Comfortably Numb

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Published on: 07/21/16 7:06 AM


Book review: The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

This is more a brief take than review.

Twenty years after he wrote the definitive book on Great Britain, Notes From A Small Island,  purportedly the most successful travel book ever( 2.5 million copies sold to date), Bill Bryson is back, funny bone a-tingling, pen and notebook in hand,  keen powers of observation intact. But yes, there`s a lot of grumbling and if I were British…

That apart, the book is a delight; even as it pokes fun at most things British, it makes clear just what
a whole lot of good things the isle has got going for it.

So. Here are the things we learn from a perusal of this travelogue:

Big Ben`s real name. Yes of course, the clock has a formal name.

The eccentric quirks that make up the British road numbering system. One example:
the A34 runs from Winchester to Oxford, disappears, then reappears 60 miles ahead in Birmingham. Go figure. Or better still, leave it be.

That GB is just 870 miles, north to south. (Of course, we always suspected this but
it`s nice to know for sure).

The right way to pronounce Everest. No, you did not know this before.

That all of GB wants to be a garden, with flowers pushing up everywhere, on rail sidings,
in waste dumps, viaducts, etc. What a delightful observation. (Cue sudden spurt of pure envy on part of this reader).

One startling fact about Arthur Conan Doyle. It`s not elementary and nope, you will
find no spoilers here.

What eventually happened to Alice. You know, the Alice who had an eventful childhood, falling down rabbit holes, stepping through the looking glass, etc.

That GB has about 60 million acres of land and 60 million people: one acre for each person. Fields and farmland (in other words, lots of greenery) ring every city. That`s one amazing green belt. (Cue another sudden spurt of pure envy).

The origin of the tongue-twister ditty `She sells seashells by the seashore.`

One basic fact: that to get from Totnes to Salcombe, a distance of 19 miles, one needs
to go from Totnes to Brixham, then on to Dartmouth, on to Torcross and make the
final leg from Torcross to Salcombe. I am not saying this, Bryson is.

How Dartmouth had a celebrated independent bookshop called Harbour Books run by
none other than our very own Christopher Robin, that is to say, Christopher Milne,
son of AA Milne. Alas, it closed down in 2011.

How Happisburgh (pronounced Hays-brrr, but of course) was where the oldest
artefacts (flints) to be found in Europe, were discovered fairly recently, in 2000.

How a farmhand called Basil Brown found the greatest haul of treasure in GB… jewels,
coins, gold and silver plate, armour, weapons, decorative objects, in the mysterious impression of a mystery ship,   in Sutton Hoo.

That Sir Lawrence Bragg,  who won the Nobel Prize for his work on X- ray crystallography in 1915, missed pottering about gardens, so took up a job as a gardener, one day a week, at a house in South Kensington. The woman who engaged him had no idea who he was till a visiting friend looked out of the window casually asked: My dear, why is the Nobel Laureate Sir Lawrence Bragg pruning your hedges?

Details of the Dunning-Kruger effect: of basically being too stupid to know how stupid
you are.

That statistically, a Briton is more likely to die by any other means than to be murdered.

That from producing a quarter of all that was produced in the world, now GB pegs that figure at  2.9 and falling.  And this was before Brexit.

 The Road to Little Dribbling More Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson/Doubleday/ Rs 999/ 85 pages.


Bill BrysonEnglandGreat BritainMore Notes From A Small IslandThe Road To Little Dribbling

Sheila Kumar • July 21, 2016

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  1. Bamboosong July 22, 2016 - 7:30 am Reply

    ha ha like this point system

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