Tag Archives: Families

A Visit to the Dentist

For all of my adult life I have had an irrational fear of visiting the dentist and consequently I haven’t looked after my teeth as well as I should have.  The reason for this phobia about having a stranger poking about in my mouth is the memories of the school dentist.

For the horror of the school dentist we had to thank the national health service which was one of the fundamental recommendations in the Beveridge Report which Arthur Greenwood, The Labour Party Deputy Leader with responsibility for post-war reconstruction had successfully pressed the cabinet to commission from economist and social reformer William Beveridge. The Government accepted this in February 1943, and after a White Paper in 1944 it fell to Clement Attlee’s Labour government to create the NHS as part of the ‘cradle to grave’ welfare-state reforms.

I am not saying it was a bad thing because the principle was fine it was the way it operated that I have issues with because a succession of over zealous dentist with their noses stuck in the NHS money trough left me with a mutilated set of dentures and a mouth full of ugly black fillings by the time I was sixteen.  Most of this must have been unnecessary and to illustrate the point I compare my oral nightmare with that of my own children, who, now in their twenties, have not a single filling between them.

I am not saying that they were to blame entirely because when I was a boy I used to eat the most appalling sweets, all full of sugar and all attacking my teeth enamel; gob-stoppers, bubble gum, milky bars, sweet cigarettes and spangles and many more besides and I am prepared to concede that this obviously made some sort of contribution towards a bit of tooth decay.

All of this was possible because just a year before I was born on 5th February 1953 war time rationing of sweets came to an end which meant all sorts of sugary items were unleashed on 1950s children.  And it wasn’t just sweets of course because even some everyday food had unnatural amounts of sugar in them.  Biscuits and breakfast cereals are a good examples, I used to like Kellogg’s sugar puffs and I think a food expert once proved that these were about 50%  pure sugar, probably more.

The dental practice that I used to go to every six months or so was Cartwright, Wright and Cunningham on Whitehall Road in Rugby.  It was a once grand old house now converted to a house of torture.  On arrival I had to ring the door bell and a buzzer would sound and the latch was released and I had to step inside to be booked in by the nurse.  There was a downstairs waiting room which overlooked the back garden and full of old furniture including a grandfather clock that tick tocked the seconds away.  It was always deathly quiet because no one ever spoke in the waiting room and the clock was a bit like that one that they kept showing in the Gary Cooper film, High Noon when every movement of the minute hand brought the dreadful moment closer.  There were always old magazines on the coffee tables such as Punch and National Geographic and I would leaf through the pages without paying any attention to the content just for something to do.

Every so often an intercom would crackle into life and a name would be called out and it would be someone’s turn to go to the treatment room.  Eventually it would call out ‘Andrew Petcher please’ and it would be my turn.  The treatment room was upstairs and the dentist was Dr Cunningham who was a big man with a bushy beard and once the brief formalities were over he would invite me to sit down and he would get to work.

After only a few seconds there would be beads of perspiration forming on my forehead and I would have an involuntarily vice like grip on the arms of the chair. This still happens when I go to the dentist today by the way.  Every now and again I would tell myself to relax and loosen the grip but every time he poked at another tooth my fingers tightened up again.

The inspection was soon completed and this led to the inevitable bad news that he would need to follow that up with a couple of fillings and then out came the anesthetic needle and after that had taken effect he would start to grind away at the tooth first with a slow drill that made my entire head buzz and then the high speed follow up to remove the last bits of whatever it was he thought he needed to take away.  This was then followed up by a quick mouthwash and then a shiny new filling was squeezed in place to replace the tooth that he just destroyed.

For Doctor Cunningham and every other dentist too, the next part of the procedure was the most important because I was then required to sign a form to confirm that he had carried out the work and this and many more like them would form the basis of next month’s claim to the NHS because this was all one big scam and I dread to think how many unnecessary treatments must have been inflicted on school children in the 1960s while the dentists lined their pockets with tax payers money.

Thanks to these people I have had to live with teeth full of metal for forty years with each filling having to be replaced every so often so not only did Doctor Cunningham get a first payment for disfiguring me and thousands of others like me he guaranteed future revenue for the members of his profession for the rest of our lives.

Facebook and Feuding Families

The social networking site ‘Facebook’ went online on 4th February 2004 and whilst it has no doubt brought some people closer together, and has some value in that, it has also been responsible for breaking families up.  Unfortunately I am an example of the latter experience.

I joined the site in Spring 2007, principally to keep in touch with my children, and like most people set about setting up a big network of friends as it seemed that popularity was measured by how many gravitars started to appear down the left hand side of the screen.  I started in the obvious place with family and friends and then progressed to current work colleagues, old work colleagues, old school chums, random people with the same surname and then finally, and quite bizarrely (everybody does it), complete strangers.

Suddenly my life was a risky open book and I was living and sharing it with a dangerously increasing audience.  Luckily I realised this quite quickly and soon began to remove the strangers, the people with the same surname, the old school friends and previous work colleagues who I realised I had no real desire to keep in touch with and then finally the current work colleagues because sharing my holiday snaps and private thoughts with them served no purpose whatsoever and made me perilously accessible and vulnerable.

So my list of contacts started to shrink but I carried on reducing it even though I was teased by my children for having so few friends.  When I was back to family only, my own children obviously, and my brother and sister and their children, I thought this was a safe place to stop but how wrong I was because I was only days away from a family catastrophe that had the intensity of a force ten tropical storm and nearly six years later still hasn’t blown over.

