I have a bit of a dental phobia, even though my dentist is the kindest, nicest dentist possible. Perhaps it all began in childhood when our evil family dentist (whose mouth full of dazzling white teeth, like a well-tended graveyard, haunts me still) slapped me across the face. I was scared, you see, and wriggling around in the chair. So he hit me. You could do that in the early 1960s. I’m still scared (though I no longer wriggle) – so that worked well, didn’t it?

Today’s ordeal was not the dentist, but the peridontist. Lisa is softly spoken and very gentle, but I still find the whole experience scary. And that’s even though I know she won’t ever use a drill on me. For nearly an hour, various tools and machines scraped and scrubbed and poked and polished my teeth and gums. Last time I staggered out of the surgery feeling traumatized, but this time I did something different.
Instead of lying in the chair braced against the pain, muscles all stiff and knotted up (yes, yes, I know I am a big sook) I took myself elsewhere. For a very gratifying amount of time, I wasn’t in the chair at all. I was in Melbourne in 1880 with Verity Sparks, watching her hail a horse-drawn cab on a gas-lit corner, wondering about the identity of that mysterious woman in black or walking along Bourke Street with SP, Connie and Poppy.


I was so intent on  my new Verity adventure that it was like watching a movie. There was the odd interruption – a pang or two in the dental department and “open wider, please” –  but all in all it was very satisfactory. Now I not only have clean teeth but a mysterious new sub-plot complete with excellent red herrings.

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