Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

This should touch a nerve: Wisconsin is celebrating dentistry and root canal work

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Ah, there you are. Time for some better news. From Wisconsin, for example. Wisconsin seems a rather interesting place. Did you know, for example, that, before the California Gold Rush, there was a Wisconsin Lead Rush? There was, although it must have been a bit slower, presumably.

Liberace was from Wisconsin, too, but I don't think he had any mining connections, despite the candelabra.

I mention all this to show that Wisconsin is a broad-minded, pioneering, wide-open kind of a place with an established interest in extraction. Which is why I was intrigued to read last week that it celebrates a Root Canal Awareness Day.

And pleased, too, because I have tirelessly campaigned to promote more recognition for dentistry, a profession that has long had to battle against a reputation for one-sided conversations about current affairs, and for such unfortunate role models as Dr Crippen, and Doc Holliday, who, in the words of his biographer, fellow dentist Dr Frank Heynick, "knew how to drill a man in more ways than one".

And pleased, too, because, let's face it, there are not that many opportunities to mention the man undergoing root canal treatment who turned down painkilling injections because he was pursuing the path of enlightenment offered by eastern religion and wanted to transcend dental medication. Sorry? Yes, you're absolutely right, after that he did go into the pizzeria and say, "Make me one with everything."

Anyway, let's hope that the Wisconsin initiative touches a nerve, and that orthodontics finally obtains the respect that has so far eluded it due to some entirely understandable negative associations such as your memories of searing pain accompanied by merry if tuneless humming. Similarly, Tandlæge På Sengekanten, or, as you may know it, Danish Dentist on the Job, though a remarkably energetic film with an arresting title, was, in my view, not entirely helpful, either. And, while we're at it, let's have an end to tired old gags like, "Your teeth are like stars - they come out at night." Thank you.

Finland, which is quite close to Denmark, is also having a bit of an image problem, isn't it? I've been there, you know. The food was rather good, as it happens, and, at the hotel on New Year's Eve, we had a milking contest between the Finnish and French guests involving an interesting contraption with four rubber teats. What larks! We were honorary Finns; modesty and sensitivity prevent me from revealing who won, especially after last Wednesday, although I would have expected a better performance, frankly, Jacques, given all those subsidies.

The other big sport in Finland is wife-carrying. They've just had the world championships. Margo Uusorg of Estonia sprinted 200 yards to win the title for the third time, with his partner, Egle Soll, 23, clinging to his back in the trademark "Estonian Carry", hanging upside-down with her legs clenched around his neck. Mr Uusorg won his partner's weight in beer and a mobile phone. I'll ignore the Gavin Henson-Charlotte Church joke opportunity and further underline Finnish family values by telling you that the top Finn rock band Apocalyptica, appearing in Serbia, demanded stamped postcards so they could write to their mums.

In neighbouring Croatia, meanwhile, a 35-stone brown bear is attempting to break out of the bear-woods stereotype: this one has learnt how to knock on the door. The Loknar family from Gerovo said he'd done it three times and they were now refusing to answer. If it were me, I'd be inclined to buy the double glazing and have done with it.

Estonia, though: did you know they played cricket? Let's hope they don't take up rugby, Clive. Whatever, a Scot writing a book about cricket in eastern Europe on the advice of a Canadian psychic - and that's not a predicate you'll see too often - has met a leading Estonian cricketer called Jason. "Hardly anyone in the country is called Jason," said Angus Bell, 24. Remarkable.

Canada? No, wait, it's interesting: Newfoundland's biggest folk festival is aiming to break the world record for the largest number of accordionists playing together, which stands at 566. They're aiming for 567 but it could be a tight squeeze.

What else, what else? Well, further south, at the Samuel E Coston Funeral Home in Pittsburgh, Mr James Smith, dedicated Pittsburgh Steelers home-viewer fan, has been laid out on his recliner, with his feet crossed and remote in hand in front of a TV playing Steelers highlights. A pack of cigarettes and a can of beer are at his side. "I couldn't stop crying after looking at the Steeler blanket in his lap," said his sister, Mary Ann Nails, 58. And in Vermont, there's a hunt on for a blue parakeet that speaks only Hungarian. Ears cocked, please, for "Ki van egy szép fiú, akkor?" and, "Bábu-ból nyolc!"

And finally, I'm delighted to be able to tell you that the A50 trunk road between the M6 and the M1 near Uttoxeter has been voted Britain's Bumpiest Road. Marvellous. Sorry? No, you've missed it: the next Root Canal Awareness Day will be in May 2006. Meanwhile, get ready for Wisconsin Winter Awareness Week in November. What? I suppose they look out of the window, probably at a set time.

Sorry? You don't speak Hungarian? Mine's a bit rusty, but here goes: "Who's a pretty boy, then?"; "Pieces of Eight!"

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