Beautiful Decay: Objects falling into history

Paint forced out by the inflation of tarnished metal beneath in paper-thin scrapings like filmy slices of whittled wood. Chunky number buttons with finger indentations on telephones that crunch in with a satisfying click. Orange and dusk-red rusts on old bicycle frames that harbour a beautiful variety of lichen in an array of sanguine tones. Windowless stone buildings with determined blades of grass growing forcibly through the gaps in the cold cobbled floor.

There is something resoundingly beautiful about the ruins of our recent past. The history and stories trapped inside objects that have fallen into ruin Continue reading “Beautiful Decay: Objects falling into history”

Red Phone-boxes: Ireland North and South

On a very recent trip to the north of Ireland from my home south of the border, I was asked by a friend and fellow traveller if I had encountered any culture shock after crossing into Northern Ireland. She had never visited up north before, being from further south in the country. The thought had never struck me.

When I was growing up Northern Ireland was the place that scandalised the headlines constantly with news of the bombings and beatings and various atrocities of the ongoing war in that area, and also where my parents would go to shop cheap. As a young child the troubles were an ambiguous thing at the very least, and the mention of towns I knew quite well like Omagh and Enniskillen were just mentions of places where awful things happened, but they never seemed that bad. The money was Pound Sterling, not the good old Irish Punt, the post-boxes and phone-boxes were red, not green. Continue reading “Red Phone-boxes: Ireland North and South”

Cormac McCarthy – Crossing the Border (1992-2012)

After deciding on the next topic for Moon Under water, i.e. the wonderful literary style of American author Cormac McCarthy, I decided to do a little research on the ambiguous public character of and found a piece online on The New Yorker’s webpage by writer James Wood. It’s an interesting criticism and a great introductory piece for any who are unfamiliar with the author. The subtitle for the article is “The sanguinary sublime of Cormac McCarthy”. I thought this far to apt a subtitle to pass up on quoting, as in assonance, double-meaning and literary style this is the perfect starting point for a critical reading of McCarthy’s later works. All I can say is damn him for thinking of it first…

McCarthy began his writing career with The Orchard Keeper in 1965. Since then he has published nine full novels, a screenplay and two plays. In the last twenty years McCarthy’s writing has taken a paradigm shift from an earlier, more typically American prose to the more recent offerings of this millennium. Continue reading “Cormac McCarthy – Crossing the Border (1992-2012)”

“I Want to Get Out!” – Supermarkets as Non-Places

While browsing a shopping aisle in a Tesco supermarket some time back I witnessed a young child sat in the constrictive rear-facing child seat of a shopping trolley. I would have passed little notice of this regular occurrence had the child not been in some consternation as to its current predicament. The young fair-haired boy wailed repeatedly at the top of his voice, to the pained facial expression demonstrating his busy mother’s exacerbated patience “I want to get out!”

It may have been the fact that I was on the way to the Electric Picnic music festival with my girlfriend, full of anticipation for impending youthful whimsy and unsolicited feelings of freedom from the rat-race for a weekend at least, but the repetition of the phrase, and in particular the context of uttering “I want to get out!” repeatedly in the anti-labyrinthine supermarket geography made me turn and muse whimsically to my better half, “Is that not the perfect social statement?” Continue reading ““I Want to Get Out!” – Supermarkets as Non-Places”

From Aalborg to Skagastrond (Saturday, May 8th – Tuesday, May 10th)

This is part 3 of 3 from the blog post Driving From Ireland to Iceland. If you follow this link the original post will explin these entries further.

Saturday, May 7th 2011 – International Waters

Saturday started understandably groggy. After breakfast and a fond farewell or three I hit the road and got agonisingly lost again in Aalborg, seething at the inefficiency of the traffic system and worrying more than a little about missing check-in for the ferry to Iceland at Hirtshals port, over an hour from the Danish City. I eventually broke free from the web of the city and was on my way with time to spare.

