28.3.39.

On board ss. Yasukunimaru (N.Y.K) in bay° of Biscay. The following was written in Marrakech on 21.3.39 to be written into diary when the latter was unpacked:-

Until this afternoon, the last 3 or 4 days astonishingly cold. Two days ago in the midst of a rainstorm there was a few minutes’ hail.

At public gardens many of the animals mating. Tortoises copulating, the male standing almost upright & the female when she moved dragging him round, so that probably he has a long flexible penis which can go round the edge of the shell. Ostriches showing signs of mating, the male chasing the female into a corner & getting astride her (not treading as with flying birds), the female when frightened hiding her head in the corner as a captured hare will do, so perhaps there is some truth in the tales about ostriches hiding their heads in sand. Presumably these two are of the same species, but male & female very different in appearance, the male’s plumage being black & the female’s a kind of dirty grey. Male’ neck is red, female’s grey. Both have bare necks & thighs. Height of either bird something over 7’. They would not eat bread. Frogs making a great noise, though there were tadpoles about already. Male peacocks when displaying shiver their quills with a rustling sound, as though the wind were blowing through them. One monkey (tailless ground monkey of more or less baboon type) has a baby. Evidently about two days old, & making some attempts to move about on its own, which its mother does not allow. As she runs on all fours the baby clings to her under-side with its four legs, looking forward with its face upside down. Fingers, unlike those of adults. The monkey which is evidently the father, & another male, taking great interest in the baby, handling & examining it gently, & also gnashing their teeth at it as they do when angry with one another, but as the baby showed no fear it is presumably not a hostile gesture. The baby screamed with fright when it caught sight of E. & myself, on two occasions.

The tortoises have an egg. They have laid it inside their stone hutch, so it probably won’t hatch.

The father monkey copulated with the mother, or began to do so, when she was carrying the baby in her arms.

We left Casablanca 4pm on 26.3.39, passed Cape Finisterre 7 am on the 28th & should pass Ushant 7 am on the 29th. Run for the last 12 hours 378  miles[1] (notes on this ship are in the other diary.) Weather after leaving Casablanca somewhat choppy, now while crossing the bay very calm, ie. not rough enough to disturb a ship of this tonnage. Of 3 passages across the bay I have made, only one was rough. Have seen no life at all, except the gulls which have followed the ship from Casablanca, & some flights of ducks flying northward, some of them at least 50 miles from land. No seasickness, though the first 24 hours the ship rolled sufficiently to have made me sick if I had not taken Vasano.

The last few days in Casablanca beastly cold. Struck by the changed appearance of the country when coming from M. to C. by train, ie. the temporary greenness everywhere. Crops look pretty good, though great variation in different places. Wildflowers in huge patches, & the little compounds around the Arabs’ huts so smothered in weeds that sometimes even the huts themselves were almost hidden. E. saw camels ploughing. I hadn’t seen this before & thought it didn’t happen, but evidently it is fairly usual as it was one of the things represented on the base of Lyautey’s statue[2].  On this ship several kinds of plants, some of palm type, another of the laurel type, & some of the usual Japanese stunted fir trees, are successfully grown & look healthy.

[1] Orwell originally wrote the mileage as 347.
[2] For Marshal Lyautey, see 511, n. 1. Peter Davison

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5 Responses to 28.3.39.

  1. Stephen says:

    Extraordinary. What a way to leave a country, and I’m not talking about by ship.

  2. Roving Thundercloud says:

    Oh my goodness. That post left me quite ruffled! I’m too frightened to clink the tag link for “animals mating”.

  3. Holden Caulfeild says:

    Whew…he went out with a bang…
    You can (I can ?) sense his relief to be out of that place,though while there he put on a brave front…

  4. Natalie says:

    Yeah, and it was not a week ago that I was directed toward a video of a turtle attempting to mate with a shoe…

  5. Pingback: George Orwell on Tortoises Copulating « Meghan Dowling

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