In praise of custard and dental surgeons

Coffee. Liquid food.
Coffee. Liquid food.

I just opened a can of custard and ate the lot. The thick, sweet, silky smooth Food of the Gods coated the inside of my mouth, glided over the stitches and found its way into a very empty tummy which growled with satisfaction.

The can joined the Heinz Tomato Soup empties in the recycling pile. It has been 48 hours since I voluntarily stepped over the threshold of the Leeds Dental Institute with my one remaining wisdom tooth, stubbornly sticking to my jawbone and redefining jaunty with its peculiar and rather useless angle. The next time I crossed it, just 30 minutes later the tooth was gone, though not without a fight.

“We’re going to have to drill it in half,” said Claire, the dental surgeon, in a matter-of-fact way which put me at ease. The equally professional nurse handed me a pair of cool-looking glasses, I was disappointed to find didn’t have some kind of virtual reality projection to take my mind off the drilling and ultimate cracking from that stubborn tooth. The nurse smiled, ‘this is the NHS,’ she laughed, ‘though I’ve heard the private practice have screens on the ceiling.’ ‘I wouldn’t know,’ I mumbled through four lots of local anaesthetic.

And so it began, I’ll spare the details, except to say I was congratulated for being brave and not freaking out with all the drilling, pushing, tugging, cracking and… oh I’ll leave it at that.

As I got up to go, I took a look at the cause of many infections requiring doses of that particular antibiotic which really doesn’t mix with alcohol. ‘Ah you bugger’, I cursed it, not for a moment thinking of taking it home to make into a stylish pair of earrings.

‘Thanks,’ I said to Claire and her team. And I meant it. I told them the horror story of the previous extraction at my dental surgery. The one where the dentist had a droplet of sweat rolling down his nose before he had to take a rest before resuming the attack on what was left of the tooth. In hindsight, that wasn’t a good experience.

So now it’s soft gloopy food for a few days, and plenty of custard and coffee, my drug of choice. I complained to Noel that I did look like I had the face of a hamster, but his assurances that on me it looked good didn’t stop me putting a bag on my head when I went out.

All her life’s a circle

Circles, aghhhhh!!

We all have our fears and phobias, I’m not that keen on spiders, the skin on custard and the Daily Mail. All rational and reasonable, I’m comfortable the whole running out of the house screaming ‘aghhhh there’s a spider’ or ‘aghhhh the custard skin’s stuck to my lip’ or AGHHHHH the Middle England Mail!’

But today my staff shared their not-so-secret phobias and they were, well, an eye-opener. What is it about circles, Oompa Loompas and large and small versions of the same thing  that sent them screaming out of the house?

The scary thing about circles, Emma explained in all seriousness, was when they touched. Ah, I listened, biting the inside of my cheeks, trying not to laugh. Right. OK.

“You see,” she said “They’re all right when they’re separate, it’s the touching – aghhh, it just freaks me out”

“So how did you get on with Venn Diagrams at school?” I asked, reaching for a lemon to suck to stop me smiling.

“I avoided maths.”

“What about spaghetti hoops?” I inquired, digging my nails into my arms, hoping the pain would stop me bursting into hysterical laughter.

“I had to cut them up – then I discovered alphabetti spaghetti”

“How about the Olympics? Those five rings must be hell” That was it, I corpsed, the laughter just burst out. Sorry, it just did.

“Oh yes, especially when they fill the TV screen, I just have to turn the other way”

Kate’s fear of Oompa Loompas (the original Gene Wilder version, not the blue guys with Johnny Depp) is just that, a fear. Their smallness, their orangeness, their curly blond hair, their earworm movement music. Fortunately she’s not likely to come across many in the office.

Mark’s was more complex, small versions next to larger versions of the same thing, born out of fever-induced nightmares which transformed him into a Borrower.

So that’s it, then. We need an office without spiders, custard skin, touching circles, Borrowers,Oompa Loompas and the Daily Mail. Well, five out of six ain’t bad!

Wonderful, glorious custard

An Ode to Custard

O glorious custard, yellow, sweet, warm and warming

Smooth on the tongue, soothing each swallow, resting gently in the tummy

Sweet smelling custard, custardy custard. Birds, M and S, supermarkets’ own brand, all of you, Ambrosia, food of the gods

Like golden manna, you are the custard that dulls pain, taking away the memory of hardship, struggle, and a 4.30am start.

To you, Custard of the Three Peaks; to you, Custard of the Spiced Bread Pudding; to you, o custardy custard, served by the Queen of Custard to the weary hungry walkers seeking refreshment after 24 miles of trudging mountain and mud, I give you praise and eternal gratitude.

It had been an early start to arrive at Horton-in-Ribblesdale in time to hit the limestone way for 7.30. We’d even packed the rucksacs the night before and I’d covered my feet in industrial quantities of Compeed to stave off the blisters I knew would come at some point on the 24-mile trek.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is to complete the circular walk taking in Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough with an ups and downs of 1600m within 12 hours. We we in a party of 24, including Andrew, Glenn and Jack walking in aid of the local school. In turn we joined a steady stream of hopefuls heading for the hills.Not all would make it…

The start point is the Pen-y-Ghent cafe, home of the glorious custard I would dream of for the next 11 hours, where we clocked in on an old-fashioned machine, making a satisfying deep-throated monosyllabic ring with each card entered. Then it was off to the hills, determined to be back in time to claim exclusive membership of the Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club.

The long, steep slog up steep limestone was interspersed with what looked like amusing slow-motion dancing on the flat as hundreds of walkers did the waltz or quickstep to avoid the stinky black peaty mud. No-one escaped mud-free, Noel tried, but failed to do the splits, which I thought was showing off a bit. I just opted for sliding about and exclaiming ‘we-hey!!!’ to anyone who was listening – no-one was, they were too busy doing their own dance.

Conversations overheard on the mountains are random and bizarre, but the best was one that was in full flow about ecological benefits of a modern-day version of the twin tub washing machine, complete with sound effects. I turned to see two men who wouldn’t have been out of place in an advert for the latest mountaineering kit for anyone wanting to make a solo attempt on Everest.

“Well,” I said to them. “You hear some things up here, but I have to confess that two gnarly men debating the pros and cons of washing machines caps them all”

They laughed and maybe it was the tiredness, or the alarming sight of the nutty woman with the red hair and mud for trousers, but they said I had made their day. I warned them that that kind of comment could find its way on to a blog. They carried on, with their assessments of moisturisers for beards reaching us for the next half mile.

For the last mile, which seemed like all the previous miles put together, my muscles became mush and my thoughts turned to custard. Custard at the cafe which I knew would heal all aches and pains, stopping blisters in their tracks. As we clocked in, out came the custard and, as it’s not polite to ask for it to be served on its own in a pint mug, I ordered spicy bread pudding too, but with extra custard.

Immediately all the anguish and tiredness, aches and pains disappeared in a custardy bliss which lasted until this morning. On the plus side, there are no blisters, so at least I can walk. If only I could get up! I think I’m going to need more custard…