The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - January 21, 2016

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I’ve spent the majority of this week walking round with a scarf covering not just my neck, but my mouth too. This is not because of the cold weather, but the fact that I have bad breath.

The reason for this is, I’ve since discovered, a rotting tooth.

I discovered my breath problem by chance as I was helping Mrs Canavan prepare a chicken casserole on Monday.

“I think that asparagus might be off,” she said, sniffing it suspiciously as she lopped the ends off.

Then, as I bent over to have a sniff too, she backed away slightly with a concerned look on her face, as if I were an intruder brandishing a machete.

“That smell,” she stammered, “I think it’s coming from you.”

“I beg your pardon,” I retorted, slightly sharply, for I was offended. I take my hygiene incredibly seriously and insist on having a shower every single week.

“Breathe in my direction,” she ordered.

I leant towards Mrs Canavan and exhaled heavily into her face.

Not since we went trekking in Peru and she almost stepped on a Boa Constrictor have I seen her recoil so quickly.

Her legs buckled, she staggered slightly, and she had to grasp onto an asparagus tip for balance.

“That is evil, pure evil,” she gasped, in a way that I felt was a touch dramatic, and slightly hurtful. I mean Hitler was evil. Harold Shipman was evil. My breath surely couldn’t be classed in the same category as a serial killer and a German guy with a bad moustache?

After sleeping in the spare bedroom – at the insistence of a still-shaken Mrs Canavan – I drove back to Bury the next day, my home town, where I’ve had the same dentist since I was seven-years-old. Killing time before my appointment, I called in at my mother’s.

“Hi mum, how are you?” I started to say as she answered the door, though I didn’t complete the sentence as she collapsed to the floor holding her face and shrieking”what the hell’s that smell?”

Actually I exaggerate – she didn’t hold her face – but she certainly noticed I had an unpleasant aroma coming from my mouth area. However, she was kind enough not to draw too much attention to it and, as we drank tea and chatted, sat at the opposite end of the kitchen table with a gas mask on.

At the dentist’s, he prodded around a bit with a small metal thing. Every time he hit the bad part of the tooth I involuntarily jumped three feet in the air. “Does it hurt there?” he asked. ‘Yes, a little,’ I replied. “What, there?” he said, hitting the same spot again with a touch more vigour this time. “Yes, it’s rather painful,”I confirmed, as I leapt in the direction of the ceiling.

The upshot is, he’s given me antibiotics and put a little filling over it to protect the decayed area – and also to protect Mrs Canavan – while we decide what course of action to take next.

I was a little upset by the fact that I even had a problem. I’ve brushed my teeth at least twice a day for the last 30 years, use mouthwash, and even have a little brush to clean my tongue (though I’ve not used the latter as regularly since Mrs Canavan confessed she once mistakenly used it to clean a stubborn stain from the toilet bowl).

I felt better when I went on the internet and typed in ‘bad breath’ to find the rather startling fact that “more than 80 million suffer from chronic halitosis or bad breath”, and that gum disease and tooth decay are among the most common causes.

It had tips for sufferers on what foods to avoid.

“Very spicy foods, such as onions and garlic and coffee may be detected on a person’s breath for up to 72 hours,” it said – annoying, as my favourite lunchtime snack is an onion and garlic buttie followed by a large cappuccino.

It added: “Studies have shown that garlic rubbed on the soles of the feet can show up on the breath”, which is interesting, though unless you were a complete nutter, or had a really weird fetish, I’m not quite why you’d smear garlic on your foot.

I’ll keep you updated with my tooth situation.

In the meantime, if I meet you in the street and you get a whiff of something unpleasant, please be kind enough not to mention anything.

Bowie stories that fit the bill

It seems local papers everywhere sensed the national mood of mourning following David Bowie’s death and desperately, in many cases, tried to come up with angle that applied to their area.

In South London for instance, the Croydon Advertiser did a lengthy story about Bowie’s milkman from the late 1960s.

The opening line read: “The man who delivered David Bowie’s milk during the summer of ’69 remembers the music legend as a ‘nice man’ who ‘had time for people’.”

Alas it didn’t say whether he preferred semi-skimmed or full-fat.

Meanwhile, the Sevenoaks Chronicle in Kent did an interview with a local women who used to be the pop star’s hairdresser, leading to this memorable billboard being placed outside newsagents (above left).

That, in turn, led me to recall my favourite ever local newspaper billboard, from the News and Star in Carlisle (above right).


No billboard, though, will ever beat the one produced by a local newspaper in north-east Scotland. The day after the Titanic sank, the billboard it placed outside newsagents read: “Aberdeen man dies at sea”. Priceless.