Tuesday, 21 June 2022


I know that 'toothsome' doesn't mean 'about or related to teeth', but I've never used the word and always wanted to so I thought I'd follow Humpty Dumpty's cavalier approach to language and ignore what the word actually means and let it pretend to be relevant to a tooth-related post.

The post itself arises from an item in today's Telegraph newspaper by Joe Barnes, the Telegraph's Brussels Correspondent. The item concerns a gold tooth that belonged to Patrice Lumumba. The tooth has been in the safekeeping of the Belgian police since 1961. Momentously, yesterday the tooth was given back to Lumumba's family in what was described as "a small, private ceremony". 

It is that phrase that stood out for me in the article. As soon as read it, I wished Barnes had provided more details. Ideally, I wished he had been allowed to expand our understanding with some photographs of the event. 

These are some of the questions that arose in mind that I suppose I will now never get answers to:

1. Was the tooth presented on a velvet pillow or discreetly in a small cardboard box? 

2. Were the King and Queen of the Belgians involved? 

3. Were drinks served? 

4. Were speeches made?

Until I got to the end of the article, I also wondered how thrilled Lumumba's family members might be to receive this unusual object. But Barnes does end by telling us that Juliana, Lumumba's daughter, said the return of the tooth was long overdue. Congo's Prime Minister went further, explaining that "the restitution of the relic was essential for his country's national memory".

All of which made me turn to my copy of Letters from a Nut and specifically the inquiry from Mr Ted L Nancy, who suffered a similar loss while staying at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver in 1995: 

"560 North Moorpark Rd. 

#236 Thousand Oaks, CA 91360 



321 17th Street Denver, CO 80202 

Sep 14, 1995 

Dear Lost & Found Dept.: 

When visiting your hotel the afternoon of last Saturday, I bit down onto some crackers. Later on, after I woke up, I realized I had lost a tooth. Did anyone find a tooth in your hotel? I'll describe it. It is a small hard whitish object. The size of a piece of corn. It has a rippled top; speck of silver embedded in the top. If anyone has found this tooth I would like to come and pick it up. I do not want somebody else's tooth. I have had that happen before. PLEASE DO NOT MAIL IT! I do not want to lose it again. I believe my tooth could be somewhere in the sundries shop, probably by the front, or it could be in the lobby on the floor somewhere in the back. I don't know where I lost it but I do know it was not in my head when I left your hotel last Saturday. 

Thanks for getting back to me on this. 


Ted L. Nancy 

17 October 1995 

Mr. Ted L. Nancy 

560 North Moorpark Road 

#236 Thousand Oaks, CA 91360 

Dear Sir: 

In response to your letter of 17 September, we proceeded at once to check the areas mentioned. Also, we have checked our Lost and Found records, and have monitored items turned in since then. We have failed to find your missing tooth. 

Such a loss is regrettable. No doubt, it is an inconvenience to you. Although I do not believe it likely that the tooth will be returned to us this long after the loss, let me assure you that we will keep record of your letter, and will let you know if the tooth is returned. If I can help you in any other way, please let me know. 

Director of Loss Prevention 

Since 1892 • 321 Seventeenth Street • 

Denver, Colorado 80202 • 

(303) 297-31 1 1 • Managed by Quorum Hotels & Resorts"


  1. This is exquisite, Zoë, and toothsome is perfectly at home here. It is regrettable, no doubt an inconvenience, that other teeth seem to want to wander from their owner's heads.

    1. "It is a small hard whitish object" is my favourite line. It is rumoured that the book was written by Jerry Seinfeld.

  2. I have been to the Brown Palace, not recently--not since well before the tooth went missing--and not often. I don't remember as offering food that threatened one's teeth.

    1. Would you say that this was back in your glory days or in a time best forgotten?

    2. It felt like my glory days--the health of 23 will do that--but perhaps it was a time best forgotten.

    3. That is beautifully put.