The port was as disorganised a place as I have ever visited. There seemed to be no concrete system for checking in, and cars and campers were parked flecked and scattered across the four lanes of entry as we waited for the ferry arrivals to slowly pass us by. When they eventually did, I drove on to the second biggest ship I had ever seen (this time with what seemed a completely bursting-to-the-brim full contingent of passengers, although on board it seemed like they could take more) and got a jolt of giddiness as the engines roared and we set sail. The next time my feet touch land I will be in the ambiguous state of the Faroe Islands, and the next stop after that will be in the unambiguous certainty that I am for the first time in my life no longer resident in the European Union. This ship (the Norona, a Faroese ferry that is a central force in the Faroe Islands’ tourist industry) is taking me far, far away.

Sunday, May 8th 2011 – Sea Legs

Met an amiable German named Martin, who, it turns out, is also a couchsurfer, and is moving to Reykjavik to do some web work for a new company. We talked about systems and getting around such things, and figured out a couple of harmless scams to make the journey a little more comfortable!

Sailed past the Shetlands too as fog began to descend. Two shipping boats surrounded by flocks of pestering seagulls that looked like TV static in the distance braved the high waves and low visibility.

Monday, May 9th 2011 – Meeting Vikings

Monday brings us to the Faroe Islands. The fog is thick and heavy as we land at 5 a.m. I had declined the option to bring my car onto shore here when in Hirsthals, and wonder (after a conversation with Martin, who had done the opposite) whether I had done the right thing. I choose to brave Tórshavn on foot, and soon enough realise this was a good idea.

There are no customs checks, passport checks or really checks of any kind entering or leaving this Danish principality, despite the fact that it is a nation unto itself (sort-of technically) and is not an E.U. state (to all extents and purposes). Really, it just seems like the folk here couldn’t care less about customs etc., it’s all very easy-going from the off.

The first sight encountered is a beautifully classical red-and-white striped lighthouse at the port. Climbing its hill I discover that the area is a former viking fort, and was a military station for the Danes during the 17th-19th Centuries. In World War II the British took control of the Faroes after Denmark had been occupied by Germany, and used this same hill as a garrison fort. The old Danish cannons and more recent British guns are still situated here, rusty and forlorn on the hilltop.

I walked along the shoreline taking in the tumultuous waves as they pounded the rocky shore, and I decided to follow a path off the main road and up along this shoreline, past an abandoned quarry. The fog was incredibly dense and there was unfortunately little visibility. Before long I was no longer in the Faroese capital Torshavn (which is little bigger than my hometown Sligo) and am walking in full countryside. Before long again I end up back in Torshavn.

The people here really resembled vikings in every Asterix-comic way. But all were very friendly, greeting me even at the early hour that I was out for a stroll with a smile and an unfamiliar hello. And there seemed to be children everywhere as the hours rolled on. I presumed that either the Faroese are very fertile or everyone on the islands goes to school in little Tórshavn (I learn later that the latter assumption is correct – as the furthest town in only an hour away, most children travel to Torshavn for their education). I circled the city a few times aimlessly – it is extremely hilly and there are a lot of side-streets so I found myself lost and found regularly. Eventually I stumbled across the national football stadium and pop in to see if Brian Kerr is in. He’s not.

A short walk from the stadium I discovered the national gallery. An exhibition by Faroese artist Edward Fuglø was advertised, and it looked pretty interesting so I decide to visit, but unfortunately it has a later opening time than 8.30 a.m. and I had to return later.

In the meantime I sauntered around a wonderful park next to the gallery, which has a centre-piece of an enormous sculpture dedicated to second world war victims, featuring a figure on top staring out into the south. On the subject of sculptures, the city is full of bronze-cast figurative works that almost all seem to be made by one artist (I later discover that this artist is Hans Pauli Olsen, and is quite famous in the Faroes).

