Don’t let climate deniers fudge history of 1976 heatwave. Government tried to make us share baths! – Susan Morrison

What did you do in the Big Heatwave of ’76, the children ask me? Well, kids, gather round and I’ll tell you.

No pools in gardens then, but granny could soak her hot feet in washing up basins full of cold water. Yes, you used the bowl that evening to do the dishes.

Sun cream was rarely seen. It wasn’t in short supply, it just wasn’t used in domestic situations, and was widely considered valid only in Spain. Television presenters did endless pieces to camera from dried up riverbeds and reservoirs. Mum made ice pops in our tiny freezer and they made your lips go numb. Cola flavour stained your tongue black.

Hide Ad

A different time, children, we didn't realise we were living through a new battlefront for the warriors fighting state control and denying the climate is changing, even in the face of a new, record-beating heatwave.

Hide Ad

Take Neil Oliver, who increasingly resembles Benn Gunn from Treasure Island. He views the heatwave advice from the government as “insidious and borderline sinister”. Actually, I was quite surprised to even see advice from this government.

I didn’t think they’d even notice Londoners combusting outside the Cabinet Office, so intent were they on wading through the political blood being sloshed about in their leadership race, a sort of Tory Red Wedding.

Hide Ad

Even more surprising, the advice is actually practical. It’s mainly to stay in, stay cool, drink lots of water and don’t leave your toddler/dog in a locked car. It's about as sinister as Mary Poppins, but then, nanny is a scary figure, particularly for those brought up by them.

Read More
UK heatwave: It's time governments took the climate crisis seriously before 'col...
Hide Ad
Amid the 1976 heatwave Lord Nugent, then chair of the National Water Council, launches a new Save Water symbol (Picture: PA) Read less

The Telegraph trumpeted that we were not nannied back in 1976. In those far-off days, the government did not intervene. We made our own sunstroke back in them days. We just sweated and got on with it.

Hide Ad

But they have forgotten Dennis Howell, appointed Minister for Drought in that long hot summer, although technically he was Minister against Drought. He gave out lots of advice, and invited the nation's press to his house to demonstrate that a good way of saving that remaining precious water in those reservoirs was to share a bath with his wife.

In fact, they went further, and this would have the anti-nanny state brigade going redder than a ginger boy in the sun, and introduced an entire Act to ban hosepipes.

Hide Ad

Oddly enough, the heavens did open a few days after the minister’s appointment, so perhaps there’s something to be said for government interference after all.

We probably quite enjoyed those few days of scorching temperatures. It was nice for viewers in Scotland to see the sun icons on the weather map rise above Judith Ralston’s oxter for a change, but we really can’t get away from the truth that something is happening to our climate.

Hide Ad

We’re going to need some serious leadership to address the issues this will create. Denying climate change won’t stop it and fudging history won’t help. Governments have always stepped in with advice and regulation, but I am never, ever sharing my bath.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.