Nerve Endings at the Dentists
The sound of the drill in the street reminded me of Mr. Heseltine, the dentist in Allerton Road, Liverpool in the 1950s. Those were the days of the drill - a piece of equipment that was violently swung over the patient's prone body in the reclining chair and pushed, with delicate ever changing instruments, into the victim's mouth. I was so scared that I remember grabbing Mr. Heseltine's wrist causing him to bend one of his precious instruments. After that episode I don't recall further visits. My mother was informed that I had to find another dentist.
I forgot the dentist for decades. Eventually years later I went to Clive Goodman, a distant relative who had dandruff. White speckles were always on his scalp and noticable everytime he looked into my mouth. I left Clive because he rudely suggested that instead of being on the NHS as Impoverished TEFL teacher taking home in the mid 70s £27 a week, I should ask my father to pay and go to him privately.
Lionel Russell, the Einstein-esque dentist, became my next one for the following 25 years. Lionel had his practice on Finchley Road, London, like Clive. His estranged wife, Estelle, lived upstairs with her partner while he used the former home as his surgery. The waiting room, which was the hall, was adorned with black and white antique prints of the quack tooth drawer alongside French chromolithographic cards supplied by me beautifully framed. Along with these, also framed, were prints showing the magician in the old days also considered to be like the dentist. A charlatan! Lionel was of course, like my husband a conjurer! Going to the dentist then was like a stage performance complete with classical relaxing music and Lionel relating his tax problems after his partner had departed this life without leaving him a penny.
My magician husband and I had a barter system and Lionel ended up the proud owner of a printing press and various magic and quack dental prints and magic lantern slides, which he adorned the walls with while I enjoyed thousands of pounds worth of dental treatment over the years. I was never afraid of the dentist after that. Lionel had magical fingers and treated me like a piece of sculpture. Sadly he has retired and I am now with another eccentric dentist who begins his clinic at 6.30 a.m. in Brighton.
Years later I discovered my new private dentist Peter Laval had done nothing but tell me I had excellent teeth. At the end of the day, he only cleaned them. By the time I got to my current private dentist, Jeff Amos, also an art collector and lecturer at The Open University, I had to have numerous bad teeth extracted and spent a small fortune as Peter had been past his sell by date as a private dentist. I should have sued him! If I had been American, I would have! Today in 2016, Lionel is caring for his wife in their new home. He is 87 and on the ball being the Emeritus Curator of the London Magic Circle Museum. He is present every Monday night to give information and to be part of the International Brotherhood. A world I am no longer part of. The magic went out of magic!
Updated in Brighton November 2015. Originally written circa 2006.