S4/E5 - The Great Stink: A Smelly Chapter in London's History

In this podcast, hosts Charlie and Martin talk in a fun way about the "Great Stink" in London in 1858, focusing on the city's bad sanitation and how Sir Joseph Bazalgette's new sewage system helped solve the problem. They mix interesting historical details with their own stories and talk about how people then thought bad smells caused diseases.
Dec 10 / Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this podcast, hosts Charlie and Martin talk in a fun way about the "Great Stink" in London in 1858, focusing on the city's bad sanitation and how Sir Joseph Bazalgette's new sewage system helped solve the problem. They mix interesting historical details with their own stories and talk about how people then thought bad smells caused diseases.

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Meet today's guest

Martin

From Rock n' Roll English

Martin is from the UK but lives in Italy and teaches English at International House Palermo and runs a wonderful podcast called Rock n' Roll English which has a similar mission statement to The British English Podcast although I'd say his is a bit more informal and unfiltered focusing less on culture and more on authentic stories and conversations. 

He has many years experience teaching English and has taught English at various different schools, large financial companies, law firms and now he teaches at International House, Palermo.

He has a TEFL qualification and is also CELTA qualified.

Martin also likes reading books and going to bed early cos he's so Rock n’Roll.

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Transcript of Premium Version 5-Transcript

Charlie:
Hello and welcome back to the British English Podcast, the show all about British culture and British English. And today we're going back in time. We're going to give you a bit of history. Um, and I've chosen one. This is a bit smelly! And in no way is this the reason why I've invited Martin from Rock and Roll English on the show, but I thought it would be fun to go through some content together on this topic. Thank you very much, Martin, for agreeing to choose this topic with me.

Martin:
Very happy to be here to talk about a bad smell.

Charlie:
Are you doing all right?

Martin:
I have to say yes just to psych myself up. But... Maybe later in life, Charlie, because you're a married man now, I don't know what the future holds for you, but if you do decide to go down the children route, my advice is spread them out a bit more than I did.

Charlie:
Yeah, okay, so you did one at the age of two, and then you went again.

Martin:
Yes. There's exactly two years between them.

Charlie:
Yes. That's a nicer way of saying it.

Martin:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. I think seeing my sister struggle with this because she had twins after her first one and they tried, they had two years between them. Um, yeah.

Martin:
Wow. So she had three.

Charlie:
Three under three. Yeah.

Martin:
Wow.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know a lot of people are against this, but I'd like to just have one.

Martin:
I hope my son never listens to this, but I do sometimes. I do sometimes ask myself if it... If it would have been better.

Charlie:
That's really refreshing to hear because most people are like, of course it was the right decision. But yeah, interesting.

Martin:
I'm sure I will hate myself in years for saying that, but um, but no, in fact it does get easier and it already is much easier. But those first few months, there are some dark times, believe me.

Charlie:
Yeah, I'm very much enjoying my immense amount of free time to myself.

Martin:
I actually think when I look at pictures, I even see a picture the week before my daughter was born. And I look at that picture and I think I was so young then, because just from that moment, because that's the thing, it's your time. It's not. You don't change as a person, but it's like, I can't do this now because I have to. Yeah, take care of this small human.

Charlie:
You can't do all of the things that made you you, I guess.

Martin:
Yeah, just lots of things that you enjoyed doing, which you then can't do. That's that's the problem.

Charlie:
Yeah. Well, I look forward to those days. If I'm blessed with a child. Of course, of course. Um, but. Yeah. So we're here to talk about the great stink. So what is the great stink? We will tell you all about it. We've gathered together some thoughts on paper, so we're going to have a little read through them and then discuss the the way in which we wrote it down perhaps as well.

Charlie:
So let's, let's journey back to the mid 19th century London and you've got to picture bustling streets, the heart of the industrial revolution and innovations emerging from every corner. Goodness me. Yet amidst this progress, London faced a unique and pressing crisis in the summer of 1858. And this is known as the Great Stink. It wasn't just a quirky moment of history. It was this intense aroma that became a turning point for urban planning and public health. It was a stench so overwhelming it even disrupted the British parliament. Pretty mental, right?

Martin:
Absolutely. And I love how they chose the name for this event as the Great Stink. Yet when people describe it like you were there, you have like intense aroma and you think, oh wow, I actually associate aroma with like a nice smell. But when whoever chose that name just thought the great stink. That's a good name, isn't it?

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, well, I think it. Yeah, it's great in the intensity of it, but yeah, I would think aroma, I'd think like perfumes, nice smelling flowers, that kind of thing. I would never put it with this. Maybe, maybe the script is being a bit quirky there but. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Martin:
Well it does then change with a stench so that that's moving more, much more towards stink.

Charlie:
Yeah a stench I'd say is a stronger stink, wouldn't you?

Martin:
Absolutely. And it is amazing to think how a smell could lead to such pivotal changes. And this isn't just about a fleeting odour, but a story that shaped the future of a city.

Charlie:
Yeah. So we journey back to the mid 19th century London. It's it's quite important to paint a vivid picture of the city's landscape. So London was undergoing an incredible transformation. The industrial revolution was in full swing, right. And bringing with it not only advancements but challenges. The city's population was exploding, and with that growth came a pressing strain on its resources. So buildings stretching as far as the eye could see, factories billowing smoke into the sky and the Thames was this once pristine river, was now looking a little worse for wear. It was looking more like a murky soup bearing the brunt of this urban explosion. Martin, do you do you think that you would fare well in these times?

Martin:
Any difficult times I don't fare well in, as we were just talking about at the beginning of the podcast. Um, uh, so I definitely wouldn't, but it is interesting to know. So this is new for me, that this was the beginning of the Thames being absolutely disgusting then.

Charlie:
Yeah. And it's never, never recovered. Still disgusting.

Martin:
I've seen pictures of like I think it's like the 50s where people were jumping into the Thames and you just think, what the hell were you doing? There are those places in London where it's almost like a little beach. I'm not sure if you've seen it. Um, I think it's quite near Southbank. I'm not 100% sure.

Charlie:
Yeah, I was told about this by my barber the other day.

Martin:
It's as if they're on holiday at the beach, getting into the Thames, which is just absolutely disgusting.

Charlie:
Yeah, I wouldn't recommend it, guys. I mean, you'd learn very quickly as soon as you see it, but I think locals don't typically think of having a dip in the Thames.

Martin:
No, exactly. And let's obviously not forget the sanitation or should I say lack thereof. With the boom of the city's inhabitants and limited understanding of waste management, London's streets and alleys became littered with refuse. The common practice was to toss waste into cesspits or directly onto the streets, and astonishingly, much of this would eventually find its way into the Thames, the very river supplying water to homes and businesses. The concept of a centralised sewage system virtually nonexistent. It's easy to imagine how the stage was set for a crisis, isn't it, Charlie?

Charlie:
It really is like. I mean, was loo paper a thing back then?

Martin:
I'd never asked myself that question, but that is a very good question.

Charlie:
When was loo paper invented? 1857.

Martin:
Loo paper was invented? This was in 1858, wasn't it? So it was invented just before the Great Stink.

Charlie:
The year before? Maybe that's part of it. Oh my God.

Martin:
I think we've we've got to the bottom of this, haven't we?

Charlie:
Yeah. We don't need to talk about this anymore. So it was the loo paper. No we're joking. But that might have caused like the roads to be even more disgusting. Imagine chucking down your waste with all that loo paper. It would get all...

Martin:
Of course. And the sewage system? Could it handle that?

Charlie:
No. Probably not.

Martin:
And what... how were toilets flushing in 1858? What was the, I suppose, bucket of water?

Charlie:
Yeah. Bucket of water. Yeah. Have you done that in your life? Like forced a manual flush. So many times.

Martin:
So many times. When we were in Italy, our toilet was always breaking. Um, so I've done that so many times. Too many times.

Charlie:
Would you say. Would you say you're quite good at it?

Martin:
I'd say I'm pretty good because it has to be like an aggressive toss, if that. Yeah. If I'm allowed to say that, it sounds a bit dodgy, but it has to be... You have to aggressively throw that water down the toilet. Otherwise nothing is going.

