Words of Wisdom

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 13 November 2007

After 6 hours sleep it was off to the dentist. This time for the daughter, who amazingly revealed that all of her wisdom teeth had torn through her gums without so much as a yelp. She had absolutely no pain whatsoever, unlike her mother, who suffered so much she had to take a week off work.

When mine came through I was understudying Rachel Kempson and Denise Coffey in John Osbornes play 'A Sense of Detachment' at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It was a new play that everybody was eager to see. I had been asked to play the silent wife of the angry husband played by Terence Frisby. Mr.Frisby was well known for having written the award winning play/film 'There's a Girl in my Soup'.

We had met whilst filming the 'History of Sadlers Wells' and the 'History of Pantomime', but that's another story.

Terry pitched for me to play his wife because we made each other laugh and I was out of work. We were seated in the front row, dressed as Knightsbridge Theatre goers whilst Terry's 'Husband' heckled the actors on stage.

And a top-notch bunch of actors they were, apart from Ms. Kempson and Ms Coffey we were treated to Nigel Hawthorn, Jonh Standing and Dave Hill.

Mr. Hill played a drunken football supporter from Yorkshire. Complete with football scarf and rattle he was required to shout abuse from one of the boxes - stage right. Terry and Dave set the tone of the evening. Whilst the actors on stage struggled to be heard Dave and Terry topped them. The audience were thus given carte blanche to yell out whatever they wanted. One memorable night Ms. Kempson, in a fit of peak, threw one of shoes into the audience to shut them up.

Terry and I laughed so much our red velvet, front-row, seats were stained with our mirth.

Mid-run I had to have my wisdom teeth out. I left London for the green fields and dentist chair of Hertfordshire, I chose to put my mouth in the hands of the dentist I had seen since I was 7. My mother accompanied me, but once I was strapped in she was summarily dismissed and told not to return only after the four teeth had been extracted.

Four teeth that had sprouted on cue, when I was 21. Four teeth that were impacted and re-arranging the rest of my gnashers. Four teeth, that in the 21st Century, would never have been removed in a suburban surgery by one dentist and his nurse. Now the extraction of wisdom teeth is deemed serious enough to be treated in a hospital. It is, after all, a minor operation.

The Boreham Wood Post had asked for an interview, I was the local slum kid who had done good and they wanted to get the dirt on who I had bribed to get into the Royal Court. My intention was to have my four teeth removed, rest up, then meet them the following day.

The dentist, who shall remain nameless, injected several pints of local anaesthetic into the four quadrants of my mouth. I was numb from gum to gum. He wore glasses and a white mouth patch, I wore my heart on my sleeve and a rubber bib. It all started quite simply. My mouth gaped open and my mind relaxed. However, someway into the procedure I heard the dentist ask the nurse for his notebook;

'You know the one, it's in the back room. The one I had at college.'

I looked up - backwards - at the man with his hand down my throat. His glasses were speckled with blood he was panicking. He wasn't the only one. The pain was non-existent but the ticking of the clock, the sound of those pliers pulling, the squeaking and creaking, the tugging of those wise teeth from their roots, the pounding of my heart, and the beating of my heart, reverberated around my head.

Time passed.

I looked up - backwards - again, his lenses were so be-spattered with blood it looked like he'd fallen face down in a cheese and tomato pizza. I was surprised he could see what he was doing.

My mother arrived. They sent her away.

Two down and two to go.

My mother came into the surgery. They sent her away.

After, what felt like a life time, of pulling and tugging, swabbing and spraying I was finally allowed to leave.

By now my mother was ringing her hands and the solicitor.

I was driven home and put to bed. I slept until the following morning.

When I finally awoke I gingerly approached the mirror.
I had to prepare myself for my interview with the local rag. They were coming to my mothers house with an empty notebook, an open mind and a photographer.

When I saw my reflection in the mirror my mouth tried to fall open, without much luck. John Hurt could not have been more surprised when he saw himself as the 'Elephant Man'.

