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XX Notes: The Dentist, The Pointless Man and A Cunning Trap

Published on: 8 Jun, 2021
Updated on: 10 Jun, 2021

Maria Rayner

Maria Rayner‘s observational column from a woman’s perspective…

Getting a dentist’s appointment, it’s a joke right?

Perhaps that is what provoked my dentist’s attempt at humour about the weather that was prevalent only days ago. Repeating Lord Byron and countless others, he said: “The English winter ends in July – to recommence in August”.

My dentist is Scandinavian so perhaps his sense of humour is the only thing he has in common with a Romantic poet – but most people would see the funny side and let out a snort.

Did you hear the one about…?

But back to the main joke. I got a dentist’s appointment!

Dentist surgeries closed for urgent care on March 25, 2020 and, although they reopened as restrictions eased and PPE became available, I know I’m not alone in my reluctance to return. The hygienist with her “aerosol-generating procedures” made me even more nervous. The information and statistics on NHS websites did not reassure.

But I had a sensitive tooth so I was brave and booked an appointment. What a change: update your forms before the visit, no one else in the waiting room, no eyes to avoid connecting with, even the dentist was cheerful and non-judgmental. I’m so unused to socialising that even my scary Viking is good company.

I visited the dentist after the sunny bank holiday, when the weather had broken, hence the joke about our summer. Fortunately, I hadn’t travelled to Portugal but had managed a trip to Cornwall, even getting to read a few chapters on the beach – when the puppy wasn’t bursting small children’s footballs.

I’ve been a Kindle devotee for years now (ever since being stranded in Morocco by the ash cloud – life-saver – all those books!) but only recently been curious about the “highlight feature”.

why did 212 people think: “He had read a headline about Diet Coke once, which was so worrying he had chosen not to read the article” worthy of emphasising and sharing?

Amazon allows the reader to pick out and annotate passages of the story. This links into your “Good Reads” account – like social media for books. No doubt there’s a market in the revealing data collected from your choice to underline eg: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” (from The Go-Between). Nostalgic, cynical, old…

I’m reading the bestselling and record-breaking The Thursday Murder Club by the ubiquitous Pointless man Richard Osman.

Now, I can understand why someone might want to highlight: “He’s all the things that can go wrong with a man if you leave him to his own devices,” even that 416 people of a certain age might find it profound, but why did 212 people think: “He had read a headline about Diet Coke once, which was so worrying he had chosen not to read the article” worthy of emphasising and sharing?

When I reveal: “You always know when it’s your first time, don’t you? But rarely know when it’s your final time.” has 614 underscores, much is revealed about the target audience of this book.

I went down many wormholes looking for the quote that was so banal it got me ranting about Kindle highlights, but you’ll just have to trust me. However, what I did do was set a little trap.

My theory is readers will highlight what others have, thereby making a line heavily marked. So I underlined some boring sentences about insurance underwriters (family joke).

When I came back a week later to see if 500 other people thought it was as “profound” as me… nothing, nada, not a solitary sausage.

Maybe the literary readers of Richard Osman’s book are more discerning, maybe I’m the last person in the country to read it, but I’m hoping that the other bit I’ve picked out gets more notice: “Yesterday, Ibrahim had been reading the notes of an old client of his, a Midland Bank manager from Godalming…”

Dear readers, if you too have Murder Club on Kindle – let’s get Guildford’s neighbour trending.

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