Charlie:
Yeah, but whether they were good at aggressively tossing down the toilet, I don't know. But but yeah, they would just chuck it out of the window wouldn't they. So you don't want to be too aggressive with your toss there because somebody might be walking underneath. And this is all going down the streets to the river.

Martin:
Oh my god.

Charlie:
God, yeah. Um, so yeah, as if the existing sanitation issues weren't pressing enough, July of 1858 threw in another challenge. London was gripped by an unprecedented heat wave. Temperatures soared, and this only made the stench from the polluted Thames even more potent. So the river heated under the relentless sun, emanating a smell that was even more unbearable than before. I cannot believe how bad that would be. That would. That would be the great stink. I can get it. I get it now.

Martin:
Absolutely. And obviously give British people just another reason to moan about the weather because...

Charlie:
Oh yeah, yeah, it's too hot. It's too hot.

Martin:
Especially when you've got this disgusting smell. And then the heat wave only comes when we've got this, the Great Stink. That's what I can imagine people saying.

Charlie:
Yeah, definitely.

Martin:
But obviously it was more than just an inconvenience. It was a disruption to the very core of daily life in London. Imagine the Houses of Parliament, the epicentre of British governance, not being spared from this overpowering odour. In a desperate attempt to combat the stench, members of Parliament even resorted to drenching their curtains in chloride of lime. Key discussions and debates central to the operation of the country now had this very strange backdrop. It was clear that this was a crisis demanding immediate attention.

Charlie:
Yeah. Imagine that. So a chloride of lime. So I guess just very citrusy, right? It would smell really, really citrusy in the Houses of Parliament to try and drown out this Great Stench.

Martin:
Absolutely.

Charlie:
I suppose that's a logical thing.

Martin:
To get...

Charlie:
To get rid of the smell.

Martin:
Yeah, I would probably just pack my bags and just leave the country. I've already left the country once in my life, so that would have been my plan of attack. As I mentioned when you said, how would you have dealt with this? I'm never very good in disasters, very much like running away from problems. So that would have been my strategy.

Charlie:
Yeah. I wonder how many people did leave London because of this?

Martin:
I would say a few.

Charlie:
Yeah. Maybe there's some history in like people's ancestry of like, oh, why are you in the south of Europe? Ah, my great great great grandparents, the Great Stink. They couldn't handle it.

Martin:
They couldn't handle the Great Stink.

Charlie:
Yeah. So one of the fascinating aspects of this time period was the prevailing understanding of disease. There was a dominant theory known as the miasma theory. Essentially, it was the belief that diseases, especially those like cholera, were caused not by bacteria or pathogens, but by bad air or miasmas, miasmas. I think that's how they say it.

Martin:
I'm glad you're saying that and not me, by the way.

Charlie:
So imagine with the great stink taking over, many Londoners were petrified because they would probably be thinking that they're getting this disease right. So they thought that this foul air enveloping the city was not just unpleasant, but a direct threat to their health. It's weird to think, isn't it? Like we, I think arrogantly, oh, silly them. But if everyone's telling you that information, that's that's what you naturally think, isn't it?

Martin:
Of course. And I think comparisons can be made there with the Covid situation. Now, I was in Italy where it, well in Europe was the first country that was hit. And I can tell you those first few days where no one knew what was happening, many people I must admit, this was the only time in my life where I didn't panic and actually just thought, I'm going to live my life like normal. But so many people were so scared of absolutely everything. Like wearing gloves in the supermarket. Masks. Like not going anywhere near you. Um, so I think definite comparisons can be made there.

Charlie:
Yeah. A scary time. Well done for not leaving the country like you said that you normally do in a crisis. Yeah, although you're now in London. So did you?

Martin:
No, I stuck it out for a bit. Um, and then. And then quickly left after. Um, but yeah, in Italy as well. It was crazy. The difference I noticed when I came back to England was incredible. And I think it really showed the difference in culture there, because English people were just kind of like, I'll just get on with it. So you'd go to the shops and things and no one was wearing masks. And whilst in Italy it was just like so rigid, like you had to wear masks. People would like, verbally abuse you if you weren't, um, whilst in England it just seemed like no one cared at all.

Charlie:
Right. I mean, I did see some like viral videos on Ladbible of this kind of situation, but in your everyday life, I think that's. Yeah, actually I can't comment because I wasn't in the UK during Covid, but I can imagine, yeah, that to be accurate in our culture.

Martin:
Yeah. No, definitely. And I think even Boris Johnson at the beginning his stance was like we're not doing anything, just carry on. I think that's a British way sometimes of just like if you don't feel well, like, you know, just get on with it, just go to work. Um, which. Isn't probably the best in situations like this. So yeah, obviously can totally understand why why these people were petrified. Um, but while the miasma theory wasn't accurate, the concern for health was very real. London had faced several cholera outbreaks prior to 1858. While the stink itself didn't cause these diseases, it certainly shone a spotlight on the deplorable sanitation conditions that did not play a role in disease spread. The stench from the Thames was a wake up call, making it impossible to ignore the broader health crisis plaguing the city.

Charlie:
Nasty. And yeah, so the Great Stink wasn't just a topic of hushed whispers or casual conversations. It dominated the headlines. Yeah, maybe. Maybe a bit of clickbait back then or I suppose. No, not clickbait.

Martin:
Yeah. I don't think anyone was clicking. Yeah.

Charlie:
So, um, newspaper newspapers were filled with dramatic descriptions of the situation. Headlines like The Great Stench and London Under Siege by Foul Air, painted a vivid picture. The media didn't just report on the crisis, they amplified the public's outcry. Their relentless coverage played a pivotal role in emphasising the urgent need for change.

Martin:
Now, it is almost comforting to know that the media hasn't changed that much, because that's exactly what I would imagine today.

Charlie:
Yes, yes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. They've got to sell the newspapers somehow.

Martin:
Yeah, exactly. But it wasn't just journalists and newspapers that brought attention to this issue. Renowned figures of the time weighed in too. Take Charles Dickens, for instance. He wrote about the stench in his letters describing the Thames as a deadly sewer. It's intriguing how figures like Dickens, who already had such profound influence on society, further highlighted the severity of the situation. Their voices echoed the public's sentiments, cementing the fact that London was facing a crisis that couldn't be ignored.

Charlie:
Charles Dickens getting...

Martin:
Getting involved.

Charlie:
Yeah. Getting involved. Good on him. Good on him, I suppose. And mean you can't not think about it if you're writing and the stench is coming through your nostrils. I mean, it would have to play a part in your writing, right?

Martin:
Of course. And obviously so back then, someone like Dickens. Obviously so important. Whilst you think now everyone would be making YouTube videos about that, TikToks, wouldn't they?

Charlie:
Yeah, people would be like five hacks on how to get the stench out of your room.

Martin:
Absolutely.

Charlie:
Yeah. So I guess when faced with adversity, sometimes all it takes is one visionary to turn the tide. Enter Sir Joseph, I would like to say Joseph Bazalgette. Would you would you guess that?

Martin:
Yeah. That sounds good to me. We'll go with that.

Charlie:
Yeah. Sir Joseph, let's just call him Sir Joseph.

Martin:
Let's call him Joe.

Charlie:
Joe! Joe, the civil engineer had a vision and that apparently would transform London. So Joe saw beyond the immediate crisis, and he envisaged a comprehensive sewer system that wouldn't just address the current stench, but would cater to a rapidly growing London for generations to come.

Martin:
So it looks like Sir Joe saved the day.

Charlie:
Mhm. Yeah. More than just the day.

Martin:
Well yeah. And I'm not sure but I would like to think that's how he became a sir. He wasn't a sir before this happened.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah I'd guess so. Yeah.

Martin:
I don't know. That definitely for me warrants the title sir. If you've basically saved the City of London.

Charlie:
Absolutely. Yeah. They're handing it out willy nilly nowadays.

Martin:
Yeah.

Charlie:
I think back then that would definitely be necessary.

