David Langwallner: The Run For Cover


From top: Leakey’s second hand bookshop. Inverness, Scotland; David Langwallner

‘Embarrassed by his emotional reverie, the D.H.C. shifts attention by expressing his disappointment in Bernard’s odd behaviour outside work and threatens to exile him to Iceland.’

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.

A bit like a latter-day Dr. Johnson, but not to the Outer Hebrides, I took a recent break in the highlands of Scotland. The trip for those interested in a travelogue covered some but not all of Johnson’s itinerary: Inverness, Fort William, Skye and, with some difficulty, a lesser-known island called Jura.

Regrettably, I did not get to see Iona where the monks as in Ireland and such islands as Skellig kept the tradition of learning and lore alive through the Middle Ages. But Johnson did not see much learning or preservation of culture left when he visited.

The talk of the Highlands in every town but particularly in Mallaig and Skye was of internal migration. Mass migration to the north since Covid times. Increasing. A conventional explanation is that this is just a yuppie retirement policy, often done historically, but this is different. The complexity of reasons includes of course the pursuit of the good life and rustic living, but many also are driven by fear of what may and will happen in urban conurbations quite soon. Economic destruction. Already started.

In one of the great bookstores, I have ever seen, Leakey’s (and I have promised the owner sight of this) in Inverness, I bought a lot of books as is my want, and in Mallaig also. So, a form of cultural preservation is taking place in these new dark Middle Ages. Dr. Johnson would approve.

In Leakey’s, someone had offloaded a complete set of Panther first editions of Phillip K Dick. Lurid covers, quite popular many years ago In Dublin, and cheap. And Dick is back in fashion. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep aka Blade Runner is a dark predictor of what now in reality may happen to many urban spaces, hence the other reason for the migration to the north. Social distancing can certainly be preserved in Skye where hotels and bars are wide apart and tourism aside there is much possibility of isolation or self-isolation.

The people of Skye are looking at all of this as a business opportunity but also wondering whether they should not sell just rent. They have not been as much affected by the plague and the hallmarks of self-sufficiency and sustainable living are everywhere. Piles of chopped wood as in Austria. Solar power on hills. The two central restaurants in Mallaig boast the catch of the day. Fresh fish. Living on the land. Or by the sea.

On the journey to Fort William a taxi driver informed me that there are many people who live in the woods. Of course, woodcutters were one of the safe occupations unaffected by plagues historically or the devastation of the Middle Ages. And it is a reversion to a form of corporate feudalism in urban spaces that is dictating the run for nature. The run for cover.

The island of Jura is very desolate indeed and it takes a huge effort to see a spacious cottage. The residence of one Mr George Orwell where he wrote 1984. It is oddly enough difficult to find. The distance and the isolation may have created the clarity of perception.

The writers of science fiction and predictive dystopia are an undercurrent of our fraught times. Dick as well as predicting the desolation of urban spaces also saw other awful features of our time. Thus, Minority Report the short story and film anticipates pre-crime which, with ever draconian emergency legislation, is where we are heading.

Orwell saw it coming as he did other awful features of our time best represented in his short stories such as how the poor die or his celebration of language and his understanding of the distortion of same by propaganda. Two plus two equals five is like a totemic comment on our age of disinformation and distortion.

The character Bernard, foregrounding this piece, wanted to escape the Brave New World of Huxley’s dystopia by migrating to Iceland. And it is more a Huxleyite consumerist and controlled dystopia that is upon us. Bernhard, despite the chastisement of his superiors, was right to want to go to Iceland and the mass migration to Mallaig and Skye speaks volumes of our turbulent times.

At least internet migration may be possible for a while, but if you are on a boat to the UK well then Rwanda is the solution du jour. Social ghettoisation beckons for those without resources or perception of what is likely to happen.

One can thus quite understand the internal migration and resettlement to the north. Though Dr Johnson deplored it at one level complaining that:

“Some method to stop this epidemic desire of wandering, which spreads its contagion from valley to valley, ought to be sought with great diligence”.

Dr Johnson also of course famously said he who is tired of London is tired of life. Well, there is some truth in that, but one cannot criticise many people for wanting to stay safe if they can. Or for taking preventive measures for self-protection or let us use a more apt word, survival.

Meanwhile, back in London (Kent to be exact), I see HG Wells, the other great predictor of the shape of things to come, has a little plaque outside Eardley Road, where a Nightingale Crown Court heard most compassionately a hearing involving a client of mine yesterday.

At the very end of the high street in Sevenoaks is where The Beatles shot the videos for their greatest-ever single, the double a-side Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane (both should have appeared on their best album, incidentally, I see celebrating its birthday today).

They are still disputing where the tree in the Strawberry Fields video is . But to quote:

‘Living is easy with eyes closed
/ Misunderstanding all you see.’

And the booksellers of Mallaig and Skye say ‘aye’. Do you think they might know something?

David Langwallner is a barrister, specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner

Pic: Leakey’s

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45 thoughts on “David Langwallner: The Run For Cover

  1. No Mask On Your Face, A Big Disgrace, Spreadin Yer Germs All Over the Place

    Rossa would love that place.

          1. f_lawless

            That’s not true.


