“I first encountered the writing of Orwell when I was twelve years old. It was a summer holiday and I had been sent to stay at the home of a family friend for a week whilst my parents went off for a camping holiday that I, by that time being far too civilised, had refused to even contemplate.
The family I was staying with had a son the same age as me, which was the only thing the two of us had in common. His mother, on our first day, suggested that he and I walk into the nearby town as a way of getting to know one another. It may have been that she was already sick of the sight of me and had thought this up as a ruse to get rid of me for the day…….whatever her motives the result was spectacularly successful (from my point of view) as a result of returning a few hours later having established that her son couldn’t drink more that half a bottle of QC sherry without losing the use of his legs. Unlike me, he had never tried alcohol before so it was something of a shock to a hardened drinker like myself to see the pitiful state into which he had fallen.
I managed eventually to carry him home, but instead of being grateful (I could have easily forgotten him and left him behind) his mother banned me from going anywhere near him for the rest of the week, and confined me during daylight hours to a conservatory which had artfully been tacked onto the back of their semi-detatched, and in which there was a shelf of books.
The following day I took up position in an old wicker chair by the window and made a random selection from the bookshelf by my side. The book was Animal Farm, and it changed my life completely……I am not going to review its many virtues, as anyone who has ever read it will know what I mean by that statement……I read it entirely in one sitting (the only way to read it) and once finished, an astonished twelve year old hedonist became an astonished politically aware twelve year old hedonist. From that moment onward my every delinquency became an action against the state…..and always in Snowball’s cause.
The drawing provided is something that came to me almost as soon as the project was mentioned to me. Of all Orwell’s writing (even including the above cathartic novel) Homage to Catalonia is my personal favourite; possibly owing to the fact that my grandfather fought in the Spanish Civil War. It encapsulates the eye for the truth from which Orwell never flinched. The saddest part of the book is the account of the fighting between the various factions in Barcelona – the vision of the hope crumbling…..eating itself alive.
‘Hitherto the rights and wrongs had seemed so beautifully simple.’
My drawing is of a dead Anarchist – as you can probably tell from my introductory tale, the Anarchists were always going to be my favourites…..and thanks to Orwell, they still are.”
Nigel Robert Pugh March 2018