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Getting my teeth into the subject of science.

Byline: Wilf Lunn

WHEN I was at junior school some of my fellow pupils were from the local orphanage.

I was quite jealous of them. They were brought to school in a lovely half timbered shooting brake.

At that time I don't think I'd been in a car. The first time was when we were picked up by Mr Hodinot whilst walking home from Brighouse. It wasn't a happy experience, for a young chap aspiring to be Lash Larue or Batman because I had to sit on Mrs Hodinot's knee.

With my old orphanage school chums in mind, I thought it was a good idea when Liz suggested we visit The Foundling Museum Brunswick Square.

Thomas Coram created the place in the 1740s. It was the first home for abandoned children and very first public art gallery. Handel and Hogarth were supporters.

I don't know what they'd have made of Tracey Emin's inconsequential exhibit of a rack of baby clothes and a case of baby shoes.

I know installation art is the 'In thing' but I thought it had not to be literal it had to be incomprehensible and therefore difficult to assess without using words like rubbish, tripe or a waste of space.

Not in any way could Emin have improved on the evocative and heart rending exhibit of the tokens left by the poor mothers for their abandoned babies. They consisted of Christmas cracker type, trinkets and pieces such as small rings of glass beads, a spillikin, an ivory fish or a gambling chip and many other small bits of nothing. What made this installation poignant was that it was real and the children were never given the items.

I didn't know what to make of the large snow globe which when activated, caused the snow to fall on a small chimney sweep urchin apparently freezing to death in the street. What cheery home had that on their sideboard? Later in the same vein we went to see Griff Rhys Jones playing Fagin in Oliver at Drury Lane. Liz first saw it in1960. You all know the story, so enough about that. What fascinates me is the boy, Oliver Twist.

The story tells how he was born in the workhouse. He then spends his entire childhood there never meeting any of his relatives. Later he's taken in by a den of thieves. Despite all this he is completely uninfluenced by his environment and the speech patterns of his associates. He somehow still inherits his upper class accent and good manners. The expression, 'Breeding will out', comes to mind. Although personally I prefer, 'There's nothing like good breeding to produce idiots, or to be correct, inbreeding.' The plot of Oliver gives consolation to the good breeding gang.

It confirms what they've always known that if Prince Charles had been kidnapped at birth by wandering vagabonds he would have still grown up with the accent and regal bearing of his forbears that we all know and love.

The only difference would have been his sticky out ears could have been flattened by wearing a woolly Balaclava that we peons were compelled to wear as children. Incidentally apropos of the elephant man, some thought he was so because his mother had been frightened by an elephant. I was told that Prince Charles's ears were caused by the Queen being frightened by a car with the doors open.

Of course plastic surgery or transplants can be efficacious. The first transplants attempted were teeth pulled out of poor people and stuck in the mouths of the upper classes. Perhaps the Prince could acquire a nice dainty pair of ears from someone in the lower orders that they are wasted on.

The early tooth transplantations didn't work. The Faculty of Dental Surgery's robes, sport an embroidered badge of a cockerel with a tooth transplanted on the head.

I went along to the Hunterian Museum where the original failed attempt to transplant a tooth onto a cockerel's head is still on display.

I really wanted a picture of the Dental Faculty badge but none was available. Despite the fact they couldn't have been more helpful, no one seemed to know what I was talking about.

I had to take them to the display case where the faculty robes were displayed to be informed they'd never noticed the detail in the badge.

I some times think that I'm privy to information that even the folk interested in the subject are not interested in. How sad does that make me? The visit was not wasted it was made very much worthwhile by the well titled talk, 'The dark side of the age of enlightenment' marvellously delivered by the surgeon Neil Orr.

He told us of the ins and outs of body snatching and dissection. When I got back home I contacted the Faculty of Dental Surgery and a Mr Kevin Fawell said he'd look into it and lo and behold, success. He sent me a picture of the embroidered cockerel with the transplanted tooth on the head. The museum has the skeleton of the Irish giant Charles O'Byrne 1761-1783. It was said at the time he was 8' 2" to 8' 4" tall. The skeleton is actually 7' 7". There is nothing there about the French wrestler 'The Angel' who was billed as 'The Giant Dwarf'. I've known about the Angel since I was a lad but never knew his real name or what he looked like.

I was thrilled when I saw a photo of him at the National Portrait Gallery where Irvin Penn was exhibiting, The Angel was actually called Maurice Tillet and he lived from 1903-1954. He spoke 14 languages and to give you an idea what he looked like Shrek was based on him.

This year at the Science and Medical Antique fair, stuff in my area of interest was a trifle thin on the ground but I saved a fiver entrance fee when Liz refused to go in.

I bought a very nice Maws reusable wooden suppository from a young American chap who after I paid him asked me what it was.

I told him and said I'd three others at home two were made of very light coloured wood, the third was a dark brown.

Jokingly I said the dark brown one was more valuable because it had provenance of use, with what we, in the know, call 'Poopatina'.

I walked away when I realised he believed me.

CAPTION(S):

* FRIENDLY OGRE: I was thrilled when I saw a photo of French wrestler 'The Angel' who was billed as a 'The Giant Dwarf' at the National Portrait Gallery. The Angel was actually called Maurice Tillet and he spoke 14 languages. To give you an idea what he looked, like Shrek was based on him. Right: John Hunter's cockerel with a tooth on his head (S)
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 15, 2010
Words:1144
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