By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Magazine
A drought, a Labour party contemplating a new prime minister, Noel Edmonds on the television... is 2006 the new 1976? Your memories of the long hot summer 30 years ago.
For anyone looking for coincidences, there are some intriguing parallels between 2006 and 1976.
The most immediate is the sunshine blazing away outside the window - and the persistent warnings that southern England could once again be facing serious water shortages.
Will it be another 1976? The so-called Great Drought of that year saw reservoirs dried up and turned into giant cracked mosaics of mud.
No one had heard of global warming then, but the records set that summer have still to be broken. In Dorset, there were 45 days without any rain and for an unbroken stretch of 14 days, southern England clocked up temperatures in excess of 32C.
A Drought Act was passed, a minister was made responsible for handling the water shortage and stand-pipes were set up to provide a rationed supply of water.
This has made a long-lasting impression, with e-mails about "the smell of mown grass from the school field together with hot melting tarmac", and "fields of wheat on fire", a plague of ladybirds and stories about being unable to sleep in the stifling heat.
Ellie from London remembers sitting with "my feet in a bucket of water for hours at a time, eating gherkins and drinking gallons of Coke" (she was pregnant).
When the heatwave broke there was also excitement. "When the rain finally came, we all ran out into the street, took off our tops and danced - like idiots!" writes Steve from Leigh-on-Sea.
"I was in Swanage when the drought broke, sitting with thousands of others watching Dave Lee Travis (aka the Hairy Cornflake) at the Radio 1 Roadshow. It started to rain and nobody moved - it was really refreshing after so long without rain," writes Charlie, now living in Australia.
And if there was a cynicism index, that too would have soared since 1976. Lots of your e-mails say that year was a "real" drought, rather than bad planning and opportunism by water companies. "The 'drought' is one of our own making," writes Matthrew Gray in Southport.
That year, like 2006, was also a time of political transition. Labour were in power, but leader Harold Wilson stepped down to be replaced by Jim Callaghan.
The party had won four out of the five previous general elections, but rocky times lay ahead for Callaghan, with deepening economic problems and industrial unrest, culminating in the winter of discontent.
And the Conservatives, in 1976 as in 2006, were reinvigorated by a new leader - Margaret Thatcher, elected as a surprise choice in the previous year.
In retrospect, 1976 came to be seen as the calm before the storm. And many of your e-mails remember this year for long bike rides, a sense of safety and a feeling of simpler times.
It might not just be nostalgia. The New Economics Forum says that 1976 was the best ever year in modern history for people living in Britain - using a calculation based on economic data and quality of life, such as crime rates and pollution. There were 565 murders, for instance, compared with 859 last year.
It's tempting to wonder how 2006, with relatively low unemployment, cheap travel and high levels of consumer spending, will come to be seen in future years.
As well as the parallels, there are big differences with 1976. There were no mobile phones, no personal computers, no internet, only three television channels and barely half the population even had a landline.
Another striking difference for any time traveller would be the huge growth in traffic. In 1976, almost half of households had no car at all. Parking hadn't become an obsession.
And the cars parked in these empty streets were as likely to be outside rented houses, because only about half the population were home-owners.
But at the movies in 1976 (as in 2006) the Omen was released. And on television, we could still have watched Coronation Street, Last of the Summer Wine - and who is that strangely unchanged man with a beard and flicked-back hair? Noel Edmonds was there too.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
More of your memories of 1976. And click here for details of how to send us your 1976 photos.
Spangles and spacehoppers, finding hairy caterpillars (and not being too scared to hold them), going out to play just after breakfast and being home in time for tea (someone's mum would inevitably throw a bag of butties from a second floor window to feed us all mid-day). Daytime television? - nah, we had the TV test card. Saturday afternoons spent with dad watching Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. No Nintendos or computers: if you wanted to play you actually had to think of a game! Smashing.
What a great year! I had my 10th birthday, and we moved to a house which was one and a half miles away from my junior school. No-one batted an eyelid as I walked or cycled on my own along country lanes and through the town to and from school. Me and my mates used to build huts and ride bikes in the woodland on the hills behind our house, sometimes staying out all day - the only time Mum was worried was if we weren't back by six o'clock for tea! I can remember the water shortages, and I hated Noel then and now, but the long hot days were a young boy's dream. How times have changed - for the better? I don't think so...
The first time I suffered hayfever. Not nice
A pal and I rode our motorcycles along the bed of Rutland Water and parked at the bottom of the tall concrete "overflow tower". We then climbed up the inside and viewed the dried-out reservoir bed. It was quite a shock when I revisited the area many years later and saw how little of the tower was then above the water level! Maybe I'll go back and climb it again.
Rob Davis, Telford, Shropshire
I was in the 1st year of 6th form, and my main memory of that summer was that when they said we had to have a standpipe in our village they discovered it could not be installed as the pub carpark had been built over the only suitable point!
In the summer of 1976 I was very pregnant. I found it impossible to cool down and the best place for me was half-way up the stairs. So I set up camp and would sit with my feet in a bucket of water for hours at a time, eating gherkins and drinking gallons of Coke (it's a pregnant thing). The daughter I eventually gave birth to was doomed to be pregnant in the summer of 2003 - pay-back time!
With nothing on telly (apart from Peter Purves asking us to put bricks in the loo cistern to save water) and, being 16, nothing obviously to do, I set off down the A30 by bicycle to the New Forest for a week of touring. As I approached the forest the smoke from the forest fires rose hundreds of feet in the air and there was a 'mist' of smoke that spread for miles. The fire brigade had erected what looked like mega circular paddling pools full of water, about 30 feet in diameter and 5 feet in height as reservoirs for fighting the fires in the more remote areas of the forest. Despite the 'keep off' signs kids were hurling themselves into these impromptu lidos while the constant 'smokiness' permeated the whole scene. It was truly baking and it seemed the whole area was about to disappear in flames and smoke.
Simon Fairburn, London
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