The view from George Orwell’s window
We’ve just come back from that house on the Isle of Jura where George Orwell wrote 1984. Can you tell? Has some of his brilliance rubbed off on me?
The house is so isolated and hard to reach that even the road gives up four miles short of his door. From there, you either have to walk, pushing your belongings ahead of you in a wheelbarrow, or, if you want to arrive a bit more stylishly, get your wife to push. For those of you who live in West Kensington and don’t own a wheelbarrow, ask your pilot to fly you in and give him this grid reference: NR 705 970. Land in the front garden if you can because some of the slates are loose.
Once indoors you’ll find that everything is just as he left it in 1949… even his pipe is still smouldering on the arm of a sofa. Ashton’s Consummate Gentleman – ready-rubbed, unless my nose deceived me.
My first confusion was in ratifying the view from his writing window with the oppressive Big Brother regime he described whilst staring out of it; hammering out each letter on a manual typewriter… and if you look closely at the photograph above you’ll see that the deer are still trying to puzzle it out today.
The house is large, comfortable and shabby. The kitchen lacks nothing the traditional English cook would expect to find, right down to a trussing needle – essential equipment if you’ve arrived with hopes of stuffing a really big bird. A noisy generator fires-up whenever a light is turned on. The wind whistles around the windows and under the doors. The kitchen is heated by a coal-fired Rayburn… there’s a coal-fired stove in the lounge; the remainder of the house is un-heated – yet warm and cosy… and coal is in unlimited supply, needing only to be ferried by scuttle from an out-building. The bed was damp, but you didn’t notice it after ten minutes. Speaking for myself, though, I would always be a summer visitor.
Outside, the unspoiled ‘go-anywhere’ walking and the scenery is as generously abundant as you expect in the highlands of Scotland. A first walk might be to the Corryvreckan – one of the worlds great natural whirlpools. In fact, if ever you find yourself in the position whereby you’ve murdered someone who was getting on your nerves, book a week at Hillbarn, and make it your first walk: carry the body over your shoulder, under cover of darkness, along to the whirlpool and pop them in. There’s no telling where the body will turn up, and you may well get off scott-free. But be careful not to fall in yourself or you’ll miss out on some of the other very attractive walks.
There are so many deer on Jura that the 200 people who live there form an ethnic minority. I’ve heard that there are 8,000 deer – but all I know is that if you stand anywhere in Devon you’ll see sheep, and if you stand anywhere on Jura you’ll see deer. That’s all very well for eleven months of the year, but in October, during the rut, their moods change and they become very aggressive. I’m talking about the deer now, not the sheep.
Just in case you’ve ever wondered – the iconic black and white photograph I use as the header for my blog is of Jura islanders John Macgregor and Katie Buie – I’m not sure when the photo was taken but Katie Buie died in 1917 at the age of 80.
I don’t know what it is I love about Jura – the list is almost endless – but above all it’s a place where you can relax; let ya hair down; and allow your eccentricities room to breath… after putting on my Austrian Leiderhosen – which so rarely sees the light of day – I popped into the pub and stood in the corner for a quiet drink when someone was kind enough to ask me if I was enjoying myself:
‘VEE LOFF JURA! YAH!’ (I was shouting to aid translation) THE PEOPLE ISS FRENLY – AND I LEAF MY BAG HERE ALREADY SREE HOURS AND NO ONE TOUCH! YOU DON’T HAVE TO CARE ABOUT DAT!