The Reading Room

George Orwell Goes Fishing

Orwell’s green and pleasant land…

GO-53“Most of the things I used to care for would leave me something more than cold. I don’t care if I never see a cricket ball again, and I wouldn’t give you threepence for a hundredweight of sweets, But I’ve still got, always had, that peculiar feeling for fishing. You’ll think it damned silly, no doubt, but I’ve actually got half a wish to go fishing even now, when I’m fat and forty-five and got two kids and a house in the suburbs. Why? Because in a manner of speaking I am sentimental about my childhood, not my own particular childhood but the civilization which I grew up in and which is now, I suppose, just about at its last kick. And fishing is somehow typical of that civilization. As soon as you think of fishing you think of things that don’t belong to the modern world. The very idea of sitting all day under a willow tree beside a quiet pool and being able to find a quiet pool to sit beside, belongs to the time before the war, before the radio, before aeroplanes, before Hitler…” So wrote George Orwell in his 1939 novel Coming Up for Air.

The book is a study in nostalgia, Orwell’s central character, George Bowling bemoans the loss of the old and the emergence of the new, as did Orwell in real life, as do we all, one supposes. Bowling sees fishing as the last hurrah for England’s green and pleasant land and anyone with a piscatorial leaning will no doubt find allegiance in his words and his childhood memories. Coming Up for Air is a novel which transcends generations, Orwell captures man’s reflections on life in the return to the past, the inherent desire in all of us to revisit one’s childhood and those fondest of memories. Fishing not only allows us to do that it near forces it upon us, Bowling’s fishing escapades at the turn of the last century have been played out many times before and since and not least by this particular blogger who first tied a hook seventy years later and continues to this day.

Like Bowling and his author I recall those childhood days with a similar sense of loss and sentimentality, one’s memories may be ‘filtered’ but the casting of a line upon a still water never changes. The lives of those who cast before us may but the essence of the moment remains the same and for that I am profoundly grateful.


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