September 10, 1938, Tangier

Temperature here said never to rise above about 85°. Sea is fairly warm, water extremely clear, objects 20 & 30 feet below being visible when there is no wind. There is a tide rise of about a foot. Sea & harbour full of fish, but for some reason only the smaller kinds seem to be caught. There is a largish fish, about 6” to a foot long, brown-coloured & somewhat resembling a Pollock, which haunts the stones of the jetties in great numbers, swimming in shoals of 5-20, but all the fisherman say these cannot be taken on a hook. The method of fishing with rod & line for smaller fish seems to be foul-hooking. A contrivance made of about half a dozen small hooks set back to back, with a bait of bread or meat just above it, is lowered into the shoal & drawn rapidly up as the fish gather round it. Long-shore fishing with a net is done as follows. A net about 150’° feet long & 6’ deep, finely meshed in the middle but coarse towards the end, is carried out to sea by boats & placed in position, being held up by the floats. Attached to each end of the net is an immensely long rope, probably half a mile or more. This is gradually hauled in, the men on each rope converging gradually then bring the net into a curve. There is a team of 6 or 8 men & boys on each rope, They do not pull with their hands but have a string round the waist & on the end of it a knot that can be attached immediately to the rope. They then pull with the body, leaning backwards & doing most of the work with the right leg. As the rope comes in it is coiled, & as each man reaches the coils he detaches his string, runs forward & hooks on to the seaward end of the rope. Hauling in takes at least an hour. Of the one I saw hauled in, the bag was about 30lb of sardines (or some similar small fish) & about 5lb of sundries, including squids, red mullet, long-nosed eels etc., etc. Probably value° (to the fisherman) about 5/-, & representing about 2 hours work-time to 15 men & boys, say 20 adult work-hours, or 3d an hour.

Donkeys here overworked to a terrible degree. They stand about 9-10 hands & carry loads which must often be well over 200lbs. After putting a considerable load on the donkey’s back the driver then perches himself in the middle. Hills here extremely steep, 1 in 5 or 6 in many places, but donkeys go up carrying loads so immense that they are sometimes almost invisible underneath. They are nevertheless extremely patient & willing, usually wear no bridle or halter & do not have to be driven or even led. They follow or walk just in front of master like a dog, stopping when he stops & waiting outside any house while he is inside. The majority seem to be uncastrated, ditto with many of the horses (all small & in poor condition.)

Smells here not too bad, in spite of the heat & labyrinthine bazaars.

Fruit in season, prickly pear, melons of many kinds, grapes, brinjals, otherwise all European. Water carried in goatskins & sold. Large fig-tree here has both green & purple figs on it, a thing I did not know happened. A sort of convolvulous creeper very common here has blue flowers & pinkish flowers on same plant & sometimes on same stem. Flowers now out, cannas, bourgainvillea°, geraniums; peculiar coarse grass for lawns.

Two kinds of swallow or martin here. No gulls in harbour.

Gets dark here well before 7pm (ie. really 7, summer time not being in operation.)

Butter here all right, but fresh milk apparently almost unobtainable.

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22 Responses to September 10, 1938, Tangier

  1. Water in goatskins, eh, George?

    Hey, Rick, I’ll have a Coke, please.

    Here, the cannas bloom from March to November.

  2. I guess he never figured he’d need to be so descriptive in his earlier entries because he already knows the country side so well – never thought it’d be put up on the Internets one day for all to see – whereas he’s being very descriptive because he’s not likely to return here any time soon.

  3. Frandroid Atreides says:

    Dear blogger,

    First, thanks so much for posting this blog.

    I have noticed that your scans have a weird mesh to them. This is usually caused by artifacts in image reduction. You could resolve this problem in two ways:
    1) scan the material at a different resolution before reducing the image to the size you want for posting
    2) instead of taking your scan and reducing it straight to posting size, reduce it to an intermediary size first, then reduce to post size second. You may have to try different intermediary sizes to see which one gives better results.


  4. Rick Hamell says:

    I’m interested in the fruits he reported. I’m familiar with Prickly Pear, it’s a type of Cactus here in the US and is edible too.

    Is this a transplant from the New World to the Old? Or a separate species all together?

  5. Steve says:

    Scanning problem? I though he’d made the sketch on a napkin….

  6. asquith says:

    As I recall, it was around this time that Animal Far had its conception, when he saw the locals’ mistreatment of beasts of burden…

  7. Lizzy says:

    I love all the details about the fishing methods used. Such observations are surely telling of his interest in not only nature but the ways of man as well.

  8. Orwell’s Back Story Observations Observed by Totally Diverse Observers Being Observed Making Totally Diverse Observations.
    Such an unprecedented international—or, even, intergalactic—meeting of the minds as is found here among the ephemeral comment threads can be interpreted to mean only one thing:

    We must, at all costs, clone Humphrey Bogart at once. Black & White. Color. Or, even, In Colour–whatever. There’s no time to lose, I tell ‘ya.

