A couple visited a fatberg to celebrate their anniversary

Your minibreak starts here. Image: Thomas R Machnitzki at Wikimedia Commons.

Just as New Yorkers secretly love their sewer alligators, others have a place in their hearts for even the most disgusting of sewer oddities.  Fatbergs, in case you haven’t had the pleasure, are enormous, congealed lumps of cooking fat and other unmentionables that turn up in city sewers from time to time. Here’s one now:

Image: Rene Walter via Flickr, republished under Creative Commons

And, it turns out, they have groupies: yesterday, The Guardian reported that a British couple were such big fans of the UK’s largest, 15 tonne fatberg, that they took a trip to visit it. To celebrate.

Thames Water, amazingly, were happy for the pair to take the trip – they already had a BBC film crew plumbing the depths that day, so the couple, Dan MacIntyre and Dunya Kalantery, just tagged along. “It was unexpectedly pleasant down there,” MacIntyre told the paper.

“Then, says Kalantery, ‘we saw the fat, which was pretty great.’ Sadly, there were no giant clumps, thanks to the maintenance by sewer workers, but there was enough for the grease enthusiasts to get excited about. It was congealed around the pipes – the result of cooking fat and oil being poured down drains that solidifies around items such as wet wipes and sanitary towels that have been flushed (they shouldn't be, but increasingly are), creating blockages. This causes sewage to back up, which can flood homes and streets.

“Was the fat as fascinating as she had hoped? ‘Yes, completely.’ She touched it, she smelled it (‘like solidified burnt oil’); she wanted to take some home as a souvenir, but it was impractical.”

The 15 tonne fatberg was lurking beneath the streets of Kingston-upon-Thames, where a family home will currently set you back somewhere in the region of £700,000. It was discovered by Thames Water workers in July 2014 and was, at the time, the size of a bus; unfortunately for fatberg fans, it's since been removed, leaving nothing but some goo round the pipes.

Smaller fatbergs are apparently rife in the London sewer system, thanks to the nasty way cooking fat washed down sinks tends to congeal and harden as it cools. They require regular “flushing” by sewer workers to keep the pipes moving. In 2010, according to Londonist, "a team led by chief flusher Danny Brackley removed enough fat to fill nine double-decker buses, digging the stuff away from the walls using shovels". 

You can read the rest of the Guardian’s (frankly, pretty brilliant) report on the official best anniversary ever here.

 
 
 
 

The Fire Brigades Union’s statement on Theresa May’s resignation is completely damning

Grenfell Tower. Image: Getty.

Just after 10 this morning, Theresa May announced that she would resign as Britain’s prime minister on 7 June. A mere half an hour later, a statement from Royal Institute of British Architects president Ben Derbyshire arrived in my inbox with a ping:

“The news that Theresa May will step down as Prime Minister leaves the country in limbo while the clock ticks down to the latest deadline of 31 October. While much is uncertain, one thing remains clear – a no deal is no option for architecture or the wider construction sector. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister must focus on taking the country forward with policies beyond Brexit that tackle the major challenges facing the country such as the housing crisis and climate change emergency.”

I was a bit baffled by this – why would the architecture profession try to get its thoughts into a political story? But then Merlin Fulcher of Architects Journal put me right:

Well you know construction is a larger contributor to GDP than financial services, and most of the work UK architects do is for export, and at least half of the largest practice (Foster + Partners) are EU, so there's a lot at stake

— Merlin Fulcher (@merlinfulcher) May 24, 2019

So, the thoughts of the RIBA president are an entirely legitimate thing to send to any construction sector-adjacent journalists who might be writing about today’s big news, and frankly I felt a little silly.

Someone else who should be feeling more than a little silly, though, is Theresa May herself. When listing her government’s achievements, such as they were, she included, setting up “the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower” – a fire in a West London public housing block in June 2017 – “to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten”.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, is having precisely none of this. Here’s his statement:

“Many of the underlying issues at Grenfell were due to unsafe conditions that had been allowed to fester under Tory governments and a council for which Theresa May bears ultimate responsibility. The inquiry she launched has kicked scrutiny of corporate and government interests into the long-grass, denying families and survivors justice, while allowing business as usual to continue for the wealthy. For the outgoing Prime Minister to suggest that her awful response to Grenfell is a proud part of her legacy is, frankly, disgraceful.”

A total of 72 people died in the Grenfell fire. At time of writing, nobody has been prosecuted.

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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