Life after teeth

They say “once a dentist, always a dentist” but then what? Phil Gould wonders what it takes to be a writer.

What’s in a word? Well, some course their way through our conversations with hardly a ripple, worthy if anonymous, like “patina” and “winglet”. Others might invite a subliminal snigger, like “wriggle” or “heave”. Others still might irritate the aesthetic sinews, like “bung”: what an uninspiring – no, ugly – word, redolent as it is of dishonest dealing and the plugging of unpleasant leaks.

But there are others, oh yes, which gladden the heart and lift the spirits. And I now come to the nub – right up there, “nub”, not pressing for the Champions’ League, but hovering, perhaps, just above Brighton and Hove Albion in whatever league they find themselves in.

– Ah yes, the nub. And that is “CREDIBLE”. What a wonderful, glorious word, full of good, honest, hard and, if I may say so, British, consonance. “Credible….”, “credible…” try saying it a few times, perhaps in private while having a bath or picking a spot. See what I mean? Enough to raise the spirits on the greyest of days.

But are you credible? That’s the rub – or nub.

I’m a retired dentist. Gone are those halcyon days of peering down root canals and inhaling unspeakably bad breath. But unmistakably, irredeemably, tragically even, a dentist. I went to dental school at one end and came out the other, well, a dentist. Sort of pre-destined, really. But I am now a writer. A composer of lots and lots of words, nearly all different, laid down in a special way in order to make people laugh, cry or possibly turn to Jeremy Kyle.

But am I a writer? I write, but does that make me a writer? A plumber “plumbs” and can accurately describe himself as a plumber. He is CREDIBLE. But a writer? Years ago I did write. Not about teeth, but TV comedy and if you carefully scrutinize credits for the Two Ronnies, you may even find my name there. Indeed, with my good friend Quentin Brown, I wrote a moderately successful Sitcom for Channel 4. I was, for a short but heady time, credible. I was even interviewed by Eamon Holmes, for God’s Sake.

But now? I sit here in my garret – hateful word, sounds like carrot – writing. But, I repeat, does that make me a writer? Am I a national treasure waiting to be welcomed into the bosom of an admiring public? Or am I just another deluded fool occupying his time between school runs? That is the nub/rub.

You see, as a writer, unless you have something “out there” it is very difficult to persuade a disbelieving world that you’re actually doing anything.

“Haven’t seen anything recently,” they’d sneer.

Does our plumber have to justify his professional existence? Does he have to imbue the rest of his life with proof of success?

But wait, am I not writing these words, showering them into the Blogosphere, potentially bringing succour to millions of people?

YES, I am a writer!


Phil Gould is 63 and a recovering dentist. He has also been a TV comedy writer. He lives with an African Grey parrot, ten chickens, two children and a wife in West Suffolk and doesn’t want to get out more.

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