19th December 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Letter from Edinburgh

, by , in Features

It’s never easy to say thanks when you’re in pain. Not, I should hasten to add, that my life is filled of such moments! But on Wednesday I had the last filling. Unfortunately I doubt it will be the last visit to a dental surgery. But it was the last time Alan Owen filled a Scott molar. He’s been a very good dentist. I say that as someone who still bears the mental scars of an eight tooth extraction when at primary school in the old clinic at the Lerwick Health Centre. My mental scars are less obvious than the lump I removed from the dentist’s shin as he pushed the gas and air mask at my face. Forget horror movies. Just remember getting teeth out as an eight-year-old.

Alan Owen thankfully hasn’t had to extract teeth from my mouth. And after the polish that Morag applies, he’s often had no work at all. Morag always enlivened a visit by a particularly acute political question when my mouth was full of dental machinery, there­by ensuring that the answer would be confined to a series of non-committal grunts. Clever stuff I thought … afterwards.

But sadly the Owens are retiring. The practice will become something new as part of NHS Shetland. Quite when the next appointment will be is unclear and who the dentist or dentists will be is also unknown. I just hope that we don’t end up like the health centre whereby you’re registered with the practice and not an individual GP. It helped that Alan was intimately aware of the root structure of every patient’s mouth. So as the team leaves a big thank you for all the care, attention to detail and the cheerful discussion with the reception staff and da muckle appointments book whereby with a flick of the pages, a new year included a check-up and the hope that no extraction would be neces­sary. Lots of Shetland folk may have left St Olaf Street in pain, but at least they knew pain now would stop whereas pain without a good dentist was pain that was going to last.

Pain is something Christopher Brookmyre does. Or rather writes about. Most of his books are comic genius. He’s a big draw at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival and spoke with great Scottish wit about current events and Glasgow gang­land violence which is the focus of his latest offering. The best line from his latest he mentioned, was a description of those Glaswegian hard men no longer able to com­municate on a permanent basis, i.e. they were dead. The Brookmyre description? Silence of the bams! The part of his speech which did have the entire audience in stitches was a passage he had written that crossed Irvine Welsh with Jane Austen. In other words a chapter of Sense and Sensibility in the style of Trainspotting complete with adjectives of a descriptive and point­ed nature. Utterly brilliant. A good catch for Shetland’s Wordplay one year.

Tavish Scott MSP