Will Fatberg Hunting Be The New Glamping?


It’s always good to learn a new word every day, and today’s word is fatberg. A fatberg is exactly what it sounds like–a giant mass of fat. In this case, a giant mound of fat blocking up one of the world’s largest sewer systems. So what does a fatberg look like? Watch this video to find out, but don’t blame me if you can’t ever bring yourself to eat a kebab again.

The fatberg in question was discovered in Kingston, southwest London. A congealed slab of oil, fat, food and other trash such as cleaning wipes, the 15-ton monstrosity was the size of a double-decker bus and had reduced the main sewer line to only 5 percent capacity, preventing locals from flushing their toilets.

They should be grateful. Thames Water officials say if they hadn’t caught it in time, the toilets would have started backing up and raw sewage would have spewed out, a bit like that barbershop scene in the remake of The Blob.
The brave workers at Thames Water have slain the fatberg with high-pressure hoses, but more fatbergs may be lying in wait to attack innocent toilet sitters. Now’s your chance to help. Many cities offer sewer tours. Brighton has one, as do Paris and Vienna. The closest thing you can get in London is tracing the underground Fleet River, which was used as a sewer for much of its history.

What the world really needs are overnight sewer camping tours where each person is equipped with a high-powered hose. Brave adventure travelers could venture forth into the Stygian darkness, ready to do battle with malevolent fatbergs. Forget glamping, you overpaid bank executives, and give something back to society for a change. Go hunting fatbergs!

Giant Blue Rooster In Trafalgar Square Leaves Londoners Bemused And Befuddled


Trafalgar Square in London has a new statue — a giant blue cockerel. It’s the latest work of art to adorn the Fourth Plinth, a nineteenth-century base flanking Nelson’s Column. The other three plinths all have statues but the Fourth Plinth never got one, and so in recent years it’s become home to a series of temporary sculptures.

The giant blue cock, as the British media can’t resist calling it, has caused a bit of a stir. The cockerel and the color blue are both symbols of France, and this is a square dedicated to one of the British Empire’s greatest victories over Napoleon. German artist Katharina Fritsch, who created the sculpture, said she wasn’t aware of the symbolism. As London Mayor Boris Johnson says (he’s the blond guy with the awful haircut in this video) it could mean a lot of things, such as the British victory in the Tour de France. At the very least, the royal blue hue ties into London’s recent baby boy mania.

The Huffington Post has more photos of the giant rooster.

Iconic London Skate Park May Be Turned Into Chain Of Shops


A famous skate park on the South Bank of London may be turned into yet another stretch of retail sameness.

Underneath the Southbank Centre, which is home to several performing arts centers, is a covered area that looks like a cross between a cellar and an overly graffittied parking lot. It’s been a meeting ground for skateboarders for 40 years. Every day you can see them doing tricks on the concrete ramps and benches while tourists and locals stop to watch and take photos.

Now the Southbank Centre wants to use the skate park as retail space to fund its new Festival Wing. It’s offered to turn an area under a nearby bridge over to the skateboarders, but the local skateboarding community has rejected this, saying the new place wouldn’t have the same history or sense of tradition. They’ve started the Long Live Southbank movement and launched an online petition to save the skate park that’s garnered more than 38,000 signatures. They’ve also filed a request to the government to make it a protected community space.

While I’m not a skateboarder and am only in London part of the year, I’d be sad to see this place go. I’ve always enjoyed strolling along the South Bank. There’s an open, lively feel to it that you don’t get in most parts of the city, and the skate park is a big part of that. I always stop to watch the skateboarders do their thing. It’s obvious that this place is important to them in a way that it isn’t to me, and I don’t want their community to lose it.

In Fine Style: The Art Of Tudor And Stuart Fashion Opens At The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Tudor
The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, London, is putting on a fashion show, although the fashions are more than 400 years out of date.

In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion” examines the luxurious clothing and jewelry worn by British monarchs and members of their court. It focuses on the two dynasties of the 16th and 17th centuries with everything from ornamental armor for a teenaged Prince of Wales to a bejeweled case for storing the black fabric patches that Queen Mary II stuck on her face to emphasize the whiteness of her skin.

Many of the items are on display for the first time, such as a diamond signet ring given by King Charles I to his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, in 1628. It bears her cypher and the royal coat of arms. Another never-before-seen piece is a pendant of gold, rubies and diamond with a miniature portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. There are also some elegant articles of clothing like a pair of lacework gloves.

Of course, most costumes and jewelry from this period have disappeared, no matter how important their owners. To augment the exhibition there are more than 60 portraits showing royalty and nobility wearing their finest, including a startling portrait of a Duchess dressed as a man.

“In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion” runs until October 6. If you make it to London before July 14, you might also want to see Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsarsat the Victoria & Albert.

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The Day I Was Mistaken For A Terrorist

For some reason, people sometimes mistake me for a terrorist. Once I got interrogated by an air marshal for merely looking out a window, and the following year in London I totally freaked out several people on a bus.

The second incident was, I suppose, partially my fault. I boarded a city bus with a large suitcase, which I put on the luggage rack. Since the rack was right next to the door, I moved a little away from it so I wouldn’t be in the way.

For a couple of minutes I stood there, keeping an eye on my bag and not listening to the buzz of voices around me. One conversation, however, began to get my attention.

“I just don’t think it looks right,” a worried woman’s voice said.

“Well, then mention it to the driver,” a man said.

“I don’t want to make a fuss,” the woman replied.

“Look, you’re worried about it just sitting there. You don’t see the owner. So go up to the driver and mention it,” the man said. He didn’t sound worried himself. Instead he sounded a bit condescending.

I turned to them.”Are you talking about my bag?” I asked.

A wave of relief washed over the woman’s face.

“Yes!” she cried. “I didn’t see you put it down and nobody was standing around it, and I got very worried.”

“Don’t worry, no bomb in it, just a bunch of dirty clothes,” I said. Then I turned to the man next to her. “But you didn’t seem worried.”

He shrugged. “Nobody would need a bag that big to blow up a bus.”

I laughed. “Well maybe I’m a really inefficient bomber and I don’t know how to mix explosives correctly.”

“Oh no,” he dismissed that idea. “That is a huge bag. If it was filled with explosives you could barely lift it.”

I studied them for a moment and said, “So how do you know I’m really not a terrorist? All you have is my word.”

They looked back at me – middle-aged, middle-class, white me. The woman suddenly looked embarrassed. The man looked defiant.

“You don’t fit the profile,” he said.

“Remember Timothy McVeigh?” I asked.

He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “The right wing loons in your country rarely do such things. Most terrorists look nothing like you.”

I smiled at him. “Who’s to say I’m not a right-wing loon?”

“WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP THIS CONVERSATION?!!!” A woman squawked from a few rows back.

“Sorry ma’am. This was all hypothetical,” I said.

She immediately looked relieved, just like the first woman. All it took was a reassuring word from a complete stranger – a light-skinned, well-spoken stranger.

She, too, had missed the point.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]