Green to Blue

Awaiting the blue
As many of you know, we have a swimming pool. Arriving after a long absence and removing the covers revealed, instead of irridescent clear blue waters, a bilious pond in a remarkably unpleasant shade of bright green, opaque and oily. This was clearly not good. We consulted the oracle, the fountain of all wisdom, namely the Internet. There was much discussion about cause, effect and solution, some being contradictory. After silently and alternately cursing and praying, I reminded myself that I was a scientist. I’m supposed to be good at this sort of thing, but I have to confess, I was not aware that ownership and maintenance of a swimming pool required an advanced degree in inorganic chemistry. As a child, I learned to swim at the local “baths” – probably so called because the cleansing effect of the bleach was more valuable to public health than the swimming lessons. The water was so inoculated against infection by massive doses of sodium hypochlorite that one’s skin wrinkled in a heartbeat and placing one’s face underwater risked complete and permanent exfilation of the vitreous humour. In other words, step one, bleach. We had some, but not enough. A twenty-kilometre drive to the pool shop revealed a staggering array of chemical treatments, all sold in ten litre tubs. School chemistry involves careful measurement in milligrams and millilitres, with clean spatulae and spotless glassware. All that seemed to be required here was a medium sized shovel. There was an entire section devoted, optimistically, to something called PH. I assumed this was the agricultural version of the logarithm to base 10 of the hydrogen ion concentration, or pH, which I gathered was of some significance. I bought a pH tester, with a colour chart resembling nothing I had ever seen before; the pH values it tested were between 6.8 and 8.2, with an optimum of 7.2 to 7.6. The colour was off the scale. I calculated the requisite dose of pH (-) to increase the acidity. After a heavy storm, I repeated the test, to find that it was now off the scale in the other direction. Well, you get the idea. Opening another huge tub of alkali, I somewhat despondently added some. Flocculation is a process whereby colloids come out of suspension to form flakes. In other words the murky water contained microparticles that were too fine to pass through the filter unless I bought another tub of overpriced stuff labelled “clarifying agent”, which, the blurb told me helpfully, would restore my pool water to a beautifully crystal clear condition. After, it said at the end, I had thoroughly swept the bottom of the pool, which I can’t see, with a brush.

France lost to Germany and I am now going to sit in a corner with a book and twitch a bit, if that’s OK with everyone.

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