Kit Domino

Every Step of the Way by Kit Domino
Shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Prize 2004 and soon to be released for the first time in Kindle format.

In a brave new world where rationing had almost ended, the United Kingdom recovering from the Second World War when, on the 5th December 1952, a killer smog descended over London. The Capital was well known for its frequent fogs and smogs (it wasn’t called “The Smoke” for nothing) but none had ever seen smog of such magnitude as befell the city that winter’s afternoon. Lasting for four days, the Great Smog became one of the worst man-made air pollution disasters the world had known at that time, and probably since given the sheer number of people who died as a result. Reaching 4,000 in the first few weeks, during the following months the human death toll rose to over 12,000. To these figures must also be added the vast numbers of wildlife that perished.

No one realised the ramifications this dramatic event would leave behind or how it would change the course of history for millions of people. Some of those changes are well documented. The burning of smokeless fuels and the beginnings of the Clean Air Act that finally into force in 1956, for example, but many more went unrecorded; countless legacies the official records failed to mention or chose to ignore.

Beth Brixham’s battle to hold her family’s lives together in the aftermath is one such story.

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Extract from Every Step of the Way

Chapter One
The mist came down suddenly, turning rapidly from a damp haze into one so dense it blotted out all familiar landmarks, the tapering tower of the Victorian pumping station at Kew soon lost from sight. Beth Brixham groped her way along the perimeter wall of the gasworks, her only guide through the thick, impenetrable fog. The rough London bricks snagged at her glove, pulling at threads. The pavement along this part of Brentford High Street was narrow, enough barely for two people to pass; she feared wandering out into the road.
Somewhere across the street stood St Martin’s church with its stubby, hexagonal bell tower but had she passed it yet, she wondered. From the church to the pumping station and Green Dragon Lane, her destination, took fifteen minutes’ brisk walking. But with the church shrouded from view, she had no way of judging how far she had come, how much further she had to go.

Clutching her coat collar to her throat and with head bent, mindful to watch out for uneven paving slabs, she put on a spurt.

I have to keep going, I mustn’t be late, she urged herself on. If only I could run the rest of the way, but that would be stupid. It’s impossible to see where I’m going. I might trip over. No way can I turn up for an interview with holes in my stockings and grazed knees. Let alone late. That just wouldn’t do.

Shivering inside her coat, she couldn’t ignore the dampness from the cold, December pavement seeping through the thin leather soles of her black boots.

“I need a new pair,” she muttered. “These ones won’t see the winter out. I have to get this job.”

In an effort to keep at bay the sulphurous stench filling her nostrils, she pulled her scarf up over her mouth and nose, pressing it closer. It did little to prevent the acrid odour filtering through. The air around the gasworks always stank of rotten eggs but today it had a most peculiar smell. It made her eyes sting and had a ghastly, foul taste. Of tar and carbolic. The scarf’s coarse woollen fibres irritated her cheeks, tickled her nose, made her sneeze. When she inhaled again, she realised the smell came not from the towering gasometer behind the high wall; it was fog itself that reeked………..

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