Back to the museum then! I sat outside waiting for the opening reading Man’s Search For Meaning until early arrival school tours clear out of the building and it is (almost) time for it to officially open. Greeted by the invigilator, who has good English and suggested I go for the student rate, I was given a brief description of Fuglø and the museum before I entered. The museum houses a collection of art from the Faroes from the last 100 years, curated (I was told with an air of pride) by Mikael Wivel, the famous Danish curator and writer. The Fuglø exhibition is their current temporary show.

Fuglø is a contemporary Faroese artist. He works in painting, photography and mixed media installation. He is very well known in the Faroe Islands. And he is very, very good. The show, entitled Merry-Go-Round was about Faroese identity, politics between the Faroes and Denmark, birds, eggs, and art. It’s really very strong work, in particular the semi-surrealistic painting pieces which are as bizarre as they are brilliant. The level of professionalism catches me completely by surprise, which might seem a little philistinical, but I had not expected such a small country to produce such powerful, professional and high-budget work. I had just presumed the funding wouldn’t be there for the 50,000-odd Faroese inhabitants, but apparently it is there in buckets! Fuglø has also managed to sell a couple of the pieces, which I imagine went for several thousand euro, if not tens of thousands each (judging by prices on other works). I felt completely ashamed of Ireland at this point.

My shame worsened as I see that Fuglø was not a one-off. The rest of the Faroese artists in the permanent collection showed an acute knowledge of contemporary art and a high level of professionalism and investment in visual culture. The tradition of visual art in the Faroes is relatively recent, but it has been taken on with fervour. The quality of work would challenge any national museum that I’ve been to, although there is understandably less of it, in particular the paintings of Ingalvur Av Reyni and Thomas Arge, the former a recently deceased expressionist painter whose shown work was from the 90s, the latter’s work was 1970s work and also really expressionist and vivid. I began to wonder whether Ireland will ever search out any form of cultural identity, or will continue to hide it while we pine for international recognition through economic prosperity (it’s a pipe dream lads, and the alarm clock’s ringing).

Back to the ferry in a hurry then.

Throughout the city the tradition of grass-roofed houses can still be seen on many old buildings, including the port-side governmental houses that I happened upon by chance after getting lost on the way back to the boat. My tourist info came as I met a friendly port engineer who walked me back, accompanying the stroll with some back-story to the area. The government buildings were apparently situated there since the landing of the vikings in the 10th Century, I learn through unconfident but strong English. There are also 500 boats in the harbour, the grass roofs have had a resurgence in modern buildings and the Faroese intend to stabilise a rock-face near the port with steel beams (I kept the engineer talking as we walk).

On board again and we set sail at 3 p.m.

Tuesday, May 10th 2011 – Sublime

Here at last we hit land at Seydisfjordur. My cabin-mate from my last night on-board, a German called Ro (again, a member of the Couchsurfing community), requested a lift as far as Akureyri, the second largest town in the country, and, as it was on my way to Skagastrond, I happily obliged. As he has no strict schedule, all was gravy with regards adventuring when we hit land.

Initial impressions of the country couldn’t have been much grander. Ice-capped mountains surround the small port town of Seydisfjordur. We journey a short distance through valleys until we come upon another small village, Egilsstatdir, where I stopped for diesel and some breakfast

Myself and Ro hit the road once we had fuelled car and people adequately, and aim for Akureyri. There is one ring road that runs around the entire island so we’re either going straight for the town or directly away from it. Map and compass told us that we were on the right path.

There was heavy fog when we departed. The road leads up and up until we are driving on top of a constant mountain of around 600 metres (surrounded on all sides by higher peaks still). There is still some of Spring’s ice on the verges, which are terrifyingly steep. Best to keep on the road here – any veering into the ditch would mean certain write-off. The fog cleared eventually, and cloudy but sunny weather stayed with us for most of the rest of the day.

