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History: that was real pollution

Richard North, 06/12/2012  


Mail 001-fog.jpg

The Mail and others are doing a retrospective on the Great Smog of London, which descended upon us sixty years ago this week. In typical Mail style, a good selection of pictures is included, and the loss-making Guardian also posts a gallery of pics illustrating the event. The BBC offers a narrative.

However, I can attest that none of these pictures really do justice to how bad it was. One hears the phrase "you couldn't see your hand in front of your face" and in this case it really was no exaggeration. At the tender age of four and a bit, I remember being taken to school by my father, and experiencing the eerie sensation of walking along the pavement, not being able to see my own feet. And I was only little then.

We were living in Stamford Hill, in north London, at the time. At the crossroads on the main street, there was a vast expanse of pavement in front of what was then the Odeon Cinema. So thick was the smog that we lost sight of any reference point, groping though the murk, trying to work out the direction. We could see nothing but these rolling clouds of filth.  

The Council had placed goose-neck flares at the pavement edges and only by the dim glimmer of these lights could we navigate at all. But it was not enough for the motor cars. We heard an engine labouring and then a bang, and a tinkle of broken glass. A car had run into the bollards on the central reservation. We heard it but could not see anything at all.

And the next year it was just the same, only that time it didn't last as long. But that time, I saw one of the strangest things I have ever seen. Fogs usually lift, but this one didn't. It sank.

Standing on the balcony of our four-storey flat, in the brilliant sunshine, I watched in awe as this solid blanket of smog gradually got lower and lower. Seemingly thick enough to walk on, slowly, grudgingly it revealed the floors of the block opposite until, all of a sudden, it decided to go. In a matter of minutes, there was no trace of it.  It was as if it had never been there at all. 

We never saw the like of it again. With the introduction of the Clean Air Acts, the authorities finally sorted out a plague that, as the Guardian reported at the time, killed more people in one week than the great cholera epidemic of 1866.

Having been through this, we cannot help but look askance at the NWO Greenies who get worked up about carbon dioxide "pollution". They don't know the half of it. What we went though that year of 1952 was reckoned to have killed 12,000 people, and global warming hadn't even been invented then.

Now, London is cleaner and brighter than it has even been, albeit that traffic fumes are a problem. But nobody who went through the Great Smogs is going to get worked up about carbon dioxide. As I gaze out of the window, watching the snow just beginning to fall out of a leaden sky, it really is not an issue.

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