ORWELL AND SCREEVERS. I first encountered a screever on my first trip to London in 1969. It was on the Thames Embankment as the sun was setting on a chill fall day. I have not been back to the Embankment so I don’t know whether there are still screevers there, but George Orwell wrote about them in DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON, published in 1933. (Chapters 30 and 31 in which the screever called Bozo plays an important part can be found here.) At the time Orwell wrote, there was a screever almost every twenty-five yards along the Embankment. Orwell, being Orwell, finds out and writes up the economics of being a screever—the costs of paint, which is bought as a powder and mixed with condensed milk, that Friday and Saturday (after pay day) are the best days, that you can’t work in the rain or in the winter. that toffs don’t give money that you needed an assistant—a “nobber”—to make it awkward for the crowd watching you work to leave without giving something. Orwell, being Orwell, portrays Bozo’s pride in his work, and his scorn for the other screevers, such as one who had been doing the same picture for ten years. And Orwell, being Orwell, tells us what Bozo has read, some of Bozo’s ideas, and of Bozo’s love of looking at the stars.

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