The Heatwave of 1976: Background information when reading Instructions for a Heatwave

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Instructions for a Heatwave

By Maggie O'Farrell

Instructions for a Heatwave
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2013,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: 6 May 2014,
    304 pages.

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Beyond the Book:
The Heatwave of 1976

The heatwave described in the novel is based on an actual one that took place in the summer of 1976 in Britain, which was preceded by a dry period that began the previous year. At the time this had been the driest 16-month period in over 250 years. Though there was some rain during that summer, it was so little and sporadic that it didn't make much of a dent. The reservoirs ran dry, companies in the Midlands (central England), were forced to shorten their work week, and many households were required to gather their water from communal hand pumps in the street. People were advised to "Save water, bathe with a friend," to do so in no more than five inches of water and to then reuse that bath water in the garden. Bricks were put in toilets so the flush tanks would then hold less water and therefore, conserve more. Owning a dirty car was a symbol of solidarity.

Signs encouraging water conservation During the drought, the government issued 139 drought orders (regulations restricting water use), on behalf of the water ...

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