“There’s a frog on the toilet seat!” my mother yelled up the stairs to my father, anxious that he should not squash it before coming down for breakfast. On another occasion it was my sister Julia who was vocal – “Oh no, he’s got a snake!” she shouted as a slow worm slithered out of my blazer pocket at the tea table. I had paid one shilling (or 5p in today’s money, for my younger readers. But it was worth more in 1960) for it from one of my classmates at school that day. And anyway, as I explained to the family, it was not a snake, but a legless lizard.
A frog in the toilet, a ‘snake’ in my blazer pocket, catching wild mice with my hands under haystacks (also carried in the pocket), three species of leech in my bedroom, trapping rodents measuring one metre long in the water meadows outside the Norfolk village of Tuttington because we were short of rats to dissect at school – perhaps it was a good thing that I did not talk to my patients about my childhood passion of mousing and ratting before extracting a tooth at my Norfolk country practice.
Norfolk was the county of my birth, though we moved around from time to time during my childhood, as my father was a bank clerk. But we lived in Norfolk for most of my school days, and I loved wandering across heaths and meadows, or dipping my butterfly net into broads (Norfolk lakes), rivers, ditches and ponds. And most of the creatures that I caught, trapped or netted, ended up in my bedroom.
What was I to do with my life? I loved David Attenborough’s ‘Zoo Quest’ television series as a teenager, but my mother explained that ‘people like us’ did not do that sort of thing. But ‘people like us’ did not go in for further education or University or consider entering the professions, as they were regarded in those days. However, I decided that I wanted to be a dentist. Dentists had frightened me and hurt me, but I thought I could do better. Maybe I could be the friendly dentist, the painless dentist, even the nice dentist. So I studied and studied at school, because I was not the brightest star in the sky when it came to academic studies. And eventually I found myself at dental school.
And there for five years I learnt about teeth, filled teeth, scraped teeth, polished teeth, crowned teeth, extracted teeth – and then replaced teeth with false teeth. Teeth,teeth,teeth! My student days were during the ‘Swinging Sixties’, and to some extent I swung. But they were also days when I felt challenged by the college God Squad, who fascinated me. They claimed their lives had been radically changed by the God of the Bible, and I set out to prove them wrong. So how come I became a born-again Christian, whose life has been changed by the God of the Bible?
After qualifying (which one senior tutor described as letting a monkey loose with a pistol), I worked for five years in a country practice in Dorset, before returning to my native Norfolk. My city practice grew at a phenomenal rate, and after fifteen years I sold it and worked solely in a small market town in rural Norfolk. It was delightful, and I loved my patients. Yes, even those who shared false teeth together, or vomited their false teeth out of a bus window in the centre of Norwich. Great people!
So read my blogs as I reflect on life, my days as a dental student and later as a dentist, or read about the curious people and comical happenings of those days in my book A Dentist’s Story, Published by Grosvenor House Publishing (2014), or read of how fulfilling life can be when lived in relationship with the God we read about in the Bible, in There Must Be More To Life Than This, published by New Wine Press (2012).
And if you would like to email me, my address is firstname.lastname@example.org Maybe I’ll hear from you soon!