We’ll get more hosepipe bans if Prescott showers us in new homes

Most Daily Telegraph readers are of course far too young to remember the summer of 1976, but for some of us it was a critical moment in our adolescence.

It was so hot that a certain au pair girl decided that her bikini was a stifling encumbrance, and one lunchtime she turned up with nothing on at all, a dress code that was instantly copied with stunned approval by everyone else.

Soon our valley in Somerset was fabled as a kind of nymph-strewn Arcadia. People started to cadge invitations to see our au pair, and across the nation we British were briefly seized by the same deeply embarrassing tropical madness. There were streakers at Piccadilly and streakers at Lord’s, and no wonder.

Every day of that July and August the sun beat down on our supposedly temperate land with all the boiling implacability he normally directs at the equatorial savannah.

The village green became a dustbowl. The lambs bleated for moisture, their tongues rattling in their parched pink mouths. Sales of Right Guard and Tizer made scarcely credible strides. Cars went unwashed; swimming pools were drained to fill the fire engines.

Weird algae bloomed in the seas, and strange warm-water beasts, such as Portuguese men-of-war and man-eating sharks, were said to be circling our shores.

And, naturally enough, there was a hosepipe ban. I think back to that summer because I have just been out to buy a sandwich in the middle of a very different July. Steam is rising from my shoulders, not just because I am irritated, but because I am wet.

The soles of my shoes are so drenched that even now, as I sit here wriggling my toes, I can feel the moisture soaking through to the socks.

And still falls the rain, slanting out of the grey summer sky, just as it did yesterday, just as it will surely do tomorrow and next week, soaking our fetes, cancelling the cricket, and generally fulfilling its historic function of forming the British character.

I look out of the window and through the purling drops I can see gutters running with water; I can see the clouds almost black with rain to come. We have water, water everywhere.

We literally have water coming out of our ears, if we have been to buy a sandwich; and that is why it is so amazing that we are once again facing a hosepipe ban.

I mean, I ask you: could you reasonably hope that your au pair girl would strip down to her bikini in this weather, let alone go starkers? So what is going on?

It is true that we have had a dry winter, and that the reservoirs are low. But it somehow beggars belief, when cataracts of the stuff are falling out of the sky, that Ken Livingstone should be so panicked by London’s water shortage that he has broken off from welcoming hate-spouting imams to warn us all to take showers rather than baths and not to flush the bog without a very good reason.

We all knew that Labour believe in sticking their noses into the minutiae of everyday existence, but this is demented; can Ken possibly be right? It seems that he is, and to quote from a brilliant piece by Rod Liddle in this week’s Spectator, the cause is not so much a shortage of water per se as an increase in consumption.

I have no space here to do justice to the sweep of Liddle’s argument, but the gist of it is that we are using ever more water for “leisure” purposes of one kind or another, and in the South-East we are about to place colossal and unprecedented new demands on our aquifers by building the 800,000 Prescottian homes.

Our water bills are already soaring, and by the time Prescott has finished it will probably be cheaper to have a shower in vodka.

Huge investments will be needed in desalination plants and new reservoirs, and the ratepayer will be funding them. What can we do?

We British have long been objects of global hilarity for living in a perpetual scotch mist, and yet we have a government that is not only incapable of running a bath, but which won’t even let its poor people run a bath themselves.

There are two immediate steps we must take in this impending water crisis, and the first, of course, is to continue to oppose the mad Prescott plan to concrete over the South-East.

There is no reason why houses should be carpet-bombed over some of the loveliest places in England, purely to satisfy some hare-brained Treasury calculations about likely demand. Let us oppose the quangocrats, and insist that the decisions be taken locally, and in accordance with local wishes.

We all know why we are said to need more houses: immigration, divorce, etc. But do we really want ever more houses, with ever fewer people in them? And should those people be spending all that time in the Jacuzzi? Let us use this hosepipe ban to remember that summer of 1976, and how we coped.

The taps were dry, yes. But there was still one vast and living source of fresh water. In the words of Bruce Springsteen, we went down to the river, and into the river we dived, along with the au pair girl, who was by now as brown as a berry.

Ever since, I have loved swimming in rivers, and only the other day, after a long afternoon in Henley, I found myself in a beautiful riparian meadow. Since it was almost deserted I took off my clothes and swam for ages, tasting the sweet water of the Thames on my lips and watching the bugs skitter over the surface. I cannot believe how few children do the same.

The Government may have made a horlicks of our water supplies, and it may well be that they will shortly ban our baths. In which case, let’s tell Prescott to jump in a lake, and go and jump in a river.

