“Mr Stokes will see you now”, she said,
as my mouth filled with dread
The butcher was working
As a despot dental surgeon
And I had to visit him next
I crawled through the door
My teeth clenched the floor
The needle leered over
As Mr Stokes said, “Come sit”.
“Mr Stokes” by Stuart Patterson
26 Aberdalgie Road. That’s where we lived at the time. Middle flat with the Woods family next door, Ross and McNeill’s upstairs and the Rodgers family downstairs. We were surrounded by good neighbours, lived yards from my Primary School and life actually was pretty good.
I spent many a day playing out in the very large backs (backcourt) and there was always a wee game of football, or jumps or kerbie or something going on.
I enjoyed playing with the others around my own age, although I was quite socially awkward. I enjoyed reading, mostly general knowledge books and I loved school.
Our class in Blairtummock had only two teachers for our whole seven years there. They were great and all these years later still stand out. Miss Beck (Mrs Angus) and MIss Anderson (Mrs Graham).
Probably the guys I hung out most with in our class were Todd Coster (so delighted the blog has brought us back in touch after all these years) David Alexander (thrilled that he has nearly always been around) and Graham Keen (no idea what has happened to Graham). Stephen Parker was also a very good friend, his dad and my dad were also friends. As a class we all gelled really well and all sort of played together, but those guys were really good at school work and enjoyed it (not saying the others weren’t). This meant we spent a great deal of time doing classwork as a group, especially as the years rolled on,
I have mentioned before that my wee cousin, Caroline was in my class. She was great. Her gran and grandad were my dad’s aunt and uncle and he was really close to Uncle Robert and Aunty Greta, sow e got on really well as well.
Outside of school, I still hung out with Todd and the others from time to time, but John Ross and Tam McNeill lived above us and I loved to hang out with them as well. John’s family was about the same size as ours and his brother James (Sauce, but my brother JP”s friends nicknames would make a great blog all of their own). Tam was quiet but always great fun. I got on well with them (although I am sure it was more them tolerating me).
Anyway, one day sticks out. I was about 10/11 year old. It was a very wet day outside, (I know normally when we remember our younger days it was always sunny, your mind is telling you lies). Tam and I were playing on the top landing, messing about. Tam shoved me, maybe I shoved him and he pushed back) and I banged my mouth off the landing wall. The top flat landing wall did not go all the way to the roof. I knew immediately my tooth was broken.
Tam was very apologetic, but it was just boys being boys and one of those things.
Now I know what you are thinking, get straight to the dentist and get him to fix it.
I had been attending the esteemed Mr Stokes’ dental surgery on Easterhouse Road, just behind the doctor’s for root treatment. Six months I had been attending. Every two weeks for six months. My teeth were all squiggly and twisted and there were no braces, at least not for us schemers in those days. It was all messing about with the gums.
Anyhow, as I was at the dentist every two weeks, we just assumed he would notice and deal with it so never really made an issue.
SIX MONTHS later (caps cos I am shouting) I was still attending the dentist. It was a very cold, dark and wet winters day. It would have been just after 4pm as I had been in school. As I came out of his torture chamber (I mean treatment room) into a packed waiting room where my mum sat waiting on me, he approached his receptionist all clandestine like, whispering in a LOUD voice.
“I cannot believe that boy’s parents would let his tooth get THAT bad. We are going to have to extract it. They have totally neglected his teeth. It is atrocious”
Now as I said, I am only 10/11 year old. I had had baby teeth removed. I did not like it. All I heard was EXTRACT. I could actually hear earth moving machines rumble and the diggers claws clutching and the pain screeching through my teeth as his whisper reverberated around the packed room. Extract meant to pull a tooth out.
Heather though. Heather heard an attack on her parenting skills. Heather saw a grown man slagging her in front of a whole waiting room. Heather also knew that MR Stokes was so far in the wrong and to blame for this that there was absolutely no way she was keeping her mouth shut and taking it.
When my mum stood up that day, she seemed about 10′ tall. There was an audible, collective gasp as every single person in that room recoiled and what they were witnessing
‘Eh, excuse me. Whit did you jus say?” Now my mum said this in a voice so low that it was menacing. And she never spoke in a menacing tone. “Ma boy has been coming te you every two weeks for six months fur his teeth. Did you not notice a broken front tooth in aw that time?”
“Excuse me, who are you?”
I am not joking that is what he said.
“Your son has NOT been attending here for six months and it is disgraceful that you have not brought him to get this sorted. He will have to get that tooth taken out and have a denture fitted.”
I watched my mum look around the room, biting her lip and turning white. At this point, even the receptionist was ashen-faced as she knew Mr Stokes had to be aware I had been there every two weeks. He was the only dentist in the surgery and he had just finished another in a long line of appointments with me for root treatment. (Did I mention I had been ther every two weeks for six months).
He stood there and smirked.
My mum looked at him and said something that all my years I had never heard her say, “I’m gaun to get ma man, he’ll sort ye oot. Yir no talkin to me like that in front a aw these people.”
