About the Poet: Pam Ayres MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) was born at Stanford in the Vale, Berkshire, now known as Oxfordshire, in 1947. She is an English poet, comedian, presenter of radio and television shows, a songwriter, and also a bee keeper. She was educated at the Farringdon Secondary School until she was fifteen years of age, after which she joined the Civil Service as a clerical assistant. She soon left her job to join the RAOC (Royal Army Ordnance Cops) then she moved on to the Women’s Royal Air Force. In the Air Force, she worked in the drawing committee that dealt with operational maps. It was during this time that she decided that she wanted to be an entertainer. While she was there, she was also awarded O-level passes for English language and literature. Eventually, she started reading her verses at a local folk club in Oxfordshire, as a result of which, she was invited to the local BBC radio station to read out her poetry in 1974. The next year, she appeared in the talent show on television, ‘Opportunity Knocks’ and that established her as an entertainer. She appeared in numerous television and radio shows after that. She even got her own show tour and got to perform in front of the Queen.
Pam Ayres as a poet is fun to read because her poetry deals with everyday things portrayed in a light, comic frame. She was named as the fifth best-selling poet during 1998-1999 in Britain by the UK Council of Arts. She is married to producer, Dudley Russels, and has two sons with him. they live in Cotswold. They own a farm together as well, which is known for rearing rare breeds of cattle and fowls.
About the Poem: The poem, ‘Oh, I Wish I’dLooked After Me Teeth’ is the most famous poem of Pam Ayres. It was voted as one of the top ten poems of the BBC poll called the‘Nation’s 100 Favourite Comic Poems’.
The mood of the poem is deceptively comic. Beneath the comic relief lies a poignant message regarding one’s health. The poem is both jolly and despairing at the same time.
Oh! I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth Meaning and Annotations
Stanza 1: ‘me teeth’- colloquial way of saying ‘my teeth’
Stanza 2: ‘gobstoppers’- a type of hard, long-lasting candy
‘choppers’- something that chops, here it means teeth.
‘shillin’- a colloquial way of saying ‘shilling’. Shilling is the former monetary unit of Great Britain. It is equivalent to one-twentieth of a pound.
Stanza 3: ‘Lollies’- lollipops, or a hard candy on a small wooden stick.
‘liquorice’- a black candy made out of the sweet, dried roots of the liquorice plant.
‘Sherbet dabs’- sherbet is a frozen dessert made of fruit juice, sugar, milk or egg-white or gelatin. Sherbet dabs are small sherbet candies.
‘peanutbrittle’- a type of toffee made out of peanuts caramelized in sugar to from thin sheets.
Stanza 4: ‘My mother, she told me no end’- It means that the poet persona’s mother never failed to warn her.
‘My toothbrush was hairless’- the toothbrush was so ill used that it had hardly any bristles left.
Stanza 5: ‘Oh I showed them the toothpaste all right, I flashed it about late at night’- the poet means that inspite of her neglect, she did use the toothpaste to clean her teeth, even if it meant brushing only once at night. The word ‘flashed’ indicates that this routine was wrapped up in a jiffy, in a flash.
‘’pokin’ and fussin’ ”- brushing properly by reaching into the crevices and flossing.
Stanza 6: ‘fillin’s’- fillings. Fillings are artificial concoctions that help to cover up the cavities, holes or spaces in between the teeth.
Stanza 7: ‘amalgam’- fillings are called amalgams. Amalgams are an alloy of mercury and another metal, usually silver, used to fill dental cavities. Since all metals, apart from platinum and iron, dissolve in mercury, the mixture is called an amalgam.
Stanza 8: ‘reckoning’- a sort of tallying or the act of computation. Here it refers to the waiting for a judgment of sorts.
‘beckoning’- the act of calling without using words. Here it means that her future is calling out to the poet persona.
Suggested Reading: Summary of Oh! I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth in Hindi
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