  9. Arnold Mousetrouser says:

    The first stirrings of Animal Farm: Orwell himself wrote in an introduction to an edition of Animal Farm (that I cannot quote directly from because I no longer possess that edition) that he saw one day in England a small boy driving a large cart-horse up a hilly track and his mind started to turn over the idea of so much strength and power allowing itself to be controlled by such a weak and tyrannical force, What would happen if the strong workers (animals) realised how strong they were and turned on the weak tyrants (humans)? Something like that. Maybe another reader can help with the exact quote. AM

  10. Thank God for bottled water.

    Blogger: Is there any way of getting the ability to have the entries emailed to us? I know some blog sites have that capability.

    Also, what does the o mean on some links? I must’ve missed the reference.

  11. Arthur H Pemmington says:

    I had heard the same about the carthorse though it’s likely such ideas were already stirring in Orwell’s mind then. It at the very least shows he was sensitive to the treatment of animals already then even if he hadn’t thought of the specific idea for Animal Farm yet. Ideas often are brewing in an author’s mind before the exact idea or concept suddenly appears.

    On another point I agree it would be nice to get these entries e-mailed. While I like the concept or releasing them in “real time” so to speak is there a place(online)where I can read them all at once or will I have to wait 4 years to read them all. I’m not very patient ;).

  12. Arnold Mousetrouser says:

    Expanding my reference to the genesis of Orwell’s Animal Farm (above): Orwell’s view of the carthorse being driven by the small boy (above) leads to the character of Boxer the cart horse in the Animal Farm allegory, and Orwell’s line of thought about what would happen if the animals did unite and turn on the humans follows much of the line and history of the Russian Revolution when, in Animal Farm the story, the pigs took power and turned the farm into an even greater tyranny and sold out to the humans etc etc. AM

  13. So what you’re saying, Arnold, is watch out for a terrifying donkey uprising some time in the next few decades.

  14. But also that we shouldn’t expect the donkeys to be any nicer than our present masters.

  15. Arthur H Pemmington says:

    I bet Orwell would have been a big fan of Planet of the Apes, espicially Conquest of the Planet of the Apes ;). Apes rise up against your hums\an oppressors, but the apes were no better than humans once in power. Similar theme.

  16. Mike C says:

    Meet the new boss
    same as the old boss

  17. I am currently on the Virgin Voyager service to Birmingham. I am sitting on the floor of a small cramped corridor, with about 20 other people. All of the toilets are blocked, cannot be flushed and are labelled “out of service”, according to passengers who have checked them all. But this doesn’t stop people from occasionally attempting to use the toilet right next to me. Each time the toilet door opens a disgusting smell emerges. When they have finished, they hammer on the door to be let out, because it keeps jamming.

    This reminds me of when Winston Smith is arrested, and kept in a small cell. His neighbour Parsons is unexpectedly brought in and defecates noisily into the cell’s blocked toilet.

    Also the train stopped just after Banbury for a long time, because the track is flooded. It’s likely we’ll all be kicked off at the next stop (or possibly in the middle of nowhere), and almost certain that I’ll miss my connecting train at Birmingham.

    Are any other Orwell diary readers having an Orwellian sort of day?

  18. Also I’m surrounded by proles.

  19. Keep an eye on your donkeys! Check to see if they’re the smart ones…

    So…any idea what the o (degree sign) is on the links? I get the footnote references with numbers, but sometimes I see the “o” and I can’t figure out why it’s there.

  20. Fay Shirley says:

    The o on the links, and elsewhere indicates an original spelling mistake.

  21. It has only got more Orwellian as the evening wears on. Having missed my connection, I had to wait for a different train, and mused on the way that Victory Trains… sorry, I mean Virgin Trains, have a monopoly on operating trains for the journey I need to take, so it’s no surprise that they sell two tickets for every seat, and provide luggage space for every tenth seat, and the trains are late as well as packed full of captive customers. They can stamp their boots on our faces as much as they like! There’s no alternative. Big Branson says that 2 + 2 = 5 (carriages) and who are we to argue?

    The train I’m on has a nameplate on the side. It reads:


    A young man was thrown off the train at Crewe for suspected vandalism of a toilet. He protested his innocence. The policewoman said “Well, there’s CCTV on the train so we’ll see.”

  22. One can only hope that the ubiquitous camera observed the alleged vandalism perpetrated upon the exterior of the lavatorium.
    I’ve never traveled by train but I’ve read Murder on the Orient Express a few times.

    By the way, George, your illustrations are quite adequate; considering you’re not alive. The curly coils of rope are a nice touch.

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