Lucy Jennings let the word excitedly roll off her tongue in a voice that could have easily passed on a phone line for Cruella Da Vil.
“I’m sorry? What did you just say?” The older lady in the hand-knitted fluffy pink mohair jumper sat opposite her asked, her face scrunched in disgust.
“DETRITUS,” she repeated, slightly louder.
“As in dirt and rubbish and stuff?”
Lucy laughed, “Exactly!”
The elderly woman wearing a knitted brown wool beret, sat next to Lucy, slowly leaned as far away as possible from her.
Lucy was used to people behaving as if she was contagious or something.
“What kind of stuff exactly?” The woman in a pristine white blouse with frilly collar enquired.
“Well.” Lucy smiled politely. “Basically, anything and everything from prehistoric times to now, that people have ever dropped down a hole, poured into a drain or flushed from a toilet.”
Pink fluffy jumper lady’s face turned a shade of green.
“It can range from dinosaur to modern excrement,” Lucy enthused. “via stone age axe heads, Roman coins, and Tudor rubbish. Then there’s all manner of Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian stuff, old first and second world war discarded bullets, and more recently, we acquired a dried piece of the ‘Whitechapel fatberg’ which contains things such as solidified fat, modern wet wipes, condoms, and disposable nappies.”
“Oh dear!” the lady in the maroon cardigan to her right exclaimed, politely placing her plate containing a slice of homemade Victoria sponge on the coffee table as if it were suddenly poison. “Well!… erm… that’s… errrr… different, isn’t it?”
“Well yes, it certainly is, but I do enjoy my job very much.”
The elderly lady wearing an expensive pearl necklace to her left, who had been quiet so far, stated with a sarcastic tone. “Well, I’m sure you do, my dear. It sounds every bit a delightful job!”
“And you say people actually come to see your exhibition of erm… detritus,” The white bloused woman enquired.
“Oh yes.” Lucy said enthusiastically. “Our ‘City Now, City Future’ exhibition is very popular. The fact that it explores urban changes in London and around the world fascinates people, and our chunk of the ‘Whitechapel fatberg’ is by far our most viewed item.”
The lady in the pearl necklace laughed “I’m sure a detritus exhibition is a very pleasant way to pass half an hour,” adding sarcastically under her breath, “if all the shops were shut, it was pouring with rain, a typhoon had blown away every possible form of shelter and there was absolutely nowhere else to go!”
Everyone laughed at her comment.
Brown beret woman thought quietly for a second. “If someone handed me a suitcase and said ‘here’s a million pound in cash, which is yours right now if you visit the ‘City now City future’ exhibition,’ I’d go along and take a look.”
“I think I’d need more like four million!” Maroon cardigan lady added, shaking her head.
“Ladies!” The woman in the white blouse said politely but firmly, as she checked her watch. “May I suggest that we finish this meeting very shortly, as those of us who are members of village bowling team have a very important quarter final match this afternoon, which is due to start in thirty five minutes.”
Everyone present muttered and nodded in agreement.
She continued, “I’d like to say a huge thank you to Miss Lucy Jennings for coming along as our guest speaker this afternoon. It’s been delightful having you come and chat to us and tell us about your job as one of the curators of The Museum of London and explain all about the interesting and different… ermm… detritus you’ve dealt with in your exhibition. Thank you very much, Lucy.”
Everyone in the room clapped politely.
Lucy narrowed her eyes. “… I’m Sorry! But I’m a bit confused. I thought you had invited me all the way up here, from London to the North of England today, to talk to you about fatbergs, and to help you understand what they are, what serious problems they cause, and to inform you of how to get rid of them. I haven't had a chance yet to discuss them with you at all! Do any of you actually understand exactly what a fatberg is? How big they can possibly grow? What huge problems they cause? Or how you would go about getting rid of one?”
“I’m not really sure I want to know any more details to be honest,” Pink fluffy jumper lady replied already forcefully stuffing Lucy’s handout sheets roughly into her handbag. “I mean, it was absolutely delightful, having to here to speak to us, but really, your topic of discussion is all very horrid and dirty and smelly isn’t it? I don’t mean to be rude to you, my dear, or anything, but, to be honest, I don’t really feel as if I want to be talking about the disgusting stuff you deal with any longer than I just had to! It turns my stomach just thinking about it!”
“But...” Lucy tried to add.
“... Oh my dear,” The pearl necklace woman told her “It looks like there has been an awful mistake. I’m afraid that it was Mrs Price from our neighbouring village who arranged and paid for your visit to our meeting. She told us that you would be 'interesting and relevant', but I’m afraid that seems not to be the case!”
“But...” Lucy tried again.
The woman in the white blouse glared at Lucy and tapped her watch impatiently to remind her it was time for them all to leave the building.
Lucy shook her head in amazement as all the other ladies in the room fell silent for the close of the meeting, and realised there was absolutely no point at all in trying to continue her conversation.
The white bloused woman coughed, “I’d like to thank you all for coming to today’s meeting. As chairwoman, of the environmental committee of the Parish Council for the village of Daleworth, I’d like to officially close this meeting. We will next meet two months from today, same time, same place. At the next meeting we will continue our discussion about the ongoing smells and drainage problems the Daleworth residents have kept PERSISTENTLY complaining to us about. That is, of course as long as the date of the meeting doesn’t clash with the date of the bowling team league grand final match. If it does, then I think we are all in agreement that the game is far more important than a silly old boring environmental meeting isn’t it?”
She over-dramatically pretended to yawn. The other ladies giggled.
"… Meeting adjourned.”