Old Blogs

Friday, 4 November 2011

If the Shoe Fits….

Those of us lucky enough (sic) to be business owners will be familiar with the concept of ‘depreciation’ the method by which the cost of capital items can be set against tax.

The idea, of course, is that each year the ‘depreciated’ sum is saved so that at the end of the period funds are available to replace the original capital item with another new, shiny piece of equipment.

What actually happens in most cases is that our original purchase is left to go on and on. Perhaps we’ll re-upholster that dental chair or replace the leaking valves in the delivery unit but throw it away and replace it? Unthinkable! It’s got years of good service in it yet!

Last week I was invited to the launch of Mouth Cancer Awareness Month at the Houses of Parliament.

An auspicious occasion. One naturally wants to look one’s best.

What splendid luck! On clearing the loft recently I came across a pair of quality black leather shoes from a renowned manufacturer which I’d put away for safe keeping no more than 20 years ago. A quick polish and they were ‘good to go’.

The journey to London from the Isle of Wight comprises of a number of stages. The first two; the train to Ryde Pier and the ferry to Portsmouth went swimmingly. So much so in fact that I found I had enough time for a delicious breakfast roll at the harbour kiosk before boarding the train which would get me to the Capital with almost 10 minutes to spare!

We have starlings in Portsmouth. They’re equivalent to pigeons in London. Very cute, very tame and ruddy nuisances if you’re trying to have something to eat outside. More or less finishing my roll I dutifully walked over to the waste paper bin to deposit the crumbs and left-overs without leaving anything over to encourage these ‘sky-rats’ to the detriment of other diners.

Then it happened.

‘Crack’ My left shoe suddenly felt far more comfortable as if all pressure on my foot had been magically removed. The sole had broken right through at the centre. What an inconvenience! Must get it repaired when I return!

I boarded the train to London. Things were fine right up to Waterloo, then, with about 15 minutes left to get to Westminster and certainly no time to seek out a shoe shop; ‘Squanch’: the fore-part of the sole parted company from the upper and clacked up and down with every step. Those of you who know my wife Joy will know she’s a very resourceful woman. Off to WH Smiths in a shot. She returned with a selection of fine rubber bands to hold the whole thing together.

The taxi journey to the Mother of Parliaments was troublesome but not nearly as embarrassing as leaving a trail of debris across Westminster Hall before standing rigid in a corner throughout the meeting. The hoy-palloy must have suspected I had a military background as I stood to attention while speaking to various dignatories, professional editors and leaders of our profession.

On leaving the building things sadly suffered a decline. The short walk across Westminster Bridge back to the station is one I’ve completed many times. This time it rained. Boy, did it rain. I hardly noticed the drenched suit or even the shirt sticking to me; my mind was more pre-occupied with my soaked and freezing left foot.

I might be wrong, but I think it was the rain that caused the other shoe to disintegrate at this time; in any case by the time I reached the train the sole had vanished.

The journey home passed in something of a blur. I’m not sure if my two numb feet contributed to the hypothermia but by the time I got home my jaw was clenched, my ability to perform even simple essential tasks like opening my bottle of Guinness was lost and my shoulders quaked as if I’d just been listening to the most hilarious joke.

Divine retribution? It could be. Perhaps Someone Up There really does think we should be more generous to starlings!shoes

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Things Ain’t What They Used To Be…

Back to the Good Old Days!

The young wouldn’t recognise an honest day’s work if it came up and bit them! That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Of course, I’m not one to hold a distorted view of how things were in the past……

We’re into September. Summer is drawing to a close and soon we’ll be back on the relentless run-down to the cold, bleak weather of the British winter.

It’s not all bad! We can look forward to crisp, clear mornings, the approaching Season of Festive Cheer and more immediately, the return of our cherished young-ones to that 30-week glee club they euphemistically call: ‘University’.

My son Joshua reportedly attends one of these institutions although now of course he’s still on his summer vacation. I think it started in January; at least, that’s what it feels like.

Joshua’s university is called UCL. I’m not sure what that stands for; indeed, all the educated guesses I’ve made have been met with either vehement denials or silent, brooding distain. As a Kings man myself I wasn’t actually aware that other centres of further education existed in our Capital but Joshua assures me he has not made this up.

His vacation, of course started with a couple of weeks off followed by three weeks touring various Southern European music events with a number of like-minded reprobates. After an appropriate rest period to get over this ordeal he generously agreed to undertake a few week’s paid employment to fund his projected debauchery over the coming year.

The Isle of Wight as we know isn’t London and there are strangely few openings for scholars of Russian History and Politics among the tourism-based opportunities usually available in the summer. Joshua’s mother and I were acutely aware of this dilemma and our son’s reluctance to compromise his academic integrity by undertaking duties outside his intellectual sphere of activity. We were uniformly sympathetic but did our best to motivate him and give him focus:

Get a job, you lazy little so-and-so or starve!

This seemed to do the trick.

Joshua is a young adult. What do young adult males do? They eat! Then they eat some more. When they’ve finished eating they start eating again. Joshua is no different. Six foot two, muscular and enviably slim his life revolves around that next meal.

