In 1976 there was a heatwave like the one we are witnessing today in southern England. I had begun the second year of my advertising career that year and it was at this point that I realised just how glamourous an industry it was: I received a free T-Shirt from one of the clients of McCann Erickson for whom I worked, the National Water Council, encouraging everyone in the UK to “save water”. Mine had the then TUC leader, Len Murray, embossed on the front encouraging me to do just that. (I don’t quite see how this helped save water and is one of the reasons the T-shirt shop in the Atacama Desert in Chile, the driest place on Earth, shut down after only two weeks).
1976 (or 4673 if you were in Shanghai) had James Callaghan as Prime Minister from April; West Indian cricketer, Michael Holding had match figures of 14-149 against England at the Oval; Southampton beat Manchester United one-nil in the shock result of the FA Cup Final, Franz “Bulle” Roth created the same winning score-line for Bayern Munich in their third successive European Cup Final; in June of that year the “Cod War” (see what they did there?) between Iceland (the country, not the shop where “mum’s gone to”) and Great Britain ended (this was of huge personal relief as I was on stand-by and had worn a sou’wester through much of April and May); and the heatwave persisted between 22nd June and 16th July, instigating this need to save water.
One of the thoughts of the “Save Water” campaign was to bath with a friend. This threw up so many social problems: If you like, every evening, at bath-time, to re-create sinking the Bismarck, and you want to play the Kenneth More role, you do not want someone the other end of the bath acting as the French coastline; if you’re sharing with a member of the opposite sex, you have the dilemma of choosing between Mr Matey and Miss Matey bubble bath; if you like the radio on during bath-time, remember, not everyone likes Wagner and worst of all, if you’re sharing a bath with someone with a bladder control problem, what Archimedes had as his eureka moment, you’ll have as your urethra moment.
On the plus side, we all learned that drought wasn’t spelled with a “W”.