I had a book of Spike Milligan poems when I was a teenager and I sent one from the collection to my brother today:
English Teeth, English Teeth!
Shining in the sun
A part of British heritage
Aye, each and every one.
English Teeth, Happy Teeth!
Always having fun
Clamping down on bits of fish
And sausages half done.
English Teeth! HEROES’ Teeth!
Hear them click! and clack!
Let’s sing a song of praise to them –
Three Cheers for the Brown Grey and Black.
I had received a text message from my mother yesterday. It simply said, ‘Your brother has temporary teeth.’ There was no other information. I made the mistake of trying to probe her for an explanation and instead of getting more details, or indeed any context, was merely sent a follow up message that she needed help with photographing the dining room ceiling. I did not ask for more. Two texts from my mother contain more cryptic clues than the Times Crossword, so I left it at that.
When I caught up with my brother online, he informed me that he was in the supermarket. He had been to the dentist to get his top front teeth crowned and his new flashy top row of gnashers were so white that he had needed to get the bottom row laser cleaned so that he was not half Donny Osmond and half Shane McGowan.
I am not a fan of the dentist, and his description of the laser procedure being, ‘the most painful experience of my adult life’ is not likely to tempt me back into a waiting room any time soon. He sent me a quick snap of his new-look smile and it was certainly impressive. If you have seen the episode of Friends where Ross leaves the whitener on for too long and ends up with glow-in-the-dark teeth, his new ones make Ross’s look positively grey in comparison.
In order to maintain the sparkling clean teeth, he has been told that he can only eat white foods for now. He was roaming the aisles of the supermarket with his shopping for the evening: cereal, milk, cheese, pasta, gnocchi, lemonade, gin and white wine. That is a shopping basket I can really get behind. I remember shopping in the UK with my flat mate and getting home to realise that we had remembered to buy gin, but forgotten milk. At least we had our priorities right in those days, but them we also had younger livers.
So my brother will wait a few days, with his temporary teeth, flashing his smile about the streets of Thailand – although not too wildly during this period of official mourning – until he gets his new permanent ones. And he will eat his white foods and drink his white drinks.
And come December, he and his teeth will board a plane and come back to Australia to visit us all in what will no doubt end up being a very white Christmas.