It must be eight years since I went to the dentist, yeah, bad I know. The last time was in Uganda, a dentist recommended by other expatriates: he had the prices to go with it too – equivalent of £130 for one cap, and I needed 3 – I did not have them done. I was never a rich expatriate, although certainly earning far more than the average Ugandan income. But those prices were too big a proportion of my variable monthly income to even consider. And I never got round to trying another one.

Soon after that I made a decision to take steps towards returning to UK, so in the back of my mind was free-ish dental care on the NHS. Well I think it was free the last time I had more than a check-up,  in 1988 or thereabouts. Then it was Dr Ken Lim in Streatham, South London, who installed the bridge that cracked sometime around 2000 (breaking off altogether later on, in Bangor). That had been occasioned by a double extraction in Nairobi in 1986 by a man who was then an exiled Acholi cultural leader from Uganda. I swear he broke the second one himself as he extracted the one that had been broken by a stone in the rice a few weeks prior, in Uganda.

After settling in Bangor in 2005, I tried a few times over the years to find a dentist for myself and Marjory, my teenage daughter.  This is where you get to exclaim what a bad parent I am.  She had never (successfully) been to a dentist until May this year. She went with me 8 years ago, and  he did not manage to get his hands in her mouth, nuff said. Bangor, Caernarfon, Llandudno, all were full, or I missed the day they were registering. Marjory had been having intermittent pains, and eventually I phoned the emergency dentist number for NHS Wales, and exaggerated slightly. We managed to get an appointment for the same evening, In Llandudno, when they drilled and put a temporary filling.  She was then referred to a dentist in Bangor for ongoing treatment and will be able to continue there.

I, however, was advised by the helpline to register in Colwyn Bay, 22 miles away.  I am actually eligible for free treatment as I am a single parent receiving Child Tax Credits. Three months later I get my initial appointment. I have to say that the dentist seemed casual. Instead of using technical descriptions for his assistant to write down, he was saying things like “no. 5 comes out”, “no. 3 ok”. No X rays, no asking about what happened to cause a particular tooth to be in its condition. Not that he was unpleasant, but he did not seem to think any explanations were necessary as to why three of my remaining teeth should come out.

The next appointment is next Tuesday and the receptionist informed me that he will “start with the extractions”. I am not looking forward either to the extractions, or to trying to negotiate caps instead for one or two of them and no action for the other.

© Nicholas Robert Jewitt and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas Robert Jewitt and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


About Nick Jewitt

Born Muswell Hill, London, England, 13 June 1954, the last in a spread-out family of five, our one sister being the eldest. Family moved to Cowden, Kent when I was 3 years old, into the house my Dad had been building. He carried on finishing it as I was growing up. We were High Church Anglicans, though Holy Trinity Mark Beech was 'lower' than that which my parents were used to. In 1959 I started at Hever CE Primary school, 60 pupils, leaving in 1965 having "passed" the 11-plus examination (when I was 10). This led to my entry into The Skinners' School (don't forget the apostrophe), a Grammar school for boys in Tunbridge Wells; 'Twigs', the Tunbridge Wells County Girls' School (apostrophe remembered) was just over the road. I never did find the tunnel under the road, being less interested than some, I suppose. During this time I had what is known as "an evangelical conversion", though I called it "becoming a Christian". This awakening of faith had a huge effect for good in my life, though it did nothing to reduce the narrow-mindedness ingested at home, and little to draw me out of my shell in more public situations. Teens were difficult, leading to confusion and uncertainty after two moderate A level passes. I went to an evening Bible College in London and worked for British Rail - Sealink at Victoria station. IRA bomb scares in London were frequent. Later I worked as a full time volunteer in St Mark's Church, Kennington, then ended up in the ubiquitous "P&D" - painting and decorating - from where I branched out into other skills in house renovation, doubtless assisted by what I had picked up from Dad's efforts at home. In 1978 I joined what became Roehampton University, taking a combined degree in Education and Environmental Studies (ES) with the aim of teaching. Teaching Practice (TeePee) in Inner London schools eventually persuaded me that I should give up on that idea so I dropped Education and took up Sociology, finally graduating in 1982 and celebrating with a trip to the Soviet Union – my first time to fly, at the age of 28. In 1982 it was hard enough to get any job, let alone one using my interests and qualifications in ES. I did apply for some jobs in housing management to no avail. Needed money and unwilling to go on the dole, so back to the housing renovation. I believe I imbibed my interest in the less fortunate from my mother, who was a keen supporter of the Mothers' Union work overseas, and collected money from friends and neighbours for Oxfam. I got the call to work in Africa and left in January 1984 for the Anglican Diocese of Karamoja in the wild north-east of Uganda. Administratively, I was a volunteer for a missionary society who asked me if I could supervise and organise the construction of small single storey buildings - houses, offices, clinics, etc. I was reasonably confident I could, so I did. The bishop at the time was an ex-architect so that helped. Aside from that, knowing what you don't know, and knowing where to look were the keys, as well as trying to acquire the necessary management and people skills. Mother died February 1986 at the age of 76. I left Uganda end of same year, did a year's Missionary & Cross-cultural study, and went back to the same job in Uganda in September 1988. Stayed for 3 more years, informally adopted a son, got engaged to be married. 1992, went to Kampala (Uganda's capital) to take up one of two jobs I thought had been offered. Both fell through: there followed the (mostly) dark years, the long night of the soul, which included a marriage begun and ended, the (happy) birth of a daughter, a finding of myself, and, slowly and painfully, the loss of my evangelical faith and acceptance of a different orientation. A new dawn of understanding has contributed to the ongoing process of re-building myself. Meanwhile I dossed around, the odd contract in building- or development-related work, a year and a half as the maintenance officer of the international school. In 1997 I set up a small company – renovation and installation. It helped us survive and eventually covered the cost of a pair of semi-detached houses as settlement for my wife. In 2005 I came back to UK with ten-year-old daughter and have settled in Bangor, on the beautiful north Wales coast, facing Snowdonia. And back to housing renovation for a while, becoming increasingly difficult for my back. In early 2009 I began studying and easing myself into copy-editing and proof-reading. The process continues. Now attending Society of Friends (Quakers), whose meeting for worship is based on silence, with contributions as the Spirit leads. Involved in activism for peace and justice, particularly anti-nuclear; environment too – it occurs to me that I imbibed some of this from my father, a member of the Soil Association from the 1960s, and against inappropriate chemical use. I imbibed his anger too, reduced and hopefully better channelled now.
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