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What frightens you the most? Your biggest fear? With me it was the dentist.

When I was a child, almost every school had a Dental Clinic – not-so-fondly named The Murder House because the nurses would grind away at children’s teeth with slow old drills and without local anaesthetic. But it was free, and part of the school program and we couldn’t escape. Much as I hated those visits, it gave me teeth which I hope will last for the rest of my life.

In my twenties I started going to a central-city dentist who had enough sense to tell I was petrified. He was good at injections. I’m apparently a tooth-grinder and a heavy chewer so my teeth have needed a bit of work over the years. I’ve been creeping along there like a condemned prisoner and emerging with a numb jaw and my lipstick re-applied all crooked, but the teeth still chomp okay.

And then – just before Christmas – disaster! He retired. Well, I reckon I need to keep my teeth in good nick for another two or three decades so the fear turned up all over again. What was I going to do???

To my surprise he said I’d be going to his brother now. His brother? How many years before he retired too? But I gave him a go, and I’ve never had so much fun.

To my relief he’s younger, although he looks very similar. Like me, he’s a keen gardener. He talks non-stop about anything and everything. The nineteen varieties of tomatoes he's growing from seed. The huge scar on his chest where he had heart surgery. (I needed info on that for the book I’m currently writing.) How he and his chairside nurse both bleached their teeth recently…

This led to a discussion about bleaching mine. No – not really possible because I’ve had some interesting work done on the front ones. Mostly because I managed to catch my husband when a ladder gave way and pitched him out of a tree. He took a strip of skin off my nose when he landed on it on his way to the ground, and then I spat out bits of seven teeth. He was fine! I needed a little lie-down on the concrete path I’d just saved him smashing onto. But the cunning mends that Dentist One did matched my existing teeth. If I get them turned pearly white by Dentist Two, the patches will show darker… The up-side of this - it totally fixed a lifelong sinus problem. I can breathe so well now.

Do you get into good chats with unlikely people, too? I’m very nosy these days because I never know what might come in handy for a book. If you’re genuinely interested in them it’s just amazing what they’ll tell you. You want to know about Mark’s Crohn’s Disease or Julie’s breast reduction or what they found when they dug up Terry’s blocked pipes? Yeah-nah – maybe not for a romance!