Martin:
Absolutely. But Sir Joe's design was ambitious. He proposed a series of interconnecting sewers, both large and small, that would intercept the waste before it reached the Thames. But the challenges were immense. Building such a system in a sprawling, bustling city was no easy feat. There were engineering challenges, political hurdles and financial constraints, but through determination and innovation, by 1875, the majority of the system was complete. It wasn't just an engineering marvel, but a testament to human resilience and foresight.

Charlie:
Hmm.

Martin:
So are we talking this stench, this stink lasted 17 years because we've gone from 1858, and this is now this system complete in 1875.

Charlie:
Yeah, I, I would hope not for everyone, I think. No, I think it was just the heat that made it so great.

Martin:
Right.

Charlie:
So come the winter and they don't need to douse their curtains in citrus smelling stuff as often maybe.

Martin:
Right. So and then there were no more heat waves until 1875.

Charlie:
I mean, probably it probably got a bit smelly every summer until the system was in place.

Martin:
Surely you would think of leaving if it was 17 years. I thought this was just like a one week thing.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's a long period.

Charlie:
We have come to the end of part one, so feel free to take a break from your listening practice, but if you're happy to keep going, then we're now moving on to part two of this episode. Thanks so much for being a premium or Academy member and enjoy the rest of the show.

Charlie:
But do you reckon anyone sort of took it upon themselves to do a bit of litter picking, like you see nowadays?

Martin:
I would like to think so. I used to do that when I was in Italy, on the beach.

Charlie:
Bloody good of you, sir.

Martin:
Yeah. You just feel like a really good citizen. Like a really good human. I must admit, when I was picking things up, I was kind of thinking, is anyone going to take a picture of me and, like, put me in the local news?

Charlie:
So you're doing it all for the right reasons.

Martin:
Oh, yeah. Of course. It's it's just one of those things. If you see someone picking up rubbish, you think that's a good person. I think there are other things like this. I think making homemade bread, if you do that, if you tell people you've made homemade bread, they think... That's a good person.

Charlie:
I don't know if I do. I don't know if I do.

Martin:
No?

Charlie:
I think you've got a lot of time on your hands and you really have a hobby that you enjoy. I don't think you're a good person.

Martin:
See, I think there's just something honest about you. And another one, I noticed this, is riding a bicycle. If you ride a bicycle, people just think he's... He's a good guy. He rides a bike. Don't. Don't say anything bad about him. He rides a bike. He's a good guy.

Charlie:
So if you went on a first date with somebody and they said they they had just ridden here after baking a loaf of bread, and tomorrow they're going to go litter picking, would you immediately get down on one knee or is it not really the kind of bucket list that you're looking for in a romantic partner?

Martin:
Yeah, I think it would be like too much of a good girl. Like maybe she would believe in, like, no sex before marriage as well, so. So I, I'd be like you, you're a lovely person. Just can't see this relationship going anywhere.

Charlie:
You're too good. I'm a respectful gangster. We're just too...

Martin:
Exactly.

Charlie:
Oh, that was a joke from the other episode we did, guys. That was on Martin's podcast. So head over to Rock and Roll English. What do you reckon the title will be? Any ideas? That podcast.

Martin:
History of Britain. Something like that.

Charlie:
The history of Britain. We went through the decades.

Martin:
Inspired by Charlie actually.

Charlie:
Okay.

Martin:
Through his history podcast.

Charlie:
Right. I see. And on that note, let's continue. So the Great Stink wasn't just a fleeting episode in London's history. Its implications ran deep. Post the Stink, I like that, post the Stink, there was a seismic shift in public health policies. The realisation that sanitation wasn't just about dealing with an unpleasant odour, but was intrinsically linked to the health and well-being of a city's inhabitants, became paramount. It ushered in an era where urban planning began to prioritise health and sanitation, laying the groundwork for modern cities worldwide.

Martin:
Very interesting. Now, I don't I do know another fact. I know about three facts. To try to make myself sound intelligent. Probably was before this but talking of like being hygienic and stuff like this and sanitation, um, doctors, apparently when they were delivering babies, the babies were dying and it was because the doctors apparently weren't washing their hands. But the doctors, they said that they didn't need to wash them because they're doctors. So they're naturally clean, good people. So I don't know when that was. But like it says here, times started to change and people realised being clean and hygienic is actually quite important.

Charlie:
Mental to just go from patient to patient, not even thinking. But again, we're assuming this is silly because we were raised with this knowledge.

Martin:
Yes. Exactly. Well, even if you look at our lifetimes, maybe you're just a bit young. But for when started, when I started going out, you would go to a pub and everyone would be smoking inside the pub. That to me now feels like ridiculous. And people used to smoke on aeroplanes. Like, just think of someone smoking on an aeroplane.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's true. I think about what the future generations will think of, about our generation like what we do now. What is disgusting? I have a suspicion that, uh, the traffic pollution will be the gross thing. Like I reckon urban planning will create. Well, maybe electric cars will solve this somewhat, but they'll be like, oh my God, you used to like, sit outside a cafe where trucks were going past.

Martin:
I think you're on to something there. You've seen the future, or everyone go on a bicycle and then everyone will be naturally a very good person. Maybe that's how to get peace in the world as well. If everyone just starts.

Speaker3:
Yeah.

Martin:
Using bikes and not cars.

Charlie:
Yeah. Martin, did you know that I ride a bike? Oh, you ride a bike too?

Martin:
I ride a bike, yeah.

Charlie:
Hang on. Are you just trying to make yourself sound good?

Martin:
Well, the funny thing is, I do think I was a bit of an idiot and not such a nice person until I started riding a bike. And now I think I'm. I'm all right. But before...

Charlie:
So the bike made you good?

Martin:
I think it just. It just rubbed off on me. Yeah. Something about the the goodness of the bike just turned me into a good person.

Charlie:
Yeah. Something about the oil.

Martin:
Yes. It's just it's just something about it. And as well, I think if you go to work on your bike, you naturally feel better than you do if you go in the car and listen to the radio.

Charlie:
Yeah. Or public transport. It must be frustrating mentally not being able to exercise.

Martin:
Yeah, exactly. Um, so there we go. So anyway, fast forward to today and the ripples of that transformation are still evident. Every time we walk the streets of London, we're walking above Sir Joe's extensive sewer network, a system that's still functional and essential. Embankment, one of London's iconic locations, was created as part of his project. And it's not just about infrastructure, it's about the mindset. The Great Stink served as a reminder of the interconnectedness of urban life, public health and infrastructure. It's a legacy that underscores the importance of foresight and adaptability in urban development.

Charlie:
There we go. Yeah, good old Sir Joe.

Martin:
So the sewer network. Sir Joe was the man for the sewer network. I thought the Romans were the big ones for the sewers.

Charlie:
Okay, I, I associate them with aqueducts. Aren't they them?

Martin:
They did lots of stuff, didn't they, those Romans.

Charlie:
Oh, they did a lot. Yeah, they did a lot. But I think of them as getting fresh water in the city.

Martin:
Right. Okay.

Charlie:
Do you reckon they also thought of the sewage system?

Martin:
I'm sure they're famous for that as well. Yeah, I thought so. But if you think about, the crazy thing about that is Romans were doing all of this like incredible stuff. And people like in England were just like living in a cave, and they were like building the Colosseum. Because obviously we're going way back with the Romans here.

Charlie:
Yes. Yeah, I just googled it. The Romans had a complex system of sewers covered by stones, much like modern sewers. Wow. So they were ahead of the game. So, yeah, the Romans definitely had sewage systems. Right? But the Romans invaded... The Romans invaded us, right? So why didn't they sort out the sewage system in London?

Martin:
Well, maybe they did, but when they left, they just like said, well, fuck it, we're just gonna, um, just gonna, like, ruin this, um, sewage system. Which reminds me of a story of my friend who said he bought a house, and then the people that were selling the house said, do you want, like, this shed in the garden? And, like, you can just give us an extra, like, £200 or something? And my friend said no. So then the people, before they left, just smashed the shed. So.

Charlie:
So so what a spiteful couple of people.

Martin:
So that kind of reminds me, maybe it was like that. The Romans just said, well, we're leaving now. So, you know, we'll just mess up all these sewers that we've made. And then you can just live in the Great Stink.

