One of my first proper memories is sitting on our step in my best red squiggly pants, in the drought of 1976 feeling hot. My mum was experimenting with cooking on top of the water butt, sun cream hadn’t been invented and the step I was sitting on was made of slate and was baking, but I was too hot to be bothered to move and so sat and burned to a husk.
We had stickers everywhere at school saying, “Save water now, save suffering later” and I took them very seriously. The school took them seriously too as they were never washed off – I expect if I ever went back, they’d still be there. It was so simple then - if we saved water, we saved our standard of living for the future. Of course now, if we save water, we free up some fantastic dividends for water supplier’s shareholders: it doesn’t have the same impetus.
I was in Peru for a while and stayed with a family on an island in Lake Titicaca. Everything was very basic and water wasn’t an exception. Drinking water came out of an open barrel that was filled by a dripping gutter from a dirty roof. Toilet water wasn’t an issue as one wee’d amongst the broad beans. I couldn’t work out the shower and so was happy to ignore it, but eventually even I needed to wash a bit.
It turned out that I had to traipse for 300 yards through the fields, fill up a bucket and lug it back up again. I then had to find a medium-sized child and send him up on to the “shower block” roof where he would pour the water into another bucket. The water would then trickle down through a zig-zagged drain-pipe into the shower head. This was the solar-heating of the water. After I’d lugged three bucket’s worth up, the medium-sized child had got bored and had buggered off back to his goats and I decided that the lugging of the water was counter-productive as I was actually getting sweatier and grubbier with each trip.
I went into the shower-block, stripped off and slung my clothes onto the floor (no point in Peru in mentioning to the host that there were no hooks on the back of the door). I’d hoped that the time I’d spent dragging more water up the hill would have allowed the solar-system to do its job: it hadn’t. Freezing cold water poured out of the shower head over me and I gasped for breath. By the time I had lathered up, my three buckets of water ran out and I was left with a head full of suds and ice-cream headache.
The moral of the story was to grow my hair long, dye it black and put it into two plaits…
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