Seventeen days ago, we set out on our collective quest to put 2020 behind us.
I know I wasn’t the only one to heave a sigh of relief when midnight struck on 31st December and we could finally forget about all that had happened over the previous 12 months.
Except it really didn’t work out that way – well, not for me at least.
It’s been an eventful couple of weeks. Not just with the UK beginning 2021 with a national lockdown, but because of the overwhelming feeling that nothing much has really changed.
Prior to Christmas I wrote about how we should feel grateful for the little things and try to be thankful for everything that has gone right; and I really meant that. Through the mire of COVID, the shops being shut, businesses crumbling and not being able to hug your gran, there’s still a vaccine being rolled out that could help us return to normal sooner rather than later. If the government pulls its finger out and does everything within its power to implement it, that is.
For me, 2021 began boringly enough. Returning to the routine of work was almost welcome after nearly two weeks of sitting on my arse watching Christmas films, eating Celebrations and drinking until it was an acceptable time to go to sleep.
Three days into my working week however, as I settled down into bed, I was suddenly and inexplicably thrust into a reality that I’m usually only exposed to in films and TV shows.
Someone who I’d known for 17 years had pled guilty to possessing indecent images of children.
After the initial WhatsApp message from a friend who’d spotted the story on social media, it only took 48 hours for it to be publicised across multiple news outlets in the North West of England, as well as one national outlet.
You see the person I’d once known – whose wedding I’d been a bridesmaid at – had walked free from court. Much to the outrage of the general public, who began baying for blood with delightful comments such as ‘string him up’ plastered on every public forum.
The next day, a few close mutual friends and I WhatsApp’d back and forth, trying to make sense of what we’d read, and trying to reconcile the person we’d known with the horrific details of what they’d seemingly been doing in their spare time. There was revulsion, of course. But there were also tears, questions and a nagging sense of ‘is this real life?’ thrown into the mix for good measure.
I knew then that 2021 was going to be a bumpy ride.
A few days later, and with the peculiarity of what had happened still swimming around my head, the left side of my face began to throb, and I could sense that yet more treats lay ahead for what I’d previously, privately billed as the year of the clean slate.
It began as a throbbing pain in one of my back molars. Naively, I put it down to the initial bullshit that had been dished up by January – having a personal connection to a registered sex offender and trying to get my head back into work. With hindsight, I do wish that was all there was to it.
I’m not embarrassed about saying that I’ve had lifelong anxiety about the dentist; not to the point of odontophobia, but enough that I’ll put off going unless there’s a legitimate reason to do so. I could attend a smear test every week with a song in my heart and a speculum at the ready, if it meant I could avoid another human being ever having to bugger about with my teeth, but alas – that’s not how life works.
After spending two days nailing as much paracetamol as my body could handle, I reluctantly contacted a dentist. The throbbing pain in one tooth had now turned into a radiating agony across the left side of my jaw and I was on the verge of taking to the garden with a rock and performing a rudimentary extraction of my own.
As I approached the dental surgery four days after the pain had started, the knot in my stomach became more pronounced. The COVID safety measures on arrival, including dowsing your hands in sanitiser and having your temperature taken, did nothing to help matters.
The waiting room was a stark reflection of the current times. There were no leaflets to thumb through to pass the time(because ‘rona). I was surrounded by fellow mask wearers, and we were all sat socially distanced from one another as we waited patiently to have our gobs examined in exchange for our hard-earned cash.
‘MRS JAMES TO SURGERY 3, PLEASE’
I sheepishly dragged myself up the stairs.
On reflection, I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor dentist who greeted me thinking it was a simple check-up, and ended up having to take care of patient with a hole in their tooth that Bear Grylls could have constructed a shelter in.
After five minutes of back and forth during which the words ‘root canal’ were uttered, I made the decision that I couldn’t live another day with this rotting little bastard taking up space in my head. We had a good run but it was time to part ways, and when I departed the surgery an hour later, I couldn’t help but ponder the fact that I was ending the day with one less tooth than I’d started with.
All that being said, I’m recovering nicely and managing to eat on one side of my head – a fact for which I should be grateful.
Halfway through what is widely known as the most depressing month of the year, I have to hang on to the hope that, in the immortal words of Yazz – the only way is up.