Charlie:
Yeah. Maybe they they swapped the connections. Fresh water with sewage. Have some of that. Oh, the water's brown. Yeah. The Romans left.

Charlie:
We have come to the end of part two now. So again, feel free to pause the episode to take a break from your listening practice and come back to the last part when you're ready. Alright. So moving on to part three now. Enjoy.

Charlie:
Oh, actually, AI has come to our rescue. So the Romans are indeed well known for their advanced engineering capabilities, especially their construction of aqueducts, roads and sewage systems, among other architectural feats. When they occupied what would become the City of London, then known as Londinium, they brought with them many of these advancements. The Romans did introduce a form of sewage system in Londinium. They built public latrines that were flushed by running water, and they also had drains to carry away run water and waste water from streets and buildings. The Roman sewers were primarily drainage systems designed to deal with surface water rather than human waste on the scale of a modern sewage system.

Martin:
Okay.

Charlie:
Houses typically had cesspits and cesspools where waste was collected, which needed periodic cleaning. However, by the time of the Middle Ages, much of the Roman infrastructure, including the sewerage systems, had been lost or had fallen into disrepair. And also, it says, as London grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution, the old Roman systems, if any remnants existed, would have been entirely inadequate to cope with the increased population density and the resultant waste. This led to issues like the Great Stink. But yeah, there we go. So that was quite informative. A lot to digest for you guys as listeners. Thank you very much, Martin, for helping me through that one. I feel like I learned quite a lot there.

Martin:
I would definitely agree. I must admit, my knowledge of the Great Stink. That's not one of the big ones I don't think. In school did you did you do the Great Stink?

Charlie:
I think I picked it out because I remember doing. Did you do topic books in primary school? Do you know what I mean?

Martin:
I don't think so.

Charlie:
It's just like a big book and it's empty. And then you stick things and you mount them on other colours of card.

Martin:
Right.

Charlie:
And then it's kind of like a picture book.

Martin:
Yeah, I believe we did that. So you made one about the Great Stink?

Charlie:
I think one page had the Great Stink in it. Yeah.

Martin:
See, I was thinking like the Great Fire of London. Always great, always.

Charlie:
Great. Great Britain.

Martin:
You never get like, you never get like, you know, the little fire of London or like that, that little smell. It has to be great.

Charlie:
And it's interesting because I often throw in a, oh, a little bit or like in language, I often reduce the severity of what I'm trying to say in, in the way that I'm using these little add ons in language. And I think it's quite British to do that. It was how was work? It was, it was alright. Like you're always bringing it down, aren't you? But in these cases they're saying the Great Stink.

Martin:
Of course, I would imagine it was probably something coined by a newspaper. So for example, these days we have like Brexit and I think now there's even is it Megxit with um, Meghan and Harry leaving the royal family. It's Megxit or something like that.

Charlie:
But it's not the great Megxit is it.

Martin:
Yeah. But still I think because you need to give these things a name and then it just sticks, doesn't it? Um, there was the recent thing with Wayne Rooney's wife with the other footballer, and they call it the Wagatha Christie trial because it was so. Wags was a name again coined by newspapers which were wives and girlfriends of footballers. And these two footballers wives had an argument and it went to court and they called it the Wagatha Christie case. But then that's that's used like on the news. That's the strange thing that like, you're watching BBC news and then like someone will say like Wagatha Christie or something like that.

Charlie:
Goodness me. Because I appreciate it. You know, the Sun or whoever is writing up these puns, they're thinking, right, as long as it's got a pun and it's informative in some way and it's catchy, then they go with it. But yeah, to read that out in like what most would assume is quite legitimate journalism in the BBC newsroom, that's quite funny.

Martin:
I actually recently did a podcast about language that you find in newspapers because it is... And when you kind of look at it, you would always see things like words like romp, you know, like which you would never you would never say like a footballer in secret romp with someone else, or secret love child like they use the language of tabloid, especially tabloid newspapers is actually very entertaining, to say the least, because it's so dramatic. And even when you read it, you kind of think like, oh, what's going on here?

Charlie:
Yeah, that's true. I was tempted to buy some gossip magazines and go through them for an episode.

Martin:
I think that should be the next one. That should. That, that is fantastic. It will certainly be a lot easier for me going through a gossip magazine than than it is going through history and reading these words, which I must admit, like panic sets in at one point. And then you're asking yourself, like the most basic thing. Does this ever happen to you? I was actually writing a message the other day, and I think I was writing like, I don't, and I was thinking, is that even correct English? Like, sometimes you just ask yourself the most...

Charlie:
Oh I see. Yeah, yeah, you....

Martin:
Freak out. You know, I was just like, my mind just almost went blank. And I was thinking, I think I said like, oh, I don't like it, I don't know. And I was thinking like... What's going on? My mind just goes blank sometimes I think maybe even as an English teacher. Like maybe you ask yourself too much sometimes. Like, you kind of.

Charlie:
I really agree with that. Really agree. And then you panic because you're like, oh, I'm I need to know this question kind of thing. One word that always gets me is past and passed. And I always in the stupidest situations, confuse them. And it's such a faux pas to to do that. Faux pas. I actually pronounced that, the first time I said it out loud I said faux pax? Or something.

Martin:
Yeah, because it's like p a u x, isn't it?

Charlie:
Yeah. So which is very ironic to make a faux pas on the pronunciation of faux pas.

Martin:
Well. Even the word that you just said there, the word pronunciation, 99% of British people say pronunciation. And even I did that, and I got corrected by a colleague at an English school I was working at, because everyone knows the word pronounce.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Martin:
And unless you're an English teacher, probably you've never really spoken about pronunciation in your whole life.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Martin:
So you just naturally think pronounce must be pronunciation.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Martin:
Yeah. That's. And again, it's very ironic that the word pronunciation is almost always...

Charlie:
Mispronounced! Yeah.

Martin:
Exactly. But it was also so funny how just a very small error like that can be so funny. I remember with an Australian friend once we were playing, we were doing some quiz and it had the word like Yorkshire and he said like Yorkshire. And everyone basically just erupted. I had the same with a Canadian friend that said Portsmouth in the office and everyone just erupted with laughter.

Charlie:
It's so cruel because English being a non phonetic language, the locals know how to say it and then as soon as they hear somebody get it wrong, it's like, haha, you idiot, you fell for the logical reason in which you're trying to say that thing. Like, I went to my wife's neighbourhood for the first time and I pronounced it Leominster or it's. I think it's Lemp and they say Lempster, it's spelt Leominster, but they say Lempster and yeah, crazy difference. Lots, lots of the regions in the UK are like that, aren't they?

Martin:
Oh of course, yeah. But still. Sort of getting used to saying my wife then? I noticed you had to stop and think there.

Charlie:
Yes. Yeah. Well I feel like if I say it casually, I sound pompous because you know that I'm newlywed.

Martin:
Yeah. Yeah I mean, it's. Yeah, I didn't really have that because in Italy it's so common to use that more than I think it is in England, because yeah, I agree. If you say that in England, I don't know, like even my mother in law, when she talks about my father in law, she will refer to him as my husband. And I kind of think like, yeah, I know who he is. Like.

Charlie:
That's really weird. Yeah, yeah. I saw a bit by a comedian who says, like my wife in a very aggressive, owning sort of status. And it is quite weird, isn't it? I have a wife. Yeah, she is mine.

Martin:
Yeah, I totally agree. But in Italian that's it's like people use that much more I think.

Charlie:
I will get used to it and I do like saying it, but I just think it's a switch. And if I have known somebody before being married, I feel uncomfortable just quickly saying it. It's like, oh yeah, you've got a wife now. Showing off! You're a mature man, I get it, you've got a ring.

Martin:
Yeah. It's like it almost sounds like you're you're almost embarrassed to say it sometimes, which is ridiculous because there's nothing, there should be nothing strange or embarrassing about it, but. Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah.

Martin:
I see your point.

Charlie:
Thank you once again, Martin. Appreciate that. Guys, go check out the episode that we did on his show Rock and roll English. Yeah, the the history one. Through the Decades.