My dad had a reputation. He could fight. He took no nonsense or prisoners. But my mum had never asked him to fight her battles. She was well able. She had never threatened anyone with him. But this got to her. That is how bad my mum felt at this. She was going to get my dad.
Most people in the waiting room knew my dad. They all thought they knew what would happen.
My mum grabbed me by the hand and we marched out the door, down the path by the surgery, out into Easterhouse Road, across into Aberdalgie Road, down to 26, up the stairs and into the house.
She started crying. Not a defeated cry, but just all the adrenaline all the emotion coming out. Easterhouse women were made of good stuff. They had to put up with a lot of garbage and they did it well. Very rarely letting it get to them. My mum was one of the best. She was really well liked. This day though, it got to her.
She told my dad that Mr Stokes had completely humiliated her and blamed her for my tooth.
He actually put his arm around her. Never looked full of the rage that by now everyone that knew him and knew what had happened (this was a scheme, news travels fast) would have expected.
My dad grabbed his coat, looked at mum and me and said: “c’moan lets go.”
Off we went, out the door, down the stairs, up Aberdalgie, across Easterhouse Road, up the side of the docs, along the wee path, up the three steps, inside the door.
“Can I speak to Mr Stokes please?” said my dad, in the most polite voice I had EVER heard him use.
“He is busy just now” replied the very nervous receptionist, addressing the still full waiting room (at least that is where she looked, avoiding Paddy’s gaze).
“That’s ok, I’ll staun here an wait.”
“Have a seat, Mr Patterson.”
“Naw, its awright, ah’ll staun here hen.”
My mum, her eyes blazing defiantly stood at dad’s side.
The receptionist stuck her head in the surgery door and whispered to Mr Stokes that someone was waiting to see him.
“I’m too busy” he called out, “You’ll have to come back.”
“I think you need tae come oot the noo” said my dad, still actually quietly spoken. That was unnerving. Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. I think some were disappointed that Paddy had not come in and smashed the dentist and the surgery. I don’t know what even my mum thought would happen. I don’t think she wanted dad to get violent, she hated violence, even more, she hated my dad’s violence with a passion. But this was a new, rare moment
I can remember as clear as the moment it happened. Flashbulb memory its called. Mr Stokes trying to look all dignified and indignant walked through the door.
“Yes, can I help? I really am very busy as you can see.”
What came next shocked both my mum and myself. It was actually so out of character for Paddy Patterson.
“Kin ye check yir book an see the last time ma boy was here?”
As Mr Stokes, thinking of remonstrating, then thinking better of it began to urge the receptionist to do it,, my dad again quietly said “Naw, ah want you tae check it”
“o o o ok. What is his name?”
There, I saw it, I don’t think anybody else did, but I did. My dad, hardly noticeable bit inside his mouth moving it to the side in the same way I do. He was actually composing himself and keeping his anger in check. That was a rare moment.
“You know his f$%^&*g name.”
“Ah here it is here, it was two weeks ago.”
“An before that, in then tell me when it wis before that?”
No menace. No growl. It actually looked so normal, it was terrifying.
Mr Stokes rattled off the dates, then asked if there was anything else. He was white by this time. The room looked like it was frozen in anticipation, shocked into inaction.
“Naw that’s aw”
At this point can I take you back around 20 minutes in time and a few paragraphs before. Mr Stokes had publicly and loudly made a big deal out of my tooth being black and it is my mother’s fault. At home, we had talked about it many times over the preceding six months but had always assumed that dentist knew what he was doing and would fix it in due time. That was until 20 minutes ago.
Whereas he had publicly humiliated my mother in a very bad way, my dad had very quietly (and totally out of character for him, I have to say) showed Mr Stokes character up for what it was in a quite brilliant way.
As we walked out the door, my dad had his hand on my shoulder sort of urging me through. He opened the door, stopped and turned around.
“Apologise tae my wife now. And if you ever speak tae her like that again, I will be back, myself.”
I am not quite sure what the look on my mum’s face was at that moment. The honest truth was I don’t think my dad surprised her that often by holding himself in that way. My dad adored my mum. He loved her. He just was not very good at ever acting in a way that showed it. That day he did. That day the old school Glaswegian gave a university educated charlatan a lesson in manners. The fact that my dad did it as Heather’s husband and not as Paddy Patterson, has stayed with me long. I remember it vividly. He finished it with an implied threat. I don’t think it was any more or less in a way than most husbands would have. The difference was everyone in that room knew, there would be no second chance for humiliating my mum
It was a great feeling walking back down the road that day. It wasn’t a march this time. Just a mum, dad and son making their way home. How normal!
My mum had had her champion fight for her honour. My dad had behaved totally out of character and shocked everyone and It felt great.
Within a few weeks I had my dental impressions done, by Mr Stokes, and at the age of 11 got my first denture. He was a perfect gentleman until he moved on.
I often wonder what Mr Stokes had to say after that day. He had a private practice in another area of Glasgow that he spent a lot of time in. Not long after that incident, he spent a lot more time there, and another dentist took over his surgery.
There are eight million stories about Paddy Patterson. This is one of them.
This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church