September 20, 1938

Lathes used by Jewish carpenters who make the string-seated chairs etc. are of extremely primitive type. There are two clamps, the left one fixed, the right sliding upon a metal rod, with a metal point in each. The bar of wood to be turned is fixed upon the two points & turns itself, the points being stationary. Before it is put on the string of a bow is looped once round it. The carpenter holds the movable clamp in place with his right foot & works the bow with his right hand, holding the chisel in his left hand & steadying it with his left foot. In this way he can turn a piece of wood apparently as accurately as on a proper lathe, judging by eye to about 1/100 inch. Working the bow makes the wood revolve around at an astounding speed.

The earth walls here are made out of earth which is dug out at a depth of 4-6 feet, either because this is different earth or because at this depth it is easier to find it damp enough to be workable. It is a peculiar chocolate colour & it dries into the light pink distinctive of this town. Having been dug out it is mixed with rubble & a little water, then cast in sections in a wooden frame, just like cement, but when in the frame it has to be packed together very hard with heavy rammers. When one section is hard enough to stand unsupported the next is made, & the joints do not show, the mud setting almost like cement.

These mud walls are said to stand many years in spite of torrential rains.

The orange trees which grow in the street here are of an inedible bitter kind. This kind is used as stock for grafting the sweet orange on.

Some of the olive trees here have, among the ordinary green olives, a certain number which are bluish-red, though apparently ordinary in every other respect.

The superstition that it is lucky to touch a hunchback apparently obtains among the Arabs as well.

Today stiflingly hot about midday, otherwise somewhat cooler, though we did not want a coat till about 6-30 pm. We have not yet had a day when it was clear enough to see whether the Atlas mountains have snow on them or not.

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18 Responses to September 20, 1938

  1. Sanba38 says:

    I have seen just such a lathe demonstrated:

  2. What a delightful entry! Love reading his careful explanations of oranges, tools, and a faraway land.

  3. Good eye, George!

    [ 0.01 in == 0.0254 cm ]

  4. egoscribo says:

    The bow drill is used as a tool in many cultures worldwide, most notably as a reliable fire-starter.

  5. Gilles Mioni says:

    Everywhere in Europe, the beliefs in the magic come from the Roman legions Also craft items sells was increasing by empirial market : a long age of trading with ancient process.
    Antique shared past of all of us :
    Orwel has described perhaps the last days of a labour culture. At the extreme periphery in the south of the Roman empire.

  6. The High Atlas in Morocco is snow covered in winter and the only winter sport region in Africa.

    It may be months before you can get in any skiing, George.

    How’s the kif?

  7. itwasntme says:

    I’m noticing how often Orwell looks at things like an engineer. He examines how things work: what amount a harvested field would yield, how much a stone would weigh. This is a man who looks at everyday things very deeply. I wouldn’t be surprised to find him calculating how many olives or dates one tree might produce, and then estimate what it might sell for.

  8. Ruby says:

    though we did not want a coat till about 6-30 pm.

    We? Is this the first time he’s mentioned a travelling companion, or is this more of a generic ‘we’?

  9. Pingback: Homily

  10. Logic tells me that George was preparing to turn an exotic Saharan lumber into custom ski poles in preparation for the upcoming High Atlas ski season—his first since building a modest mud chalet atop the vegetation-free slopes.

  11. Nich S. Brook-Hart says:

    Despite all that is said by others who have been reading this series, I would say that it shows an almost Tolstoyan ability to select seemingly inconsequential events and observations and use them to hint at deeper philosophical points beneath the surface

  12. George~~
    I wish there had been an entry devoted to the geo-political ramifications of the recent Equinox.

    Oh, well, maybe next year—perhaps the Spring? I’m not as fond of the Solstices, but that would be cool, too.

    How’s that cough?

  13. Alex says:

    Lathes used by Jewish carpenters… are of extremely primitive type… In this way he can turn a piece of wood apparently as accurately as on a proper lathe.

    If a the lathe is as accurate as a “proper” lathe, exactly what makes it “primitive?” It seems to me that Orwell lacked a little cultural relativity.

  14. MacD says:

    Great writing.
    [b]Great writing.[/b]

  15. My particular brand of Objective :shock: Logic tells me that the aforementioned “cultural relativity” is precisely the method by which the bow lathe is rendered “primitive”.

  16. Andrew says:

    what is he doing now? it’s been 3 days…

    also, his use of ‘primitive’ might just mean relatively undeveloped or unsophisticated, as in ‘resembling an early mode’ of some way of doing things. it’s a comparative statement, fairly objective. the word ‘primitive’ has complex connotations, so people might take it the wrong way..

  17. Thanks for some other wonderful post. Where else could anyone get that type of information in such an ideal manner of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the search for such info.

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