September 8, 1938, Gibraltar

Weather mostly hot & nights sometimes uncomfortably so. Sea variable mostly rather choppy. When no wind fish visible at least 10 feet below surface.
The Barbary Ape is said to be now very rare at Gibraltar & the authorities are trying to exterminate them as they are a nuisance. At a certain season of the year (owing to shortage of food I suppose) they come down from the rock & invade peoples° houses & gardens. They are described as large doglike ape with only a short stump of tail. The same species found on the African coast just opposite.
The breed of goat here is the Maltese, or at any rate is chiefly Maltese. The goat is rather small, & has the top half of its body covered with long & rather shaggy hair which overhangs to about the knees, giving the impression that it has very short legs. Ears are set low and drooping. Most of the goats are hornless, those having horns have ones that curve back so sharply that they lie against the head, & usually continue round in a semi-circle, the point of the horn being beside the eye. Udders are very pendulous & in many cases simply a bag with practically no teats, or teats barely 1/2 inch long. Colours black, white & (especially) reddish brown. Yield said to be about a litre a day. Goats apparently will graze on almost anything, eg. The flock I watched had grazed the wild fennel plants right to the ground.
Breed of donkeys here small, like the English. The conveyance peculiar to the place a little partly closed in carriage like the Indian gharry with the sides taken out.

September 8, 1938




Hills steep & animals on the whole badly treated. No cows. Cows’ milk 6d a pint. Fruits now in season, apples, oranges, figs, grapes, melon, prickly pear, brinjals & various English vegetables. Prickly pear grows very plentiful on poor soil. Few hens here & eggs small. “Moorish eggs” advertised as though a superior kind.
Cats of Maltese type. Dogs all muzzled.

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English newspapers reach Gibraltar by P & O four days late. Local English daily Gibraltar Chronicle & Official Gazette, 8 pages of which about 21/2 pages advertisements, ld. Current number 31, 251. More or less pro-Fascist. Local Spanish papers El Annunciador and El Campanse, each four pages largely adverts, ld. Daily. No very definite standpoint politically, perhaps slightly pro-Franco. Ten or eleven Franco papers sold here, also three Government papers including Solidaridad Obrera. The latter at least six days old when obtainable here, and much less on evidence. Also two pro-Government Spanish papers published in Tangiers, El Porvenir and Democracia. Prices of these stated in Franco exchange.
Impossible to discover sentiments of local Spanish population. Only signs on walls are Viva Franco and Phalangist symbol, but very few of these.
Population of town about 20,000, largely Italian origin but nearly all bilingual English-Spanish. Many Spaniards work here and return into Spain every night. At least 3000 refugees from Franco territory. Authorities now trying to get rid of these on pretext of overcrowding. Impossible to discover wages and food prices. Standard of living apparently not very low, no barefooted adults and few children. Fruit and vegetables cheap, wine and tobacco evidently untaxed or taxed very little (English cigarettes 3/- a hundred, Spanish 10d. a hundred), silk very cheap. No English sugar or matches, all Belgian. Cows’ milk 6d. a pint. Some of the shopkeepers are Indians and Parsees.
Spanish destroyer Jose Luis Diez lying in harbour. A huge shell-hole, probably four or five feet across, in her side, just above water-level, on port side about fifteen to twenty feet behind bow. Flying Spanish Republican flag. The men were at first apparently prevented from going ashore, now allowed at certain hours to naval recreational ground (i.e. not to mix with local population). No attempt being made to mend the ship.
Overheard local English resident: “It’s coming right enough. Hitler’s going to have Czecho-Slovakia all right. If he doesn’t get it now he’ll go on and on till he does. Better let him have it at once. We shall be ready by 1941.”

*To see a P&O guide to Gibraltar taken from the SS Stratheden, click here.

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September 5, 1938

Last night much fog, syren° sounding continually. This morning the sea much smoother, grey & oily, about the colour of lead. Later in the day very hot, & the sea bright blue. Passed Cape Roca about 10 am, but invisible in mist. Passed Cape St. Vincent quite close in, about 2-3 miles, at 6pm. Run of ship (noon to noon) 342 miles. Due at Tangier early tomorrow.
Gulls here of a breed I do not know, dark brown or black on top, white below, hawking over the water only a few inches above the surface, just like an owl over grass. Clumps of sea weed° as we got nearer land. Some swallows or martin (different from the English) following the ship when still far from land. Two whales said to have been seen yesterday, but I missed them.
This is not, as I had thought, a steam turbine ship, but an oil turbine. Crew thought to be about 600. The tourist class (really midway between 2nd & 3rd class) has three small lounges apart from the dining saloon, two decks where games are played, a small swimming bath & a rather primitive cinematograph. R. C. mass & Anglican H. C. held every day. Tourist fare London – Gibraltar £ 6 – 10.¹
Later. Number of crew 543. Ship carries 8 or 9 thousand tons cargo.


¹ Six pounds ten shillings – not £6 to £10. Peter Davison

*For Orwell’s location, see Google Map.

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September 4, 1938

Today crossing mouth of Bay of Biscay. Sea a little rougher, ship rolling somewhat. Not sick (seasickness remedy “Vasano” evidently efficacious.) Passing C. Finisterre about 5pm but invisible owing to mist. Run of the ship (12-12) 403 miles. Gibraltar is about 5° west of Greenwich. Clocks will be retarded 1/2 hour on Monday & Tuesday, then put forward again at Marseilles. We are due in Tangier 7 am on Tuesday (6th) & Gibraltar at 1.30 pm. Run of 1007 miles to Tangier takes about 89 hours.
Today a few porpoises passing the ship. Yesterday saw a gull I did not know, dark brown with white bands on wings. Otherwise no life.
Length of ship is about 250 yards, width at widest about 25 yards. There are 7 decks above water-level. Do not yet know number of crew, who including stewards are mainly lascars.


*You can follow Orwell’s movements on the Orwell Diaries’ Google Map.

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September 3, 1938

Writing on the P. & O. ss. “Stratheden”, 23, 500 tons. No of passenger’s berths 1063. Left Tilbury dock* 6pm yesterday. Position marked this morning (not certain whether 8 am or noon) as 49.25 N, 3.34 W, run being 288 miles. Distance to go 1007 miles. Passed Ushant, about 5-10 miles on port side, about 5pm. Now entering Bay of Biscay & traveling about due South. Should sight land again tomorrow night. Sea at present calm. Once or twice small shoal of fish, pilchards or sardines, leaping out of the water as though something were after them. Small land-bird, bunting or some such thing, came on board this morning when out of sight of land. Also pigeons perching on rigging.


*You can follow Orwell’s movements on the Orwell Diaries’ Google Map. To see a dinner menu from the Stratheden, click here.

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September 2, 1938

Fine & fairly warm.

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September 1, 1938

Fine & fairly warm.

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