Since my brother Asinus was away on business the other day, I found myself taking his daughter, my niece Perturbata, to an Orthodontist so that braces of the "train-track"variety could be attached to her teeth.
This is something that I've spoken to both Asinus and his daughter about before. Perturbata's lower jaw contains two twisted teeth, and was given the choice of whether or not to have an orthodontic brace by her dentist.
So far, so fair. The thing is, she was given full braces on both sets of teeth, on the NHS, by an orthodontist who explained everything beforehand as if he were outlining a beauty proceedure. A calculated length of stubble poked through perfect skin - I bet he moisturises.
Perturbata ended up with what she had wanted, then we were taken into a cranny to see a DVD on how one should take care of one's braces. She wasn't allowed to take anything coloured, like Coke, jelly-beans or tomato sauce; anything hard, like gobstoppers or carrots; anything crunchy, like peanuts, crisps or toast; in fact, she had to fast from the palate of childhood. I regret, now, that I reminded her of the old saying that you should be careful what you wish for, in case you get it.
I don't know what Perturbata's treatment cost on the NHS, but another orthodontic centre advertises its prices from "£250 to £7,000". I wonder where a brace on both sets of teeth in order to correct two on the lower jaw falls. And what is the value of those two twisted teeth, which turn up in at least one person in each generation of our family? If I'm ugly, at least I'm continuing a generations-long tradition of being ugly. And being beautiful is risky - a WAG might marry me.
Perturbata and I, I have to admit, had a bit of a falling out. It took a shouting session between Professor Calculus and I to make me realise that Perturbata would remember my response, in Asinus' absence, for a long time to come. So, at Calculus' suggestion, I hugged her and told her that she was beautiful now, but would be more beautiful in a year when the brace came off.
After making the orthodontist richer with taxpayers' money, Perturbata and I went to visit a friend of ours who is hospitalised in Addenbrooke's occasionally so that she can catch MRSA. Afterwards, we went to the concourse and had chips. Perturbata gave me hers, because they were catching in her brace. Being of Scottish ancestry, she has chip-shaped chromosomes, so this was a bad sign.
Perturbata asked me, holding back tears, "How do you make good decisions?"
I replied, "You look at you bad decisions, analyse why they didn't work, and try to do better next time."