VILLA SIMONT, 22.11.38

Some days back visiting the British consul. The latter (named Robert Parr) is man of about 40, cultivated, very hospitable, married, appears to be in easy circumstance. Speaks French, very careful and grammatically very correct, but very strong English accent and manner while speaking of mentally going over grammar rules. The Assistant Consul or Vice Consul is young Englishman son of missionary, who has apparently been brought up in Morocco. Nevertheless has more characteristically English manner and accent than, eg. an Englishman brought up in India.

Parr considered I was wrong about the local French attitude to the crisis. Thinks they really believed war was coming and were prepared to go through it though thoroughly fed up. Their apparent indifference was mere surface stolidity. He believes that there will be no general election for some time to come. Says the scandals about the Air Ministry were very bad and known to everybody,[a] and the Government would prefer to make this good before risking an election. Says he has been struck by the number of more or less ordinary Conservatives he has met who are becoming perturbed by the Government’s foreign policy. Thinks a likely development in the near future would be an attempt to revive the old Liberal Party. His own opinions seem to be moderately conservative. Could not be sure, whether, as a government servant, he has any inside knowledge of what is going on, but gather not.

Ref. Note on wheat prices above, a quintal equals about 2 cwt. Recently paid Frs. 31.50 for a measure, a decalitre I think, which appears to weigh about 40 lbs. This works out at nearly the same price, ie. about 70 centimes a pound. Seventy centimes equals about a penny in English money, so that the price of wheat here is at about the English price-level. Have not been able to secure full price lists, but it would appear that the things cheaper here (ie. when franc is taken as being equal to its exchange value) are meat, certain fruits and vegetables, most of the products of the local hand-workers (leather, earthenware, certain kinds of metal work and heavy-quality woollen° cloth) and, of course, rent. Imported goods, especially manufactures, are all expensive. Oil of all descriptions notably expensive.

It appears that the negroes in Senegal are French citizens, the Arabs in Morocco not, this province being still called by a fiction the Cherifien Empire. All negroes are liable for military service just the same as Frenchmen. In Morocco only French subjects, ie. mostly Europeans, do compulsory service. The Arab troops are voluntarily engaged men and enlist for long periods. They appear to get a (by local standards) respectable pension for long service. eg. our servant Mahdjoub Mahommed, who served about 15 years in an Arab line regiment, gets a pension of about Frs. 5 a day.

Forgot to mention earlier that at the entrance to Marrakech there is a toll-station where all incoming lorries etc. have to unload and pay a tax on any goods being brought in for sale. This applies to all the vegetables taken in to market by the peasants. Do not know amount of tax but it makes an appreciable difference to the price if one buys vegetables etc. outside the town.

[a] Possibly a reference to the demand by M.P.s on 12 May 1938 for an inquiry into the state of Britain’s air defences.

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12 Responses to VILLA SIMONT, 22.11.38

  1. Thank you, George, for your prompt reply.

  2. dave says:

    Von Wereknel; re your 21/11/08 comment…Were you “trolling” or just being bloody ignorant and offensive? It just seems kinda like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater….

    re:todays entry..note Orwell can temper his concern over impending war with the price of vegetables,or the health of his chickens,I maintain that there is some sort of 2008 Bond like qualities here.

    He also sounds like he might be cheap enough to walk outside of town to buy his food for a few cents less..

    just trolling…

  3. Orwell might have come upon a scene such as this.

  4. piminnowcheez says:

    This is exactly what I love about reading Orwell. Although I’m a fan of the well-known works, my favorite experience was reading through collected letters/essays/criticism for this kind of detailed observation of little corners of history not easily available to most of us now. To me, Orwell’s greatest value now is as a witness and reporter of a time just beyond reach.

  5. Jake says:

    Of note: Some social comment here, with (sigh) no reference to eggs. The use of the term “negroes” places Orwell in another time and place. The big stunner, however, is to learn that the author of “Down and Out in Paris and London” now has a servant!

  6. David says:

    JW3 – That is a transporting sketch of Marrakech. It reminds me of all the textures of the place. Thanks for sharing it.

    Jake – It always amazes me to see how much natural social mobility there really is in the world. Since terms are just social constructs, I find it fun to think about the things I say that will be judged harshly in the future. That is, if any of them are remembered at all.

  7. Reference to Mahdjoub Mahommed occurred previously (note annotation [4]); on the first of the month.

    I wonder what Gordon Comstock would say. Our protagonist blogger is in recovery/rehab mode, though, and Mahdjoub may do cool stuff like get George to the British consul, the bazaar, the chiropractor, clandestine meetings in narrow, dark alleys and so on.

  8. Here‘s the correct link. How embarrassing.

  9. Interesting debate link begins with “Can we have the windows open?”
    Challenging the Govt’s official figures on aircraft construction “Untrue” says Churchill, and I think more than once. Must have got a bit heated in there.
    I imagined a German spy standing outside the open window.

  10. mserapis says:

    The linked conversation about the Air Ministry is very entertaining and enlightening. Politicians never change.

  11. Pingback: Si Orwell hubiera publicado su diario como un weblog, probablemente no se habría comido un colín : Blogografia /version beta/

  12. yosefj says:

    The linked conversation about the Air Ministry is very entertaining and enlightening. Politicians never change.

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