Local retired dentist of over 50 years Dr Bernard Lester tells us all about his career, pets, and upcoming book, Open Wide!
Hi Bernard! Tell us a bit about your background and becoming a dentist?
I was born in Crumpsall and educated locally at North Manchester Grammar School. I studied dentistry at Manchester University. I met Sue, my wife, on the first day of university, which was amazing! We then settled in Prestwich. Strangely enough, my first job was at the surgery I used to go to as a child. My own dentist, Brian Hobson on Crumpsall Lane, asked me to join him as an associate. I started just a few days after I’d qualified, not really knowing much about running a practice. My very first morning I saw 12 patients!
Later on that year, which would have been 1970, Brian decided that he wanted to leave the practice and asked if I wanted to take over. After a year of being a student, very laissez-faire, suddenly I was married and had a mortgage. There’s a line in the book which sums it up: “bank mortgage, bank loan, bank overdraft, bankrupt.” Things were really tight in those days.
So, what made you decide to write a book about your experiences?
My wife Sue and I were thinking about retirement. Working in a corporate environment – which I did in the latter days of my career, working for Bupa – wasn’t the easiest thing because I’d been used to running my own surgery. Not that Bupa wasn’t good to me, but I was getting to the stage where I just really couldn’t do it. It wasn’t the work that was difficult, it was just that the environment was so different. After four and a half years working for Bupa, at the end of 2019, we set a date for me to retire that was three months away. Bupa convinced me to stay for six months which would have taken me to June 2020. But, of course, in March 2020 everything closed down, which brought my retirement further forward.
We took a special retirement holiday to the Maldives and while we were there I said to Sue: “So many things have happened to me that you couldn’t make up. I’m going to write them all down.” And so I did, chapter by chapter. And that’s how I came to write the book.
Tell us about some of the memorable parts of your career!
There are so many! I had a patient who gave me a present of a rabbit for the children. We didn’t actually get on too well, this patient and I, but she came and said: “I know you have children,
here’s a nice rabbit for you.” I asked her if it was a good pet and she said yes, it turned out to be a black Russian rabbit, which we called Rasputin, which was horrendous! It was vicious! It kicked down the hutch and scratched everyone that came near it. Next door’s Alsatian came to investigate, and this little rabbit chased the Alsatian back over the fence. I’ve never seen anything like it!
There was an incident which was my first extraction after being a student. I took an X-ray, and everything looked normal. On the record card it said “no LA” which I believed meant the patient has requested not to have local anaesthetic. I was a bit shocked but did the procedure anyway, without anaesthetic. It turned out “no LA” on the records meant no anaesthetic requested for fillings, not extractions!
There are many more incidents detailed in the book! Open Wide! Fifty Glorious Years As A Dentist is available to buy from Pegasuspublishers.com and from most major bookshops.