At this juncture I would like to just point out the extreme culture shock faced when beginning this journey. I was down a 2-lane motorway in the middle of the day where I pass a car once maybe every five minutes (more seldom again at parts). People don’t bother to stop at junctions at all – there is no need. The population is so scattered we barely saw a living soul for long stretches. I had expected a sparsely populated country as promised, but did not realise that it would hit me this hard upon arrival.

There is an abundance of waterfalls on either side on the drive from Seydisfjordur, but very little in the way of civilization. On the lower levels we passed some minute towns, on the higher terrain there is nothing at all – not even the semi-common fields of grazing Icelandic horses with their drooping manes and heavy fur subsist at these heights. We stopped briefly at a small car-park (these are dotted about all over the place on this road, strategically located next to particularly scenic views) and admire a pthalo grey, hilly landscape. The rock we encountered here seems to suck the daylight away, and as this deep grey was the only colour for miles, and with no traffic on the road, it felt as if we are taking a break on a dead planet. All the waterfalls make me think of Dettifoss, the largest ‘fall in Europe according to tourist guidebooks, and I suggest a detour slightly off our route to Ro, who was more than happy to journey out and see the waterfall.

We took a side-road that gradually dissipates into nothing but dirt towards the waterfall. I drove in the middle of the road here to avoid wrecking my suspension. There was not another soul for miles around. Construction vehicles sat by the road as we travel, but they looked like they had been inoperative for some time. It is possible that this road was one of the casualties of the recession here. We got out at a toilet that stands like an island surrounded by run-off water next to a car-park (by car-park I mean a flattened mound of loose gravel where one other car is parked). There are two enormous waterfalls here – Selfoss is the first, and this runs further downstream into Dettifoss.

After a relatively brief hike, we came to Selfoss. There were a few other hikers out for a stroll on this sunny day, but most were on the far side of the river where there is another more popular tourist trail. The canyon is about 40 metres wide at least. This waterfall is astounding. Water runs from all sides down in streams in a semi-circle into the fast-flowing river below. I adventure up as far as I can to the top of the fall, skipping over the fast-flowing water onto dry rock patches to get a few shots and have a look straight down. I eventually dragged my hesitant traveling companion along for a view. Although we were at the top of the fall, the impact spray from the bottom jumps so high we can almost feel it. We are both astounded by this – little were we to know what was coming next.

Dettifoss is remarkable. For someone who has never seen a really enormous waterfall, I had no idea what to expect. In this case, the spray came so high and in such quantity it soaked us both to the skin as if we are in the middle of a heavy downpour. The banks that we walk along have patches of ice marbled with grey gravel or dirt that looked like something from another planet. The waterfall itself is indescribable. All I can say is it is enormous, powerful, loud, and very very wet. It is around 60 metres tall and gushes water in a long line that bridges the gap between the side that we were standing on and the far side of the canyon. From over a hundred metres downstream, high up on the hilly canyon sides, we were still showered with the ‘fall’s impromptu rain.

Eventually we decided that it was time to return to the car and get back on the way. Honestly, I felt as if I could continue hiking forever here, but we had to move on at some point. Time is ticking away and night will fall eventually, and I need to reach Skagastrond and rendezvous with the residency co-ordinator at some reasonable hour.

On the walk back Ro told me about his business in Dresden – a bakery employing over ten people, which I have to say I am very impressed with as I imagine he is not yet thirty. He has a lust for travel, however, but he feels safe leaving the shop in the hands of the others he has in his employ to take three weeks and venture around the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

We made our way back along the dusty trail and back onto the “1” road, promising no more stops until we reach our destination.

Less than half an hour later we stopped when we saw an enormous plume of while cloud emerging from the horizon to the right of the road, and on the left a field of fumaroles erupting the same white smoke on a smaller scale. This was Námafjall Hverir, in the Krafla valley. I parked and we got out to have a look.

