Nuala McCann: I never go anywhere without a tub of tooth putty in one pocket and a packet of imodium in the other

Nuala's affinity for living life in balance means she now has toothache on both sides of her mouth

IF anybody needs to learn about the yin and yang of life, then just look into my mouth.

Actually don't... it's like that old Lord of the Rings setting, the mines of Moria, back there.

My dentist has to put on a helmet with a torch up front, brace herself and send in the canary before she goes down.

And having entertained you with the tale of one side of my mouth that is now devoid of all molars, the other side decided to come out in sympathy.

This, said a friend, who is in touch with her inner Zen, is all about balance – what happens on one side of your body usually affects the other.

As a yoga lover, I know this. We always treat both sides of our body equally – get the balance, stretch in an even way.

Sometimes I can do tree on one side and not the other … but it is important to pay attention to your weaker side, even as you lapse sideways like your tree's been hit by a dumper truck.

I also know this because of the retired physio I used to meet in the pool firing up and down the lane.

At that time, I had a bad hip and, much to the amusement of the local kids, I wore a huge pair of flippers and a mask that made me look like Kiki the frog out of the old Hector's House cartoon.

I told the retired physio about my sore hip and how swimming in an enormous pair of flippers seemed to help, as well as giving the kids a laugh.

Ah, she said, wisely. But that's not the hip with the problem. It's the other hip that's not working and you're over-compensating on that one.

Yin, yang... see? It's all interlinked.

But let us return to the Mines of Moria, otherwise known as the far side of my mouth.

After all my travails and the trip to casualty, I was being very careful with my few remaining teeth.

Last Friday, I had just eaten some mush – yes, it's come to that – when my tongue meandered to the other upper side back tooth and yes, indeed, there were sharp edges and half of said tooth had headed down my gullet with the mush.

Cue, much mourning and gnashing of toothless gums.

Luckily I had tooth putty in the house.

You roll it into a ball and stick it in the space where half your filling fell out.

It does the trick. The box says this is only temporary. But isn't life only temporary too?

Tooth putty is one of those things you don't know about if you come from the age of gleaming white smiles.

Alas that age came too late for me.

Putty is a life saver.

Except for when you are in the middle of France and you feel the urgent need of it.

It happened a few years ago. My French was challenged and the French pharmacist said she hadn't a clue what I was talking about and couldn't help me.

She did the Gallic shrug thing and the hoik of the eyebrows. These kind of gestures have forever put me off buying a little pied-à-terre in France - that and the fact that we haven't the cash.

But tooth putty? Sacre bleu. The French woman had never heard of the like.

So I suffered on for a fortnight.

Tooth putty is vital as imodium when you are travelling in foreign parts.

Nothing pours cold water on an exotic adventure like a dose of diarrhoea.

Whether you have pain at one end or the other – the advice is to never, ever go anywhere without these two vital remedies.

I say this as someone who has schlepped it through Romania, Poland, Greece, the former Yugoslavia and Berlin before the wall came down.

I have slept the good sleep in the open air of Athens port and close to the Tierpark in Berlin under a park bench as the lions roared and the elephants bellowed.

I have tried to get accommodation at a cheap price and ended up jumping on the next train to God knows where because, hey, we were Interrailing and it was free.

Now it's strictly four star or above. I never go anywhere without a tub of tooth putty in one pocket and a packet of imodium in the other.

Did somebody say holiday? I'm just waiting for the chance to fill my pockets, grit my few remaining teeth and go.

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