Reports of my Breath Greatly Exaggerated…
Persistent coughing, lack of sleep and enough mucus to float (though not to sink) a battleship have rendered me unable to speak to you for the last few days. I’m feeling slightly more human now. This reminds me of Bob (I think it was Bob) who, hung over after a drinking session, professed his deep need for Tea. ‘Ah, that feels better,’ he said, as he downed the brew, ‘I feel more human now.’
‘Well, you don’t look it,’ I quipped.
Oh, how we laughed. It is particularly trying to have a heavy cold when you also have asthma: coughing and wheezing, you don’t know what to reach for first as you wake in the middle of the night: your inhaler, your asthma medicine, a tissue or the paracetamol. In the end you have to take all four of them in order, followed by a slug of sleep mix (Mark hates it that I take a slug instead of measuring it in the cap) and so back to sleep. Mostly now I’m feeling the fatigue that follows a heavy cold and so I’m not pushing the boat out, work-wise, just reading Testament of Youth and writing my diary.
Will the Real George Orwell Please Sod Off?
That’s a little harsh – actually I like George Orwell and the recent radio series ‘The Real George Orwell’ has been fascinating. He’s intelligent, insightful, and you could say heroic, in his intention to live the lives of those he is investigating. He could have had a privileged life but chose instead to find out what it was like to live in poverty and hardship. He fought in the Spanish Civil War and slept rough in Paris and London, doing the hardest menial jobs just to avoid starvation. He was the method actor of journalism: he didn’t just go and watch, he went and took part. And so his books have an enduring fascination and an insight born of genuine suffering.
But – and there is a but – Orwell disclaims any possibility of redemption through suffering. To him, circumstances make you what you are, and he denies that anyone can find enlightenment through difficult or distressing circumstances. Whilst he very properly lambasts those who pontificate on the subject without ever having experienced real hardship, we do have accounts from people who have experienced similar – or worse – and found that, along with the suffering they have found some core of inner strength, some – I can’t find a better word – enlightenment through hardship. The fact is, Orwell was a miserable git. You could put him down in paradise and he’d still find something to moan about; and he seemed to have the knack of finding the very worst places and generalising from there. So you have to take account this feature of his personality, particularly when it comes to the conclusions he draws from his experience.
So the real George Orwell needs to be taken with a pinch of sugar, I think.
Or perhaps nectar?