Hair and fat and everything nice.
July 13, 2006 9:01 AM   Subscribe

London's 'flushers': "If you really thought about where you were going and what you were doing you'd either be shit scared or you wouldn't go there. We're shit shovellers. Some of the jobs I do a high percentage of the country would turn around and say: 'Poke that up yer arse mate as far as you can put it.'" The history of London's sewers. The craptacular More entries in the Night Haunts series.
posted by OmieWise (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This post is shit. [good post]
posted by NationalKato at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2006

Eh, the author is full of crap. [good post]
posted by mrbill at 9:20 AM on July 13, 2006

But it's the bouquet that makes their flesh crawl: "You smell it initially. You breathe it all day long. You pass wind and what comes out is the smell of the fat. You can go home and shower as much you like - even with washing-up liquid - but at the end of the day you're still farting the smell of rancid fat. My wife'll say: 'Oh, I see you've been sorting fat problems out…'"

Blech. His wife is a far better woman than I am.
posted by amro at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2006

[Recent FPP re:]
posted by cenoxo at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2006

posted by shoepal at 9:54 AM on July 13, 2006

Oh well goddam. That's a good post shoepal.
posted by OmieWise at 10:11 AM on July 13, 2006

I wonder if Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs would fancy a trip to London. Sounds just like his thing.
posted by briank at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2006

There is one story that many flushers in London like to recount. It concerns a fat iceberg that had been building up below Leicester Square over the course of a whole decade. Eventually, this 150-square-feet "slug of hardened fat" grew so large that it was impassable. A gang of flushers armed with supersucker machines spent six weeks one blazing summer trying to dislodge it. By the time they finished they were reduced to using ice picks to hack away at the white mountain.

Yikes. I will never complain about my job again.
posted by LarryC at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2006

Hey, my coffee's cold!
posted by LarryC at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2006

I suddenly feel compelled to post a link to this book.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:49 AM on July 13, 2006

Forgot to add to the previous: Don Carey is "the father of the modern-day sewer system."
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:51 AM on July 13, 2006

I think it was episode 3 of The Worst Jobs in History, in which Tony Robinson looks at "the gong scourers who unblocked the primitive London sewers." Worth a watch as he explains how terrible it would've been. urgh.
A friend of mine used to fix pumps of all kinds, including sump pumps. He had hip waders, and he'd go down into the sump and be up to his thighs in liquid shit unbolting the pump that'd given up the ghost. "Usually it's a diaper or a bunch of tampons that've wedged in the intake and burned the motor out. The worst part about it," he told me, "is when someone opens the door to the sump when you're down there. See, after a minute or two of being down in it, it's all you can smell, so you don't really register it any more. Someone opens the door and fresh air comes in, it gives your nose a contrast and then you can really smell what you're in."
No real wonder why he had troubles getting a girlfriend, though.
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:58 PM on July 13, 2006

I was in London last month, and there was an hour-long documentary on Joseph Bazalgette, AKA King of the Sewers of London, which kept me from enjoying the unseasonably beeyootiful weather there at the time. Much more riveting than I'd ever have imagined.

and from the descriptions they painted of London at the time, you couldn't escape the filth, and the Thames was noxious.
posted by Busithoth at 9:00 PM on July 13, 2006

Flushers... I know someone who works for the major London water company and some of the stories I heard the other day were just bizarre.

Around china town area in London, they have to send flushers down to rid the sewers of oil and fat which has congealed and blocked the pipes. Apparently this stuff just hardens and can stretch for about 8/10 meters ! They just blast it with a load of chemicals...

They also have to be really careful going into the sewers because of the amount of chemicals which are poured down the drains. They frequently come across these clouds of really noxious gas. So they are given oxygen tanks with 45 minutes of air, and they work in pairs for 30 minutes at a time. In this world of health & safety, each team must then have a set of rescuers present to drag people out.

Oh, and when it rains heavily in the capital, if you find yourself in the sewers, you apparently have approximately 3 minutes to find an exit or you're a gonner.
posted by shoez at 4:23 AM on July 14, 2006

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