September 4, 1938

Today crossing mouth of Bay of Biscay. Sea a little rougher, ship rolling somewhat. Not sick (seasickness remedy “Vasano” evidently efficacious.) Passing C. Finisterre about 5pm but invisible owing to mist. Run of the ship (12-12) 403 miles. Gibraltar is about 5° west of Greenwich. Clocks will be retarded 1/2 hour on Monday & Tuesday, then put forward again at Marseilles. We are due in Tangier 7 am on Tuesday (6th) & Gibraltar at 1.30 pm. Run of 1007 miles to Tangier takes about 89 hours.
Today a few porpoises passing the ship. Yesterday saw a gull I did not know, dark brown with white bands on wings. Otherwise no life.
Length of ship is about 250 yards, width at widest about 25 yards. There are 7 decks above water-level. Do not yet know number of crew, who including stewards are mainly lascars.


*You can follow Orwell’s movements on the Orwell Diaries’ Google Map.

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23 Responses to September 4, 1938

  1. Omer says:

    Anyone know what that is?

  2. Jape says:

    In the late 1950’s, my grandmother used to commute between Melbourne and Perth on ‘Stratheden’. They had excellent ginger beer in earthenware bottles.

    Vasano: “This drug consists. of the sodium salt of camphoric acid combined with. scopolamine and hyoscyamine.” – from a site titled “Emil Starkenstein 1884–1942” – you have to pay for the rest, so I didn’t.

    I do know scopolamine – around 10 years ago it was available as a patch to be worn behind the ear as a motion sickness preventative. V. effective – we went through a hurricane-force storm in a 30 foot yacht with no-one sick. As far as I understand, it’s no longer available. But I think I’m getting off-topic.

  3. Laia says:

    @Omer: “Vasano” = seasickness remedy :)
    What we will all learn with this blog…

    btw. George: what about the weather? was your voyage so exciting that you did not care anymore?

  4. Art Brennan says:

    Is he intentionally marking this time when the only challenge on the seaways is finding and marking your path? Such dangerous waters!

  5. John says:

    Mr. Orwell, I have found your blog very enlightning so far. That is up untill today, your shameless slandering has not gone unnoticed. The crass use of the term retarded is very offensive to anyone with any sence of dignity. Please refrain from using that term in the future or I will be forced to take this to the light of the media. Then you, Mr. Orwell, will see who the real retard is.

  6. Amir says:

    It’s interesting to note, that he is getting off the topic of wether, but still mentions the fog, which was obstructiin the view of another ship.
    Perhaps, for him, writing something was important, but not specifically what he wrote. When he had nothing better to occupy his time with, he’d write about the weather, but as soon as something took more of his interest, he’d write about that.
    The snake in the first entry is a good example. The rest of the time, he might have been bored silly, watching plants grow, and clouds move… I know I’d be going nutz.

  7. kamelda says:

    It is simply astonishing to me that people who are really interested in little things get mistaken for people who are *bored*. One of the reasons Orwell was such a good writer was because he was genuinely observant: that is, he *enjoyed*, was not bored by, liked, observing. He obviously liked observing things like the speed of ships, and what flowers were in bloom, and what the weather was like. Writing things down would have served to record observations that really interested him, also as reference for himself (they were after all private journals) for future years and perhaps even reference for fact checks in writing books, mentioning what flowers were in bloom or what the weather was like etc (I can think of such passages in some of his fiction). Kipling used to spend hours questioning the workings of machines of every sort. Good writers are often people who are interested in things that the rest of us find boring. It’s not some sort of disconnect with their seemingly ‘greater’, more momentous interests, but an extension of the same principle. It is fine to be bored by Orwell’s journal, but ascribing such boredom to him is really beyond belief in the teeth of his obvious interest.

  8. Ed Webb says:

    Exactly right, Kamelda. Observation is the beginning of art of all kinds.

  9. asquith says:

    All the people complaining that Orwell wrote about non-“political” topics obviously aren’t well versed in him. See, for example, “A Good Word For The Vicar Of Bray” or anything in the compilation “Essays” published by Penguin. (& all his books rather than just Animal Farm & 1984, which is presumably all the carping critics have ever set eyes on).

    You don’t know Orwell if all you can do is moan about his diary.

  10. mike giggler says:

    John at 1:23, are you going to cancel your subscription? :)

  11. Roving Thundercloud says:

    Spot on, Kamelda, but Amir is onto something too…there are periods in my life when I have a seemingly biological drive to write, and if my brain can’t come up with something satisfactory I’ll start with simple observations of the first thing at hand. I don’t know if Blair ever felt that way, and I don’t think these entries point to that just because they seem trivial to others, but for me it is sometimes a pretty vivid, almost physical itch.

  12. kamelda says:

    Roving, agreed. But it’s not as if Orwell can be assumed to have been so vapid that he simply existed in a state of waiting for wars to break out to have something to talk about for a change. It boggles my mind to think we should assume that someone with the resources to respond so tellingly when wars did break out, simply meandered around waiting for something exciting to happen so that he could have something real to think about for a change. His journal was not the the only thing he was writing or working on in 1938. Homage to Catalonia was published in that year, also, see his collected essays, journalism, and letters.

  13. kamelda says:

    (oh, rereading what I said, I think I should clarify: the point of the above, which I typed in a hurry, paying attention to something else- is not that little things aren’t ‘real’, but that one gets the idea from some here that Orwell was utterly resourceless unless something happened outside of him to stimulate him to intelligence and meaning. I obviously disagree with that.)

  14. jadedconformist says:

    I am almost sure John is kidding.

  15. dave says:

    Scopalamine is also known as ‘truth serum’…used by CIA etc,so maybe its making him more talkative. This also limited its popularity as a remedy for motion sickness…..

  16. Pingback: talking about the weather « revision

  17. multipli-city says:

    Orwell’s just a foggy old gentlemanly type who genuinely enjoys things like the weather and latitudes and various wildlife sightings. People used to be really interested in the world. And when you’re British, these things are exciting.

  18. Scopolamine or hyoscine or “Devils Breath” has a past far, far more sinister than the CIA.

  19. crysis says:

    snake exapmle is good byt why not monkey?

  20. If I look at something and I don’t know what it is, I wonder. I’m thinking this may very well apply to the rest of my senses as well–the spontaneous wonderment, that is–if I would ever loosen up.

    Did you get a chance to commiserate with the “gull [you] did not know” yesterday? Maybe next time.

    Mist or fog must have created a bizarre variant of sensory deprivation. Imagine loathing the incessant Fog Horn combined with the dread-filled anxiety of awaiting an echo. Imagine everyone on board is grooving on Scopolamine simultaneously.

    Overhead the albatross
    Hangs motionless upon the air
    And deep beneath the rolling waves
    In labyrinths of coral caves
    An echo of a distant time
    Comes willowing across the sand
    And everything is green and submarine.

    ~~from Echoes (Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour), 1971

  21. Lange says:

    Orwell had a descriptive style; his Essay on “Shooting an Elephant” had you witnessing the action.

  22. John says:

    mike giggler, of course! I will not continue to waste good money on such slander. I will put my 5d to better use elsewhere.

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