It is possible to calculate the age of a mackerel by the careful examination of a small bone called the otolith or earstone. They float within a canal in the inner ear somewhere behind the brain and even in a big fish of 45 cm they will be no more than 6 – 7 mm long; they continue to grow throughout the life of the fish. As the mackerel goes through its seasonal cycle of feast and famine small rings or ridges occur in the bone a bit like the rings that appear in the cut stump of tree; each ridge another year. Examine the otolith under a microscope and count the number of ridges and you have the age of the fish.

There will be a bone somewhere inside us all that continues to grow and for each year we spend a week or so in the Cottage it develops another ridge to reflect the time that is bent out of shape as we feast on the special air in West Cork.