'Thmummggh' I yelled. Only a mother could understood, she entered the room.

She threw her hands to her face and gasped.

The dentist had mauled me, pulled me, poked me and drilled. My cheeks were the size of a giant marsupial. I looked like I had stuffed 18 bails of cotton in my mouth.

Big, black-and-blue brusied cheeks stared back at me. My nose had dissappeared in between the unfamilar terrain of somebody elses face. My eyes were so puffy I looked like a Mongolian Yak dealer. I looked in the mirror. my mother looked at me looking in the mirror, I looked at my mother looking at me looking at her in the - you get the picture.

I couldn't even cry it hurt too much. I chose to tie a scarf round my face, suddenly I was an outlaw from 'High Noon'. When I opened the door to the rookie journalist her jaw dropped open, lucky her, she was greeted by a very small, Jewish Jesse James . I sat as elegantly as I could behind my scarf and answered her questions - sort of. I mumbled my way through the interview. I think Marlon Brando based his 'Godfather' on me.

I called the theatre.

They had to get an understudy to understudy the understudy. By the time I returned back to work the play was closing. Me and my big mouth.

Tomorrow I am back at the dentists. Don't fret, no extractions just a clean and brush up. If he asks for his notebook from college I'll leave.

night night. cul8tr.

p.s. DO NOT FOGET YOUR STORIES ABOUT FOOD THAT 'S CHANGED YOUR LIFE.

pps. Sorry, I don't mean to shout!

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At November 14, 2007 7:37 AM lynne chazer wrote:

I expect it is stories about human food that changed your life, but I must tell you about the cat foodthat nearly finished mine.
We have been living with mice for sometime, so bodged job by our landlords left holes big enough for the blighters to get in and now we can't get rid of them! Anyway, the other Saturday evening, just watching the end of Casualty(I nearly needed them) our old cat decided he needed a refil before bed, so I duly went to the cupboard (I don't normally leave open boxes in the cupboard, they are usually put in a tin for obvious reasons) I'm merrily talking to the cat, the husband and the daughter and listening to Charlie and Tess over who was going to be made redundant - multi-tasking - when I tipped the box towards the cats bowl only for this blessed mouse to drop out and run straight under the chair. I'm not sure whowas the most shocked but I have decided that although I do like mice and like most of us they have a right to life, I do not want to co-habitate with them. So we are at war, the mice or us!

2. At November 14, 2007 10:02 AM Chrissie Carcassonne wrote:

Hi Jeni,

Playing other people as a stage actress is a shadow of playing yourself which you do to such good effect.

A couple of years ago we saw my cousin Chris (OK, so we are short of names in our family), he of BBC Radio 4’s “Just a Minute” fame, doing his one-man show. “The BBC, Andrew Gilligan and Me” was made even funnier for us as he introduces little stories about his family.
We were sitting waiting for the lights to go down and our dear boy to make his entrance when Andrew Gilligan arrived to take his place in the audience. Chris had no warning of this.
Towards the end of the show there was to be a three-man sketch about the aforementioned Andrew and, as this was a One-Man Show, Chris had to find members of the audience to make up the numbers. All this was effected with little trouble and there just remained an "Andrew" to find. (The real article was sitting just behind yours truly.)
Chris approached seeking a "Look-alike" but passed right by the best possible "Look-alike".
After the show Chris gave Mr. Gilligan an interview for the paper and had his picture took. And so ended a funny and heart-stopping evening.
Good luck with the teef.
Chrissie x

3. At November 14, 2007 10:31 AM kerri wrote:

Hi jeni,
I wouldnt say its changed my life, but there are two foods i cannot do without. 1. Baked Beans. 2. Mashed potatoe. There is nothing more comforting than beans on toast on a winters evening, and mash is so versatile, you can mix anything with it and it goes with everything! I like mine with butter and salad cream, think its my working class roots showing! Take Care xx