The newer earth-stacks are built up like anthills, and hiss steam out at a colossal speed and with a piercing wheeze. There are a great number of them here, situated on the slopes of a mountain-peak (we are still 600 metres up at this point) that is made up of a strange bright orange clay, discoloured with an emerald-green mould and white residue that sprouts near the geysers. The older ones have collapsed in and form grey murky pools of angry, bubbling goo that heats to over eighty degrees. The smell in the air here was like sweetened sulphur, overpowering at times. Standing at the belching and gurgling, odious pools I tried to imagine what foul creatures the vikings might have first thought lived beneath the grey slime at these geysers.

We hit the road again after an explore. No more stops now.

Two minutes later we passed the hill that these geysers were on, and come across one monstrous “daddy” geyser on the far side. We stop for a look.

There are strange space-age domes built near the base of the billowing crevice. These are part of the geothermal power system that keeps Iceland electrified. There are natural baths here too. This is Myvatn, a popular tourist spot. Rain started to fall a little here, and lasted for a short while. At the foot of the geyser there was a small pool of near-luminous cyan-green water, that, Ro told me (he has seen geysers before in New Zealand) is the colour of water run-off from geysers such as these.

Onwards then, past thousands more waterfalls, looking into the distance at tall mountain peaks, all snow and ice-capped, black and white in the distance with thick, fluffy white clouds for contrast. This time there really is no more stopping, and a couple of hours later we reached Akureyri (a 4-hour drive has taken 7 hours at this point, including detours).

Ro departed at a guest-house in Akureyri and I move on alone. It is another hour and a half’s drive to Skagastrond, but I am geared up and giddy at this point so even thick fog coupled with stuck-behind-a-lorry-itis does not affect my mood. Eventually I find the turn and I contact Ólafía, the residency co-ordinator to let her know I will be arriving soon.

The town, directly translated meaning “peninsula strand”, sits at the foot of a monumental mountain that I will climb before the end of my stay here. There is a wall of mountains on one side almost separating Skagastrond from the rest of Iceland. On the other side is the sea, blue-black in the overcast evening. The buildings are all brightly coloured and noticeably spaced very far apart. So much so, in fact, that this town of just over 500 people seems much larger than it should.

And so ends my adventure from Sligo, North-west Ireland, to Skagastrond, North-west Iceland. 3 ferries, 18 hours of driving, 5 seas, 8 countries later and I had arrived at my home for 3 months. More Icelandic adventures to follow…

Nostalgia for New York: Rewatching Ghostbusters 2

The festive season at the end of 2011 seems to be pounding home an unstoppable onslaught of good old fashioned film nostalgia. From the late-year release of Tintin, a fun spectacle bringing back memories of the intrepid, investigative comic book star from my own youth, to JJ Abrams’ Spielberg-ish romp Super 8 (which I have previously reviewed on Moon Under Water here). Not that Spielberg controls the nostalgia market (I am watching The Goonies out of the corner of my eye as I write this…) but the emphasis is not lacking.

Nostalgia is an uncontrollable thing at the best of times. I recently sat down to re-watch Ghostbusters 2 – a sequel that was critically slammed and a movie that I had not watched since I was pre-teen. Ghostbusters 2 is certainly nothing to smile about too broadly, a hack sequel that is as cynical as anything that Hollywood churns out these days with little in the way of character, script or plotline to shout about. Essentially it is just a remake of the first film with a new bad-guy, the creepy Vigo the Carpathian trapped inside a painting and looking to get free.

However, when I was younger Ghostbusters 2 was the untouchable epic – the river of slime Continue reading “Nostalgia for New York: Rewatching Ghostbusters 2”

Super 8 (2011 film)

JJ Abrahs plays Steven Spielberg in this nostalgic flick, produced by Spielberg and directed by Abrams. Did you get that?


It’s a strange thing to get taken back to an earlier point in life with some overpowering twinge of nostalgia taking you over, but for it to be a wholly enjoyable experience. This is precisely what happened when I watched Super 8.

