13.11.38

One egg.

The striped goat now completely out of milk.

On the whole very hot in the daytime lately. Fire at nights but not really necessary. Immense flocks of starlings, probably as many as 5000 in a flock, all the while attacking the olives, which are now ripe on the trees. Arabs out all day in the olive groves, shouting to scare the starlings away. E. compares the sound of the starlings’ twittering to the rustle of a silk dress.

In an irrigation tank the other day saw quantities of tortoises, ranging from 3” long to nearly a foot. Caught a small one. These cannot swim fast enough to get away if you wade after them. Compared with land tortoises they are not very retractile, keep their head & limbs out even when you are holding them, & have no power to withdraw the tail. They draw their head into a kind of cylinder of skin like a muffler. They do not seem able to stay under water long without coming up for air.¹ In the same tank, underneath a stone, found some tiny leeches about 1/4“ long. The first I have seen in this country.

Last night found a huge toad in the flower bed. The first I have seen here. Nearly twice the size of an English toad, very warty & able to leap a considerable way.

Shallots in the field almost ripe. Peasant brought us some young leeks.

Today saw a dead dog by the roadside. I am afraid the same one as came asking for food a few days back, & I am afraid probably dead of starvation.

The peasants here evidently use no harrows or cultivators, merely plough the soil & then sow on the rough ridges. Curiously enough the result is to give the impression that the grain is sown in rows, though of course actually broadcast. A good deal of wheat coming up now. Broad beans about 6” high.

¹Compare this reference to the tortoises with the passage in Coming Up for Air that gives that novel its title, CW, VII, 177. Orwell does not mention a title for this novel before its publication, 12 June 1939. Peter Davison

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21 Responses to 13.11.38

  1. Jake says:

    Much more interesting entry, possibly because of the length and the detail. Also, many more animals mentioned here: the goat has stripes now, but no milk. Thousands of starlings, quantities of tortoises . . . peasants plowing the fields and broadcasting seed. Nice.

  2. QuietReader says:

    Forget the animals, he mentioned ‘E.’ !!!

  3. Seth says:

    And of course, the wretched dead dog – and perhaps some guilt for playing any part in the creature’s death. Throughout his diary entries, Orwell’s interest in the plight of the animals he encounters cannot help but to make one consider Animal Farm.

    I agree with Jake: a much more interesting entry than we have seen to date. Keep it up George/Eric!

  4. nicky says:

    Do striped goats give striped milk?

  5. James Russell says:

    Egg watch – check!
    Goat watch – check!
    Crop watch – check!
    Weather report – check!
    Plough comment – check!
    Animal/bird watch – check!

    Almost the complete George Orwell entry.

    But what is this? No comment about the mysterious “inside”? And a mention of “E”. Could this be the hitherto unmentioned wife?

    Anyone else keeping an eye on the events of 1938 to see if international news is hitting the Marrakech news stands?

  6. Eileen makes her presence known and contributes the sound track.

  7. dave says:

    I agree,today we hit all the high notes,even a (somewhat muted) mention of his wife.
    Interesting to think about “Coming up for Air”…….. Maybe if his whim was different it could have been “Jackal on a Stick”,or No Milk for Mama”

    Does anyone else note his reference to “peasants”…I thought GO was the ultimate social leveler…

  8. Silas says:

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but how is he cooking the eggs? Is he frying them up as he gets them. Or maybe he’s saving them up to make an omelet for him and the misses.

  9. CAL says:

    Interesting entry — covers the animal scene, the crops, the weather, and finally mentions his wife. Maybe he’s started boiling his drinking water and so doesn’t need to make those distressing comments about how bad the “inside” is.

  10. PJ says:

    “Does anyone else note his reference to “peasants”…I thought GO was the ultimate social leveler…”

    Peasant means farm labourer.

  11. Ed Webb says:

    So much poetry!
    A haiku would overflow:
    I rustle, twitter

  12. Natalie says:

    Oh George, the good thing about milk is that if you come back tomorrow there’s more!

    @Silas: In comments for another egg entry it was commented that he might be counting the eggs laid by the doves he mentioned at some point earlier.

    I can’t believe his wife has been there this whole time and this is the first he’s mentioned her.

    Or that he didn’t put that dog’s head on a stick for the bugs to “clean.”

  13. dave says:

    “E” …talking about silk dresses,while george milks goats and collects bugs and skulls…he can’t take a hint,even from his wife…

    Used to be a sitcom like that,and stupid as it was ,(with Za ZA Gabor [sp?}) it sounds like what might be playing in Evelyns mind.

    Did GO in fact write the script for Green Acres??

    Was he actually a Canary Wharf banker before “going native” ?

    Editor;enough already…

  14. Stephen says:

    Agree with Dave on this. George is great at the natural sciences but scores pretty badly when it come to Emotional Intelligence. Poor Eileen. What does she think about having a skull on a stick in the front garden? Is she following the egg count with the same rapt attention he is? And how interested was she about finding those leeches – the first, wait for it, the FIRST ones they have seen in Morocco?
    Is the guilt he (nearly) expresses about the dead dog the first actual emotion he has recorded in this diary?

  15. margot says:

    Is there a reason why he didn’t feed the dog?

  16. dave says:

    Stephan,Margot;thank you for the validation!!

    There seems to be a reluctance to question this rather detached emotional aspect of GO.

    Is this out of respect for his stature as a writer?

    We have to think about the fact that this journal,unlike his novels,was more private,and ?perhaps more revealing of his nature.
    Ever since reading “Keep the …Flying” @ 18 I have wondered about this guy……….(35 years,but not every day..)

    I am (personaly) hoping that over time I will get to the bottom of this……(pondering deeply for 35 more years…)

    Anyone care to comment,or know of any info on George’s psyche ? (? took up neurotic activities later in life etc etc?)

  17. Ash says:

    @Stephen – Not all diaries are for recording emotions. This one is simply a record of the happenings of the day, possibly to provide mental cues as an aide memoir for writing at a later date.
    I’m sure as a young person many of us wrote a diary recording the (strong) emotions we felt. For a short while I did, but after re-reading it a year or so later was so embarrassed I tore it up and threw it away. If I were to write another diary today, it would most certainly be of the factual kind. Lack of emotion in a diary doesn’t necessarily equate to the same in real life.

  18. smith3000 says:

    Considering Blair’s class, background, education etc we would probably consider him emotionally stunted by today’s standards. He challenged the status quo of the Empire, for example, but there was definitely a touch of the stiff upper lip about him. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a very charming reference to Eileen.

    I like the fact that this diary is not all about pressing matters and big ideas. It’s a wonderful insight into what made Orwell tick.

  19. sohbet says:

    I like the fact that this diary is not all about pressing matters and big ideas. It’s a wonderful insight into what made Orwell tick.

  20. smith3000 says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  21. In another time he would so obviously have been happy, as he says in his poem, to have been a country vicar, watching his walnuts grow. An independent naturalist, like Mendel, perhaps.

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