28 thoughts on “We’ll get more hosepipe bans if Prescott showers us in new homes”

  1. Explaining Boris Johnson.

    I think I can provide a little explanation for Boris Johnson. He is, as you know, something of a mystery, this rather shambling toff type, writer, editor, MP and boulevardier. What produced this rather different character? We know he was

  2. Ah, I too remember the long hot summer of ’76. It was hell revising for my O Levels because everyone else was outside sunbathing…
    And do you remember the massive cracks in the ground? It was like Africa!
    I’m so pleased that you brought up this subject.It has been ignored by so many others! If we do not have enough water, how can we possibly build more homes? Very simple really….

  3. It always amuses me how easily you naked ape-men get excited by your own naked skin. It seems that human baldness is attractive everywhere except on the head.

    Anyway, if you want to spend some time in a warm, moist climate, I would recommend a trip to the Congo Basin. Just make sure you wear a bathing suit if you swim in any of our rivers, because not everyone loves the sight of your hairless skin. And watch out for the crocodiles.

  4. Ahh the summer of 76. Bunking off school to laze around the quarry or ride the horses bareback in the orchard. Sadly I couldn’t swim in the river as dogs kept retrieving me. Happy days 🙂

    BTW, Was that after the power cuts and three day week?

    Prescott pulls down the best solution to efficient housing there has ever been to erect poorly built rubbish that certainly won’t be standing in 100 years time. But of course, however unpopular his actions are, the solution of sending the immigrants back where they came from and shutting the door seems unpalatable. Perhaps we should just resign ourselves to the fact that we are building the charity refuge of the planet and they are rarely the prettiest or most desireable of places.

  5. Yes, the summer of ’76. But O-levels? School? Bloody kids. Some of us were doing real exams at university, and it was most distracting with all the girls wandering around in the buff…

  6. I also lived in Somerset at the time and I cannot unfortunately remember the Birthday Suit being standard wear. I was 6 so perhaps my Mum was protecting me from such immorality.

    By the way wouldn’t a system where everyone pays for the actual water they use be the only reasonable solution to water shortage?

  7. “Most Daily Telegraph readers are of course far too young to remember the summer of 1976…”

    just how old are DT readers these days? I’m 41 and I remember it vividly. Are DT readers really mostly under 40??? under 35???? gosh readership has changed, Boris. I’ll have to look at it again if it’s the favoured choice of the hip and trendy. I had no idea.

  8. What a sight – Boris in his briefs coming out of the river. Beats the pirate jogging outfit any day. Shame the paparazzi weren’t there for that one.

    Still, I’ve lived in Henley for 6 years and have only paddled, so, if the sun ever comes out again, maybe it’ll be time I got my trunks on and went for a dip.

  9. This is precisely what I was speaking of when I said that they’re ruining England! We have no powers to stop this, as he’s got his regional assemblies set up and doing his bidding for him. They couldn’t care less if they build over our green and pleasant land. There’s always a water shortage, so-called, but what about Keilder Water? That is surplus to requirements and could provide more than enough water, it’s simply that a ‘shortage’ suits water companies as they can then increase bills!

  10. We’ll get much more than hosepipe bans if things are not changed.

    To misquote the Rime of the ancient Mariner, as a reminder of the great drought of 1976:-

    Water water every where
    And all the ground did shrink
    Water water every where
    Nor any drop to drink.

    And yet that great oaf Prescott wants to build more houses in an already dry area
    Not content with driving, or being driven, in gas guzzling cars, adding to the generally unacceptably high air pollution, he now wants to further add to the burden of the South east with more inhabitants requiring more resources. Chances of increasing the water producing capacity: practically NIL.

    Logic, with which this Government seems not overburdened, would tell us that population dispersal or the re-engineering of population densities, to areas more able to cope with an increase in demands on resources such as , housing ; water; electricity Etc., thus spreading the burden over a much greater area.

    Arguments manufactured to explain why the SE of England needs more people to man the increased office space, can be answered quite easily. In the present age of IT, a computer will work equally well in Carlisle as in Westminster, plus housing is easier to find, and the new sites’ natural resources will not yet be at breaking point. The more people disperse around the British Isles, the less the burden on any one specific area: in every department.

    A more selective immigration policy would not come amiss, particularly in the realm of public housing. We are told that there are many more that a cool half million illegals living here, equal to the population of The City of Manchester.
    Unless these illegal immigrants do not drink or wash, that is a drain on resources which we cannot afford

    If the present immigration programme were aimed at favouring personnel needed to bolster the economy, rather than being haphazard as it seems at present, pressure on services would eventually become bearable. Our hospitality is being abused by the few, to the detriment of the majority legally living here. Global warming will exacerbate the problems quicker than was earlier thought. We must act now! However , in labour parlance , that means interminable committees, and special conferences, so I’m not holding my breath.

