Politics

standpipes, droughts and forest fires



Phew, what a scorcher. Heatwave: Summer of ‘76 (Channel 5) supplied a nostalgia rush again to these hazy, harmless days when the sunshine appeared countless and no person frightened that it was because of international warming.

The record-breaking summer season of 1976 has change into ingrained in British social historical past and scorched in our collective reminiscence. On 23 June, the solar started to blaze down, heralding a heatwave which might final for 10 sweltering weeks. Temperatures peaked at 36 levels Centigrade (97 Fahrenheit in outdated cash). Barely a raindrop fell for weeks on finish, inflicting the worst drought for 250 years. It made this week’s balmy climate look like novice hour. 

This fortuitously well timed 90-minute movie from the makers of The Big Freeze: Winter ’63, which aired in February, rewound the scorching story. With the Troubles at their peak and Jim Callaghan’s Labour authorities embattled, the golden climate got here as a welcome distraction for a frightened nation. Denis Healey wiped the sweat from his eyebrows with aid.

If you have been nonetheless in brief trousers in 1976, as I used to be, it was a halcyon time of hedonism and vacation spirit. Beaches have been full of ice-cream lickers and Radio 1 Roadshow revellers. For some grown-ups, nonetheless, the drought had lethal ramifications. Crops have been ruined (ironic, as a result of The Wurzels had simply obtained their model new mix harvester that summer season). Cattle have been slaughtered, fish died in depleted waterways and cities have been tormented by swarms of biting ladybirds. Gardens wilted. Forest fires broke out. Elderly individuals died of heatstroke and folks drowned in rivers.

Water was rationed, with communities relying upon standpipes. We have been urged to keep away from flushing the bathroom and “bath with a friend” (completely different occasions certainly). Even a lioness fainted at a circus close to Norwich. Most shockingly of all, Wimbledon umpires have been allowed to take away their jackets for the primary time.



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