George Orwell, The Moon Under Water and the absence of liver sausage

George Orwell - an Old Etonian who was reduced to destitution by theft then cannily turned it to his advantage by writing Down and out in Paris and London - produced an essay for the Evening Standard in 1946 about the perfect pub. In his mind's eye it was called The Moon Under Water and there were ten things that he said it would have to possess.

* The architecture and fittings should be Victorian
* Games, including darts, are played only in the public part of the bar
* There's no radio or piano, so it's quiet enough to talk
* The motherly barmaids know the customers by name and are chatty
* It sells tobacco and cigarettes, aspirin and stamps and lets you use the phone
* There's a snack counter that sells liver sausage sandwiches, cheese and pickles, mussels and caraway seed biscuits
* Upstairs, six days a week, you can get a good lunch - for example, a cut off a joint, two veg and a jam roly-poly - for three shillings
* It should sell a creamy sort of draught stout, which is best served in a pewter pot
* They are particular about the vessels that the drinks are served in and never make the mistake of serving beer in a glass without a handle
* When you go down a narrow passage out of the saloon you should find yourself in a fairly large garden

Parts of the list haven't aged very well. For instance, the distinction between the "public" part of a bar and the rest of it now falls firmly into the category of "arcane knowledge". Tobacco as a pastime is dying a death for public health reasons. And the phone-lending bit, all change obviously, though I have to admit that my iPhone doesn't always work very well as an actual phone and I often think, sneakily, that it would be handy to have a land line.

Also, I reckon that Orwell's requirement that The Moon Under Water be Victorian might owe something to sentimentality arising from the wholesale destruction of a lot of physical things during the war, which had only ended the previous year.


But the spirit of the quest lives on. In particular I'd like to voice my hearty approval of the part about liver sausage sandwiches and take the opportunity to ask "Whatever happened to liver sausage?" I used to love that stuff, especially between two slices of well-structured bread, with a bit of salad, some mayonnaise and sweet pickle.  You used to be able to buy it in supermarkets but I haven't seen it for years. Has it gone the same way as mothballs?

Caraway biscuits. They sound good too.



Wouldn't it be great if someone recreated George Orwell's nirvana in an area of London where he used to hang out - Islington, for instance? There is a place on Charing Cross Road that's called The Moon Under Water (above) but it's one of those chain pubs with no natural light and sticky carpets - according to this blog, Wetherspoon's has designed all of its bars with Orwell in mind, though you wouldn't necessarily guess.

If you know anywhere that sells liver sausage sandwiches as a bar snack, could you let me know? That would be worth a post in its own right...

In the mean time, the quest for the perfect pub continues. I'm heading to The Dove on Broadway Market this evening, which is the best one I know in east London.

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