'Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be'
Look up as you walk along Keppel Street in Bloomsbury, and you can see gilded rats, fleas, and cobras – a backhanded compliment to pests and parasites by the architects of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Look down, and you’ll see nothing out of the ordinary. But only a few feet beneath the pavement are cellars teeming with some of the creepiest crawlies in the world – bedbugs, lice, and colonies of mosquitoes dating back to the 1940s.
You might be forgiven for wanting to hear no more about this verminous Bloomsbury Set. But if this has merely whetted your appetite for all things itchy, tune in to ‘The Gilded Vectors of Disease’, an eight-part series for Resonance FM. Produced and presented by the LSHTM’s Rebecca Tremain, each episode looks at the history, influence and ecology of each vector, with contributions from researchers, historians and writers. In the third episode I explored the twilight world of bedbugs with Dr James Logan, and Kelley Swain turned a New York hotel room upside down in a witty and deeply atmospheric performance poem.
The last episode, on the flea, goes out tonight (Tues 2 April), but you can find out more about the series on Rebecca’s Mustard Club website (along with an explanation of why it’s called the Mustard Club), and listen to podcasts of each episode here. Happy scratching.