            ‘Wallace’s questions bring Huxley to a question of his own: “What does a democracy depend on? A democracy depends on the individual voter making an intelligent and rational choice for what he regards as his enlightened self-interest, in any given circumstance.” But democracy-debilitating commercial and political propaganda appeals “directly to these unconscious forces below the surfaces so that you are, in a way, making nonsense of the whole democratic procedure, which is based on conscious choice on rational ground.” Hence the importance of teaching people “to be on their guard against the sort of verbal booby traps into which they are always being led.” The skill has arguably only grown in importance since, as has his final thought in the broadcast: “I still believe in democracy, if we can make the best of the creative activities of the people on top plus those of the people on the bottom, so much the better.” ‘

          2. Bodger

            He appears to have been chosen by the elite, like Wells before him, to fictionalise their plans. Revelation of the method, I think it’s called. His grandfather was Darwin’s ‘bulldog’ and his brother Julian was a founding director of UNESCO (his launch speech demanding a one world government is well worth a read). The family is awash with geneticists and eugenicists. Or maybe he just had a lucky hunch. You decide.

          3. U N M U T U A L


            Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Wells a student of Thomas Huxley, who was grandfather of fabian societies very own Aldous Huxley.

            ’tis fitting that the fabians crest is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

            Also, good article David. Keep’ em coming.

          4. Sara

            Exactly. If the voter was making ‘an intelligent and informed choice’. Huxley was the person who decided whether such a person was ‘intelligent and informed.’ Huxley says on numerous occasions that the masses are not capable of being ‘intelligent and informed’, and that only the chosen few are (himself included, naturally). Only those should people allowed the vote. This book goes through Huxley’s thoughts on the matter very thoroughly – https://www.faber.co.uk/product/9780571169269-the-intellectuals-and-the-masses/

        1. Andrew

          Well Socrates had reservations about democracy as should any rational person.
          It’s the best we’ve got though.

          1. Sara

            Socrates lived in the 4th century BC. Huxley was a creature of the 20th century! If democracy means one thing it means one person, one votes. Huxley did not believe in one person, one vote.

          2. benblack

            So, what’s your problem with the WEF?

            And, while your at it, the European Commission – another unelected and unaccountable body directing the policies of an entire continent and its 500 million people.

          3. Sara

            They attend because they believe in the fundamental principles of neoliberalism. WEF is the yearly neoliberal get together. Same with the EU. I didn’t vote for Lisbon or Maastricht.

          4. benblack

            Are you the same Sara that has ridiculed contrary opinions to the Covid MSM narrative?

          5. Sara

            Yes, because I believe that the measures adopted were public health measures against an extremely dangerous virus at a time when we had no vaccine and little knowledge of the virus’ architecture. I don’t believe that covid was some great hoax perpetuated by a global elite to control populations.

          6. benblack

            Two contrary belief systems then so.

            I don’t believe any rational person of sound mind could reconcile the two.

        2. U N M U T U A L


          Yes, he taught french to Orwell/Eric Blair(not related to to tony, who’s incidentally also fabian affiliated)…

        3. Kin

          Sara that’s western democracy if it’s Russia or China or North Korea the west calls it communism
          Western democracy is an illusion of democracy and when you step over the line ask Julian assange

          1. Sara

            Western Democracy is limited democracy. It’s not full democracy. Russia or China are authoritarian regimes.

      1. TenPin Terry

        No worries.
        I really like his stuff on here.
        Very thoughtful.
        Keep it up please

    1. TenPin Terry

      One other point – why invite us to follow O’Rumpole™ on his Twitter account when he hasn’t posted anything in over a year ?
      Even No Followers™ posts his cut and paste Morning Star guff regularly.

      1. david langwaLLNER




        1. TenPin Terry

          Motion accepted counsellor.
          Speaking as someone who has never had a social media account in my life.
          I’m afraid of the kerfuffle I’d create posting while pissed as you can sometimes tell on here.
          I’d keep ambulance chasers like you in claret for years …

          1. TenPin Terry

            He’s a big boy. He can handle the bantz.
            You on the other hand sound like a damp dishcloth on the turn.
            Dry your eyes mate.

          2. benblack

            My expensive delph has been dried by Egyptian cotton by my eastern European dishwasher cum gardener Tomasz – handyman.

  2. Ian - oG

    Good piece David.

    I’ve been to Jura (and Islay), beautiful place but Islay makes the better whisky.

    Also, thanks to the amount of Laphroaig I consume I now apparently own a sizable piece of Islay.

    I plan to go to Scotland next year for at least 10 days so might try get across to check out Leakeys if I have a chance, sounds amazing.

  3. Gabby

    Orwell’s posthumously published Diaries give an account of his sojourn in Jura in 1949 when writing Nineteen Eighty-Four. He did a fair amount of gardening there and specifically mentions the unwelcome attentions of adder snakes.

  4. Gerry

    Nice piece DL, 1984 and Brave New World are magnificent, mind-bending works.

    A couple of corrections if you ever use this piece again: “I bought a lot of books as is my want.” The word you’re looking for is “wont” a synonym for custom or habit.

    Also, in the paragraph discussing Brave New World you spell Bernard once correctly and once as Bernhard.

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