Retired? You’ve got to be joking

I am not particularly a morning person. I start to function best mid-morning, but I can work just as well in the afternoon. I occasionally do two or three hours at night as well. I get up around 7.00-7.30am. I haven’t got a routine anymore: first of all, I work from home and second, I’ve retired from practice, so there are not the same time constraints nor the same urgency. It’s a much more flexible day.

I retired 13 years ago, just before we moved down to London. I don’t miss practising. I did 40 years, a fair stint, and I’ve got enough to keep me busy now. I enjoyed what I did but I felt I’d done enough. The practice was totally private – one of the first – in the city centre in Manchester and I had my courses at the same time, but then I got the offer of this job as editor-in-chief of
Independent Dentistry, as Private Dentistry was then, and that coincided with my moving down to London. It was very fortuitous.

The work has been an absolute godsend. That’s the dominant aspect of my life now. Very often I have to go into town to commission articles and see people. The main thrust of my work is commissioning, that’s what I’m here for – to keep the momentum going. We publish 11 issues a year now although, when I joined the company, it was only four issues.

My wife, Jennifer, and I have cut down in recent years on our four-handed dentistry demonstrations as I see Private Dentistry as my main priority. We probably do 15 a year. There are still not enough people doing four-handed dentistry. A lot of it involves preventing back pain. It’s more serious than people realise, and it happens to youngsters just starting out as well as older dentists. Sometimes, we talk to students and they’ve got problems already and it’s cumulative and potentially damaging.

Back pain
I was told that, in 2007, the medical sickness company, Dentists’ Provident, had to pay off 207 dentists who retired just because of back pain. Four-handed dentistry is not taught at the dental schools and that’s a very sore point. The main focus of it is sitting and working with a proper posture, the four-handed aspect is just a small part of it. Jennifer and I work together and in order to do that she’s given up her acting career. But she has all her own things, too. She’s absolutely besotted with theatre. I go occasionally but she makes a routine of it. I’m currently reading White Cap and Bails by Dickie Bird. I read everything and anything.

One thing I have learnt is that, whatever email you get, you reply to it straightaway otherwise you forget. I was very computer resistant and, even when I started working as editor-in-chief, I didn’t use a computer. I dictated all my letters. Then, everyone said, ‘how can you live without it?’ and now I can’t. My practice was computerised but, at the time, I left that to others. I’m very strict about my lunch break. I insisted on a lunch break right through my practising years. Now, I tend to work until about 1.00pm and have an extended break until about 2.30ish, catch up on the newspapers a bit and have a leisurely lunch and back up to my office upstairs about mid-afternoon.

Not enough dentists attend conferences. There’s so much happening in the profession today both politically and clinically and you’ve go to keep up with everything. For me, manna from heaven are meetings like the World Aesthetic Congress or the British Dental Association conference – hundreds of other people and I walk around, networking. I get a lot of ideas for articles and make lots of contacts. I try to go to as many meetings as possible because I think it’s important to keep the profile of Private Dentistry out there.

The recession has definitely had an effect. People tell me they have noticed a bit of a downturn – patients not coming as often and so on – but it’s nothing major in terms of clinical work.
Am I enjoying my role as editor-in-chief? That’s the understatement of the year. I love it. I don’t get tired of it. I’ve  been doing it for 13 years and I enjoy it as much today as the day I started. I think it’s a very satisfying job and we know the magazine is very highly regarded. My wife knows that, when I’m a bit uppity or in a bit of a bad mood, if I go into the office it just drops off when I walk through the door.

I’ve written quite a number of papers and two books on perfect posture – I did a series for the British Dental Journal a long time ago – and I’ve done a lot of articles as well. Last year, we brought out a CD-rom, Perfect Posture for the Dental Team.

Down time
We try to take at least two holidays a year and also get away for short breaks, but I can never imagine retiring, I don’t see this as work. I try to keep evening engagement to a minimum. I occasionally go to a BDA meeting or have to go to see writers. I’m not a committee person. I’ve done that, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I try to finish work about 6.30pm.

Sometimes, I go on for longer but Jennifer often tells me to stop and ‘Come down for dinner now!’ Now and again if I’ve got something pressing, I’ll go up and do a couple of hours in the evening, especially if Jennifer’s not in! We have four children, three grandchildren, but our youngest one with two of the grandchildren is working in Toronto. He’s a doctor and is doing a fellowship there. So, we don’t see them an awful lot but our eldest grandchild lives about 10 minutes away. He visits at least once a week and quite often he comes to stay overnight.

I do like to go to the theatre (not as frequently as Jennifer) and I prefer musicals. I’ve got a very catholic music taste – I like old time music hall and we go to one in London occasionally. I do sit and watch TV. I prefer the lightweight programmes. My favourite one is Minder which is really old. I love Have I Got News For You, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Friends as well. I love war films, too. My great passion is cricket. I’m a member of both Middlesex and Surrey CCC, but I can’t get to watch matches as often as I’d like because of work commitments. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t got Sky. I’d sit and watch it all day.

I met Jennifer at a wedding and we were introduced because she was a dental nurse so the friend that was getting married said: ‘I’ve got someone for you to meet’ and that was it. That was 47 years ago and we’re still talking to each other. We work well together on the courses and she is a born teacher. Her philosophy is that if you can make them laugh, they’ll listen to the more serious parts.

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