21.9.40

Have been unable for some days to buy another volume to continue this diary because of the three or 4° stationers’ shops in the immediate neighbourhood, all but one are cordoned off because of the unexploded bombs.

Regular features of the time: neatly swept-up piles of glass, litter of stone and splinters of flint, smell of escaping gas, knots of sighseers waiting at the cordons.

Yesterday, at the entry to a street near here, a little crowd waiting with an A.R.P. man in a black tin hat among them.  A devastating roar, with a huge cloud of dust, etc.  The man with the hat comes running towards the A. R. P. headquarters, where another with a white hat is emerging, munching at a mouthful of bread and butter.

The man with the black hat: “Dorset Square, sir.”

The man with the white hat: “O.K.” (Makes a tick in his note-book.)

Nondescript people wandering about, having been evacuated from their houses because of delayed-action bombs.  Yesterday two girls stopping me in the street, very elegant in appearance except that their faces were filthily dirty: “Please, sir, can you tell us where we are?”

Withal, huge areas of London almost normal, and everyone quite happy in the daytime, never seeming to think about the coming night, like animals which are unable to foresee the future so long as they have a bit of food and a place in the sun.

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24 Responses to 21.9.40

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 21.9.40 « THE ORWELL PRIZE -- Topsy.com

  2. zenomax says:

    Nondescript people with filthily dirty faces – how horrid it must be George, given your distaste for anything unclean.

  3. Max says:

    Come on, now. He’d been down-and-out in Paris and London and lived in a squalid country cottage for four years in Wallington. If George was truly phobic about dirt he seems, strangely able also to relish it.

  4. Max B says:

    “Nondescript people with filthily dirty faces ” Bit of choice editing there zenomax

  5. Robert says:

    Yesterday two girls stopping me in the street, very elegant in appearance except that their faces were filthily dirty: “Please, sir, can you tell us where we are?”

    They sound like time-travellers to me. If one had a time machine, I expect a visit to Orwell – incognito, of course – would be on the list. As would London during the Blitz: win-win.

  6. George~~
    I sure am glad that there is at least one decent, sentient human being left in London and it is you.
    “…..like animals which are unable to foresee the future so long as they have a bit of food and a place in the sun.”

  7. Chris Squire says:

    zenomax is just trolling – please ignore him.

  8. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  9. Barry Larking says:

    Orwell is interesting because he over came his upbringing. His novels are about people who did not, could not.

    Here we see how much of his upbringing and prejudices are as yet untouched even at this date; in ten years he would be dead. Still the note of the Edwardian Etonian, what Jack Common called on their first encounter, the public school self assurance, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Common, a working class man, came to admire Orwell because he had recognised and over come his upbringing. Peggy Seager made the same point about Charles Parker, ex-public school and R.N. submarine skipper and afterwards pioneering B.B.C. wireless programme producer. With Parker visiting ‘travelling people’ for research she and partner Ewan McColl noticed Parker would accept no food or drink offered. Coming away she turned on Parker and castigated him for his insulting behaviour. Parker replied he had been brought up with a horror of lower class people and dire stories of diseases and so on. Seager said that it was what she came to admire about Parker finally was he was able to confront and finally over come his background. The same can be said of Orwell. But it shows here and there like a fading echo.

    I notice an number of posts appear to come from American college students – at least that is how they read. I think it would a be good idea for a little reading on the background, including some of Orwell’s work; but try not to start with ’1984′.

  10. Fred Engelhardt says:

    Barry Larking tells us:

    “I notice an [sic] number of posts appear to come from American college students – at least that is how they read.”

    Then he implies these chaps should get in some background reading before making any additional ill-informed remarks.

    All this after praising those who overcame Etonian upbringings — very amusing.

  11. Barry Larking says:

    Fred Engelhardt. Thank you for correcting my typing. You make my point for me better than I do myself.

  12. Fred Engelhardt says:

    Barry Larking:

    I appreciate the compliment. I’m pleased to help in your crusade to cleanse the ‘comments section’ of posts you find unworthy.

    Are there other voices you wish to suppress, aside from Syd Walker’s and those of a million or so American college students? Perhaps I can offer further assistance?

    Cheers

  13. Barry Larking says:

    I do not think my estimation of your powers – or connections – are as great as your own. But thank you anyway.

  14. George~~
    Is it true that you eventually overcome your Elitism? If so, when?
    ~~~~~
    Meanwhile, it is Sunday the 22nd: Slight activity in daylight. At night raids on London and Merseyside.