First, it ought to be noted, you are not moving into some field of untrodden soil when you turn on this film. Do not expect an original and insightful plotline Continue reading “Super 8 (2011 film)”

tUnE-YaRdS – w h o k i l l

2011 has thrown up an abundance of great music. To get the ball rolling on Moon Under Water, as officially the first post of the site, I figured tUnE-yArDs were adequate recipients of this prestigious accolade.

tUnE-yArDs - WHOKILLMerrill Garbus, the multi-talented eclecticentric who plays and provides vocal on all of tUnE-yArDs’ work, has thrown up an arguably iconic album in the form of 2011’s w h o k i l l.

The album layers funk and lo-fi with the undeniably unique overall quality of Garbus’ loops and vocals. Opening on the infectious My Country, the album immediately promises an anthemic and thematic musical beast of styles and sounds, with South American beats and a resonant lyrical offering for a disenfranchised generation echoing 2011’s discontented youth as much as it observes the global turmoil in which it was written.

Laughing brass and a big layered sound comes to dominate, giving rise to an album that doesn’t let up for a second. Gangsta, arguably my favourite individual song of 2011, is a big-hitting loser’s dream – a dark and punchy piece about success and the price of not achieving it. This piece is also backed up by a cracking video (below), directed by the New England superstar herself as she continues to add to the vast collection of skills that she has on offer.


Sliding between these funky beats and brassy overtures to more dreamlike haunts reminiscent of TV On The Radio in songs like Powa and the creep-up-your-spine slow drift song Wooly Wolly Gang, the album never fails to surprise, and grows with each listen. There is a constantly lingering South American influenced percussion sound too that does not let up, but never fully invades the music, capturing a feeling of a global sound in some very local themes.

The highlighted single from the album is Bizness (listen below), a punchy, choppy tune that was always going to be the “hit” of the album. Hiding behind a powerful chorus are chirpy backing vocals and a dollop of the brass that is the main new introduction on this album in terms of instruments that Garbus collects and plays with. The chorus, “What’s the bizness yeah – don’t take my life away” leaves little room for explanation, and although not the real stand-alone track of Whokill, it is still a cracking tune that you will not be able to avoid foot-tapping and hip-swinging to.

The thematic concept that dominates the tracks is that of a rebel generation – a lifelong power struggle that rises and falls, and this is carried off expertly by both lyrics and music in Garbus’ unfaltering style. This album is a decidedly large evolution from tUnE-yArDs’ 2009 release, the much more lo-fi (but still expertly crafted) BiRd-BrAiNs.

So, overall, Whokill is a stunning success from an artist that looks like she can do no wrong at the minute. With a European tour upcoming at time of writing, tUnE-yArDs is a treat for the present and the future, and fans like myself will be eagerly anticipate the next release.

My only complaint is in the damn name – these erratic upper and lower case shifts are not built for typing in a blog…

Moon Under Water

An array of opinions and ideas from people who just like things!

George Orwell – Moon Under Water

My favourite public-house, the Moon Under Water, is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights.

Its clientele, though fairly large, consists mostly of “regulars” who occupy the same chair every evening and go there for conversation as much as for the beer.

If you are asked why you favour a particular public-house, it would seem natural to put the beer first, but the thing that most appeals to me about the Moon Under Water is what people call its “atmosphere.”

To begin with, its whole architecture and fittings are uncompromisingly Victorian. It has no glass-topped tables or other modern miseries, and, on the other hand, no sham roof-beams, ingle-nooks or plastic panels masquerading as oak. The grained woodwork, the ornamental mirrors behind the bar, the cast-iron fireplaces, the florid ceiling stained dark yellow by tobacco-smoke, the stuffed bull’s head over the mantelpiece —everything has the solid, comfortable ugliness of the nineteenth century.

