- About the Author
- On Active Service
What were you doing in the summer of 1976? I was working for an opticians in Taunton. I had started there in January. My son was only two, but with mass unemployment in the mid-70’s and women still being paid less than men, it was easier for me to find work than for him. There was no air-conditioning. The office I worked in, writing out orders for spectacles, was tiny, cramped and airless. They didn’t supply a uniform and we had very little money so I bought a cheap summer dress which I washed through by hand in the evening, hanging it out on the line overnight, knowing it would be bone dry to wear the next day.
Mornings were the best time, the air cool and fresh, the sky blue. I travelled in to work on the bus, relishing the breeze that blew in through the open door and windows. During the day a thin veil of cloud would steal over, the sky was thick and white, the heat became oppressive, rising off the hot pavements, wafting out of every open shop door. There was no escape from it. Beads of sweat stood out on my face as I waited for the bus at the end of the day. It was unbearably hot on the way home with the heat rising from the engine and the hot road, and blasting in like heat from an open oven door. I dreaded that ride home with the smell of petrol fumes and the pounding of the heavy traffic, sweat pouring down my back and sticking my dress to me as I sat on the hot itchy seat.
We lived in a tiny two up two down terraced house in a small village about two miles out of town. Even with all the windows and the front and back door open there was very little breeze. Night-times were unbearable. Everyone slept badly. The weather was the main topic of conversation. The grass yellowed, crackled when you walked on it. Great cracks appeared in the soil. A hose pipe ban was enforced. Plants and flowers withered and died.
The summer of 2013 cannot possibly compare, starting as it did so poorly, stopping as it has so suddenly. And it was never so oppressive. The sky remained blue, there was still a slight breeze, we still had the odd dull day. To my mind, nothing will compare to the summer of ‘76.
Bethany Askew is the author of seven novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years and The Two Saras.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.