Went with N.U.W.M. collectors on their rounds with a view to collecting facts about housing conditions, especially in the caravans. Have made notes on these, Q.V.[1] What chiefly struck me was the expression on some of the women’s faces, especially those in the more crowded caravans. One woman had a face like a death’s head. She had a look of absolutely intolerable misery and degradation. I gathered that she felt as I would feel if I were coated all over with dung. All the people however seemed to take these conditions quite for granted. They have been promised houses over and over again but nothing has come of it and they have got into the way of thinking that a liveable house is something absolutely unattainable.

Passing up a horrible squalid side-alley, saw a woman, youngish but very pale and with the usual draggled exhausted look, kneeling by the gutter outside a house and poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe, which was blocked. I thought how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling in the gutter in a back-alley in Wigan, in the bitter cold, prodding a stick up a blocked drain. At that moment she looked up and caught my eye, and her expression was as desolate as I have ever seen; it struck me that she was thinking just the same thing as I was.[2]

Changing lodgings as Mrs H. is ill with some mysterious malady and ordered into hospital. They have found lodgings for me at 22 Darlington Rd., over a tripe shop where they take in lodgers.[3] The husband an ex-miner (age 58) the wife ill with a weak heart, in bed on sofa in kitchen. Social atmosphere much as at the H.s but house appreciably dirtier and very smelly. A number of other lodgers. An old ex-miner, age about 75, on old age pension plus half  a crown weekly from parish (12/6 in all.) Another, said to be of superior type and “come down in the world,” more or less bedridden. An Irish ex-miner who had shoulder blade and several rids crushed by a fall of stone a few years ago and lives on disability pension of about 25/- a week. Of distinctly superior type and started off as a clerk but went “down pit” because he was big and strong and could earn more as a miner (this was before the War.) Also some newspaper canvassers. Two for John Bull, distinctly moth eaten, ages about 40 and 55, one quite young and was for four years in rubber firm in Calcutta. Cannot quite make this lad out. He puts on Lancashire accent when talking to the others (he belongs locally) but to me talks in the usual “educated” accent. The family apart from the Forrests themselves consists of a fat son who is at work somewhere and lives nearby, his wife Maggie who is in the shop nearly all day, their two kids, and Annie, fiancée of the other son who is in London. Also a daughter in Canada (Mrs F. says “at Canada.”) Maggie and Annie do practically the whole of the work of the house and shop. Annie very thin, overworked (she also works in a dress-sewing place) and obviously unhappy. I gather that the marriage is by no means certain to take place but that Mrs F. treats Annie as a relative all the same and that Annie groans under her tyranny. Number of rooms in the house exclusive of shop premises, 5 or six and a bathroom-W.C. Nine people sleeping here. Three in my room besides myself.

Struck by the astonishing ignorance about and wastefulness of food among the working class people here – more even than in the south, I think. One morning when washing in the H.s’ scullery made an inventory of the following food: A piece of bacon about 5 pounds. About 2 pounds of shin of beef. About a pound and a half of liver (all of these uncooked.) The wreck of a monstrous meet pie (Mrs H. when making a pie always made it in an enamelled basin such as is used for washing up in. Ditto with puddings.) A dish containing 15 or 20 eggs. A number of small cakes. A flat fruit pie and a “cake-a-pie” (pastry with currants in it.) Various fragments of earlier pies. 6 large loaves and 12 small ones (I had seen Mrs H. cook these the night before.) Various odds and ends of butter, tomatoes, opened tins of milk etc. There was also more food keeping warm in the oven in the kitchen. Everything except bread habitually left about uncovered and shelves filthy. Food here consists almost entirely of bread and starch. A typical day’s meals at the H.s’. Breakfast (about 8 am): Two fried eggs and bacon, bread (no butter) and tea. Dinner (about 12.30 pm): A monstrous plate of stewed beef, dumplings and boiled potatoes (equal to about 3 Lyons portions) and a big helping of rice pudding or suet pudding. Tea (about 5 pm): A plate of cold meat, bread and butter, sweet pastries and tea. Supper (about 11 pm): fish and chips, bread and butter and tea.

[1] Q.V = quod vide = which see (in this case Orwell’s notes, some of which are reproduced in the Complete Works; see X, 546; also plate 31 of The Road to Wigan Pier (where the caravans are in Durham, not Wigan).

[2] Orwell developed this entry in The Road to Wigan Pier – follow the link to read it.

[3] 22 Darlington Rd.: (‘Rd.’ Typed in error for Street). Orwell left 72 Warrington Lane when Mrs Hornby was taken ill and had to be admitted to hospital. Lodgings were found for him over the infamous tripe shop described in chapter 1 of The Road to Wigan Pier. This is usually taken to be 22 Darlington Street (see Crick, p. 282) but Sydney Smith (b. 1909) argues it was 35 Sovereign Street, lodgers living next door at no. 33. See Orwell Remembered, pp. 136-9. Orwell certainly addressed his letters from 22 Darlington Street.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 15.2.36

  1. max says:

    These poor wretches didn’t know how well off they were. Their nemesis was waiting in the wings – not Adolph Hitler, but a ten-year-old girl – who would finish off what the mime owners has begun and crush them and their community out of existance. Now her children, without acknowledging her responsibility, are pretending to care and to make good the society she broke. Come back, Karl Marx! All is forgiven!

  2. Pingback: 24.2.36 | The Road to Wigan Pier

  3. What did he expect if he was going to Wigan? Pies everywhere you look!

    The Road to Wigan Pier is a never-ending source of fascination to me because my grandparents, a miner and a calico weaver, were in their mid-40s in 1937 and spent most of their working life migrating between Wigan and South Yorkshire! My grandma constantly told me that George Orwell was ‘a good man’, and she was right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s