Monday, 18 February 2013

Orwell and beer

Seventy years after he left the BBC, Radio Four is running a series of programmes on The Real George Orwell. I listened to one of them this weekend, a dramatisation of Nineteen Eighty-Four with Christopher Eccleston as Winston Smith.

Even though Nineteen-Eighty Four is set almost four decades after Orwell wrote it, it still has the feel of London in the late forties: bomb sites, steam trains, rationing and a scene in a pub where an old man says to Winston,"When I was a young man, mild beer - wallop, we used to call it - was fourpence a pint. That was before the war, of course."

A major theme in Orwell's work is Englishness, including the most English of subjects, beer and pubs. I can't think of any of his novels where they don't appear, from the chemically tasting pint of bitter in the hotel bar in Coming Up for Air to the "dark common ale" in the backstreet beerhouse in Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

A couple of years ago, a local newspaper interviewed the former landlady of a village pub in Hertfordshire who served Orwell with pints of mild in a jug when he rented a cottage there.

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