An excerpt from my favourite George Orwell novel – Coming Up for Air.

“I stayed there for a bit, leaning over the gate. I was alone, quite alone. I was looking at the field, and the field was looking at me. I felt – I wonder whether you’ll understand.

What I felt was something that’s so unusual nowadays that to say it sounds like foolishness. I felt happy. I felt that though I shan’t live forever, I’d be quite ready to. If you like you can that that was merely because it was the first day of Spring. Seasonal effect on the sex-glands, or something. But there was more to it than that. Curiously enough, the thing that had suddenly convinced me that life was worth living, more than the primroses, or the young buds on the hedge, was that bit of fire near the gate. You know the look of a wood fire on a still day. The sticks that have gone all to white ash and still keep the shape of sticks, and under the ash the kind of vivid red that you can see into. It’s curious that a red ember looks more alive, gives you more of a feeling of life, than any living thing. There’s something about it, a kind of intensity, a vibration – I can’t think of the exact words. But it let’s you know that you’re alive yourself. It’s the spot on the picture that makes you notice everything else.

I bent down to pick a primrose, Couldn’t reach it – too much belly. I squatted down on my haunches and picked a little bunch of them. Lucky there was no one to see me. The leaves were kind of crinkly and shaped like rabbits’ ears. I stood up and put my bunch of primroses on the gatepost. Then on an impulse I slipped my false teeth out of my mouth and had a look at them.

If I’d had a mirror I’d have looked at the whole of myself, though as a matter of fact, I knew what I looked like already. A fat man of forth-five, in a grey herringbone suit a bit the worse for wear and a bowler hat. Wife, two kids and a house in the suburbs written all over me. Red face and boiled blue eyes. I know, you don’t have to tell me. But the think that struck me, as I gave my dental plate the once-over before slipping it back into my mouth, was that it doesn’t matter. Even false teeth don’t matter. I’m fat – yes. I look like a bookie’s unsuccessful brother – yes. No woman will ever go to bed with me again unless she’s paid to. I know all that. But I tell you I don’t care. I don’t want the women, I don’t even want to be young again. I only want to be alive. And I was alive that moment when I stood looking at the primroses and the red embers under the hedge. It’s a feeling inside you, a kind of peaceful feeling, and yet it’s like a flame.”

I travelled through that book right beside the fat man with the red face – and I’m all the better for it.

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