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.

 
 
 
 

These maps of petition signatories show which bits of the country are most enthusiastic about scrapping Brexit

The Scottish bit. Image: UK Parliament.

As anyone in the UK who has been near an internet connection today will no doubt know, there’s a petition on Parliament’s website doing the rounds. It rejects Theresa May’s claim – inevitably, and tediously, repeated again last night – that Brexit is the will of the people, and calls on the government to end the current crisis by revoking Article 50. At time of writing it’s had 1,068,554 signatures, but by the time you read this it will definitely have had quite a lot more.

It is depressingly unlikely to do what it sets out to do, of course: the Prime Minister is not in listening mode, and Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom has already been seen snarking that as soon as it gets 17.4m votes, the same number that voted Leave in 2016, the government will be sure to give it due care and attention.

So let’s not worry about whether or not the petition will be successful and instead look at some maps.

This one shows the proportion of voters in each constituency who have so far signed the petition: darker colours means higher percentages. The darkest constituencies tend to be smaller, because they’re urban areas with a higher population density. (As with all the maps in this piece, they come via Unboxed, who work with the Parliament petitions team.)

And it’s clear the petition is most popular in, well, exactly the sort of constituencies that voted for Remain three years ago: Cambridge (5.1 per cent), Bristol West (5.6 per cent), Brighton Pavilion (5.7 per cent) and so on. Hilariously, Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North is also at 5.1 per cent, the highest in London, despite its MP clearly having remarkably little interest in revoking article 50.

By the same token, the sort of constituencies that aren’t signing this thing are – sit down, this may come as a shock – the sort of places that tended to vote Leave in 2016. Staying with the London area, the constituencies of the Essex fringe (Ilford South, Hornchurch & Upminster, Romford) are struggling to break 1 per cent, and some (Dagenham & Rainham) have yet to manage half that. You can see similar figures out west by Heathrow.

And you can see the same pattern in the rest of the country too: urban and university constituencies signing in droves, suburban and town ones not bothering. The only surprise here is that rural ones generally seem to be somewhere in between.

The blue bit means my mouse was hovering over that constituency when I did the screenshot, but I can’t be arsed to redo.

One odd exception to this pattern is the West Midlands, where even in the urban core nobody seems that bothered. No idea, frankly, but interesting, in its way:

Late last year another Brexit-based petition took off, this one in favour of No Deal. It’s still going, at time of writing, albeit only a third the size of the Revoke Article 50 one and growing much more slowly.

So how does that look on the map? Like this:

Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit of an inversion of the new one: No Deal is most popular in suburban and rural constituencies, while urban and university seats don’t much fancy it. You can see that most clearly by zooming in on London again:

Those outer east London constituencies in which people don’t want to revoke Article 50? They are, comparatively speaking, mad for No Deal Brexit.

The word “comparatively” is important here: far fewer people have signed the No Deal one, so even in those Brexit-y Essex fringe constituencies, the actual number of people signing it is pretty similar the number saying Revoke. But nonetheless, what these two maps suggest to me is that the new political geography revealed by the referendum is still largely with us.


In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to write this, the number of signatures on the Revoke Article 50 has risen to 1,088,822, by the way. Will of the people my arse.

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

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