically enough, it’s indicative of something, this lack of indication.

We have all become increasingly self-interested and inward looking. If it doesn’t directly help us, we don’t bother doing it. Occasionally, we are guilted into some communal action by the news or by some little girl on the news. Then we flick those metaphorical flashers for a moment and feel great about how thoughtful and community-driven we all are.

Bollocks.

The unused indicator is all the indication we need. We have become a world of crude metaphorical cartoon ostriches, our heads either up our own asses or up the ass of the ostrich in front of us. We rarely think of anybody else and if we do, it’s invariably too late when it finally occurs.

The use of the indicator on your car is an outward-thinking gesture. It shows some awareness of the people who share the world around you, who are only trying to make their way safely home.

The use of the indicator doesn’t mean you have to stop and bring these people home and feed them and show them something on Netflix. None of that. It just means you care a little that they get there safely. That you are willing to do a tiny bit to make their existence a little more navigable, a little more bearable.

The use of your indicator shows that you still care a tiny bit about somebody or something other than your own ridiculous self.

So put your indicator on.

You prick.