In winter there is generally a good fire burning in at least two of the bars, and the Victorian lay-out of the place gives one plenty of elbow-room. There are a public bar, a saloon bar, a ladies’ bar, a bottle-and-jug for those who are too bashful to buy their supper beer publicly, and, upstairs, a dining-room.

Games are only played in the public, so that in the other bars you can walk about without constantly ducking to avoid flying darts.

In the Moon Under Water it is always quiet enough to talk. The house possesses neither a radio nor a piano, and even on Christmas Eve and such occasions the singing that happens is of a decorous kind.

The barmaids know most of their customers by name, and take a personal interest in everyone. They are all middle-aged women —two of them have their hair dyed in quite surprising shades—and they call everyone “dear,” irrespective of age or sex. (“Dear,” not “Ducky”: pubs where the barmaid calls you “ducky” always have a disagreeable raffish atmosphere.)

Unlike most pubs, the Moon Under Water sells tobacco as well as cigarettes, and it also sells aspirins and stamps, and is obliging about letting you use the telephone.

You cannot get dinner at the Moon Under Water, but there is always the snack counter where you can get liver-sausage sandwiches, mussels (a speciality of the house), cheese, pickles and those large biscuits with caraway seeds in them which only seem to exist in public-houses.

Upstairs, six days a week, you can get a good, solid lunch —for example, a cut off the joint, two vegetables and boiled jam roll—for about three shillings.

The special pleasure of this lunch is that you can have draught stout with it. I doubt whether as many as 10 per cent of London pubs serve draught stout, but the Moon Under Water is one of them. It is a soft, creamy sort of stout, and it goes better in a pewter pot.

They are particular about their drinking vessels at the Moon Under Water, and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass. Apart from glass and pewter mugs, they have some of those pleasant strawberry-pink china ones which are now seldom seen in London. China mugs went out about 30 years ago, because most people like their drink to be transparent, but in my opinion beer tastes better out of china.

The great surprise of the Moon Under Water is its garden. You go through a narrow passage leading out of the saloon, and find yourself in a fairly large garden with plane trees, under which there are little green tables with iron chairs round them. Up at one end of the garden there are swings and a chute for the children.

On summer evenings there are family parties, and you sit under the plane trees having beer or draught cider to the tune of delighted squeals from children going down the chute. The prams with the younger children are parked near the gate.

Many as are the virtues of the Moon Under Water, I think that the garden is its best feature, because it allows whole families to go there instead of Mum having to stay at home and mind the baby while Dad goes out alone.

And though, strictly speaking, they are only allowed in the garden, the children tend to seep into the pub and even to fetch drinks for their parents. This, I believe, is against the law, but it is a law that deserves to be broken, for it is the puritanical nonsense of excluding children —and therefore, to some extent, women—from pubs that has turned these places into mere boozing-shops instead of the family gathering-places that they ought to be.

The Moon Under Water is my ideal of what a pub should be —at any rate, in the London area. (The qualities one expects of a country pub are slightly different.)

But now is the time to reveal something which the discerning and disillusioned reader will probably have guessed already. There is no such place as the Moon Under Water.

That is to say, there may well be a pub of that name, but I don’t know of it, nor do I know any pub with just that combination of qualities.

I know pubs where the beer is good but you can’t get meals, others where you can get meals but which are noisy and crowded, and others which are quiet but where the beer is generally sour. As for gardens, offhand I can only think of three London pubs that possess them.

But, to be fair, I do know of a few pubs that almost come up to the Moon Under Water. I have mentioned above ten qualities that the perfect pub should have and I know one pub that has eight of them. Even there, however, there is no draught stout, and no china mugs.

And if anyone knows of a pub that has draught stout, open fires, cheap meals, a garden, motherly barmaids and no radio, I should be glad to hear of it, even though its name were something as prosaic as the Red Lion or the Railway Arms.

This was a letter written by George Orwell to the Evening Standard on 25 February, 1946. My compliments to for the piece.