Tag Archives: Weather in 1940

The cold snap – Orwell 1940

The Orwell Diaries is a remarkable blog which publishes George Orwell’s diary entries on the same date 6o years later. The entries are full of fascinating insights into the daily life of the author between  1937 and 1947 and include a surprising amount of observations on natural history. The comments by the readers are also, unusually, interesting. Here is his entry of 11th January from the cold winter of 1940:

No thaw. It would be possible to skate on the church pond, but unfortunately I have no skates here. The other ponds not bearing. Water beetles (the kind whose legs look like oars) can be seen moving about under the ice. When a brick lies in the bottom in shallow water, there appears in the ice above it a curious formation the size & shape of the brick itself, presumably something to do with the temperature of the brick when thrown in being higher than that of the water. Turned up a woodcock in the common lane. No rabbits in the field today. Birds very bold & hungry. Rooks in the vegetable garden, where they do not usually come. One or two primroses & polyanthi budding, in spite of the frost upon them. One of the elm trees apparently bleeds a brown-coloured stuff, sap or something, & large icicles of this hanging down, looking like toffee. Milk when frozen goes into a curious flaky stuff like flaky pastry.

Orwell had an enduring interest in natural history which stemmed from his childhood. In letters from school he wrote about caterpillars and butterflies and he had a keen interest in ornithology. He also enjoyed fishing and shooting rabbits, and conducting experiments as in cooking a hedgehog or shooting down a jackdaw from the Eton roof to dissect it. Wikipedia