    One final thought , we can afford to wage war in Iraq, but it seems to be beyond our resources to repair /convert and extend the excellent system of canals we already have , to enable the redistribution of water throughout the land. I wonder wj=hy?

  11. It is quite amusing to read these posts from the Home Counties Desert. Population trends show the world’s people moving from sodden to arid places (using technology to make their new abodes liveable). Dubai – an authentic desert – can green its golf courses and provide water to its aquaparks. Meanwhile, the whingeing Brits (constantly pissed upon as they are by Mother Nature) are supposed to live with their Mums or ex-spouses and never flush the lavatory?

    Shome mistake shurely?

    It wouldn’t have anything to do with utter f****** incompetence in husbanding natural resources, would it? it would be way too simple to build more reservoirs, desalination plants, etc. etc.? Nah. Let’s go for cholera instead. So much more puritanical.

  12. Oh stop wingeing, you sound like a grumpy old man! What exactly did your party do in government about this (and other) crises?

  13. One assumes that it will only take one child to swallow one mouthful of water for the HSE to come down on all those who dare swim in rivers like a ton of bricks… there’ll be signs up along the borders of every river, and men in sunglasses will patrol the banks shouting at anyone who dares break the rules.

  14. Oh yes, I really and truly do remember that summer. We had just returned to England after living in Brazil for five years as expats and I was disconsolate as a young girl missing friends and so much else – spending hours writing endless letters with watery oil slick watermarks as evidence of the watershed of tears. Life was dire and the drought compounded it all. Mercifully now life is a lot sunnier.

    Now to the article: Boris skinny-dipping? whatever next! woz a good week to get away to sunny Mediterranean shores, eh Boris.

    Yes, tell the likes of Prescott to take a good dive in a river – that he would be inspired enough to scrap the new rabbit hutch building plans and instead build us a few Roman-type baths with lots of calderiums and frigideriums and a few massage parlours too with wonderful unguents, free. We need more inspiring forums to discuss important issues of the day and, like the Romans, get strengthened and ready for the challenges ahead.

  15. yes and the child will undoubtedly be in the care of a single mother because they’ve closed the baths and the river is in walking distance. Huh! Bloody single mothers, spoiling it for everyone. Someone should write to the Daily Mail about this outrage while the DT publishes fashion guidance for the Singleton and her Nanny this season at St Moritz.

    Water shortage? Let them drink Evian!

  16. Free massage parlours Mel? Mmn interesting.
    Both you and Boz in the Med, really and truly huh? I suggest pouring lots of oil on those broad shoulders, he’s bound to burn.
    Be gentle now and happy holiday.

  17. Hi Jaq – no-one from office but me here on beach!

    Something must be done to help single mothers release their full potential – especially ones bursting with so much talent and energy as yourself Jaq. Your time will come.

    ps to the Roman Bath idea I should add: As a haven to parents there would be an annexe attached to every Bath/spa providing excellent Nursery type provision where happy children would cavort to their hearts delight for hours and hours on end – and where the young and old alike could be usefully employed.

  18. Prescott! Everything that man does turns into an expensive and shameful shambles. He currently has such personal planning power (awarded TO himself, BY himself last week) that the most despotic dictator would envy. This man can rail against every local, regional and national planning objection – and sweep them all away, dumped in a file called ‘futile waste of time’.

    What he says, goes (apparently).

    He´s fond of such New Labour buzzwords as The Solent Gateway, The Thames Gateway and Pathfinder Regeneration They´re sexy, modern and yoof orientated (everything that Prescott isn´t). His biggest misuse of a buzzword however is ‘SUSTAINABLE’. He and his acolytes try to shove this in at every opportunity, “sustainable this, sustainable that”??

    Shoe horning a million houses into the South-East is NOT ‘sustainable? ? with the building of homes comes all the rest of the prerequisites of modern life. Transport, services, health, water, water treatment and power (haven’t the power companies already predicted national shortages within the next few years?) As well as the 70s drought, can you remember the 70s power blackouts, Boris?

    In 1997, Blair, Prescott an the rest of New Labour got elected partly on a ticket of decentralisation. I took that to mean that stuff would be genuinely spread around the whole of the UK – not the odd token here and there. Scotland is depopulating at the rate of a waterpipe leak – so is the north of England. Even ‘Prescottonia’ – otherwise known as Kingston-upon-Hull, has had a population decrease of over 32,000 people since the 1997 election.

