Tuesday, 26 February 2013

George Orwell

Here's the thing.  On Sunday, I was out walking with my dear friend of 27 years - we met at Mothers and Toddlers when we each had just the one baby under one year old.  We've shared a huge number of experiences since - the second baby, the passing of our parents, the trials of living with middle-aged husbands, and now we are both contemplating retirement and what activities we will take up.

DF told me that her husband (already retired) has started running a chess club at the primary school which all of our children attended.

I was interested in this, and asked to hear more.  His most recent session focussed round bringing in a game he had actually played himself at the age of 16, for the primary school kids to look at and follow.  Apparently, they were mesmerised, and all asked him to photocopy the sheet of paper on which he had noted down the moves, and then autograph it for each of them!

This of course reflected very well on all parties - the good manners and enthusiasm of the children, the energy and imagination of the leader of the club.

We both laughed, uproariously and irreverently, however, at the fact that her husband had kept this relic for nearly 50 years.  It is entirely in character, as "extraordinarily retentive" would be a polite description of him.

I said, confident that I was remembering correctly, "I don't have a single thing in my possession that I owned when I was 16, not an item of clothing, a memento, an old toy - nothing!"

It turns out that I was wrong, and what would the item be but a book, of course!

Recently Radio 4 ran a series of programmes called "The Real George Orwell."

It was an excellent mini-series, comprising some dramatic renderings of actual stories by Orwell, such as "1984" which to my surprise had never been put on radio before.  Then there was an adaptation of "Homage to Catalonia", this being an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, with commentary as to how this shaped his cynical views of Communism which later emerged in "Animal Farm" and "1984". 

A further strand was a short reading of an essay each morning, and then there was an imagined re-construction of his relationship with his first wife.  All in all, meaty nuggets and plenty to choose from.

I missed all the essays, as the morning "Book of the Week" slot is at a time when I am always busy, either working in the house or out of it.

Yesterday, I was searching in one of my "very-seldom used" bookcases (I have several categories of book-case scattered around the house) for a copy of the first book I ever borrowed from a library (this, I hope, will be the subject of a later post).  The book has been in my actual possession a few years: I got it from a charity shop and the price inside the cover is marked "5p".

Next to it was a Penguin paperback copy of "Down and Out in Paris and London" by George Orwell. "Oh, good," I thought, "I'll take that downstairs and add it to my meal-time reading pile". I thought it would be good to refresh my memories of the really outstanding standard of Orwell's essay-writing .

I opened the (now fragile, browning) pages and looked to see if I had bought this book as new, or from a second-hand shop.  In the flyleaf was my maiden name, in childish handwriting, black fountain pen ink, and the date, "2nd Feb 1970".   I was in the sixth form, studying A-Level English, at the time, and must have bought this as background reading, for the set text "1984".

At that date, I was 16 years old.  Wow!  Wrong, then, but wrong in a good way. And the writing, (I've slotted it straight to the top of the meal-time reading pile), is just as strong, refreshing, clear and original as it seemed 43 years ago. 


  1. I heard some of the radio 4 stuff too and was rivited.......of course I remember reading Animal Farm at school and it was brilliant to see my ADHD son actually reading it from start to finish when he was at school too.....meal-time reading pile?? What is that......??

  2. Hi, Young at heart, thanks for visiting. Interesting that your ADHD son loved Animal Farm. The meal-time reading pile - well, in a very old marriage, one's husband doesn't do chatting at mealtimes. He likes to read the paper over his meals. So I have a pile of books I can choose from to dip into. Really nice food does not go well with angst reading, I find, so a selection is necessary!

  3. Can't go wrong with Orwell. I loved DAOIPAL with it's constant misery of pawning overcoats and searching for where the next plate of stew was coming from. I can never make a stew without thinking of Orwell's description.

    BTW, in case you don't check back at my blog. The answer to your question:
    My first thoughts in the order they came to me: raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, cherry (fresh), peach (chopped), even pineapple.

    That should keep you busy!

    Happy baking