The first essential, of course, is to know what you want.

April 14, 2020 – Robert Collier


Her Majesty the Queen is not known to start speeches with ‘my teeth and I…’ However, my teeth are much on my mind at the moment; not because they are hurting, but because, with all the superstitious signs of propitiation I can offer, they are not – yet.

I have a very bad dental track record which reached its nadir, when I had to seek attention one Christmas Day for an abscess. On returning home, I waited for the anaesthetic to wear off only to find when it did that the pain became even worse. I returned to the dentist, a delightful Jewish man who said he was working on 25 December because he needed to get out of the house as the kids were driving him mad. He took an X-ray. ‘Good grief,’ he said, ‘you’ve got two abscesses, in next-door teeth. What are the statistical chances of that?’ I remember thinking ‘high, knowing my teeth’ and made a promise to get them back later in the evening by using my most vicious toothbrush.

Putting aside my fears of a sudden dental calamity, I prepared for an application in the Crown court later in the day. At 2:30pm, I sat down on my sofa and accessed the virtual waiting room on iPad. Then my opponent, Theo Askew, rang me. ‘Are you in the waiting room?’ I said I was. ‘I’m in the virtual court,’ he said. ‘The judge and I can see each other but although I can hear her, she can’t hear me.’

At that moment I heard the judge with some awful echoing feedback. ‘William,’ she said, ‘I can hear you but I can’t see you.’ At this moment, both Askew and I lost the judge altogether although I could now see him. ‘What are you wearing?’ he asked. I pointed out that he could see that I was wearing my suit like him. ‘No,’ he continued ‘lower down.’ When I told him I was wearing my suit trousers he confessed to being in a pair of cycling shorts. He then told me that someone else in front of the same judge remotely had been even more daring and then had stood up when he knocked his coffee over.

We both cackled away like silly schoolboys until the judge cut into our gossip. ‘I can’t see either of you but I heard what you said, Theo, and it is grossly exaggerated.’ My client then cut in across the airwaves from his prison video link. ‘Sorry to trouble you all,’ he said, ‘and I enjoyed the story but are we getting to my case today, as we’re having a cell party and I’m missing it.’

After all that excitement, I drove to the petrol station which has a food shop. Secretly, I also wanted to wash my car there as it also boasts an automatic car wash. I saw a constable in a yellow jacket waving his arms around. ‘Car wash is closed until further notice,’ he shouted. ‘Why?’ I asked, which was rather like asking Warden Hodges in Dad’s Army if you could put the lights on in an air raid. ‘Non-essential,’ he said. ‘But what possible harm can it cause?’ I enquired. He decided, like Donald Trump, to go on the offensive. ‘How old are you?’ He asked. ‘Early sixties,’ I replied, reading his mind. ‘Anyway, I have had it, mildly.’ His face immediately went the colour of beetroot. ‘You need to get back home now!’ he shouted and despite my efforts to explain I was out of quarantine, he manhandled me back into my vehicle and sent me on my merry way. I think it was the high point of his day.

I returned home to house-arrest and on entry gave my flat interior a jaundiced look, which I almost thought it returned. Just then the phone went. To begin with I couldn’t make out what the caller was saying, then I realised it was Michael, one of my best friends at university. ‘Oh God, Phwilliam,’ he spluttered, ‘I’m in agony whiff my teeth and I can’t get anyone to fee me.’

That resurrected my nightmare and, together with countless emails, tweets, Facebook posts and chambers team meetings being arranged on Skype, brought to a close an exhausting day after I found a piece of bread to toast with some jam. Such is life in the new world, reminiscent of some post-apocalyptic disaster movie, but I remembered that those of us who are still here and have not lost someone dear to this submicroscopic enemy nevertheless count our blessings when another day dawns.