Very conveniently, Tate Britain is a five minute walk from Velvet Empire's ivory tower, so Matt and I went to see Peter Bazalgette's documentary "The Great Stink" at Tate Late on Friday night. (We'd also wanted to hear Iain Sinclair and Will Self talking about lost London, while promoting their new books, but were too late for tickets - which disappointingly were on a first come, first served basis.)
Peter Bazalgette is best known for being a stinking rich TV big wig who brought "Big Brother" to the UK (and Alan Titchmarsh's "Ground Force"). But his great-great-grandfather Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed the London sewage system - which is largely still in use today - which is credited with being quite possibly the largest feat of engineering ever.
To commemorate this fact, Peter made a documentary for Five about this in 1992, and called it "The Great Stink" in honour of the phrase the Victorians coined to refer to the overwhelming stench generated by rivers of human efluence flowing through the capital's streets (and the ensuing cholera epidemics). Although it's essentially a Five documentary (ie, filmed all in one day with one cameraman and no lighting or boom operators, and Peter's own house seems to form a large part of the set), it is still very informative and very entertaining. For instance, did you know where the expression "to get the wrong end of the stick" comes from? If you don't know, you don't want to. Yuk.