Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Well, there's a thing

After months of not finding anything that novel to say about the usual annual round of events, what does it say that inspiration strikes at the sight of a load of old muck?

The Museum of London has a new section on the monster fatberg of Whitechapel, a vast conglomeration of (mostly) fat, setting to concrete as it accumulated around various sorts of undissolvable waste, grit and calcium in the sewers underneath an area with a high proportion of takeaway food joints.  As you enter,  a display cabinet shows you the sewer workers' protective suit - and the shovels they had to resort to at times to dig it out.

There's also an informative video, complete with questing rat, showing just how huge the problem was, and outlining the facts and figures, together with the issues in creating a museum display (how to protect conservators and public from potential infection, not to mention the pong, and will it gradually break down till there's not much left to show anyway?).

As is traditional in high-profile exhibits, the headline item is reserved for its own special spotlit case within a darkened inner sanctum: no more prepossessing than a piece of rubble on a demolition site, but what lump of gunk could be anything else?

It serves as a warning of the damage simple carelessness can do, and a reminder of the things so many unseen workers do to keep the city going. There is some good news : it can all be used, refined for fuel for buses, with the residue burnt in power stations.

And, of course, the museum shop serves handy mementoes: badges, T-shirts, shopping bags, cuddly toy rats, and should you feel like a themed snack, a bag of toothsome "Fatberg sludge".