4. At November 14, 2007 2:02 PM carys wrote:

Hi there Jeni. I've been thinking about foods that changed my life but I don't think that any have. However, certain foods define and anchor past memories like nothing else ever could. For instance there was the liver and bacon (I'd never eaten it before) followed by plum crumble that I was given after a 36 hour labour and the birth of my beautiful second child. I was ravenous and euphoric and nothing had ever tasted so delicious in my life. My husband watched me devour it in disbelief (I was vegetarian at the time!!). Then there was the Chinese Feast in the chinese restaurant where we held our wedding reception. Such sweet memories flood back every time I tuck into a take away and make that cuisine really special to me. Then there are the not so wonderful recollections. Lunch at Blooms restaurant with my workmates some thirty years ago on the day my father died, suddenly and far too young. I've never eaten a salt beef sandwich from that day on. C'est la vie!

Love Carys x

5. At November 14, 2007 3:32 PM Prestwich Sue wrote:

Hi Jeni - lovely story, if painful for you, about your wisdom teeth! Thank you for mentioning me in your prog last Sunday. I had Sky+ it and listened to it the next day. I called my partner in excitedly to listen to the bit where my name was mentioned - how sad am I?!! Anyway, I really enjoyed the whole programme and it was lovely to hear from the three Indian cooks (not sure I can spell their names at the moment) again. You seemed to be having great fun and it just highlighted how you have really blossomed on radio. Would still love to have you back on TV though. Anyway, as far as food that has changed my life, I have to say garlic, both the smell of it in cooking (not partic on someone else's breath!) and the wonderful taste.
Take care, Sue Campbell

6. At November 14, 2007 6:24 PM Graham wrote:

Hi Jeni,
I'm the husband of 'Carcassonne Chris', and I have a 'Food that changed my life' story:
Way back when I was an apprentice ship's engineer and in digs in South Shields (Tyneside), my very hard-working landlady asked if we would all like curry for a change. This was still something of a novelty, but the older engineers there all said 'Yes', so it was arranged for the next evening's meal. She pulled out all the stops to produce a great beef curry, but she had not quite got the hang of the rice - she had opened a tin of Ambrosia Creamed Rice, as that was the only sort of rice she had ever had! Of course we all ate it down happily, as she was trying to be so good to us. But the result was that I was determined to learn to cook (not a decision to be taken lightly by a lad from Yorkshire), and I am now a confirmed 'foodie'.
Best wishes,
Graham.

7. At November 14, 2007 7:36 PM Michelle wrote:

Hi Jeni,
Smoke salmon,scrambled eggs and of course Champagne!!
The lovely of my life makes it to perfection, but he, like Ed Baines has ketchup on the side!!
Lots of love,
Michelle and Nutmeg xx

8. At November 14, 2007 11:46 PM Pool Potato wrote:

The food that gave me the biggest shock was the sweet potato I tasted when I worked as a youngun in an American Army Hospital in Germany back in the seventies. It was Thanksgiving, I always ate lunch in the mess, the food was fantastic as always and I was impressed how the four star general queued up with the minions like us (or should I say stood in line). Anyway I was eating lunch as I did every day with Skeet from Harlem and Clementine (Clementiiine) from Florida.

I can remember the shock when I put what I thought was mashed tater in my mouth, it was sweeter than anything I'd eaten, Clementine saw my face and said "What's wit you gurll?" - they were both amazed I'd never tasted sweet potato in my life, they just couldn't believe what a backward country I came from.

"YOU'VE NEVER TASTED A SWEET POTATER? WHAAAAT?"

Needless to say every time I see a sweet tater now I think of that moment, EVERY TIME!

Keep on keepin on gurll! xxx Fee

9. At November 15, 2007 8:19 PM jean jones wrote:

Oh dear Jeni - a few grammar errors: John Osborne's play, mother's house and a spelling error: disappeared.
I spend my life being "pickey" with children about spelling and punctuation!!!!

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