It's never been clear to me why dentists, unlike doctors, have never pretended to provide treatment that's 'free at the point of delivery'. Nor, in my experience, does dentistry seem to be very keen on supplying detailed estimates of proposed treatment costs, or even invoices that retrospectively tell you what their handiwork has just set you back.
I write this after completing a sequence of two dental appointments, after which I realise that I only have the vaguest idea what has been done to me.
As for costs, all I was told in advance came after the first appointment when the receptionist informed me that I "might as well wait to pay until after the second one was over."
No numbers were mentioned. Nor did they say what the cost of cleaning up my teeth would be, even though this was 'included' (without my asking for it) as part of the second appointment.
Although the cost of the treatments came to a grand total of £163.00, I have no idea at all how the figure was arrived at, let alone whether it was cheap, expensive or about average. This is for the very obvious reason that I wasn't given an invoice or a receipt with any such details on it.
Which brings me to what strikes me as really odd about the way we customers behave towards dental costs: I never even bothered to ask for an estimate before the treatment, just as I never thought of asking for an invoice or receipt after it was over.
Obviously very different from the way I behave when getting my house or car fixed, but is it normal, is it just me or is it that my dentist a bit more laid back than he ought to be?
27 June 2012
Just occasionally, from the plethora of forgettable TV and radio interviews that punctuates our day in this age of 24 hour news coverage, one will stand out as being so memorable as to be worth watching again.
As I've noted in other blogposts, they never work in favour of the the politician being interviewed. And, when they appear on programmes with very small audiences (like Newsnight on BBC 2) we my never get to see them unless someone, as in this case, has bothered to upload it to YouTube.
This particular specimen was to be seen last night when Jeremy Paxman tried to find out when a junior treasury minister had actually heard about the government's latest U turn on the budget, namely the decision to defer the increase in fuel duty for a few months (to see what happened, you'll have to scroll in just over 6 minutes).
Free ammunition for pundits
If you sit through the first 6 minutes, you'll no doubt be amazed at HM Treasury's willingness to provide yet more data for the likes of Messrs Mason and Nelson to pontificate on how it all proves that the government has lost its way.
Free ammunition for Paxo
Then, after 6 minutes, we get to the finale, as a young and inexperienced minister is left to mercy of an old and highly experienced interviewer.
As you watch Ms Smith struggling to fend off Paxo's onslaught, you may well find yourself asking just who at the Treasury had taken the decision to leave it to so junior a minister to field such awkward barrage of questions from the master of awkward questions?
Who at the Treasury (if anyone) is in charge of briefing and coaching ministers before they go on air - or do they just not bother?
Or is someone in the higher reaches of the Treasury or Tory Party out to destroy Chloe Smith's career before it's really got off the ground?
If, like me, you're less than convinced by this and other recent performances by Paxman, have a look at this, which came out on the Spectator Coffee House blog after the above was posted:
21 June 2012
In my lifetime, there haven't been many figures who've achieved world recognition for the particular cause they represent or represented.
Nelson Mandela is one. Martin Luther King Jr was another. And Aung San Suu Kyi is the latest (and first woman) to become a member of this illustrious club.
Today, she will address a joint session of the houses of parliament in Westminster. On past evidence (her belated Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (video above, text below) there's a good chance that it will be another speech worth watching and reading...
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Dear Friends,
6 June 2012
Just as I was posting the video of Prince Charles' Jubilee speech (HERE), my attention was drawn to an extraordinary example of editorial inconsistency, or perhaps indecision, on consecutive pages of today's Daily Telegraph.
On page 23, under the heading 'At ease with himself and the nation' with the subtitle 'The Diamond Jubilee celebrations have revealed a new and more loveable Prince Charles who caught the public mood brilliantly', Eizabeth Grice writes about the effectiveness of his oratory in the speech (HERE).
Then, in case you're dumb enough to have been taken in by her article, you can, on the very next page, read a correction by Harry Mount under the heading 'This great Jubilee had a missing ingredient' - which was - er - that 'The British have lost the skill of making memorable speeches to mark big occasions' (HERE).
Are we supposed to conclude from this that Prince Charles is not British, that his speech failed Mr Mount's memorability test (whatever that may be) or that Ms Grice's analysis was wrong and/or excessively flattering to the heir to the throne?
Er, no. I think it's much more likely that this pompous medley of medieval history, Greek words for rhetorical techniques, punctuated by a few famous names from politics, church and the media were written before Prince Charles made his speech.
Otherwise, the author might have been inclined to modify his exaggerated and oversimplified claims that were arguably proved false by Prince Charles.
Or, had anyone in the Daily Telegraph editorial department noticed the inconsistency, we might have been spared having to read Mr Mount's odd sequel (p. 23)to the interesting and thoughtful piece by Ms Grice on the previous page (p.22).
One of the virtues of YouTube is that you can get a sense for how a speech went down by inspecting the unsolicited comments that viewers have added.
Here are the first 10 (of 208) listed at the time I looked at this particular clip of Prince Charles' speech at his mother's Diamond Jubilee - and I don't think I've ever seen so many consecutive positive comments about a speech on YouTube:
"Charles - that was a class speech. Witty, humorous, thoughtful and loving. Good man."
"What I love most about this video is that we get to see the Queen show some emotion which unfortunately we don't get to see very often because she's the Queen. Proud to be British and proud to say we have her as our Queen!"
"King like speech so proud to be british well done charles"
"Never got the animosity to Charles. Glad to see he's turning the tide."
"He will make a great King!"
"makes you jolly proud to be british!"
"This was a really great speech. Witty, thoughtful, and charming."
"What a great weekend, and an equally superb speech from Charles, the best I have ever heard him give, hats off to you sir! I pray this will light the blue touch paper and we can find it in our hearts to start talking the country back up again."
Sullen celebs in the background?
I've written and blogged before about the dangers of allowing other members of an audience to be seen behind the speaker who's speaking.
Here, the Prince of Wales might think about awarding his stage managers the order of the boot - because the first negative, and, in my opinion totally reasonable, question on YouTube was "Why do Elton John and Paul McCartney look so grumpy?"
3 June 2012
Watching a Jubilee programme the other night, in which Prince Charles was showing some cine film from his early life taken by his parents, I was struck by the number of times he referred to his sister (Princess Anne) and/or something that he and she were doing - compared with no references at all to his two younger siblings, Princes Andrew and Edward.
Given the gap between the Queen's two batches of children, this was hardly surprising: Charles is less than two years older than than Anne, but is 11 and 15 years older than Princes Andrew and Edward respectively.
My father's theory
Had he still been alive, I'd have been able to interrogate my father on his theory about why the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh decided to have a second batch of children after an eleven year gap.
His line was that, having decided against home tuition in favour of schools for their first two children's education, the Queen and Prince Philip had started to worry that letting them get a taste for the 'real world' might change their attitudes towards the desirability (or otherwise) of becoming monarch.
At worst, what would happen to the House of Windsor if both Charles and Anne decided it wasn't the job for them?
So the obvious answer (to him) was to have some more children to reduce the chances of our hereditary monarchy dying out through a shortage of willing recruits.
A grain of truth?
I've never heard anyone (other than my father) even speculate about what, if anything, the Queen and Prince Philip's family planning strategy might have been - let alone that there might have been a grain of truth to his theory.
Given that journalists and the media haven't been shy when it comes to speculating about so many other details about the private lives of the Royal Family over the past 60 years, I find this rather odd.
And, more than half a century since my father raised the question, it still intrigues me enough to hope that there might be a royal correspondent somewhere who can enlighten us on the matter...