This is how it happened:  By the summer of 2007 I had grown bored with my ‘wall’ being cluttered up with nonsense and trivia and especially that of my niece who used the site principally to share the details of her love life, desires, sexual adventures and infatuations, sometimes dozens of times every single day.  So, having nothing particularly in common with her, except for a few shared genes, I removed her from my list of friends.  I meant nothing by it except that I didn’t think that it was appropriate for me to have access to her private thoughts in this way.  There was nothing malicious in what I did, it didn’t mean that I didn’t want her as my niece or even my friend I just didn’t want to share my life with her on Facebook. It was as simple as that.

One day in August, even though she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, I told my mum about this, thought nothing more about it and then went off on a backpacking holiday to Greece.  In the first week or so we stayed in Athens and then visited the islands of Naxos, Ios, Sikinos and Folegandros and in this time it never occurred to me once to use an internet café or to access my Facebook account but in Ios for a second time there was a computer with complimentary internet access so one afternoon I couldn’t resist the temptation to log on.

There was a message that a picture of me had been tagged so naturally curious I had a look.  Yes, there was my picture and a tag that said ‘how disgusting, it makes me feel sick to look at it’ (Facebook wasn’t quite so secure in 2007) and it had been put there by my delightful niece.  At first I thought this could be explained by a sense of humour but I was a bit hurt and I didn’t like it so I untagged it, closed the site down and really thought no more about it.

When I got home however all was revealed.  It turned out that it had nothing to do with her sense of humour at all, she had taken unnecessary offence at her removal from my list of friends and she meant every nasty word of it.  Mum, you see, had innocently told my sister that I had taken her off my friends list and the reason why and she had blown her stack.  When I returned home I had even fewer friends on Facebook because my sister and her two sons had removed me, one of them was going to punch me in the face if he ever saw me again and the really sad thing is that I have barely communicated with my sister ever since except to squabble.

I don’t suppose that you could ever have described us as being devoted to each other, after all being related doesn’t oblige you to be friends or even like each other, but we used to get on well enough on the few times that we ever met or spoke.  For a short time in 2003 when dad was ill and passed away we became quite close but that was only temporary because shortly afterwards things returned to normal and sadly in respect of our fragile sibling relationship the Facebook incident has turned out to be terminal.

Since then I have met with Lindsay only one time.  That was in May 2008 when I was on a golfing holiday with my brother in Spain and she was staying close by in her apartment at La Maquesa so we arranged to meet one night in a Spanish restaurant in the town of San Miguel de Las Salinas.  It was a pleasant enough evening (except for Richard’s son Scott making an unfortunate gaff) and for a brief moment I thought we may have mended the broken bridge but at the end of the evening I put my arm around her and kissed her to say goodbye and her response was so cold and unresponsive that it made me shiver and I knew that the bridge was still in ruins.

 We have never spoken to each other since.

Every Picture Tells a Story – The Wedding Party

I have recently started to build a family tree and I have come across this wonderful old photograph of a family wedding.

The picture was taken only fifty years or so before I was born in 1906 but seems to show a completely different way of life to even the 1950s and the happy couple are my great grandparents Joseph Insley and Florence Lillian Hill.  Joseph was a coachbuilder who was born in 1873, one of eight children to Thomas Insley, a wheelwright, and his wife Martha (nee. Johnson) who lived in the village of Shackerstone, near Market Bosworth in Leicestershire.  Florence was one of seven children, the daughter of James and Emma Hill (nee. Marritt) from the nearby village of Newbold Verdon.

This wasn’t the first time that an Insley had married a Hill because nearly a hundred years before this event James Hill, born in 1786 in Shackerstone married Mary Insley who was born in 1799 and was also from Shackerstone.

By all accounts these were two important families in their respective villages and I think the photograph gives that away.  On the back row are some of the splendidly turned out brothers and sisters, Sidney Evelyn Hill and Constance Hill, Johnson Insley and then Mabel and Perceval Hill.  I can remember visiting Uncle Johnson when I was young but most of all I remember Aunty Mabel; she never married and lived with her Pekinese dog Monty and had the habit of continually repeating ‘yes, yes…yes, yes’ whenever anyone was speaking to her, we used to call her yes, yes Mabel.  She loaned my parents the money to buy their own first house and we used to visit once a month for dad to make the agreed repayments.

On the far left, in the middle row the man with the weird beard is Thomas Insley and then Martha his wife doing her best Queen Victoria impression, the groom, Joseph, aged thirty-one and the bride, Florence (but known as Lillian), aged twenty-six and then her father, farmer, James Hill and his wife Emma who was originally from Bromley in Kent. Strange to think that these people, born a hundred years or so before me at a time when Sir Robert Peel was the Prime Minister of Great Britain were my great, great grandparents.

On the front row it looks like the bridesmaids, Louise Deacon (not to be confused with the Leicester Tiger’s lock Louis Deacon) and my great grandmother’s youngest sister Dorothy who was born in 1895.

I never knew my great grandfather Joseph because he died in 1949 but I knew my great grandmother well because she lived until 1975.  We called her Nana and I think we lived with her for a while in her house in Una Avenue off the Narborough Road in Leicester.  It was a 1920s semi detached house with a front garden with a black wooden gate and a long back garden with fruit trees at the bottom.  Inside it was dark and moody and was of that time that was the last of the Edwardian era.  It was full of interesting ornaments and memorabilia, old photographs, brass ornaments, heavy velvet curtains to keep out the draughts and what I remember most, a second world war hand grenade (without any explosives of course) that used to be kept on the sideboard.

The picture below was taken in about 1910 and in the picture are Dorothy Hill on the left and my great grandmother Lillian on the right and the little girl sitting on the wall is my grandmother, also called Dorothy.