Tuesday, 6 October 2009

We meet Alice Roberts

Hah! Be envious, you guys! Last night we went to a Royal Society event in London, skiving off work a tad early to get down for the 6.30 start. It was a conversation, entitled Fossils, fact and fiction, between Dr Richard Fortey, retired trilobite specialist at the Natural History Museum and author of numerous excellent books, some scientific and others not, and Tracy Chevalier, author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, amongst others. Tracy has recently published a novel based on the life of Mary Anning, the early 19th century woman who collected many of the spectacular marine fossils along the south coast of England, around Lyme Regis, which helped build the foundation of knowledge on which Darwin based his theory of evolution by natural selection.

The event was chaired by Dr Alice Roberts, anatomist and paleopathologist at Bristol University, well known as one of the presenters of the Coast series of TV programmes and also solo presenter of her own series on human anatomy. She is also a personal pin-up and I drool every time I see her on the box, so the opportunity to attend an event like this (interesting enough in itself) and see her in the flesh was not to be missed.

The conversation was interesting, with a lot of backwards and forwards between Richard and Tracy, with minimal intervention by Alice Roberts, just when things might have seemed they were starting to flag or perhaps when they drifted slightly off-topic. Just right, I thought.

After a short Q&A session which took things up to the required hour, we all retired. The general public all left, but RS members and guests were efficiently siphoned off from the thronging masses into a side room where there was a drinks reception.

We chatted to a few people, though we didn't know any, then, almost at the end and just before the chief protagonists and a few RS officers were about to go in to dinner, we found ourselves in the group talking to my hearthrob. OK, I lie. We manoevred ourselves there!

While I distracted the bloke haranguing her loudly about electric cars, Jenny started talking to her about silver. As I've mentioned before, we found out quite fortuitously that she had been on a weekend course at Bringsty Arts Studios, which gave us a useful hook to start the conversation.

We had a lovely few minutes conversation in which she revealed that she not only had heard of Jenny, but also knew of her work and referred to Acanthostega! We were deeply impressed!

After they'd gone in to dine, we finished our wine and wandered up the road looking for somewhere to eat. After a pretty short search we came across a delightful, if pricy, restaurant in Jermyn Street called Rowley's. We anticipated it would be expensive, but were in sufficiently expansive mood to just say "The hell with it!"

We shared the scallop starter, which was divine, then Jenny had baked cod and I fillet steak with foie gras. Jenny had a glass of chardonnay while I had a couple of claret, and it was simply wonderful. The fact that the starter cost what we'd normally pay for a main was not enough to dent our ebullient mood, and we were still feeling the zing of a thoroughly enjoyable evening when we got home to Royston at 11!

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