Blocked sinks and a mackerel’s fecundity

There was another red sky this morning but there is no photo and still no snow. But it is cold clear and bright and I have been outside inspecting drains. The sink in the kitchen was full of greasy cold water that was not draining away. I bailed some out and spent fifteen minutes at it with a plunger but it was old and the wrong size although I was able to loosen some black gunk from under the plug the blockage was not moving.

So Galen and I went outside with a screwdriver and torch to lift the drain cover. There was nearly an accident as Galen was too busy practising kung fu moves in the dark to notice that the drain cover was up. Inside it was as clean as a whistle so I was going to have to try something more drastic. I fortified myself with 20 minutes of David Attenborough. Lots of nice music and pictures but I am damn sure that some years ago there was an almost identical programme on the Congo which featured the same elephants and their watering hole.

Cautiously I opened our readers Digest book on DIY. That told me to use the plunger. Done that. It didn’t work. The next step was to go under the sink and start unscrewing things with buckets to hand to catch the water. I peered under the sink and amongst the plastic pipes it looked as if there were things to unscrew but precious little room for a bucket. I improvised with a small saucepan starting with what I thought was the most innocuous looking thing to unscrew. I started on it and after a while a small drip of water started to leak out. I fully expecting this to turn into a great gush but nothing else happened. The screw was undone and in my hand and that came out was a small drip.

I could see that potentially this was going to take a while. I then remembered the pot of caustic soda hidden behind a shelf in the basement. I knew that it was bad stuff. But if it was bad stuff it might even work.

I worked my way through the child safety features and poured some of the granules down the plug hole. There was a slight fizz and a pop and the scud of water that was left in the bottom of the sink disappeared. Caustic soda is very scary stuff. I put it back in the basement feeling slightly guilty. There had been more things i could have unscrewed under the sink. Next time perhaps.

No cooking for me this evening but I ate a very good cheese souffle and I have taken the oxtails I bought at the farmers market out of the freezer to cook tomorrow night and eat on Friday.


In the meantime I have picked up again Stephen Lockwood’s book The Mackerel Its biology, assessment and the management of a fishery.

It is one of the few books on mackerel I have been able to find. Published in 1988 it provides a useful bit of background reading on the mackerel fisheries and some of their history around the British Isles. He says  that mackerel sized between 30 and 35 cm will produce between 255,000 and 405,000 eggs. Although some 99.9999% of the mackerel born from these eggs will not reached their first birthday some 3,000 million mackerel will join the stocks of mackerel each year.

He also describes a shoal of mackerel caught on sonar in 1974 off Cornwall which was up to five miles long, two miles wide and some 40 metres deep. It all boils down to a lot of mackerel. When you have that many fish coursing through the water I wonder that it doesn’t cause some kind of strange disturbance or wave on the surface.

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