Gary Littman


Garry Littman is the owner and director of The Language House in Geneva which organises English language training for professional people, companies and students. He was a radio and newspaper journalist in his native Australia and ran a restaurant in Kathmandu in his younger days. He is an English language trainer and an aficionado of pétanque.

A monster from the deep

You can tell a lot about a city's inhabitants by their waste. Descend below the floorboards, under the street, down the pipes into the drains and sewers and you can gauge affluence by the effluent.

In the great city of London, under Whitechapel, below the Blind Beggar tavern, teams of workers have begun a three-week, seven-days-a-week emergency scramble to eliminate a fatberg, an entity that best belongs in a Ghostbuster film or a remake of Monster from the Deep. A fatberg is a congealed mass of fat, nappies, wet-wipes, sanitary pads and condoms.

This particular fatberg is no lightweight. It weighs 150 tonnes, the equivalent of 11 double decker buses and is the length of three football fields. It is the Titanic of fatbergs and threatened to rupture the bowels of the city.

The icebergs are melting and the fatbergs are growing and clogging up the sewers of our cities.

In Geneva, it’s another story. Here we prefer to clog-up the underworld with hard cash - tens of thousands of cut-up Euros - which according to recent news reports are causing both havoc in toilets in a UBS bank and nearby restaurants, and general despair and eyeball-rolling among populations everywhere.

You might say: Money down the drain. And you might ask: Are the Swiss really so flush with money? Or how dirty can dirty money be?

However, the “three large Euro deposits” that turned up in the toilets of nearby Geneva bistros pale into significance when compared to the London fatberg.

Thames Water’s head of waste networks, Matt Rimmer, said: “This fatberg is up there with the biggest we’ve ever seen. It’s a total monster. It’s basically like trying to break up concrete. It’s frustrating as these situations are totally avoidable and caused by fat, oil and grease being washed down sinks and wipes flushed down the loo.”

Thames Water deals with 55,000 sewer blockages each year.

A fatberg is a “vile, festering, steaming collection of fat and wet wipes,” according to Simon Evans, media relations manager at Thames Water. Fatberg creation is a vicious cycle, says Evan who coined the term. “Fat clings to wipes, wipes cling to the fat,” he told journalists.

The Americans call them FOGs, which stands for fat, oil, and grease. The term fatbergs made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015, along with another over-used and yet-to-be defined word;  “Brexit.”

Christmas is a particularly bad time for fatbergs, when the fat from turkey and roast meat is poured down drains. Want to know more? Just click on this link and sing along.



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