It was a no-brainer really.

What luck! A part-time job was up for grabs at our local golf club. Bar work, restaurant work, assisting the grounds men; in fact, whatever was necessary. ‘Multi-tasking’ is the term, I believe.

Joshua applied and happily was accepted.

Now let’s sit back and consider this situation. Here we have an accomplished, erudite individual with impressive ‘A’ level results and hopefully on his way to a First.

‘How are you getting on at the golf-club Josh?

‘OK I think but I don’t understand why the members always start their comments with: ‘Yer a nice enough nipper, but…’ And Dad, I get so tired. It’s so hard.’

Bah! Three days a week if he’s lucky. Ten hours a day at most. Call this work?!! I reminded my son of how things were in my day:

After milking the cows at the local dairy I’d start my 5am paper round. Then it was ‘spade time’; digging foundations through the hard core at the building site. How I loved this time of year! I still fondly remember the blackberry bushes behind the cement shed burgeoning with luscious fruit. This was lucky as there was no money available for ‘bought’ food. Every penny I earned went on textbooks or travel to study clubs. My parents were sadly in no position to help me financially so I helped them as much as I could; often popping back in my few free moments to polish the Bentley or help Mother stack her crates of Moet; a task the servants flatly refused to do.

Because of my relative youth my site foreman would never work me more than 12 hours at a stretch. That happily made me available to join the night shift at the supermarket. What a kind manager we had. He never objected to me sleeping in the yard for the few hours before milking started again and although I was rather scared of the dark I freely admit the company of the teeming rats around the ‘past sell-by date’ bins was a great comfort to me.

Yep; that’s exactly how I remember it.

The young today have it so much easier but I see no reason why they should not support the family endeavours as I used to. I asked Joshua:

‘What do you do to promote the Practice at work?’

‘Nothing, of course!’ he replied in horror. ‘I keep myself to myself.’

I have to say I don’t fully understand this logic. Our businesses are hardly in competition. I often tell others what a splendid golf club Freshwater has. I’m not completely sure how Joshua could reciprocate in a way understood by members but I’m certain that like everybody else golfers are interested in the condition of their teeth and would love to know that Avenue Road Dental Practice is the place to come if they think they’ve got a hole in one……….


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Stairway to Heaven!

Little things apparently please little minds, but for some of us the overdue refurbishment of the practice stairwell is a red-letter event!

OK, I know I’m a Sad Person. My children keep telling me so but years of looking on tired, 1980’s perforated hardboard cladding and peeling paintwork have taken their toll on me. The shame! Chic, Southern US décor throughout the practice leading to the abhorrent entry to the upper floor has been a constant embarrassment, resulting in the connecting door remaining firmly closed throughout working hours.

Patients must have wondered: ‘What lies beyond the Secret Door?’ A museum, perhaps, of extracted teeth and the ghoulish remains of un-aesthetic crown and bridgework? An exclusive health-club, where practice team-members can luxuriate in sweetly scented saunas and steam rooms in their few available minutes between work sessions?

Actually, it’s not quite as romantic as that.

At the top of the stairs is an area we euphemistically call ‘the staff room’ If you can fight your way through Chloe’s handbags and make-up products there is an excellent kettle where hot drinks can be prepared. Some team-members deny its existence as their refreshments are consistently cold by the time they get to drink them. Beyond that is the ‘stock room’. This is another area in need of attention but is useful for keeping some items in.

Did you know tissues have to be bought in cases of a gross at least? Paper towels come by the van-load as does toilet paper and those flimsy little covers for the dental chair. That’s Modern Dentistry for you! Mention those magic words ‘Dental Practice’ and every supplier in the world assumes you need their products in quantities that would be sufficient for a multi-national corporation.

To make it worse, someone has to carry all this up there. The suppliers or their delivery agents? You’re having a laugh!

‘We wuz told, ground floor only And ground floor only it shall be!’

Who’s left?

The dentist has to mind his back. The receptionist really does have other things to do; dealing with patients from the dentist and the hygienists as well as answering the telephone and making appointments. The dental nurses? Excuse me, haven’t you heard of finger nails??

That leaves only one person, the Practice Administrator. Thank goodness we didn’t give him a job-description when he joined us! As well as looking after the day-to-day running of the practice; making sure we don’t run out of patient information forms, consent forms, information packs and yes, supplies, we do occasionally call on him to perform other teeny-weeny duties.

‘Could you just take these few boxes upstairs?’

‘We’ve run out of coffee. Any chance of running over to the shop?’

‘The trade waste goes tomorrow. I haven’t had time to knock down those cartons…..’

If we ever need to engage another Practice Administrator I think I’ll have to re-name the position; ‘Practice Hero!’

The stairwell still isn’t finished. It needs ‘skimming’ and re-decorating. The handrail needs to be replaced. The stairs themselves need painting. Hopefully all this will be completed during the next couple of weeks.

When it’s ready, patients will be offered a peek. They won’t be allowed to climb the stairs of course until we’ve dealt with the stock-room. At least, in the meantime we can all can struggle up with tons of paper while enjoying a pleasant view of the smart new walls……