Martin:
Something. Through the decades. Yeah. Let's let's make up a title now.

Charlie:
But yeah. Thank you very much, Martin. And I look forward to doing it sometime in the future and have a lovely rest of your week.

Martin:
You too. Pleasure as always. Thanks a lot, and I'll see you soon.

Charlie:
See you guys. Bye bye.

Charlie:
There we go. The end of part three. Meaning the end of the episode. Well done for getting through the entirety of it. Make sure you use all of the resources available to you in your membership. Thanks once again for supporting the show, and I look forward to seeing you next time on the British English Podcast.

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Transcript of Premium Version 5-Transcript

Charlie:
Hello and welcome back to the British English Podcast, the show all about British culture and British English. And today we're going back in time. We're going to give you a bit of history. Um, and I've chosen one. This is a bit smelly! And in no way is this the reason why I've invited Martin from Rock and Roll English on the show, but I thought it would be fun to go through some content together on this topic. Thank you very much, Martin, for agreeing to choose this topic with me.

Martin:
Very happy to be here to talk about a bad smell.

Charlie:
Are you doing all right?

Martin:
I have to say yes just to psych myself up. But... Maybe later in life, Charlie, because you're a married man now, I don't know what the future holds for you, but if you do decide to go down the children route, my advice is spread them out a bit more than I did.

Charlie:
Yeah, okay, so you did one at the age of two, and then you went again.

Martin:
Yes. There's exactly two years between them.

Charlie:
Yes. That's a nicer way of saying it.

Martin:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. I think seeing my sister struggle with this because she had twins after her first one and they tried, they had two years between them. Um, yeah.

Martin:
Wow. So she had three.

Charlie:
Three under three. Yeah.

Martin:
Wow.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know a lot of people are against this, but I'd like to just have one.

Martin:
I hope my son never listens to this, but I do sometimes. I do sometimes ask myself if it... If it would have been better.

Charlie:
That's really refreshing to hear because most people are like, of course it was the right decision. But yeah, interesting.

Martin:
I'm sure I will hate myself in years for saying that, but um, but no, in fact it does get easier and it already is much easier. But those first few months, there are some dark times, believe me.

Charlie:
Yeah, I'm very much enjoying my immense amount of free time to myself.

Martin:
I actually think when I look at pictures, I even see a picture the week before my daughter was born. And I look at that picture and I think I was so young then, because just from that moment, because that's the thing, it's your time. It's not. You don't change as a person, but it's like, I can't do this now because I have to. Yeah, take care of this small human.

Charlie:
You can't do all of the things that made you you, I guess.

Martin:
Yeah, just lots of things that you enjoyed doing, which you then can't do. That's that's the problem.

Charlie:
Yeah. Well, I look forward to those days. If I'm blessed with a child. Of course, of course. Um, but. Yeah. So we're here to talk about the great stink. So what is the great stink? We will tell you all about it. We've gathered together some thoughts on paper, so we're going to have a little read through them and then discuss the the way in which we wrote it down perhaps as well.

Charlie:
So let's, let's journey back to the mid 19th century London and you've got to picture bustling streets, the heart of the industrial revolution and innovations emerging from every corner. Goodness me. Yet amidst this progress, London faced a unique and pressing crisis in the summer of 1858. And this is known as the Great Stink. It wasn't just a quirky moment of history. It was this intense aroma that became a turning point for urban planning and public health. It was a stench so overwhelming it even disrupted the British parliament. Pretty mental, right?

Martin:
Absolutely. And I love how they chose the name for this event as the Great Stink. Yet when people describe it like you were there, you have like intense aroma and you think, oh wow, I actually associate aroma with like a nice smell. But when whoever chose that name just thought the great stink. That's a good name, isn't it?

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, well, I think it. Yeah, it's great in the intensity of it, but yeah, I would think aroma, I'd think like perfumes, nice smelling flowers, that kind of thing. I would never put it with this. Maybe, maybe the script is being a bit quirky there but. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Martin:
Well it does then change with a stench so that that's moving more, much more towards stink.

Charlie:
Yeah a stench I'd say is a stronger stink, wouldn't you?

Martin:
Absolutely. And it is amazing to think how a smell could lead to such pivotal changes. And this isn't just about a fleeting odour, but a story that shaped the future of a city.

Charlie:
Yeah. So we journey back to the mid 19th century London. It's it's quite important to paint a vivid picture of the city's landscape. So London was undergoing an incredible transformation. The industrial revolution was in full swing, right. And bringing with it not only advancements but challenges. The city's population was exploding, and with that growth came a pressing strain on its resources. So buildings stretching as far as the eye could see, factories billowing smoke into the sky and the Thames was this once pristine river, was now looking a little worse for wear. It was looking more like a murky soup bearing the brunt of this urban explosion. Martin, do you do you think that you would fare well in these times?

Martin:
Any difficult times I don't fare well in, as we were just talking about at the beginning of the podcast. Um, uh, so I definitely wouldn't, but it is interesting to know. So this is new for me, that this was the beginning of the Thames being absolutely disgusting then.

Charlie:
Yeah. And it's never, never recovered. Still disgusting.

Martin:
I've seen pictures of like I think it's like the 50s where people were jumping into the Thames and you just think, what the hell were you doing? There are those places in London where it's almost like a little beach. I'm not sure if you've seen it. Um, I think it's quite near Southbank. I'm not 100% sure.

Charlie:
Yeah, I was told about this by my barber the other day.

Martin:
It's as if they're on holiday at the beach, getting into the Thames, which is just absolutely disgusting.

Charlie:
Yeah, I wouldn't recommend it, guys. I mean, you'd learn very quickly as soon as you see it, but I think locals don't typically think of having a dip in the Thames.

Martin:
No, exactly. And let's obviously not forget the sanitation or should I say lack thereof. With the boom of the city's inhabitants and limited understanding of waste management, London's streets and alleys became littered with refuse. The common practice was to toss waste into cesspits or directly onto the streets, and astonishingly, much of this would eventually find its way into the Thames, the very river supplying water to homes and businesses. The concept of a centralised sewage system virtually nonexistent. It's easy to imagine how the stage was set for a crisis, isn't it, Charlie?

Charlie:
It really is like. I mean, was loo paper a thing back then?

Martin:
I'd never asked myself that question, but that is a very good question.

Charlie:
When was loo paper invented? 1857.

Martin:
Loo paper was invented? This was in 1858, wasn't it? So it was invented just before the Great Stink.

Charlie:
The year before? Maybe that's part of it. Oh my God.

Martin:
I think we've we've got to the bottom of this, haven't we?

Charlie:
Yeah. We don't need to talk about this anymore. So it was the loo paper. No we're joking. But that might have caused like the roads to be even more disgusting. Imagine chucking down your waste with all that loo paper. It would get all...

Martin:
Of course. And the sewage system? Could it handle that?

Charlie:
No. Probably not.

Martin:
And what... how were toilets flushing in 1858? What was the, I suppose, bucket of water?

Charlie:
Yeah. Bucket of water. Yeah. Have you done that in your life? Like forced a manual flush. So many times.

Martin:
So many times. When we were in Italy, our toilet was always breaking. Um, so I've done that so many times. Too many times.

Charlie:
Would you say. Would you say you're quite good at it?

Martin:
I'd say I'm pretty good because it has to be like an aggressive toss, if that. Yeah. If I'm allowed to say that, it sounds a bit dodgy, but it has to be... You have to aggressively throw that water down the toilet. Otherwise nothing is going.

Charlie:
Yeah, but whether they were good at aggressively tossing down the toilet, I don't know. But but yeah, they would just chuck it out of the window wouldn't they. So you don't want to be too aggressive with your toss there because somebody might be walking underneath. And this is all going down the streets to the river.

Martin:
Oh my god.

Charlie:
God, yeah. Um, so yeah, as if the existing sanitation issues weren't pressing enough, July of 1858 threw in another challenge. London was gripped by an unprecedented heat wave. Temperatures soared, and this only made the stench from the polluted Thames even more potent. So the river heated under the relentless sun, emanating a smell that was even more unbearable than before. I cannot believe how bad that would be. That would. That would be the great stink. I can get it. I get it now.

