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Archive for November, 2010

Teeth Is The Word

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

A friend of mine, who is also an old ally of the business and a working prostitute, advised me that the way to deal with having things forced into your mouth without choking on them is to relax, breathe through your nose, and think about something else.   This was useful for me, as I have a sensitive gag reflex which doesn’t enjoy being annoyed by dental work administered at the back of my lovely lower jaws.   It doesn’t do for a grown man – a grown Englishman at that – to vomit on a dentist, and this has always been my only concern in what is an otherwise relaxed and sanguine attitude towards dental surgery.

I actually quite enjoy going – they refer to me as ‘Mr Smith’ for a start, which seems somehow right – and I am fond of my dentist.  He always indulges the essential set piece opening Dad Joke – the deathless ‘Take a seat, Mr Smith’ to which the only correct response is to point to the dentists’ chair and say ‘This one?’.  I suppose if you were going to freestyle at this point, which my own late father would assuredly have done, you could then go on with the ‘Just a little bit off the top and could you tidy the sides up please’ dentist-as-barber routine, but this is not for me.  I am content to answer the question ‘And how are you, Mr Smith’ with ‘Well, I’m talking to a dentist, so I could be happier’ or something similar, and leave it at that.  With these joshing rituals complete, I was offered a choice of telly to watch to take my mind off the imminent drilling and scorching: on this occasion I asked for the BBC Dentistry channel, and we had another little chuckle.   He said he quite fancied watching the Ashes, to which I assented, reflecting upon how often I had said that I would rather go to the dentist than watch cricket, and here I was managing to do both without throwing up at either.   To take my mind off everything that was happening, I tapped out the opening drum pattern from the Buzzcocks’ I Don’t Mind over and over again on my chest.   During a filling, a bit of a tooth pinged out, ricocheted off the dentist, and landed in my ear at exactly the same instant as the rest of the band would come in.  It might still be there, come to think of it.

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Conversations With The Surplus

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Dear Rachel

I am writing this on a train, in First Class as is my custom.  I would be more able to write about what I originally intended – which was eggs that taste of fish and former girlfriends who look like Louise Weiner – if I were not currently semi-entertaining a man called Julian.   Julian is drunk, and has chosen me to be his pal.   He has just gone for a fag out of the window, which is why I’m quickly knocking out a couple of paragraphs.  Just this second the guard offered to shift him into the next carriage for me, which I said wasn’t necessary.  My new drunken companion has no malice in him, and while I could do without the urgent explanation of his work – he runs a small business that repaints 747s at Heathrow – as an ex-publican I feel confident among the inebriated.    He’s just come back to the carriage, sneezed several times, started mucking about with his iPhone, and will probably fall asleep if we all just leave him alone.

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Fun With Electricity

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

Anyone who can remember the documentary that Channel 4 unexpectedly made about us will recall the first heat press we ever had, with which Gerry and I prepared t shirt stock for that summers’ festival season.   It had a strange malevolence about it, and would crackle and hiss of its own accord, which as I nervously explained to the watching millions gave it a certain charm, like a vinyl record.   The other thing it would do is play the Chinese national anthem every time the pressing process was complete, meaning of course you had to stand to attention and observe it, and which got a bit tiring after the several thousandth rendition.

As annoying as it was, however, we needed to have it, because you can’t not have one in our line of work.  For the unfamiliar, a heat press is not a complex piece of machinery: it comprises two heavy iron plates, each containing a heating element, thermostat and timer, so that a desired temperature (200 degrees centigrade in our case) and time (fifteen seconds for us) can be set.   The iron plates are then clamped together, usually by a hydraulic assembly or physical force (if you’re me) while steam and (fingers crossed) non toxic fumes go all over the place.    I have been known to take my underwear from the washing machine and speed dry it in the heat press, a process which also renders it pleasingly warm.

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Hiding Bacon Behind Pictures

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Dear Rachel

I love dogs, and although bull mastiffs would not be in my top five favourite breeds – I’m a terrier man at heart and by temperament – Danny and I have discovered that if you hide bits of bacon burger in a confined area such as Keith’s stall and let a hungry one off the lead, it goes surprisingly mental.   As Keith rebuilt his pitch, I pointed out that the bull mastiff is a good natured breed – docile, gentle and highly suitable for families with small children, which already pretty much hands it the moral high ground in any bacon related market stall misunderstanding between the two of them.  I can’t use the ‘c’ word on this part of an entry, as it’ll be on the front page and work filters everywhere will block the site, but I estimate that Keith called me it at least seventeen times in the ensuing exchange.

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