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My, how England has changed! Found this over at THR.

Found this in an article about George Orwell. I'm sure we all know that Orwell wrote of Britain: "That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy, and it is our job to make sure that it stays there." He described the totalitarian universe of 1984 as "a world where firearms...were completely unprocurable."

Here's the extract:

Orwell was to write in 1945 in the Evening Standard a light, nostalgic essay on toys with the somewhat gloomy title, ‘Bare Christmas for the Children’. It was a wise and gentle polemic against manufactured toys in favour of playing with real things and making one’s own toys. But somewhat inconsistently, two manufactured items â€" anything but do-it-yourself â€" were also commended:

One of the greatest joys of my own childhood were those little brass cannons on wooden gun-carriages... The smallest had barrels the size of your little finger, the largest were six or eight inches long, cost ten shillings and went off with a noise like the Day of Judgement. To fire them, you needed gunpowder, which the shops sometimes refused to sell you, but a resourceful boy could make gunpowder for himself if he took the precaution of buying the ingredients from three different chemists.

And an even more surprising sentiment for a war-weary Christmas followed from reckless Uncle George:

One of the advantages of being a child thirty years ago, was the light-hearted attitude that then prevailed towards firearms. Up till not long before the other war you could walk into any bicycle shop and buy a revolver, and even when the authorities began to take an interest in revolvers, you could still buy for 7s. 6d. a fairly lethal weapon known as a Saloon rifle. I bought my first Saloon rifle at the age often, with no questions asked.[16]

The rifle was a .22 calibre. He would have already used such a gun in the St Cyprian’s cadet corps under the instruction of the school sergeant (old army men sometimes found cosier niches, then and now, in prep or public schools than as theatre commissionaires). Boys would have gone into the all but compulsory Officers Training Corps (the OTC) in their public school already able to shoot at both fixed and moving targets.

Jacintha remembers no great financial stress around the Blairs, and chides Eric for harping on this theme:

His parents’ finances were doubtless straitened when Mr Blair retired and Marjorie’s school fees had to be found as well as Eric’s; but when we knew the family they did not seem drastically impoverished. The children had the usual little treats that we had, and Eric had enough pocket-money to buy quantities of books for me as well as for himself. He had a gun, a fishing rod and a bicycle, like Prosper and his contemporaries, and the Blairs went for seaside holidays...
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