Martin:
Absolutely. And obviously give British people just another reason to moan about the weather because...

Charlie:
Oh yeah, yeah, it's too hot. It's too hot.

Martin:
Especially when you've got this disgusting smell. And then the heat wave only comes when we've got this, the Great Stink. That's what I can imagine people saying.

Charlie:
Yeah, definitely.

Martin:
But obviously it was more than just an inconvenience. It was a disruption to the very core of daily life in London. Imagine the Houses of Parliament, the epicentre of British governance, not being spared from this overpowering odour. In a desperate attempt to combat the stench, members of Parliament even resorted to drenching their curtains in chloride of lime. Key discussions and debates central to the operation of the country now had this very strange backdrop. It was clear that this was a crisis demanding immediate attention.

Charlie:
Yeah. Imagine that. So a chloride of lime. So I guess just very citrusy, right? It would smell really, really citrusy in the Houses of Parliament to try and drown out this Great Stench.

Martin:
Absolutely.

Charlie:
I suppose that's a logical thing.

Martin:
To get...

Charlie:
To get rid of the smell.

Martin:
Yeah, I would probably just pack my bags and just leave the country. I've already left the country once in my life, so that would have been my plan of attack. As I mentioned when you said, how would you have dealt with this? I'm never very good in disasters, very much like running away from problems. So that would have been my strategy.

Charlie:
Yeah. I wonder how many people did leave London because of this?

Martin:
I would say a few.

Charlie:
Yeah. Maybe there's some history in like people's ancestry of like, oh, why are you in the south of Europe? Ah, my great great great grandparents, the Great Stink. They couldn't handle it.

Martin:
They couldn't handle the Great Stink.

Charlie:
Yeah. So one of the fascinating aspects of this time period was the prevailing understanding of disease. There was a dominant theory known as the miasma theory. Essentially, it was the belief that diseases, especially those like cholera, were caused not by bacteria or pathogens, but by bad air or miasmas, miasmas. I think that's how they say it.

Martin:
I'm glad you're saying that and not me, by the way.

Charlie:
So imagine with the great stink taking over, many Londoners were petrified because they would probably be thinking that they're getting this disease right. So they thought that this foul air enveloping the city was not just unpleasant, but a direct threat to their health. It's weird to think, isn't it? Like we, I think arrogantly, oh, silly them. But if everyone's telling you that information, that's that's what you naturally think, isn't it?

Martin:
Of course. And I think comparisons can be made there with the Covid situation. Now, I was in Italy where it, well in Europe was the first country that was hit. And I can tell you those first few days where no one knew what was happening, many people I must admit, this was the only time in my life where I didn't panic and actually just thought, I'm going to live my life like normal. But so many people were so scared of absolutely everything. Like wearing gloves in the supermarket. Masks. Like not going anywhere near you. Um, so I think definite comparisons can be made there.

Charlie:
Yeah. A scary time. Well done for not leaving the country like you said that you normally do in a crisis. Yeah, although you're now in London. So did you?

Martin:
No, I stuck it out for a bit. Um, and then. And then quickly left after. Um, but yeah, in Italy as well. It was crazy. The difference I noticed when I came back to England was incredible. And I think it really showed the difference in culture there, because English people were just kind of like, I'll just get on with it. So you'd go to the shops and things and no one was wearing masks. And whilst in Italy it was just like so rigid, like you had to wear masks. People would like, verbally abuse you if you weren't, um, whilst in England it just seemed like no one cared at all.

Charlie:
Right. I mean, I did see some like viral videos on Ladbible of this kind of situation, but in your everyday life, I think that's. Yeah, actually I can't comment because I wasn't in the UK during Covid, but I can imagine, yeah, that to be accurate in our culture.

Martin:
Yeah. No, definitely. And I think even Boris Johnson at the beginning his stance was like we're not doing anything, just carry on. I think that's a British way sometimes of just like if you don't feel well, like, you know, just get on with it, just go to work. Um, which. Isn't probably the best in situations like this. So yeah, obviously can totally understand why why these people were petrified. Um, but while the miasma theory wasn't accurate, the concern for health was very real. London had faced several cholera outbreaks prior to 1858. While the stink itself didn't cause these diseases, it certainly shone a spotlight on the deplorable sanitation conditions that did not play a role in disease spread. The stench from the Thames was a wake up call, making it impossible to ignore the broader health crisis plaguing the city.

Charlie:
Nasty. And yeah, so the Great Stink wasn't just a topic of hushed whispers or casual conversations. It dominated the headlines. Yeah, maybe. Maybe a bit of clickbait back then or I suppose. No, not clickbait.

Martin:
Yeah. I don't think anyone was clicking. Yeah.

Charlie:
So, um, newspaper newspapers were filled with dramatic descriptions of the situation. Headlines like The Great Stench and London Under Siege by Foul Air, painted a vivid picture. The media didn't just report on the crisis, they amplified the public's outcry. Their relentless coverage played a pivotal role in emphasising the urgent need for change.

Martin:
Now, it is almost comforting to know that the media hasn't changed that much, because that's exactly what I would imagine today.

Charlie:
Yes, yes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. They've got to sell the newspapers somehow.

Martin:
Yeah, exactly. But it wasn't just journalists and newspapers that brought attention to this issue. Renowned figures of the time weighed in too. Take Charles Dickens, for instance. He wrote about the stench in his letters describing the Thames as a deadly sewer. It's intriguing how figures like Dickens, who already had such profound influence on society, further highlighted the severity of the situation. Their voices echoed the public's sentiments, cementing the fact that London was facing a crisis that couldn't be ignored.

Charlie:
Charles Dickens getting...

Martin:
Getting involved.

Charlie:
Yeah. Getting involved. Good on him. Good on him, I suppose. And mean you can't not think about it if you're writing and the stench is coming through your nostrils. I mean, it would have to play a part in your writing, right?

Martin:
Of course. And obviously so back then, someone like Dickens. Obviously so important. Whilst you think now everyone would be making YouTube videos about that, TikToks, wouldn't they?

Charlie:
Yeah, people would be like five hacks on how to get the stench out of your room.

Martin:
Absolutely.

Charlie:
Yeah. So I guess when faced with adversity, sometimes all it takes is one visionary to turn the tide. Enter Sir Joseph, I would like to say Joseph Bazalgette. Would you would you guess that?

Martin:
Yeah. That sounds good to me. We'll go with that.

Charlie:
Yeah. Sir Joseph, let's just call him Sir Joseph.

Martin:
Let's call him Joe.

Charlie:
Joe! Joe, the civil engineer had a vision and that apparently would transform London. So Joe saw beyond the immediate crisis, and he envisaged a comprehensive sewer system that wouldn't just address the current stench, but would cater to a rapidly growing London for generations to come.

Martin:
So it looks like Sir Joe saved the day.

Charlie:
Mhm. Yeah. More than just the day.

Martin:
Well yeah. And I'm not sure but I would like to think that's how he became a sir. He wasn't a sir before this happened.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah I'd guess so. Yeah.

Martin:
I don't know. That definitely for me warrants the title sir. If you've basically saved the City of London.

Charlie:
Absolutely. Yeah. They're handing it out willy nilly nowadays.

Martin:
Yeah.

Charlie:
I think back then that would definitely be necessary.

Martin:
Absolutely. But Sir Joe's design was ambitious. He proposed a series of interconnecting sewers, both large and small, that would intercept the waste before it reached the Thames. But the challenges were immense. Building such a system in a sprawling, bustling city was no easy feat. There were engineering challenges, political hurdles and financial constraints, but through determination and innovation, by 1875, the majority of the system was complete. It wasn't just an engineering marvel, but a testament to human resilience and foresight.

Charlie:
Hmm.

Martin:
So are we talking this stench, this stink lasted 17 years because we've gone from 1858, and this is now this system complete in 1875.

Charlie:
Yeah, I, I would hope not for everyone, I think. No, I think it was just the heat that made it so great.

Martin:
Right.

Charlie:
So come the winter and they don't need to douse their curtains in citrus smelling stuff as often maybe.

Martin:
Right. So and then there were no more heat waves until 1875.

Charlie:
I mean, probably it probably got a bit smelly every summer until the system was in place.

Martin:
Surely you would think of leaving if it was 17 years. I thought this was just like a one week thing.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's a long period.

Charlie:
We have come to the end of part one, so feel free to take a break from your listening practice, but if you're happy to keep going, then we're now moving on to part two of this episode. Thanks so much for being a premium or Academy member and enjoy the rest of the show.

Charlie:
But do you reckon anyone sort of took it upon themselves to do a bit of litter picking, like you see nowadays?

Martin:
I would like to think so. I used to do that when I was in Italy, on the beach.

Charlie:
Bloody good of you, sir.

Martin:
Yeah. You just feel like a really good citizen. Like a really good human. I must admit, when I was picking things up, I was kind of thinking, is anyone going to take a picture of me and, like, put me in the local news?

Charlie:
So you're doing it all for the right reasons.

Martin:
Oh, yeah. Of course. It's it's just one of those things. If you see someone picking up rubbish, you think that's a good person. I think there are other things like this. I think making homemade bread, if you do that, if you tell people you've made homemade bread, they think... That's a good person.

Charlie:
I don't know if I do. I don't know if I do.

Martin:
No?

Charlie:
I think you've got a lot of time on your hands and you really have a hobby that you enjoy. I don't think you're a good person.

Martin:
See, I think there's just something honest about you. And another one, I noticed this, is riding a bicycle. If you ride a bicycle, people just think he's... He's a good guy. He rides a bike. Don't. Don't say anything bad about him. He rides a bike. He's a good guy.

Charlie:
So if you went on a first date with somebody and they said they they had just ridden here after baking a loaf of bread, and tomorrow they're going to go litter picking, would you immediately get down on one knee or is it not really the kind of bucket list that you're looking for in a romantic partner?

Martin:
Yeah, I think it would be like too much of a good girl. Like maybe she would believe in, like, no sex before marriage as well, so. So I, I'd be like you, you're a lovely person. Just can't see this relationship going anywhere.

Charlie:
You're too good. I'm a respectful gangster. We're just too...

Martin:
Exactly.

Charlie:
Oh, that was a joke from the other episode we did, guys. That was on Martin's podcast. So head over to Rock and Roll English. What do you reckon the title will be? Any ideas? That podcast.

Martin:
History of Britain. Something like that.

Charlie:
The history of Britain. We went through the decades.

Martin:
Inspired by Charlie actually.

Charlie:
Okay.

Martin:
Through his history podcast.

Charlie:
Right. I see. And on that note, let's continue. So the Great Stink wasn't just a fleeting episode in London's history. Its implications ran deep. Post the Stink, I like that, post the Stink, there was a seismic shift in public health policies. The realisation that sanitation wasn't just about dealing with an unpleasant odour, but was intrinsically linked to the health and well-being of a city's inhabitants, became paramount. It ushered in an era where urban planning began to prioritise health and sanitation, laying the groundwork for modern cities worldwide.

Martin:
Very interesting. Now, I don't I do know another fact. I know about three facts. To try to make myself sound intelligent. Probably was before this but talking of like being hygienic and stuff like this and sanitation, um, doctors, apparently when they were delivering babies, the babies were dying and it was because the doctors apparently weren't washing their hands. But the doctors, they said that they didn't need to wash them because they're doctors. So they're naturally clean, good people. So I don't know when that was. But like it says here, times started to change and people realised being clean and hygienic is actually quite important.

Charlie:
Mental to just go from patient to patient, not even thinking. But again, we're assuming this is silly because we were raised with this knowledge.

Martin:
Yes. Exactly. Well, even if you look at our lifetimes, maybe you're just a bit young. But for when started, when I started going out, you would go to a pub and everyone would be smoking inside the pub. That to me now feels like ridiculous. And people used to smoke on aeroplanes. Like, just think of someone smoking on an aeroplane.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's true. I think about what the future generations will think of, about our generation like what we do now. What is disgusting? I have a suspicion that, uh, the traffic pollution will be the gross thing. Like I reckon urban planning will create. Well, maybe electric cars will solve this somewhat, but they'll be like, oh my God, you used to like, sit outside a cafe where trucks were going past.

Martin:
I think you're on to something there. You've seen the future, or everyone go on a bicycle and then everyone will be naturally a very good person. Maybe that's how to get peace in the world as well. If everyone just starts.

Speaker3:
Yeah.

Martin:
Using bikes and not cars.

Charlie:
Yeah. Martin, did you know that I ride a bike? Oh, you ride a bike too?

Martin:
I ride a bike, yeah.

Charlie:
Hang on. Are you just trying to make yourself sound good?

Martin:
Well, the funny thing is, I do think I was a bit of an idiot and not such a nice person until I started riding a bike. And now I think I'm. I'm all right. But before...

Charlie:
So the bike made you good?

Martin:
I think it just. It just rubbed off on me. Yeah. Something about the the goodness of the bike just turned me into a good person.

Charlie:
Yeah. Something about the oil.

Martin:
Yes. It's just it's just something about it. And as well, I think if you go to work on your bike, you naturally feel better than you do if you go in the car and listen to the radio.

Charlie:
Yeah. Or public transport. It must be frustrating mentally not being able to exercise.

Martin:
Yeah, exactly. Um, so there we go. So anyway, fast forward to today and the ripples of that transformation are still evident. Every time we walk the streets of London, we're walking above Sir Joe's extensive sewer network, a system that's still functional and essential. Embankment, one of London's iconic locations, was created as part of his project. And it's not just about infrastructure, it's about the mindset. The Great Stink served as a reminder of the interconnectedness of urban life, public health and infrastructure. It's a legacy that underscores the importance of foresight and adaptability in urban development.

Charlie:
There we go. Yeah, good old Sir Joe.

Martin:
So the sewer network. Sir Joe was the man for the sewer network. I thought the Romans were the big ones for the sewers.

Charlie:
Okay, I, I associate them with aqueducts. Aren't they them?

Martin:
They did lots of stuff, didn't they, those Romans.

Charlie:
Oh, they did a lot. Yeah, they did a lot. But I think of them as getting fresh water in the city.

Martin:
Right. Okay.

Charlie:
Do you reckon they also thought of the sewage system?

Martin:
I'm sure they're famous for that as well. Yeah, I thought so. But if you think about, the crazy thing about that is Romans were doing all of this like incredible stuff. And people like in England were just like living in a cave, and they were like building the Colosseum. Because obviously we're going way back with the Romans here.

Charlie:
Yes. Yeah, I just googled it. The Romans had a complex system of sewers covered by stones, much like modern sewers. Wow. So they were ahead of the game. So, yeah, the Romans definitely had sewage systems. Right? But the Romans invaded... The Romans invaded us, right? So why didn't they sort out the sewage system in London?

Martin:
Well, maybe they did, but when they left, they just like said, well, fuck it, we're just gonna, um, just gonna, like, ruin this, um, sewage system. Which reminds me of a story of my friend who said he bought a house, and then the people that were selling the house said, do you want, like, this shed in the garden? And, like, you can just give us an extra, like, £200 or something? And my friend said no. So then the people, before they left, just smashed the shed. So.

Charlie:
So so what a spiteful couple of people.

Martin:
So that kind of reminds me, maybe it was like that. The Romans just said, well, we're leaving now. So, you know, we'll just mess up all these sewers that we've made. And then you can just live in the Great Stink.

Charlie:
Yeah. Maybe they they swapped the connections. Fresh water with sewage. Have some of that. Oh, the water's brown. Yeah. The Romans left.

Charlie:
We have come to the end of part two now. So again, feel free to pause the episode to take a break from your listening practice and come back to the last part when you're ready. Alright. So moving on to part three now. Enjoy.

