The Road to Little Dribbling
More Notes From A Small IslandeBook - 2015
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Classic Bill Bryson travelogue - hilarious romp around a Britain that Bryson is still trying to figure out.
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.....this was one of the things that I really like about Britain: it is unknowable. There is so much to it.......If you decided to visit one standing stone a week, it would take you twenty years to see them all.
It's like that with every historic thing in Britain. If you tried to visit all the medieval churches in England - just England - at the rate of one a week, it would take you three hundred and eight years. You would take you three hundred and eight years. You would need an additional vastly daunting lengths of time to visit all the historic cemeteries, stately homes, castles, Bronze Age hill forts, giant figures carved in hillsides and every other category of built structure. Brochs would take a decade to see. All the known archaeological sites in Britain would require no less than 11,500 years of your time.
....Britain is infinite. There isn't anywhere in the world with more to look at in a smaller space..... (p 376)
The British, you see, are always happy when they ought to be - when the sun is shining and thy have a drink in their hands and that sort of thing - but they are also very good at remaining happy when others would falter. If, for instance, they are walking in the countryside and it start to rain, they pull on their waterproofs and accept that that's just the way it sometimes is. Living in a British climate teaches patience and stoicism. I admire that.
But what really sets the British apart is that when things go very wrong and they have a legitimate reason to bitch deeply, bitterly and at length, that is when they are the happiest of all. A Briton standing in a minefield with a leg blown off who can say, "I told you this would happen," is actually a happy man. I quite like that in a people. p. 380
I went to Inverness and visited the battlefield at Culloden, where two thousand men lost their lives fighting the English, and then to Glencoe, where still more died when Campbells notoriously massacred Macdonalds, and I sombrely reflected that the history of the Highlands is five hundred years of cruelty and bloodshed followed by two hundred years of way too much bagpipe music. p 374
At the village of Scourie, I passed a sign that said 'Scourie Beach and Burial Ground', which seemed an enchanting combination. ('We're burying Grannie tomorrow. Don't forget to bring your swimming costumes.') p. 371
Our steward passed and told me that a freight train had broken down further up the line and that our engine had gone to save it. I was, it seemed, now living in a Thomas the Tank Engine story. p 369
Everything on offer was robustly Scottish and not the least bit appealing to someone from Iowa. (I believe I can speak for my entire state on this.) The dinner options featured haggis, neeps and tatties, and the snacks included Tunnocks teacake, haggis-flavoured crisps and Mrs Tilly's Scottish Tablet, which sounded to me not at all like a food but more like something you would put in a tub of warm water and immerse sore feet in. I would imagine it makes a fizzing sound and produces streams of ticklish bubbles........It is perhaps dangerous to conclude too much about the character and intentions of a nation based on a snacks menu in a railway carriage, but I couldn't hep wonder if Scottish nationalism hasn't gone a little too far now. I mean, those poor people are denying themselves simple comforts like Kit-Kats and Cornish pasties and instead are eating neeps and foot medications on grounds of patriotism. Seems a bit unnecessary to me. p 368
The news pages of the paper were liberally sprinkled with articles about pub beatings - five on one page, just from this area - but everything else was about flower shows and fun runs and people shaving their heads for charity. I had never seen such a range of kindliness and violence coexisting in one locality. When I went for a second pint, I turned round and a guy was standing behind me waiting to take my place at the bar. We went through that little side-to-side dance where you keep inadvertently blocking the other person's way. I smiled helplessly, as you do, and he looked at me as if he was thinking about shoving my head through the wall. That is the problem with Scotland, I find. You never know whether the next person you meet is going to offer you his bone marrow or nut you with his forehead. (p. 365)
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