15.4.41

Last night went to the pub to listen to the 9 o’clock news, and arriving there a few minutes late, asked the landlady what the news had been. “Oh, we never turn it on. Nobody listens to it, you see. And they’ve got the piano playing in the other bar, and they won’t turn it off just for the news.” This at a moment when there is a most deadly threat to the Suez canal°. Cf. during the worst moment of the Dunkirk campaign, when the barmaid would not have turned on the news unless I had asked her… [1] Cf. also the time in 1936 when the Germans re-occupied the Rhineland. I was in Barnsley at the time. I went into a pub just after the news had come through and remarked at random, “The German army has crossed the Rhine”. With a vague air of remembering something someone murmured “Parley-voo”. [2] No more response than that…So also at every moment of crisis from 1931 onwards. You have all the time the sensation of kicking against an impenetrable wall of stupidity. But of course at times their stupidity has stood them in good stead. Any European nation situated as we are would have been squealing for peace long ago.

[1] See War-time Diary, 28.5.40 and 24.6.40.

[2] Refrain from World War I song ‘Mademoiselle from Armentiѐres,’ or ‘Armenteers,’ as it was sung. Peter Davison

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4 Responses to 15.4.41

  1. M G says:

    George, your entries are like buses: you don’t make any for weeks on end then suddenly you get loads one after another. Still stuck on the 25-March though on the Road To Wigan Pier diary.

  2. Max says:

    He certainly knew where to go for news. What would the landlady of his favourite pub ‘The Moon Under Water’ have ansered? ‘Well, Mr Blair, the Germans are poised at the gates of Cairo, our own forces have been depleted since so many were diverted to take on the Axis forces attacking Greece, and thousands are being held at the seige of Benghazi. I tell you, Sir, everyone in the pub agrees that it must be the worst moment in our recent history since Dunkirk.’ Now that’s what I call a pub landlady, made in the true Orwellian mould. As Winston Smith says, ‘If there is hope lies in the proles.’

  3. andrew says:

    i do wonder what exactly you expect of them, eric. if they overreact today, how will they react when singapore goes? maybe they’re saving up!

    i haven’t given anything away, have i?

  4. Barry Larking says:

    Orwell was among the first serious British writers to take notice of public feelings and reactions and make these the subject of his work. His great creation, “George Orwell” is in most important ways a concept of a person who is both ordinary and yet informed, fulfilling Orwell’s aim of producing political change without recourse to then current ‘intellectual’ concepts such as had in his view produced bad faith and defeatism in Continental Europe. (See “Coming Up for Air”, his best worse book on this theme.) His stress on writing “plain speech” was the result of a search for this ‘common man’s’ voice. His comments here are illustrative of his ideas in somewhat curious form. The reaction to dramatically bad war news he met with was not new and apparently deep seated (“… from 1931 onwards”.); being Orwell he sees this insularity both as a weakness and a strength. People might be stupid but they would not either swallow the absurdities of the Communist fellow travelling intellectuals dominating the Peace Now faction any more than they could stir themselves about ‘the Empire’.

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