I visited the dentist yesterday to have my teeth checked and ‘de-scaled’ in preparation for my great adventure. Whilst the hygienist was working I started to wonder about wisdom teeth. Firstly whether I had any.

It seems I have the full complement of four, one for each corner, though at the time I was told this they were obviously not as pristine as they should be.

I then interrupted her work again to ask her why people have wisdom teeth. What is their purpose?

I think she was rather taken aback by the question. I suspect she likes to work on patients who don’t ask her questions that seem irrelevant and have nothing what so ever to do with how to clean their pearly whites. She didn’t seem to know, but suggested I spoke to my dentist.

The work on my teeth was done in reverse of the usual order – due to someone before me making Kirsty work harder than usual. So, when I went in to see her I asked her the same question. She initially (and I hope tongue in cheek) suggested that we had them to keep dental surgeons in business, but then went on to ask, if when I found out, I’d let her know…

After confirming my teeth shouldn’t fall out of my skull whilst I’m searching out tiny Madame Berthe Mouse Lemurs, (these are so small they can fit easily into an egg-cup) Kirsty took me through to the reception area to pay and I promptly asked the girls there what they thought.

The first response from one of their receptionists (Rebecca Duff) seemed most likely – those of you without wisdom teeth are more developed than those of us who do. It would seem possible, she thought, that our diet was such that we needed an extra set of molars to crunch up our rough diet in the past, and we are slowly evolving away from such a necessity. This seemed to me to be quite possible. Her colleague promptly looked up the question on the Internet. If you do you will probably come across the following entry:

Anthropologists believe wisdom teeth, or the third set of molars, were the evolutionary answer to our ancestor’s early diet of coarse, rough food – like leaves, roots, nuts and meats – which required more chewing power and resulted in excessive wear of the teeth. 5 Feb. 2007

We then went on to consider those whose wisdom teeth hadn’t erupted, that stayed in the jaw, often because the jaw was too small. We then wondered how this might be – how does the tooth, which has grown, but not erupted ‘know’ not to go further in its ‘life’ and do the next stage and try to poke through?

How is it, that other people have problems, because their teeth don’t? I mean, don’t ‘know’ they shouldn’t emerge…

It then became a general discussion about how amazing our biology is and then on to a discussion that it isn’t a foregone conclusion that wisdom teeth have to be removed once they grow, irrespective of whether they cause any problems or not.

Also that if you have an extraction it’s a good idea to have a replacement, otherwise the opposing tooth is likely to keep on growing (a vague connection to rodents, perhaps).

Then we got on to the development of babies and such like other things that had nothing whatever to do with teeth…

Having stirred up the reception area into a lively discussion group, I went on my way and returned to Mark Lane.

Before leaving the subject of teeth I must mention my dentist practice The Dental Surgery and in particular Kirsty. It is in the Corn Exchange on Mark Lane very near to Aldgate Underground Station and Fenchurch Street Station and I have been going there for many years.

Really the first time I realised quite how good Kirsty is was when I had to have a root canal done – and I had only had a couple of injections in my life before.

She is brilliant (for me) as she tells me all about what she is doing and why, whilst she works – (I am always a bit curious) it keeps my mind occupied. I have only one (very small) complaint – I had a cap fitted some while ago, and on trying it on, Kirsty decided it wasn’t quite right and ordered a new one for me and let me have the imperfect one to keep. I asked whether I could have another – ‘failed’ cap as it were, so I could have a pair, and make them into earrings.

Though promised, with everything she does, it was forgotten and this second unwanted cap never materialised. I keep the first though, in its little box, in the hope that one day I might need another or have an opportunity to ask for a second one… Not quite as interesting as this jewellery set of (I think) real wisdom teeth (well, three-quarter set), but I thought a pair of caps would be an interesting addition to my earring collection as a pair of studs…

London is quite extraordinary. I worked in the city for about 11 years in the reinsurance market, most of that time as a claims broker. This entailed carrying large piles of folders of claims around to the Lloyd’s Insurance Market (mainly based at that time in the Lloyd’s Building in Lime Street) and around non-Lloyd’s companies in the streets around the area. This meant that I knew this patch architecturally quite well – well, very well to be honest. I could walk around that patch of London without knowing the names of the roads – by sight – the buildings were distinctive. One or two we could walk straight through and out as a short cut. Now, whenever I go up there – usually it has to be admitted about once or twice a year, whole blocks have disappeared like missing teeth. Pubs I used to go to – The Blue Elephant for example has gone today – and there is a large crater on Fenchurch Street. It is quite distressing. Further, the little piece of garden that ran down the side of Aldgate Station and St Botolph’s Church has been dug up and I assume the lovely rowan tree that grew there has been dug up… I quite enjoy it in a way – but the changes never seem to stay for long. The only buildings that seem to stay are the churches.

One, St Olave’s is a small church just off St Mark’s Lane, and it was one I used, when time allowed, to wander into – for five minutes before an appointment in an office two doors up from where my dentist now is, and which on glancing into today, is being internally gutted. It was always a very peaceful church, tucked away as it is. Samuel Pepys is supposed to be buried there – though I haven’t been able to trace exactly where (I haven’t tried very hard, it has to be admitted). It has a crypt that I would like to visit one day – but have never had the courage to go down. There is a gate at the top, and the area never looks open – though today the gate wasn’t locked; I don’t though want to get stuck in the crypt of a medieval church when I should be having my teeth polished up the road.

So it is rather a special place. I have just looked it up (for a picture or two) and have found that several people have connections with the church – one of which was Queen Elizabeth I. She held a thanksgiving service there in 1554 – on the day of her release from the Tower of London (just up the road, and around the corner) – which is rather super. I like that idea a lot. I suppose you would want to do that after all she went through. I just wouldn’t have expected anyone to know where she did it! They also maintain that the churchyard is said to contain the grave of Mary Ramsay – popularly believed to be the woman who brought the plague to London in 1665 – The parish registers have the record of her burial, on the 24th of July 1665… After which in the same year, the victims of the plague were parked with a ‘P’ after their names… I wonder if she really did bring the plague to London and where she caught it from. Why was she visiting London? Or did she visit somewhere else and bring it home with her? What a thing to be remembered for.

On the opposite side of Mark Lane is a tower, which I think must have something to do with the church. It stands alone quite separate between a pathway round back to Fenchurch Street and a very large modern building that looks for all the world as though it is something out of The Wizard of Oz. It has a small yard around it, with a gate, again one that is always locked, and I often wonder about that too – it does have a notice, and I did read it once, but have forgotten, but still haven’t been able to get into see…

This is a bit of a rambling post, to say the least – but the city of London really is in constant turmoil, with some buildings going up and disappearing, almost before they have time to settle into their foundations.

Some older buildings disappearing too, leaving enormous holes and yet there is a stretch of buildings from just opposite where the pump used (it may still be there, but I didn’t notice it yesterday) to be in Fenchurch Street up towards Mark Lane, which is obviously waiting for development and has been like it for years. The old shop fronts looking very decrepit…

It is very different from the one I remember. Not least as very few people are broking in the old way now – it is rare to see anyone carrying a folder and if you do – they are obviously placing business if they are brokers at all, there are no longer people going around asking companies to pay what is owed on a contract, which is what I did, (as a Reinsurance Claims Broker) from behind a pile of folders, that I had to carry from White Kennett Lane to their offices and to the Lloyd’s building, sometimes not being able to see around or over the top of the pile.

On the whole they were fun times and I learnt so much about people…and how they work, which I have been able to build on when dealing with all sorts of customers – but particularly certain people I dealt with in Harrod’s…many years later.

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