Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Transports of Delight

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Transports of Delight

Article excerpt


WHAT with the dearth of NHS dentists and the ever-increasing costs of private dental treatment, I decided recently to bite the bullet and start repairing my own teeth. I didn't use Novocaine (because I wanted to transcend dental medication), but I did anaesthetise myself beforehand with a dozen bottles of barley wine and a 1982 edition of Punch.

Then, once I was completely numbed and semi-comatose, I got to work.

Standing in front of my shaving mirror with my Black and Decker in hand, I drilled out the old amalgam, did some exploratory root-canal work, ripped out a decaying bicuspid, stuck tinfoil crowns to my molars with Bostik and Playdough, then told myself to spit and rinse.

OK, my mouth now looks like a dishevelled Victorian graveyard, but it didn't cost a penny, and I was so pleased with the overall result that I had a go on the dog afterwards, although unfortunately the neighbours called the police before I could complete the extraction process ( case adjourned, pending psychiatric reports).

Yesterday, I decided to combine my ongoing exploration of the digital channels with another spot of dental reconstruction and, while looking around for a suitable visual anaesthetic, alighted upon the BBC Parliament channel.

But to my astonishment, the contents proved to be so absorbing that I soon forgot all about my impacted molars, because in an era when TV controllers are doing their utmost to remove all intellectual content from the airwaves, here was a station that treated its viewers as intelligent adults, rather than easily distracted children with the attention span of goldfish.

Admittedly, part of the enjoyment of watching any legislative body at work is the attempt to determine precisely who is who, and what their story is (that's why one of my favourite recreations is wandering at random into the public gallery of a courtroom and observing a trial).

But there was far more to it than that, because much of the channel's airtime is given over to committee hearings, and that's the one occasion when politicians and government officials stop talking and acting like snake-oil salesmen and actually start to give each other straight answers to straight questions.

THE thing that held me spellbound for an hour was the Transport Committee's session on Traffic Policing and Technology ( originally held last month). For there was a Knacker of the Yard (well, Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes, to be precise) speaking frankly about the problems involved in trying to reduce vehicle accidents, while being quizzed by chairwoman Gwyneth Dunwoody, who self-consciously affected the mannerisms of a caricature judge from Rumpole of the Bailey throughout his contribution (muttered asides, heavenwards glances, snorted criticisms and all). …

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