Charlie:
Oh, actually, AI has come to our rescue. So the Romans are indeed well known for their advanced engineering capabilities, especially their construction of aqueducts, roads and sewage systems, among other architectural feats. When they occupied what would become the City of London, then known as Londinium, they brought with them many of these advancements. The Romans did introduce a form of sewage system in Londinium. They built public latrines that were flushed by running water, and they also had drains to carry away run water and waste water from streets and buildings. The Roman sewers were primarily drainage systems designed to deal with surface water rather than human waste on the scale of a modern sewage system.

Martin:
Okay.

Charlie:
Houses typically had cesspits and cesspools where waste was collected, which needed periodic cleaning. However, by the time of the Middle Ages, much of the Roman infrastructure, including the sewerage systems, had been lost or had fallen into disrepair. And also, it says, as London grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution, the old Roman systems, if any remnants existed, would have been entirely inadequate to cope with the increased population density and the resultant waste. This led to issues like the Great Stink. But yeah, there we go. So that was quite informative. A lot to digest for you guys as listeners. Thank you very much, Martin, for helping me through that one. I feel like I learned quite a lot there.

Martin:
I would definitely agree. I must admit, my knowledge of the Great Stink. That's not one of the big ones I don't think. In school did you did you do the Great Stink?

Charlie:
I think I picked it out because I remember doing. Did you do topic books in primary school? Do you know what I mean?

Martin:
I don't think so.

Charlie:
It's just like a big book and it's empty. And then you stick things and you mount them on other colours of card.

Martin:
Right.

Charlie:
And then it's kind of like a picture book.

Martin:
Yeah, I believe we did that. So you made one about the Great Stink?

Charlie:
I think one page had the Great Stink in it. Yeah.

Martin:
See, I was thinking like the Great Fire of London. Always great, always.

Charlie:
Great. Great Britain.

Martin:
You never get like, you never get like, you know, the little fire of London or like that, that little smell. It has to be great.

Charlie:
And it's interesting because I often throw in a, oh, a little bit or like in language, I often reduce the severity of what I'm trying to say in, in the way that I'm using these little add ons in language. And I think it's quite British to do that. It was how was work? It was, it was alright. Like you're always bringing it down, aren't you? But in these cases they're saying the Great Stink.

Martin:
Of course, I would imagine it was probably something coined by a newspaper. So for example, these days we have like Brexit and I think now there's even is it Megxit with um, Meghan and Harry leaving the royal family. It's Megxit or something like that.

Charlie:
But it's not the great Megxit is it.

Martin:
Yeah. But still I think because you need to give these things a name and then it just sticks, doesn't it? Um, there was the recent thing with Wayne Rooney's wife with the other footballer, and they call it the Wagatha Christie trial because it was so. Wags was a name again coined by newspapers which were wives and girlfriends of footballers. And these two footballers wives had an argument and it went to court and they called it the Wagatha Christie case. But then that's that's used like on the news. That's the strange thing that like, you're watching BBC news and then like someone will say like Wagatha Christie or something like that.

Charlie:
Goodness me. Because I appreciate it. You know, the Sun or whoever is writing up these puns, they're thinking, right, as long as it's got a pun and it's informative in some way and it's catchy, then they go with it. But yeah, to read that out in like what most would assume is quite legitimate journalism in the BBC newsroom, that's quite funny.

Martin:
I actually recently did a podcast about language that you find in newspapers because it is... And when you kind of look at it, you would always see things like words like romp, you know, like which you would never you would never say like a footballer in secret romp with someone else, or secret love child like they use the language of tabloid, especially tabloid newspapers is actually very entertaining, to say the least, because it's so dramatic. And even when you read it, you kind of think like, oh, what's going on here?

Charlie:
Yeah, that's true. I was tempted to buy some gossip magazines and go through them for an episode.

Martin:
I think that should be the next one. That should. That, that is fantastic. It will certainly be a lot easier for me going through a gossip magazine than than it is going through history and reading these words, which I must admit, like panic sets in at one point. And then you're asking yourself, like the most basic thing. Does this ever happen to you? I was actually writing a message the other day, and I think I was writing like, I don't, and I was thinking, is that even correct English? Like, sometimes you just ask yourself the most...

Charlie:
Oh I see. Yeah, yeah, you....

Martin:
Freak out. You know, I was just like, my mind just almost went blank. And I was thinking, I think I said like, oh, I don't like it, I don't know. And I was thinking like... What's going on? My mind just goes blank sometimes I think maybe even as an English teacher. Like maybe you ask yourself too much sometimes. Like, you kind of.

Charlie:
I really agree with that. Really agree. And then you panic because you're like, oh, I'm I need to know this question kind of thing. One word that always gets me is past and passed. And I always in the stupidest situations, confuse them. And it's such a faux pas to to do that. Faux pas. I actually pronounced that, the first time I said it out loud I said faux pax? Or something.

Martin:
Yeah, because it's like p a u x, isn't it?

Charlie:
Yeah. So which is very ironic to make a faux pas on the pronunciation of faux pas.

Martin:
Well. Even the word that you just said there, the word pronunciation, 99% of British people say pronunciation. And even I did that, and I got corrected by a colleague at an English school I was working at, because everyone knows the word pronounce.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Martin:
And unless you're an English teacher, probably you've never really spoken about pronunciation in your whole life.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Martin:
So you just naturally think pronounce must be pronunciation.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Martin:
Yeah. That's. And again, it's very ironic that the word pronunciation is almost always...

Charlie:
Mispronounced! Yeah.

Martin:
Exactly. But it was also so funny how just a very small error like that can be so funny. I remember with an Australian friend once we were playing, we were doing some quiz and it had the word like Yorkshire and he said like Yorkshire. And everyone basically just erupted. I had the same with a Canadian friend that said Portsmouth in the office and everyone just erupted with laughter.

Charlie:
It's so cruel because English being a non phonetic language, the locals know how to say it and then as soon as they hear somebody get it wrong, it's like, haha, you idiot, you fell for the logical reason in which you're trying to say that thing. Like, I went to my wife's neighbourhood for the first time and I pronounced it Leominster or it's. I think it's Lemp and they say Lempster, it's spelt Leominster, but they say Lempster and yeah, crazy difference. Lots, lots of the regions in the UK are like that, aren't they?

Martin:
Oh of course, yeah. But still. Sort of getting used to saying my wife then? I noticed you had to stop and think there.

Charlie:
Yes. Yeah. Well I feel like if I say it casually, I sound pompous because you know that I'm newlywed.

Martin:
Yeah. Yeah I mean, it's. Yeah, I didn't really have that because in Italy it's so common to use that more than I think it is in England, because yeah, I agree. If you say that in England, I don't know, like even my mother in law, when she talks about my father in law, she will refer to him as my husband. And I kind of think like, yeah, I know who he is. Like.

Charlie:
That's really weird. Yeah, yeah. I saw a bit by a comedian who says, like my wife in a very aggressive, owning sort of status. And it is quite weird, isn't it? I have a wife. Yeah, she is mine.

Martin:
Yeah, I totally agree. But in Italian that's it's like people use that much more I think.

Charlie:
I will get used to it and I do like saying it, but I just think it's a switch. And if I have known somebody before being married, I feel uncomfortable just quickly saying it. It's like, oh yeah, you've got a wife now. Showing off! You're a mature man, I get it, you've got a ring.

Martin:
Yeah. It's like it almost sounds like you're you're almost embarrassed to say it sometimes, which is ridiculous because there's nothing, there should be nothing strange or embarrassing about it, but. Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah.

Martin:
I see your point.

Charlie:
Thank you once again, Martin. Appreciate that. Guys, go check out the episode that we did on his show Rock and roll English. Yeah, the the history one. Through the Decades.

Martin:
Something. Through the decades. Yeah. Let's let's make up a title now.

Charlie:
But yeah. Thank you very much, Martin. And I look forward to doing it sometime in the future and have a lovely rest of your week.

Martin:
You too. Pleasure as always. Thanks a lot, and I'll see you soon.

Charlie:
See you guys. Bye bye.

Charlie:
There we go. The end of part three. Meaning the end of the episode. Well done for getting through the entirety of it. Make sure you use all of the resources available to you in your membership. Thanks once again for supporting the show, and I look forward to seeing you next time on the British English Podcast.

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