24 Dec 2009


Wisdom from The Bard:
'Address to the Toothache'

My curse upon your venom'd stang.
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang,
An thro my lug gies monie a twang,
Wi gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi bitter pang,
Like racking engines!

A' down my beard the slavers trickle,

I throw the wee stools o'er the mickle.
While round the fire the giglets keckle,
To see me loup.
An raving mad, I wish a heckle
Were i' their doup!

When fevers burn, or ague freezes, 

Rheumatics gnaw, or colic squeezes,
Our neebors sympathise to ease us,
Wi pitying moan;
But thee! - thou hell o a' diseases -
They mock our groan!


Of a' the numerous human dools -
Ill-hairsts, daft bargains, cutty-stools,
Or worthy frien's laid i' the mools, 

Sad sight to see!
The tricks o knaves, or fash o fools -
Thou bear'st the gree!


Whare'er that place be priests ca' Hell,
Whare a' the tones o misery yell,An ranked plagues their numbers tell,In dreadfu raw,
Thou, Toothache, surely bear'st the bell,
Amang them a'!

O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o discord squeel,
Till human kind aft dance a reel
In gore, a shoe-thick,Gie a' the faes o Scotland's weal
A towmond's toothache! 

My teeth grieve for these tombstones. Beauty, youth and esteem are cannibalised by the toothless gurn. These cankered pusses can only savour the memory of a steak or apple. Balanced meals are off the menu for those who can't chew. Life sucks.

Q: What's got fifty legs and two teeth? A: The queue for a 'script.'

The punchline (25 people queuing for a methadone pre'script'ion) hits below the belt- it's the sugar that makes the acidic medicine and the gumline go down. 
 Dereliction of dental care is the catalyst for a spectrum of remediable and chronic illnesses. The symptoms of neglect are rooted in poverty, diet and phobia - in parts of Glasgow men are condemned to a life expectancy of just 54 years. Teeth are a crude litmus test; when the paper turns red society is at risk.
 So many of The Big Issue vendors I meet endure the torment of wracked mouths, gum gouging and bodged extractions. Vendors in Glasgow universally complain that access to free care is fraught with pit-falls - there's always a loop-hole ready to ensnare them.


  The counter-point to this rueful passage came when a vendor told me of a clinic providing free dental care buried somewhere in the catacombs of Edinburgh's Cowgate. Working from a surgery at the back of a converted chapel were a pair of Santos Dentistas. Dental surgeons Adam and Ania man the post at the Edinburgh Access Practice two days a week and provide free dental care to anyone unfortunate enough to qualify for their services. Both apportion their days between victims of the poverty trap and patients with blood-born viruses. Ania also works one day at a psychiatric hospital carrying the torch for Mary Seacole. Against implausible odds they are heroically plugging a septic health service. "If you're on benefits then you're entitled to free dental care" they conceded. And there was the rub; to qualify for benefits you need an address - a home!

 Neither break the rules, they'll treat anyone who needs their care out of hours.


You'll find Santa on Christmas Day working at the emergency dental clinic- ask for Ania.

Kamikaze has had another visitation from the "tattoo spirit". A sacred patch of virginal terrain on his ink-etched torso had been consecrated by another of my images. His chromium skirl, framed by the motto 'C'est la Fuckin' Vie', roars out from the encroaching crevice like a chrome Leo the MGM lion.