    During the night raids a parachute mine exploded at Ilford (London) demolishing a hundred houses, while in Poplar and Lambeth direct hits killed over 50 in shelters. The British Museums King Edward buildings were damaged and Mile End ‘tubestation was closed by a direct hit.

    In Germany: Flight testing begins on the unpowered airframe of the Heinkel He 280 V1 twin turbojet fighter. The He 280 was towed aloft by a Heinkel He 111B bomber and cast off for gliding flight.

  15. Pingback: Who Is It? Part II | 3rdBlog from the…..

  16. Reductio Ad Absurdum Alert:
    Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological, metaphysical or ontological forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible or that contrary to our belief, some aspect of reality does not exist as such.

    George~~
    Having said that, let me ask you this: Do you agree with Euclid’s allegation that if two circles cut one another, they do not have the same centre. He begins by assuming that the opposite is true, that two circles may cut one another and have the same centre. He then shows that, if this happened, the radius of one circle would be both equal to and less than the radius of the other, which is impossible. If not, why not?

  17. Regarding the two girls: I assert that their faces were so “filthily dirty” because they were lost, terrified, stumbling and crying.

    Does George reassure them, wipe their faces, help them find their mummy? Or does he “make a tick in his note-book” and plod on looking for more specimens?

  18. Barry Larking says:

    On reflection I will apologise for my rather high handed tone to Fred Englehardt. I suspect I was coming down with the virus which has plagued me since.

    Orwell is developing a style of writing here. He (and the indefagitable JL3rd doubtless also) knew of Mass Observation and what was then entirely an new thing – actually recording what “ordinary people” thought and experienced on their terms. But with a novelist’s eye for details like the A.R.P. man’s sandwich. It was as if the coming of war had made athropologists stay at home and study the ‘specimens’ on the street. Alongside this interest and sharpening it was a simply brilliant documentary film movement, founded by John Grierson, which again sought not to speak over people’s heads. I must assure one and all under fifty five, or so, that this was revolutionary in Britain at that time. More typical fare were appalling ‘public announcement’ films. Viewing one war time vintage newsreel with my Mother on the importance of not ‘panic buying’ (!) presented by a toff in an ill fitting tin helmet, I asked her what cinema audiences thought of such awful patronising guff. She would not repeat what people shouted at the screen – but the memory made her laugh.

    The immense popularity of Americans Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels (who spent the Blitz in London) was because in working class British eyes they were ‘classless’.

    Of course, I accept that, as with all old people, it is impossible now to convey the actuallity of the past; what seems ‘weird dude’ and quaint was once of such meaning.

  19. Leslie Silverman says:

    Our own personal history is the screen through which we view the world and fortunately through this diary we are able to see an important period of history through the eyes of a brilliant observer.

  20. Monday, September 23:
    The afternoon temperature only reached 16.5°C [61.7°F].

    London was under Red Alert from 19:56 to 05:27 and fire engulfed Clarnico’s, trapping over 100 in the factory’s basement shelter. By midnight 24 serious fires were burning in West Ham. Searchlights were exposed 220 times, 7 times illuminating raiders for 42 AA sites which loosed off 5,565 rounds. A Vickers Twin Mk 8 firing from Waltham Cross exploded a descending mine, and SM11 guns brought down a He-111H-3 of KG26 at Chobham.

    Himmler orders that all gold teeth are to be removed from dead camp inmates, the proceeds to go into an SS account in the Reichsbank under the name of Max Heiliger.

    During the night of September 23-24th the RAF bombs Berlin.

    I’m always going to remember the faces of those two little girls.

  21. Fred Engelhardt says:

    Barry Larking pines:

    “Of course, I accept that, as with all old people, it is impossible now to convey the actuallity of the past; what seems ‘weird dude’ and quaint was once of such meaning.”

    That’s so, you know, like pessimistic. That virus must be the wistful strain. Get well soon.

  22. CAL says:

    Leslie Silverman – Great comment — Yes, “Our own personal history is the screen through which we view the world.” This is particularly true of those, like myself, who are old enough to remember the events Orwell is writing about. Our own memories of that time make his detailed observations particularly poignant.

  23. wolfy says:

    Utterly fascinating.

  24. Barry Larking says:

    Thank you Fred. I am much improved. However, it was not old age, a virus nor pessimissim which lead to my observation. That was experience.

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