Grandad’s False Teeth
The atmosphere at the dining table was tense as my sister and I eyeballed each other over dessert. Hot custard with stick to the roof of the mouth jam pudding was swallowed in one as we raced each other to be first to finish, get permission to leave the table and claim the best seat in the lounge ready for the family ritual of watching the football.
In our household Sunday followed the same routine each week. Get up early and drive to Wandsworth to pick our grandfather up from his council flat. Buy shrimps, cockles and, much to our disgust jellied eels, on the way back home from the local sea food stalls down by the river. Having arrived home, after a cup of tea and cake, grandad taught us various gambling card games and he would cheat his pants off in order to win (shame on him we were 6 and 9). Luckily for us he was way too obvious and we were fast learners. We sussed him out, learnt his tricks, embellished on them and played him with far more panache. After a huge sleep inducing Sunday roast and heavy dessert, we moved to the lounge, each settling down into their favourite chair to watch the soccer on TV. Afternoon tea with freshly baked cakes was provided by Mum at half time. Later, after supper, Grandad was driven home and Mum collapsed in a heap having slaved over the kitchen stove for most of the day. For her, Sunday was never a day of rest.
Now in the past, after lunch, there’d always been competition between us grandchildren for the seat next to grandad as he was extremely good value in the entertainment department. But recently the weekly scrum was carried out in order to claim the seat furthest away from him. The problem started when he acquired a new set of dentures that didn’t quite fit. At the time he was also man on a mission, determined to keep himself ‘regular’ by eating a bagful of apples a day. Each time he bit down the falsies would part from his gums and then click back into place. I calculate that each apple piece was chewed 5 times, he cut off at least 20 small pieces per apple and he ate about 8 apples – which is about 800 clicks. If you allow him ten minutes per apple (he was a slow eater) that’s about 1 hour 20 minutes of clicking. Now that may not seem like much but believe me it’s long enough to drive the occupant of the chair next to him mad. Mad enough to consider sticking the dentures somewhere where the sun don’t shine.
The torture didn’t stop once he finished eating, the clicking continued as he used his tongue to move the loose dentures around his mouth in order to tease out any stray bits of fruit. This went on until high tea – and we all know how cake sticks to the palate! But the piece de la resistance was when he pushed the top and bottom parts of the dentures slowly through his lips before clicking them back into place. Ever seen the moment where Sigourney Weaver meets alien face to face and the monsters teeth project from its mouth towards her? Well Grandad’s sliding denture trick had the same effect.
It wasn’t long before our parents got wise to the weekly battle for the furthest seat in the room from our nearest and dearest, mainly because they ended up sitting next to him. Rather than have a quiet word in his shell like or present him with some denture glue, they joined in the weekly game of musical chairs. Eventually poor Grandad often ended up in the room on his own for hours as we all found other absorbing tasks to do. Thankfully the apple phase didn’t last too long – I think he moved onto stewed prunes!