Art, meet reality…
In George Orwell’s totalitarian how-to-guide, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith, the protagonist, arranges to meet with his lover, Julia, both planning to get out of London and into the country for a bucolic picnic in the woods. In the book, interpersonal relationships are frowned upon by the state, citizens are monitored twenty-four hours a day, and non-essential trips 100KM outside of the city are not allowed.
In Part Two, Chapter 2, Orwell recounts the preliminary portion of his journey:
In general you could not assume that you were much safer in the country than in London. There were no telescreens, of course, but there was always the danger of concealed microphones by which your voice might be picked up and recognized; besides, it was not easy to make a journey by yourself without attracting attention. For distances of less than 100 kilometres it was not necessary to get your passport endorsed, but sometimes there were patrols hanging about the railway stations, who examined the papers of any Party member they found there and asked awkward questions. However, no patrols had appeared, and on the walk from the station he had made sure by cautious backward glances that he was not being followed.Nineteen Eight-Four, George Orwell
Being a how-to-guide, we would naturally expect opportunistic police forces to use Orwell’s book to get tips on how to institute his practical advice. And that’s where we join Bedfordshire Police, under the guise of their Central Community Team.
The surreal image of uniformed police officers eventually jumping from the bushes as you and your beloved relax around your picnic blanket is certainly something that keeps the reader on edge as they read through Winston’s precarious journey into the countryside.
Now this surreal image is very real.