Although it isn’t something I’m proud of, my bite is worse than my bark. I know this for a fact because I’m on my way to my dentist for the second time this week. The beautiful new crown that she fitted last week the strongest porcelain known to man, made in Sweden has cracked. And it’s the replacement for the first crown, which also cracked.
The first crack took place at a wedding dinner at the Pied à Terre restaurant on Charlotte Street. I can honestly say it was the best food I’ve ever eaten, but at some point, I felt a gaping hole in the back of my jaw. It felt like a crater, but, of course, it was only half a crater. The missing piece of manmade molar had gone down as smoothly as a sliver of foie gras. It’s a mystery to the Swedish technicians who produce this miracle product, but not to my dentist. She has been telling me for years that I have a very strong bite. More chomp than chew. To hear her describe it, you’d think I was weaned on armadillos.
This wasn’t always the case. It’s only with age that I’ve morphed into a snapping turtle, which is inconvenient, because old teeth really aren’t up to it. But, like a snapping turtle, I find it harder and harder to let go of things. For instance, for months I’ve been obsessed with Bernard Madoff. You’d think I had invested my life’s savings with the disgraced financier whose Ponzi scheme swindled investors out of millions.
In fact, I’d never even heard of him, never even been to Palm Beach, although I once sat next to Elie Wiesel at a dinner in New York. The Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate’s Foundation for Humanity lost $15 million, and he now feels sad rage, a feeling I shared as I Googled each evening before bed, typing in ‘Madoff victims tell their stories’ to feed my fire.
But disaster and calamity moves at such a pace that while Mr Madoff was still penned up in his penthouse, he got pushed aside by bankers’ bonuses, as ordained by our inept Government and funded by the humble taxpayer. And as I was chewing over the bitterness of Sir Fred’s lifetime-achievement pension, along came the Somalian pirates. Frankly, my reaction to those impoverished men in little boats (who collected £150 million in ransoms last year) surprises even me. ‘Kill them,’ I blasted over my matinal organic Fairtrade coffee. ‘They throw grenades at the ships, throw them back!’
Despite my nightly attempts to figure out how an Evinrude/ Johnson with a crew of four could commandeer a freighter on the high seas, I was stumped. Then, a friend at the International Maritime Organisation explained that the freighters fly flags of convenience and have the smallest crews possible. Ransom has been cheaper than armed crews. Oh. Perhaps now, after 78 ships have been attacked, 19 hijacked and more than 300 hostages taken since February, the insurers will rethink.
And where is my sympathy for Somalia, the hotbed of Islamic extremism described by the UN as the ‘world’s worst humanitarian disaster’? I grind my teeth in despair. Somalia. Zimbabwe. Kenya. South Africa. Darfur. The Congo. Was it always so hopeless? Has it become worse? Is there anything that can be done?
Meanwhile, I have half a crown. Admittedly, it’s a privileged piece of dentistry. A Swedish crown intact could probably feed a family in bleakest Africa for a year. Just knowing that makes me feel queasy, because being a white, middle-class country dweller doesn’t make you indifferent to the world’s troubles. Like snapping turtles, we aren’t so well covered by our shells that we’re impervious. Actually, snapping turtles are shy creatures, not inclined to look for trouble, but if threatened, they will respond with a fierce chomp. Snap.