Friday, 27 September 2013

how the subject of dentists can bring back the past

I wrote this in January of this year, kept it in draft for later editing. Once again back in the house in the Borders I came across it, decided to tidy it up and put it up. 

A new dentist is a big deal for me. To face up to the necessity of going for my 6 monthly check up, to come to terms with missing my now retired dentist of 25 years pain free dentistry and my reluctance to go to the new one, i finally managed to pluck up courage to find a new one. This whole scenario was given more urgency in my mind because it was around this time last year that i first went to the dentist who took over from my retired one, and around this time that a whole grinding of intense dental pain began, and around this time that my pals asked me to house sit for their house and cats in the Borders, which i did, pain and all. And they have coincidentally asked me to do the same again this year. So in my paranoid state of mind i could see the whole horrid episode happen all over again. unless i took some action, which meant finding a new dentist who hopefully would understand my fear and not hurt.  I have progressed in that task and now feel ready to stay once again in the nice house in the Borders and actually enjoy being there, perhaps it will even be in some way productive.

I was at boarding school.  When I was 10, I was having massive tooth ache unable to sleep for 2 nights until the other girls in the dorm had to get matron to do something, so i was taken to the dentist the next day where it was discovered i had an abscess and was given gas, put to sleep and the tooth removed.  What a relief. I remembered how in those days it was usual for matron not to believe you if you said you felt unwell, and what agonies i went through for 2 days and nights until she decided to believe me.  Possibly these days such behaviour would be termed abusive, but we just accepted it as fact, it was how it was, you just got on with it.

2 sweets were allowed on saturdays and 2 on sundays.  Lining up at the tuck shop with our 2/6d
('two and six', i suppose similar to 25p) we would buy our tuck and then have to hand it in to matron who would dole out the appropriate 2 sweets - it could be a penny chew and a sherbet fountain, my favorites, or other combinations of things which were allowed to be counted as 1 sweet.

Being hungry most of the time was just a fact of life - a fact of school.  We rarely had real butter and when we did there was such a dive of knives into it that you had to be quick to get any.  Other than that it was margarine and i mean real old fashioned marg, the like of which you never see now. We called it whale's blubber and it was totally revolting. You had to use as little as possible so as not to retch and then cover it in as much Marmite as possible.  This, especially at supper when you got given very little else, and you became expert as stuffing a folded Marmite sandwich into your tunic pocket to hide under your pillow for later.

The other thing hidden under your pillow would be your tiny transistor radio and one earplug, tuned to Radio Luxembourg so you could listen to the latest hits hoping your current favorite would be played.  I remember Acker Bilk's number of that time, Stranger On The Shore, was a favorite. It was before Beatles time.

There were 8 beds in a dorm in the Junior Wing, 2 basins at one end.  Toothpaste was a pink powder in a red tin - Gibbs toothpowder. You dabbed your toothbrush into it and went from there.
There were 4 dorms of 8 beds and one small dorm of 2 beds - 36 girls - in junior wing, and there were two baths and 2 loos.  We had 2 baths a week each, and we shared the bathwater with one other girl, all overseen by matron.  We had to do a 'strip wash' each morning at a dorm basin.

There was one small dorm which was the infirmary, and as matron never believed anyone was really ill it was rarely occupied.

The other thing to mention about junior wing was the ruler which was administered to the palms of our hands
by matron for our misdemeanors in the dorm.  In a wider sense our misdemeanors were punished by handing out 'Order Marks' or, even worse, 'Disobedience Marks', which entailed standing up in roll-call when your name was called and announcing to the assembly that you had 'One Disobedience/Order Mark' - or even 2 or 3... being asked what for and having to tell what you had done.  A nerve wracking experience as you endured sniggers and whispers, and were given detention of some sort by the head mistress.  Detention was always, if possible, to take place when the rest of the school would be having a treat such as watching a film, or just having rare time off while you had to do extra prep.

As juniors we were invited into the head mistress's study on a sunday afternoon for one hour to watch the current serial on the (tiny, black and white) tv.  A real novelty for me as i hardly ever saw a tv.

Of course there was the 'new girl treatment' which went on way after you had finished being 'new' - and which was typically nasty and mean, the kind of bullying that girls are capable of.

Eventually you moved up to one of the 'houses' when you were no longer a junior.  I wanted to be in Cleveland House, it seemed to be the most exciting, but was put into - ah - i dont even remember the name. To me the name Cleveland sounds open, fun, colourful and somewhere you would want to be.  The names of the other houses I have forgotten, the one I was in was something like Norfolk or Suffolk - ah yes it was! it was Suffolk! And the name sounded quite stuffy and staid and unexciting.
But then that was all another story.