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book review: "The Road to Little Dribbling"...

Sunday, October 2, 2016
...by Bill Bryson. Listening to the DVDs/talking book version as I drive across, then up and down the state. If you you read 'A Walk in the Woods', and found it amusing, you will also enjoy the dry wit and black humor found in his second walk through various villages and along footpaths in England. If you did not think the 'Walk' book was entertaining, and don't want to read about his travels to little known museums and odd points of interest, you won't be reading this one.

I have wished several times while reading and listening that I had known to read the 'Road' book before we went on our trip this summer. But we likely would not have had time to poke around and find the obscure places he occasionally enjoys, and reports on as remarkably well preserved important places of history, or tacky little outposts he regrets veering off to visit. He wrote another book relating his experiences in touring Great Britain by foot some years ago, after meeting, then marrying a woman who was a citizen. Settling down to live the life of a Brit.

A couple of funny stories from the book: one about taking a walk along a narrow footpath, through a  densely wooded area, where he encounters a local 'dowager' walking her dog. The animal stops to do his business, and they both quietly wait and observe the progress. When the canine has completed his work, it is apparent the woman has no intention of picking up the result. With Bryson looking at the steaming pile, he asked her if she was going to leave it there in the narrow path for the next passerby to find on the bottom of a shoe. Her response was that she planned to 'cover it', which she proceeded to do, by raking a few dried leaves over the stinking mess, before turning to resume her walk. Bryson reports he then lifted his walking staff, and beat her to a bloody pulp, rolled the body off into the underbrush. Just kidding, but in the telling, it is obvious he seriously considered doing bodily harm.

Elsewhere in the book he tells of planning his route so he could ride on a refurbished steam train. Reporting that there are a great number of organizations in England that people join with a common goal, or interest. Like running steam engines on otherwise abandoned tracks. Or collecting pocket watches. He said that if all the retired engineers in the country could join together and find enough steam engines in need of overhaul, there would be virtually no sales of Viagra in the entire nation. Thinking, I suppose, those grizzled, be-whiskered, crotchety old guys just need an outlet to keep themselves occupied?

Another story was about a walk along an area of the country that is known as the 'Jurassic coast'. It was actually not far from where we were this summer, when in the south west of the nation, near the Channel. I recently read a book about this, telling the story of a young girl who would search the beach below eroding cliffs for collectibles, that she would sell to visitors who were vacationing on the seaside. I thought the book was fiction, but it turns out to be based on a true story of a young woman named Mary Anning.  Mary was un-schooled as an archeologist, became well known as a result of her amazing finds on the beach and cliff face. Dang. I wish I had known to go and look!

He does occasionally go on a rant, about some injustice, or pointless law/rule, rude shopkeepers, an occasional failure of service people to be sufficiently prompt, places he visited years ago that no longer exist, or indecipherable timetables for trains. But the times he had me laughing out loud while cruising through the south GA piney woods or along the interstate were well worth those periodic ravings of a disappointed, frustrated tourist. Even those tangents are amusing.

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