for writers and readers….

London’s deadly fog

60 YEARS AGO today London  was smothered  in a deadly smog. It was bitterly cold and very calm: no wind blew away the toxic air. Instead it lay over the city like a blanket for five days causing at least 4000 deaths – although some sources calculate that the real figure could be twice that number – and many thousands more suffered respiratory infections.
I remember my parents talking about the week when London stood still and I have a very vague memory of  London fogs before clear air legislation blew them away.
I wrote about that kind of fog in A GOOD CONFESSION set in Islington in the early 1960 .

… everyone could smell sulphur, a rotten, cloying smell that seeped into the lungs. From the window they could see ugly swirls of fog licking around the dustbins by the backdoor…Already the back fence had disappeared and, as Cathleen struggled into her coat, the fog grew denser. It crept up the garden, swallowing the flower beds and washing line. When the telephone rang it had reached the dustbins…

My main character is Cathleen, a young widow struggling to bring up her daughters. In this scene she has to go out into the fog and Father Jerry reluctantly accompanies her. They are in love but neither want to acknowledge it.

At the top of the road a bus was inching its way along and from the same direction came a muted honking. Cathleen ran. She ran towards the lights and noise and didn’t care what was in the way. She was running blind. She heard Father Jerry call out but she didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

The corner shop where Cathleen worked was a beacon in the dark.

…the road was washed with a gauzy light, like a candle seen through a veil. Reg had kept the shop open and an odd collection of standard lamps and bedside lights shone from every window. A row of paraffin lamps flickered on top of the sweet jars casting a golden glow into the sulphuric fog and Reg, wrapped up in a muffler, stood at the door with a torch in either hand.

Cars and buses hooted in appreciation as they passed. Reg was lighting the way home.

That’s how I imagined it – I’ve just found this film on youtube that shows how it was…

5 comments on “London’s deadly fog

  1. Vikki (The View Outside)
    December 6, 2012

    Hi Honey 🙂

    I’ve nominated you for a Blog Of The Year Award. Please don’t feel obligated to accept, but if you do, you’ll find all the info here 🙂


  2. ann perrin
    December 6, 2012

    Whew really had forgotton what it was like…and was in the thick of it X

  3. bridget whelan
    December 6, 2012

    Don’t believe it!

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This entry was posted on December 5, 2012 by in News and tagged , , , , .


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