Joe Collier relishes becoming a crusty old man again
As I reached the top of the stairs I was overtaken by a man in a hurry mumbling, “Health and Safety...” We were both heading for the Gents and once inside, in fact standing shoulder-to-shoulder, his Health and Safety theme continued. We men generally stay quiet while availing ourselves, so my neighbour’s words had an added poignancy. After some prompting he explained that sixth months earlier, before his hip replacement, climbing those stairs would have been impossible. Accordingly, he would have been stuck at the bottom and at risk of being seriously embarrassed. Then, as now, he would have found himself railing against thoughtless restaurateurs and the their public inconveniences.
That said, and without more ado, he was on his way back down to the restaurant. As he left he said, “With my new hip I feel like a young man again – it’s wonderful!” To which I shouted back that I too had a similar experience recently, but by that time he was gone.
In my case the sense of rejuvenation was not at the hands of an orthopaedic surgeon, nor did it follow something grand like the insertion of a pacemaker. My story, which started in earnest around a decade ago, relates to teeth.
There are many everyday activities that are taken for granted but which are both essential and a real joy. Amongst these is eating, which over the years has given me enormous pleasure. But to appreciate fully the taste and texture of food one needs an effective set of teeth that allow one not just to munch generally but to enjoy biting into, for example, a crusty baguette, a steak or a firm fresh apple, or to nibble away at the bone of a chop searching out the tasty bits that the knife and fork have left behind. But over the years my teeth became increasingly frail and throughout most of my sixties those one-time normal pleasures were no longer feasible.
The problem started in my youth; first after a serious altercation with a cricket bat and later when playing rugby, where the damage was done by a set of studs. With more wear and tear plus the passage of time and a degree of neglect, my dentition gradually deteriorated and my teeth became wobbly, painful or lost. Much rearguard action was needed but despite fillings, crowns, bridges and later a dental plate, downing certain foods was still an insurmountable challenge with much of the joy of eating now lost.
The idea of limiting myself to soft, and often less tasty, foods for the rest of my life seemed wrong so I turned to a solution I once saw as unthinkable – implants. And last week, eight months after the decision was made, I was ready to see if my new teeth were fit for purpose. Throughout the many dental visits with their X rays, photos, drillings and fittings (and payments) my mind was fixed firmly on one thing, not on having a new smile, but once again sitting eating a really crusty baguette.
At the bakery I ordered a sandwich made of just such a baguette filled with ham, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Eating started with some hesitation, beginning at one end and working my way along, savouring all as I went. The noise, the feeling on the gums, and then the taste were a dream come true. Just wonderful. The experiment was a success. After years of self-imposed restraint I was free to enjoy the tastes of yesteryear.
Like the man on the stairs with his new hip, I felt like am a man reborn. What joy!