19.2.36

When a “dirt-heap” sinks, as it does ultimately, it leaves a hummocky surface which is made more so by the fact that in times of strikes the miners dig into some of these places in search of small coals. One which is used as a playground looks like a choppy sea suddenly frozen. It is called locally “the flock mattress.” The soil over them is grey and cindery and only an evil-looking brownish grass grows on them.

This evening to a social the N.U.W.M had got up in aid of Thaelmann’s defence-fund. Admission and refreshments (cup of tea and meat pie) 6d. About 200 people, preponderantly women, largely members of the Co-Op,° in one of whose rooms it was held, and I suppose for the most part living directly or indirectly on the dole. Round the back a few aged miners sitting looking on benevolently, a lot of very young girls in front. Some dancing to the concertina (many of the girls confessed that they could not dance, which struck me as rather pathetic) and some excruciating singing. I suppose these people represented a fair cross-section of the more revolutionary element in Wigan. If so, God help us. Exactly the same sheep-like crowd – gaping girls and shapeless middle-aged women dozing over their knitting – that you see everywhere else. There is no turbulence left in England. One good song, however, by an old woman, I think a cockney, who draws the old age pension and makes a bit by singing at pubs, with the refrain:

“For you can’t do that there ‘ere,

“No, you can’t do that there ‘ere;

“Anywhere else you can do that there,

“But you can’t do that there ‘ere.” [1]

 

[1] For you can’t do that there ‘ere: Orwell mentions this song in ‘Songs We used to Sing’, 19 January 1946 (CW, XVIII, p. 51) and suggests it seems to be ‘a reflection of the existing political situation…perhaps a half-conscious response to Hitler’.

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