In the late nineties when the family was still young and incomplete, cash was short and so I was tempted to seek income outside my NHS job. There was a company called the P**** Group which specialised in providing anaesthetists to to both high and low street dental clinics across the country. I got in touch and awaited my first assignment.
The destination was Edinburgh, and I was needed there for a full working week. I took the necessary annual leave, kissed my family good-bye and drove off one Sunday afternoon for a six hour journey ‘oop north’. In the days before GPS, finding one’s way anywhere was by means of a paper road atlas, common sense, asking directions from not-always helpful pedestrians, and a lot of luck. I eventually parked up outside the pub/guesthouse on Joppa Road in Portobello that was to be my home for the next five nights. I enjoyed an average pub supper accompanied by a pint of heavy and retired to bed early in my fatigue.
My attic room looked right out onto the riverfront, the famous Firth of Forth. Due to the northerly latitude, Scottish nights are longer in the winter and shorter in the summer. The various twinkling city lights provided a view at least as pretty as Monaco seen from the sea, or so my feeble imagination imagined. I lay myself down to sleep. Perhaps I noisily snored the night through: my wife was not there to wearily witness aye or nay.
I awoke early, did my SSS and broke fast at the bar with a full Scottish. Then I took a cab to the dental clinic some way off. I was swiftly welcomed in and shown my workplace. My heart began to sink as I surveyed the pokey ground floor room and its medical and dental accoutrements. I was introduced to the team: The dentist was also a locum and was assisted by two enormously tall strapping Scots lassies who were neither of them past their 17th birthday. My working space was perhaps a whole square foot in the corner of the room. My gas machine was of an ancient wall-mounted Boyle’s variety with only one vaporiser (Halothane). The airway equipment was similarly simplistic. A worry worm started burrowing deep in my guts. If I knew then what I know now, I would have fled that place without being seen for dust, but I didn’t so I didn’t.
The dentist was a very competent operator and uber witty with it. I enjoyed his company. He nicknamed his two dental nurses as Big Bird 1 and Big Bird 2. They were neither of them dim-witted, but they both possessed such strong local accents that I could hardly understand a word they spoke, and I doubt they could understand a word I spoke either.
This episode in my life is so rich in fruit that it deserves more than one brief post. I shall resume the story after a brief rest. I shall explain the title then too. Here is a musical interlude to help you while you wait: