Like Syria's President Assad, George Orwell created hell in paradise

Share
Related Topics

My dog, Huxley, is an 11-year-old Labrador, and fortunately in peak physical condition as he survived a leap from a first-floor window last week with nothing more than some bruising. Far worse off was the startled farmer who was driving the pick-up truck that Huxley dive-bombed like some hairy Stuka. He won't be back soon. He'll be in the pub downing pints and muttering to anyone who'll listen: "He's only got bloody flying dogs up there. We should burn him, I tell you: chase him out of the county...."

I fled this excitement and headed up to Argyll for a quick family break. As a huge George Orwell fan I had decided to do a pilgrimage to Barnhill, the isolated house on the northern tip of Jura where he spent most of his last years and wrote Nineteen Eight-Four.

I had got the owner's name from someone on Twitter and had emailed to see if I could look around. She told me that it was rented out but that she would contact the tenants to see if they would mind. To reach Orwell's hideaway you need to take the ferry over to the south of the island, drive up what passes for a road until it turns into an almost impassable track and then walk the remaining five miles or so. Orwell could often be seen by the side of the track trying to fix his dilapidated motorcycle.

As I was taking my family with me, I opted for a slightly easier option. I chartered a boat on the mainland and got the captain to drop us off in a bay about half a mile from the house. The walk up to Barnhill was one of the most beautiful in the whole of the UK. It was truly magical scenery and even my kids didn't complain as they took in their awe-inspiring surroundings. We walked up through a moss-covered forest and then along a track that wound its way over a hill to reveal the house, nestled in a shallow valley with a spectacular view over the sea.

You could see why a man would come here to get away from all distractions and write. On this gloriously sunny day however, it seemed like the last place on earth where somebody might write a dystopian classic. I'm guessing however, that on a cold winter's day in 1948, things might have been a little different both geopolitically and temperature-wise.

The tenants kindly invited us in and we spent 10 minutes wandering about the shabby interior. Upstairs was Orwell's bedroom with a desk at the window looking out to sea. I sat there for as long as I could, soaking up the atmosphere while my children stood around awkwardly.

On the walk back to the boat we joked about bumping into David Cameron, who had been holidaying on the island the week before. What would Orwell, a fellow old Etonian, have made of the PM's bungled attempts to do something about the situation in Syria? Assad runs a regime very familiar to readers of Nineteen Eighty-Four and yet the opposition, the Syrian Winston Smiths, seem hardly more palatable. As Orwell put it: "The choice before human beings, is not, as a rule, between good and evil but between two evils."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Liberal Left should stop feeling guilty about flying the flag of St George and have no qualms about celebrating Englishness, one of Ed Miliband’s closest advisers said  

Don't sneer at the white van driving flag waving man

Stefano Hatfield
A customer holds his new iPhone  

How magazine websites for young women are filling a gap in the market

Ian Burrell
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin