Today & yesterday fine, but it is still not any too warm. Roses here are in full bud & almost out. Greenfly very bad. Lupins almost out. London Pride (kind of large saxifrage) is out. The gardener here[1] says that the number of varieties of rose is much exaggerated, as old varieties which have dropped out of fashion & been almost forgotten are revived under a new name. Saw yesterday a swift & a turtle dove, the first I have seen this year, owing to illness. Hawthorn is well out, especially the pink. Hay looks pretty good.
At the Zoo[2] on 19.5.39. Much interest in the manatee, which I had only vaguely heard of before. An animal about the size of a large seal, with broad tail behind & two flippers of some kind in front. The head is doglike, with small eyes, the surface of the body seems like that of an elephant, but is slimy from being in the water. Movement very sluggish. The peculiar feature is the mouth, which is fringed with large hairs & acts with a kind of sucking movement to draw food in. The creature is very tame & lets itself be touched. It appears that this is the only vegetarian water-mammal. Could not be sure whether it inhabits fresh or salt water or both.
The elephant refuses radishes, which both deer & monkeys eat readily. Marmoset refuses spring onions, which most monkeys eat. Note that some S. American monkeys can almost hang by the tail alone, ie. by the tail & one hand or foot. Mouflon, the N. African kind, have bred very freely in the Zoo & look in better condition than those in Marrakech. Two families of lion cubs at present, & evidently attempts are being made to cross a lion & a tiger[3].

[1] Either the O’Shaughnessy’s or at Greenwich Park.
[2] Presumably London Zoo, in Regents Park.
[3] The result was the tigon, a zoo creation. Peter Davison

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10 Responses to 21.5.39.

  1. The Ridger says:

    Huh. I hadn’t really thought of the manatee as “he only vegetarian water-mammal.” I guess it is. I love his interest in nature!

  2. M. Serapis says:

    A Liger!

  3. Kathy says:

    A tigon is the offspring of a male tiger and a lioness. A liger is the offspring of a lion and a tigress. Large zoos now frown on creating these hybrids—among other concerns, they can have health problems. But smaller animal parks sometimes breed them as curiosities. Tigons are generally smaller than their parents, but ligers get freakishly enormous. No wonder they’re more popular today.

    I wonder if he didn’t observe how flatulent manatees are? Or was he too polite to note it?

    Touching and feeding the animals…clearly a visit to the zoo isn’t what it once was.

  4. Dione says:

    I love the first part of today’s entry because it shows just how Eric/George loved all growing things and the enthusiasms of youth were still so very much alive in him as an almost middle-aged man. He could and would apparently suddenly become transfixed about some perfect tiny thing like a bee gathering pollen in the heart of a miniscule flower head. Like the bee, he was sub-consciously gathering minute details of nature to be recorded later in his writing.

  5. Manatees have always summoned images of mad scientists glowing green with radiation to the forefront for me.

    Yes, this is disconcerting; especially as I struggle not to count the unknown minutes until George’s next post.

    I was nosing around in the near future and I found this quote from a little more than a year from now:

    “…….the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin, upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization, upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institution and our Empire.”


  6. Pingback: 3rdBlog from the….. » Blog Archive » Ephemeral Knuckle-Cracking

  7. Stephen says:

    This is 22 days overdue, but I hope not too late, to note that in 1984, Orwell had Winston Smith and Julia make love for the first time in the countryside on May 2. Here is where George alchemised all his diary’s observations of birds and flowers into a gorgeous evocation of early summer in England:

    Winston picked his way up the lane through dappled light and shade, stepping out into pools of gold wherever the boughs parted. Under the trees to the left of him the ground was misty with bluebells. The air seemed to kiss one’s skin. It was the second of May. From somewhere deeper in the heart of the wood came the droning of ring doves.

    ‘It’s the Golden Country — almost,’ he murmured.

    ‘The Golden Country?’

    ‘It’s nothing, really. A landscape I’ve seen sometimes in a dream.’

    ‘Look!’ whispered Julia.

    A thrush had alighted on a bough not five metres away, almost at the level of their faces. Perhaps it had not seen them. It was in the sun, they in the shade. It spread out its wings, fitted them carefully into place again, ducked its head for a moment, as though making a sort of obeisance to the sun, and then began to pour forth a torrent of song. In the afternoon hush the volume of sound was startling. Winston and Julia clung together, fascinated. The music went on and on, minute after minute, with astonishing variations, never once repeating itself, almost as though the bird were deliberately showing off its virtuosity. Sometimes it stopped for a few seconds, spread out and resettled its wings, then swelled its speckled breast and again burst into song. Winston watched it with a sort of vague reverence. For whom, for what, was that bird singing? No mate, no rival was watching it. What made it sit at the edge of the lonely wood and pour its music into nothingness? He wondered whether after all there was a microphone hidden somewhere near. He and Julia had spoken only in low whispers, and it would not pick up what they had said, but it would pick up the thrush. Perhaps at the other end of the instrument some small, beetle-like man was listening intently — listening to that. But by degrees the flood of music drove all speculations out of his mind. It was as though it were a kind of liquid stuff that poured all over him and got mixed up with the sunlight that filtered through the leaves. He stopped thinking and merely felt.

  8. USS Squalus sank May 23, 1939 in 240 feet of water off the Isles of Shoals.

    Meanwhile, noxious formulations are percolating on the down-low.

  9. Concurrently, in a parallel universe, this report was filed.
    Thanx, Stephen.

  10. Holden Caulfeild says:

    Just stopped in to see what I have been missing (?)
    Zoo diaries and yogurt recipes…and JL3 Googling away…

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