Sunday, February 7, 2016
The Road To Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is known for his travel books. Probably the one that most people remember is Notes From A Small Island, which was his impressions of his adopted homeland, Great Britain. It was released in 2001. Twenty-five years later, his family is grown and he is a famous author. He still lives in England and decided to revisit places he saw then and visit new ones to get a sense of what has changed.
He visits the entirety of the island, from the big cities to the small villages, from the remote north to the little coastal towns to the more populous southern areas. What he finds is that many things have remained the same while overall the country has gotten poorer, less well-educated and has less interest in the historical places that surround them. Many of the former tourist areas are now struggling as people can just as inexpensively visit overseas. Much of the industry has also closed, fleeing for cheaper areas in which to operate. The population has changed with more immigrants than when he arrived, himself an immigrant as he points out.
What bothers him? The historical areas that don't get the attention they should or the funding to remain available to the public. The trashing of the common areas as common politeness seems to diminish. The areas that are harder rather than easier to travel to as train and bus lines close due to lack of profits. The closing of village shops as large superstores move in, often to move out again a few years later, leaving the area destitute of shopping choices. The towns that now feel dangerous at night as gangs have taken over.
What does he like? The absolute natural beauty of the land. The amazing number of historical places that England and the other areas have, many of which are forgotten and unvisited. The amazing higher education system, where England has 1% of the world's population and 11% of the world's most highly ranked universities. The sheer fortitude and perseverance of the British people, pleased with what they have and disinclined to grumble about what life hands them.
Bryson has written about many places over the years. He and Paul Theroux are my two favorite travel writers and I've read almost everything they have written. Both are revisiting places as they get older, Bryson with Britain and Theroux with Africa. Both seem discouraged at how their favorite places have changed, and how the world seems poorer and more difficult than it did years ago. The interesting thing is how much of this is due to natural aging and the loss of optimism the young have, and how much is verifiable fact. Bryson fans will enjoy this book and those new to him will probably seek out his other books as he is addictive. This book is recommended to readers of travel writing and those interested in visiting England.