Monday, 5 November 2012

Making salt

In about September 1981, I began studying Chemistry at school as a separate subject. My career as a chemist was to come to an ignominious end four years later when I dropped the subject, having achieved the distinction of the lowest mark in the exams in the entire school year.

But I still remember aspects of the subject with affection. Burning magnesium! My white shirt being turned into a chromatogram by some clever idiot in the desk behind me, using ink, a pipette and surgical spirit or similar. Best of all, in that very first lesson in 1981, we made salt.

The process involved dissolving a pile of what looked like sand in water, heating the water (Bunsen burner) and then - can't remember the detail but I think filter paper may have been involved somewhere - ending up with a small and rather damp pile of salt.

Very satisfyingly, we were allowed to take the results of our experiment into the dining hall to have with our lunch. Monday lunches were particularly dispiriting: salad, so-called. The salt improved the undressed lettuce and slab of pork pie.

It may have been on the same occasion that I was required by the prefect in charge of the table (I shall name and shame him: Jonathan Harding) to eat my pork pie jelly, a feat I managed only by melting it into the barely warm mashed potato on my plate.

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