Just finished reading Bill Bryon’s book on his travels around England. Similar to his other travel writings, this book is filled to the brim with insightful observations of the local culture-its endearing quirks and idiosyncracies.
Here are a couple of snippets from Bryson’s adventure in Great Britain:
I have often been struck in Britain by this sort of thing – by how mysteriously well-educated people from unprivileged backgrounds so often are, how the most unlikely people will tell you plant names in Latin or turn out to be experts on the politics of ancient Thrace or irrigation techniques at Glanum. This is a country, after all, where the grand final of a programme like Mastermind is frequently won by cab drivers and footplatemen. I have never been able to decide whether that is deeply impressive or just appalling -whether this is a country where engine drivers know about Tintoretto and Leibniz or a country where people who know about Tintoretto and Leibniz end up driving engines. All I know is that it exists more here than anywhere else.
Or, this one-which isn’t exactly of England but captures the sometimes snarky tone of Bryson that gives his books its characteristic humor:
Finally, I happened on a hilly street with a few modest eateries and plunged randomly into a Chinese restaurant. I can’t say why exactly, but Chinese restaurants make me oddly uneasy, particularly when I am dining alone. I always feel that the waitress is saying: ‘One beef satay and fried rice for the imperialist dog at table five.’ And I find chopsticks frankly distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years, haven’t yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food?
For fans of travel writing or for those who are interested in the culture of England, Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island is a worthy addition to your library.