    The people that haven’t managed to emigrate by meeting Australia and Canada?s incredibly strenuous entry qualifications are drifting southwards to London faster than ever, attracted by a booming economy in overdrive.

    Believe it or not Boris, I find Prescott’s agenda to be just about the most depressing policy in Labour’s portfolio of madness. It will change my country of England forever – and will destroy the South East as I currently know it. As a result, Greater London will spread out in a relentless urban sprawl. Everything will be given over to the great Metro-monster. ‘Concretia’ will spread northwards, and westwards in an unsustainable and ever more aggressive land grab. All that object in the shires will be ‘Prescotted’.

    And what have the Tories done to highlight this appalling abuse of power by one meddling man and his meddling department? What have they said about the appalling and undemocratic impositions of lap dog English Regional quangos set up by Prescott in the late nineties? (What about having an English Parliament to compare with that of Scotland?). What have the Tories suggested as a viable and democratic alternative to R.A.s in England – other than the bizarre and ill thought through official Tory policy of ‘EvoEL’ at Westminster?

    Absolutely nothing. Prescott is allowed to behave like the bully he is and our highly paid, highly inflated official opposition squabble amongst themselves? .Boris, your parliamentary party should be ashamed for letting this Country (of England) so very badly down.

  19. Sigh. Livingstone can leave his pee unflushed and his skin unwashed but I will be more preoccupied with the water that’s escaping under our feet.

    Thames Water & Leaking Pipes

    Perhaps if our pipes were in good order I wouldn’t be fantasising about digging a well to take advantage of all that clean water that’s leaking away underground. Now, where’s my hose?

  20. Not John Prescott again!

    I read this morning in the Telegraph that Frank Dobson has a son who’s strutting around calling himself Osma bin Dobson or something or the sort. I blame the parents – if they’d educated the boy better he’d have seen the intellectual absurdity of falling for a 7th-century superstition. He would also have had more loyalty to his own culture – more pietas (respect for the lares and penates).

    Just what happened to “old Labour” – the Prescotts and Dobsons of this world? Somewhere along the line “old Labour” lost its senses,

  21. Edith L:
    If your question were not entirely rhetorical, your hose, I presume, would be where all others keep theirs: i.e. in the knicker drawer.

  22. Boris, Well done for going on PM today. You were quite right. I am no Tory, but the discussion about the MP’s remarks can be simply resolved as a matter of fact. As Boris said, we must defend the English language, and explanation does not equal justification. We can all debate about causes and appropriate responses, which are subject to opinion, but this is a matter of FACT. Many terrible things are explicable, they are no less terrible because of it.

    I feel very sad that we have reached a time in Britain when educated, prominent people can not understand the English language.

    Peter Hitchens was way off – the Tory party a bunch of appeasing social workers?! I think not.

  23. Damien:In what way does Mary’s mourning over her Son ,(pietas),equate with Household Gods( or even EFFECTS, as the phrase’s alternative meaning suggests)?

  24. Yes, over the past week or two we have been having fairly normal levels of rainfall. The reason for the hosepipe ban is that it’s the first time this has happened in eight months.

  25. The paucity of posts on the question of water shortages would seem to mirror the perceived National importance of the Fat Conntroller.
    “Well done,” Deputy P.M. another triumph.

  26. I have been away a bit and have only just been catching up with news on this web site. Boris is not alone in wondering why we have a hosepipe ban when the water is falling from the heavens in buckets. But the water supply problem in the UK is entirely down to mismanagement. The water companies work on the basis that water must fall as rain, steadily in an average manner throughout an average year to produce the standard average annual rainfall. If it does not fall in such a manner, it either pours down the drains at great speed and disappears out to sea – causing, possibly, a few floods along the way – or it stops falling for a few days and we have a hosepipe ban. I get rather upset about being told not to wash or flush the toilet when the biggest water waste is through leaky pipes – 1,000,000,000 litres are lost each day by this means in London alone. So far most water companies have tried to reduce water losses by reducing water pressure in the mains. Cheap and easy but still total UK leaks lose enough water to supply 11,000,000 homes.
    Some years ago, when we in Sussex were suffering the annual hosepipe ban, I wrote to our then MP Nicholas Soames and asked why in the city of Las Vegas [in the middle of a desert]it was possible to supply water without interruption and at an annual cost less than we paid in Sussex. Mr Soames passed my letter to a government junior minister, who in his reply told me that it was much easier to provide a reliable supply in an area where the rainfall was predictable. In other words we could be better placed to have a consistent supply if we had no rainfall whatsoever in the South east. Mr Soames seemed quite impressed that the Tory Party had such original thinkers.

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