Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I always think of September 21st as being the first day of autumn and there’s been a distinct nip in the air all day, despite the beautiful sunshine. I woke up early this morning to get to the dentist in Tufnell Park at some ungodly hour. I’d barely slept, having spent the whole night tossing and turning and worrying about my up-and-coming court case. Unfortunately when I arrived in Tufnell Park I was told that the dentist hadn’t yet turned up; that she’d be at least half an hour. They also told me that there was no way I’d be able to have a filling today because I’d only been booked in for a check-up, despite having told them on the phone that something white and enamely had dropped out of my gob and left a big hole in one of my molars. Maite behind the counter said the dentist might be able to give me an emergency filling, but pointed out I’d still need to come back for a check-up and a proper filling later on. Besides, emergency fillings tend to be made of metal and I didn't want to look like Jaws. So I was forced to book two separate appointments for later in the week; the first see a hygienist and the second for that proper filling. £100 lighter, I left the dentist, wondering quite how people who aren’t about to start work again, afford to live on the dole. If your tooth falls out when you’re signing on, are you expected just to push it back into your mouth?

I looked up from my work today to see Ian Clayton on The Michael Ball Show. Ian is the guy who wrote the wonderful book I’m currently reading called Our Billie. He looked like a fish out of water on that tawdry show. His truthful, dignified, understated energy glowed through all the superficial shimmering day-time weirdness. It was like watching the moon in a bright blue sky. I’m not sure Michael Ball truly understands how to interview people and suspect he’s too self-involved to be interested in the people he’s talking to. Ian told his moving story, briefly, and then they cooked him a lemon pie which he was forced to eat and compliment. It felt deeply inappropriate.

The next time I looked up, I saw a news piece about a bright orange dog called Ginger on CCTV footage being left in a car park by its callous owner. The owner deposited the poor thing on a patch of grass before getting back into the car and speeding off. Apparently Ginger was too injured to run after them and just stood there, watching the car disappearing, no doubt wondering when his owner would return and what he'd done to merit being deserted. What with the Cat Bin Lady, the latest fashion definitely seems to be for the media to bring our attention to animal cruelty through the medium of security cameras. Cat Bin Lady is going to court now – and no doubt the owner of Ginger will meet a similar fate. But there’s an underlying double-standard here. I feel deeply uncomfortable when anyone makes a big deal about cruelty to certain animals if they’re planning on going home to tuck into a big old steak and chips. It’s all very well to anthropomorphise the thoughts that go through a beautiful dog’s head when its owners walk away, but what happens to a lamb ripped from its mother breast, or a cow who enters an abattoir, smells blood and panics without realising why? Is sticking a cat in a bin so much worse than slashing an animal’s throat and draining it of blood, simply for a good meal?

September 21st was a Friday, and Pepys spent most of the day in his office. He went briefly to Westminster and returned to the City by water, watching the corpse of the Duke of Gloucester being brought down Somerset House steps on its way to burial in Westminster. Pepys alighted at the Old Swan steps, which was his preferred landing place, being the first beyond London Bridge, and therefore the nearest to his house at the Navy Office. Before going home he went to the Hoop Tavern, and with friends amongst other things, ate above 200 walnuts! A new family member had arrived when he got home; Jane Birch’s brother, Wayneman, had been brought from a position in the country to become Pepys’ new boy servant.

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