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Rachel Riley: 'At the start it was, 'where am I?' 'What are these things?' 'Oh, they're numbers!'

The 28-year-old is best known as the hostess of hit Channel 4 show Countdown

By Roger Crow

HOW DID YOU COPE WITH THE PRESSURE ON COUNTDOWN IN THE EARLY DAYS?

We do 15 shows in three days when we record, so I didn't even know which camera to look at for the first lot, never mind which sums I was doing.

But very quickly you get used to it.

To start with it was, 'Where am I? What am I doing? What are these things? Oh, they're numbers'.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT COUNTDOWN THAT KEEPS YOU AND THE AUDIENCE COMING BACK FOR MORE?

Carol (Vorderman) was there for 26 years and I've been there for six now. It's just part of the national psyche. I don't think it translates to the US or anything like that; I've explained to Americans before what I do: 'It's the only game show with maths where you win a teapot'. It's something you can play along with.

For me, it was something I enjoyed when I was a kid; it's not like a quiz show with questions, where you accrue knowledge and you're going to be better the older you are; you can play however old you are.

You can play kids against grandparents, it passes through the generations.

We love crossword puzzles and Sudoku as a nation, and it's that kind of mental agility that keeps Countdown going.

WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN TAKING COUNTDOWN TO THE UNITED STATES IF THE CHANCE AROSE?

If the job was there I wouldn't mind. I'd do Countdown here then fly to the States and do Countdown over there.

Wouldn't be bad, would it?

WERE YOU SURPRISED WHEN 8 OUT OF 10 CATS DOES COUNTDOWN BECAME SO SUCCESSFUL?

Yeah, well we did one for Channel 4's 30th birthday, because it was the first ever show on Channel 4, and we've done something like 28 episodes now.

We're doing another six, filming before Christmas, and hopefully some more in the New Year, too.

It's great; I love those boys, I find them really funny.

When I was a kid, I used to watch Countdown at 4.30pm.

Because it's on so early now, often teenagers and students don't actually get time to watch it, so having it on a Friday night at 9pm has opened it up to a new audience.

IT'S GOOD TO SEE A SHOW THAT EVEN PEOPLE WITH MATHS PROBLEMS CAN ENJOY

Yeah, watching things like that over and over, you do actually improve quite quickly. It's brain training.

YOU'VE ALSO WORKED ON THE NEW SHOW, MEMORY SLAM

That's coming up this month; a one-off show but it was really good fun.

It was some kids - not child geniuses, just regular kids - 12 to 14 years old; they entered a competition and they got trained by memory champions, and over the course of a couple of months, they became totally amazing ... so they could memorise a whole pack of cards and a hundred digits in a row. That will go out hopefully this month on Watch.

YOU LOOK GREAT. IS THAT DOWN TO DIETING AND THE GYM OR CAN YOU EAT WHAT YOU LIKE AND STILL LOOK GOOD?

At the moment, I've on one of those annoying food intolerance diets, so I'm a bit skinny, but hopefully I'll get my stomach feeling better and then eat everything as Christmas approaches.

I hate the gym; I just get so bored.

I like cycling around London, especially if there's a shop or cafe at the end of it. And I like Zumba.

It's really good fun, just dancing around. Time just flies by, and then you hurt at the end of it, which is a good sign.

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