Friday, February 2, 2018

the last book I ever read (George Orwell's Coming Up For Air, excerpt two)

from Coming Up For Air by George Orwell:

The pool was swarming with bream, small ones, about four to six inches long. Every now and again you’d see one of them turn half over and gleam reddy-brown under the water. There were pike there too, and they must have been big ones. You never saw them, but sometimes one that was basking among the weeds would turn over and plunge with a splash that was like a brick being bunged into the water. It was no use trying to catch them, though of course I always tried every time I went there. I tried them with dace and minnows I’d caught in the Thames and kept alive in a jam-jar, and even with a spinner made out of a bit of tin. But they were gorged with fish and wouldn’t bite, and in any case they’d have broken any tackle I possessed. I never came back from the pool without at least a dozen small bream. Sometimes in the summer holidays I went there for a whole day, with my fishing-rod and a copy of Chums or the Union Jack or something, and a hunk of bread and cheese which Mother had wrapped up for me. And I’ve fished for hours and then lain in the grass hollow and read the Union Jack, and then the smell of my bread paste and the plop of a fish jumping somewhere would send me wild again, and I’d go back to the water and have another go, and so on all through a summer’s day. And the best of all was to be alone, utterly alone, though the road wasn’t a quarter of a mile away. I was just old enough to know that it’s good to be alone occasionally. With the trees all round you it was as though the pool belonged to you, and nothing ever stirred except the fish ringing the water and the pigeons passing overhead. And yet, in the two years or so that I went fishing there, how many times did I really go, I wonder? Not more than a dozen. It was a three-mile bike ride from home and took up a whole afternoon at least. And sometimes other things turned up, and sometimes when I’d meant to go it rained. You know the way things happen.

One afternoon the fish weren’t biting and I began to explore at the end of the pool farthest from Binfield House. There was a bit of an overflow of water and the ground was boggy, and you had to fight your way through a sort of jungle of blackberry bushes and rotten boughs that had fallen off the trees. I struggled through it for about fifty yards, and then suddenly there was a clearing and I came to another pool which I had never known existed. It was a small pool not more than twenty yards wide, and rather dark because of the boughs that overhung it. But it was very clear water and immensely deep. I could see ten or fifteen feet down into it. I hung about for a bit, enjoying the dampness and the rotten boggy smell, the way a boy does. And then I saw something that almost made me jump out of my skin.

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