Rain, Bicycles and… a bit about Chironomids…

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of storm drain and bicycles Dublin docklands

The Professor came by the other day.  He was fuming.  He was soaked to the skin and he was fuming. “What sort of…”, he spluttered,  “What class of architectural amadán?  What kind of engineering eejit would put a storm drain right underneath a bicycle rack?

As he stood there drip-dripping onto our kitchen floor, he proceeded to tell me between fits of sneezing and sniffing that he had been trying to lock his bike in the pouring rain when disaster struck.  He dropped his keys and they fell straight down a storm drain.  (These were the keys to his house, his car, his locker, his bicycle and his goodness knows what)

He was wearing his pink hi-vis jacket and, as he related the story, I was fascinated to see that the hi-vis matched the colour of his face exactly.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of sunburst and rain clouds in the Wicklow mountains

It rained on Monday; it rained again on Tuesday; it bucketed from the heavens on Wednesday but on Thursday, a rainbow appeared in the sky and the rain gradually eased.  I decided to ring the Professor.  “I was just thinking”, I said, “we could maybe see if we could retrieve those keys from the storm drain today, what d’you think?”

I held the phone away from my ear as I listened to his reply.

Would you believe that the keys were still there, sitting on a little ledge, about 50 centimetres down! I could see the white rubber wristband that held them all together.  I untwisted a wire coat-hanger, made a hook at one end and carefully inserted the long metal implement down into the drain – hoping against hope that I wouldn’t dislodge the bunch of keys from their slimy green shelf.

“Chironomids”, said the Professor, “I got that rubber wristband at the Chironomid Conference in Geneva in 2017.  Chironomids, d’you see, are a family of nematoceran flies or non-biting midges, closely related to Ceratopogonidae, Simuliidae and…”

“I know what chironomids are”, I growled as I struggled to concentrate on the task at hand, “shur wasn’t my brother the leading expert on those lousey larvae, back at the International Chironomid Conference in Dublin in ’79.  And I still have the T-shirt!”

photoshop doc by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of chironomid teeshirt

“Wait”, I said,  “waaait, waaaaait – gotcha!  Here’s your keys. And it’s all about the quality of lake water, don’t you know.  Those chironomids serve as indicators of potential environmental genotoxicity”, I said.

“Huh – lousey larvae”, was all he said.

By the way, my next foray into the art world is an environmental project about trees in Dublin.  It is entitled: ‘Arbour Essence’ and it’s a four person exhibition at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in May.  More about that nearer the day.





  1. Very funny, Eoin! And great how you managed to retrieve the professor’s keys for him! And while I do remember that 1979 Chironomid Conference in Dublin, and also your preparing the silk-print conference tee-shirts for the event, I think my only contribution was providing an image of a chironomid (a non-biting midge). I did study chironomids as part of my final-year Zoology Hons project, but did not attend the Chironomid conference in UCD that year, because it was really for international experts in the field and I was merely an undergraduate, about to graduate. Went on to do an MSc, not on midges (though they are crucial elements in any freshwater lake ecosystem) but on Red Deer. Thanks for the mention, Eoin!


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