Tuesday 8 August 2006

Down the Mine

Deutsche Bank statues, TriesteTJS 1 Originally uploaded by domeheid.

These statues outside the Deutsche Bank in Trieste remind me of George Orwell's description of the "fillers" in Part I, Chapter II of The Road to Wigan Piers, an essay also known as "Down the Mine":

"But the fillers look and work as though they were made of iron. They really do look like iron - hammered iron statues - under the smooth coat of coal dust which clings to them from head to foot. It is only when you see miners down the mine and naked that you realise what splendid men they are."

Orwell was a great Communist propaganda writer, championing the worker. His enthusiasm and admiration is infectious. It makes me proud of my paternal uncles and grandfather who all worked down the pit in Dalmellington in Ayrshire. Had my dad been born ten years earlier, he would have been a miner, too.

Later in that same essay, I'm tickled by the bit about the mice down the mine: "It would be interesting to know how they got there in the first place; possibly by falling down the shaft - for they say a mouse can fall any distance uninjured, owing to its surface area being so large relative to its weight."

I wonder why Eric Arthur Blair chose the pseudonym "George Orwell". I thought of this as we drove over the River Orwell south of Ipswich on our way north towards our Suffolk holiday cottage a few weeks ago. Wikipedia confirms that he chose it because of his love for the river.

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