Friday, 11 March 2011


I went into Soho first thing, and sat in a cafe on Old Compton Street, listening to music from Wales. I was leafing through the BBC website, searching for inspiration, when I came across this article, which has to be one of the saddest things I’ve ever read.

It hasn't been a very happy day for news. As soon as I turned the television on this morning, I saw pictures of the tsunami in Japan. Tsunamis and breakfast don’t go together very well and I was astonished by the pictures. Houses and cars, looking like little pieces of Lego in the bath were floating across fields. It was utterly surreal. In the ever-approaching distance, traffic was speeding along a road which was surely destined to be washed away by the eerie sheet of water.

I immediately started to worry about my brother, who’s in Hong Kong at the moment. Obviously Hong Kong is as far away from Japan as England is from Senegal, but the whole of the Pacific Ocean is on red alert for fear of copy cat tidal waves.

Pictures came in from Tokyo, where they’ve just had one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded. I can’t imagine what it must be like to feel the earth rippling under your feet like that. There were shots of a woman in an office trying to pick up the computers that were flying off the tables. She was actually trying to tidy up – mid earthquake.

People were standing at stations trying to get home on invisible trains. Most of them were wearing masks. It’s a particularly odd custom, I feel. In fact, I get quite insulted when I see Japanese people sitting on the tubes in this country covering their faces as though they were all sitting in a nail bar. What germs do they think they’re going to get? Don't answer that question! It’s probably why they all live so long. Quite why, in the mayhem of earthquakes and tsunamis, I should notice the masks, I’m not sure...

I had another meeting about this presenting job today. This time, the producers wanted to meet my friends Ellie and Hilary. They’re interested in one of them co-presenting the series with me. It transpires I’ve known them both for almost 20 years, which I guess has to count for something in terms of on-screen chemistry. Both came across incredibly well, and both were liked enormously by the powers that be. I felt incredibly proud. We’re all heading up to Thaxted on Sunday to do some screen tests. It’ll be interesting to see if either of them “pops” on camera. It’ll be interesting to know if I do! Talk about diving into the unknown!
Afterward the meeting, I had lunch with Hilary in town. We ate in the Stock Pot, which is cheap and cheerful food at cheap and cheerful prices. I had some kind of pasta mush and she had a similar dish that they were calling risotto. There was jelly and ice cream for pudding, which felt like the most decadent thing I’ve ever eaten.

Monday 11th March 1661, and Elizabeth was out of the house all day. Believe it or not, she returned with a new set of teeth! Pepys wrote; “among other things she hath got her teeth new done by La Roche, and are indeed now pretty handsome, and I was much pleased with it.” Obviously, the English had not yet decided whether teeth were singular or plural, but you get the general gist.

It’s possible Elizabeth’s teeth were simply “whitened”, which meant the enamel on her teeth was scraped away by La Roche, who was one of only two high-class dentists practising in London at the time. She may have simply had her false teeth replaced. Dentures were usually made from elephant ivory, or ox bone, but they could be made from real teeth taken or stolen from a dead person. There was a glut, I’m told, of false teeth available after the plague! Would you really put the teeth of someone who’d died from the plague in your mouth?

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