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Notes from a Small Island #2

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island

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Over twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his home. The hilarious book he wrote about that journey, Notes from a Small Island, became one of the most loved books of recent decades, and was voted in a BBC poll as the book that best represents Britain. Now, for his first travel book in fifteen years, Bryson sets out again, on a long-awaited, brand-new journey around the UK.

385 pages, Hardcover

First published October 8, 2015

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About the author

Bill Bryson

147 books19.6k followers
William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson's hilarious first travel book, he chronicled a trip in his mother's Chevy around small town America. It was followed by Neither Here Nor There, an account of his first trip around Europe. Other travel books include the massive bestseller Notes From a Small Island, which won the 2003 World Book Day National Poll to find the book which best represented modern England, followed by A Walk in the Woods (in which Stephen Katz, his travel companion from Neither Here Nor There, made a welcome reappearance), Notes From a Big Country and Down Under.

Bill Bryson has also written several highly praised books on the English language, including Mother Tongue and Made in America. In his last book, he turned his attention to science. A Short History of Nearly Everything was lauded with critical acclaim, and became a huge bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, before going on to win the Aventis Prize for Science Books and the Descartes Science Communication Prize. His next book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, is a memoir of growing up in 1950s America, featuring another appearance from his old friend Stephen Katz. October 8 sees the publication of A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,723 reviews
Profile Image for Melanie Baker.
240 reviews17 followers
November 27, 2015

Old man yells at cloud

But swap in the UK for "cloud".

I've read all of Bryson's other stuff, far as I recall. I have greatly enjoyed it. I laughed so hard at parts of In a Sunburnt Country that I could scarcely breathe.

But this? This is a rambling, crotchety old coot, and not in a good way. There are love poems to verdant landscapes and well-designed museum spaces. But then there are rants against stuff like stupidity that are pretty much complete non sequiturs. There are sections about a single museum longer than what's devoted to the entirety of Scotland. And I'm no expert on UK geography, but pretty sure the coverage is awfully lopsided. (And really, if you went somewhere where everything was closed or inaccessible, why not leave it out and go elsewhere?)

Bryson basically hates cars and parking lots, urban development, any town that's not stuck in 1950, being denied a pre-dinner drink, ugly architecture, the public transit experience... There is also a number of uncomfortable and socially unacceptable comments that leave one feeling a lot like the moment after That Uncle just said something appalling at Thanksgiving dinner.

I might have missed it, but I don't recall any mention of a Little Dribbling. But frankly, you couldn't pay me to go back and look.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,720 followers
March 11, 2016
Hello, Mr. Bryson! It's been a while. Lovely to hear from you again. I must admit I got overly excited last year when I learned that you were writing your first travel memoir in years, and it was going to be about your adventures in England. I love England! I loved your earlier book about England, Notes from a Small Island, and, now that we're chatting, I can honestly say that I've enjoyed all of your books. (Although my favorites are that charming one about Australia and that one on hiking the Appalachian Trail. Great stuff.)

Anyhoo, I was so excited about The Road to Little Dribbling that I pre-ordered it and I started reading it as soon as it arrived. It begins with an amusing story of you being hit on the head by a parking barrier (ouch!), and then meeting with your publisher to discuss ideas for your next book. He mentioned it had been 20 years since the publication of Small Island, and what a spanking good idea it would be to travel around Britain again!

It was a good idea. You wrote some amusing anecdotes of your travels around England, which made me chuckle. And you tried to go to different places than you had been before, but you did revisit a few spots. I especially enjoyed your stories about the Seven Sisters and Runnymede, and you included interesting details about whatever region you were in and even some current events. Overall it was a delightful read.

However, and I mean this as kindly as possible, this book was a bit disappointing. Now, please don't get upset, perhaps my expectations were too high, and it's good to remember how difficult it is to write a fantastic travel memoir. But this book just lacked... something. I finished this weeks ago and since then I have been struggling to put into words why I found it wanting. I wasn't one of those readers who found you too grumpy (although you do seem a little less charitable than in your previous books, but I understand how difficult it is to get older). No, I think my quibbling comes from the content itself. There just wasn't as much meat in this book, the stories weren't as rich. This book was superficial in a way your previous travel memoirs weren't.

Again, please understand I still enjoy your writing and will likely buy whatever book you write next, whether it's history or another memoir. Happy travels to you, and please be careful you don't bonk your head again.

Warm wishes from a fellow native Iowan,

Favorite Quote
"What a joy walking is. All the cares of life, all the hopeless, inept fuckwits that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life, suddenly seem far away and harmless, and the world becomes tranquil and welcoming and good. And to walk with old friends multiplies the pleasure a hundredfold."
Profile Image for beentsy.
432 reviews9 followers
November 14, 2015
This was not fun. It was like travelling 'round Great Britain with my rather grumpy father in law who only wants to talk about how good things used to be and how crappy things now are.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
October 24, 2021
Woodsman Spare That Country

Bill Bryson is the stand-up comedian of travel writing. The Road to Little Dribbling is an update on his first act, Notes From a Small Island, of 20 years before. The style of loving sarcasm is the same. With the narrative sense of David Sedaris and the one-liner punch of Jackie Mason, he renews one's faith yet again in the raw wit and humour available in Britain and most importantly the British willingness to apply that wit and humour to themselves. It is impossible to read his explanation of things like the British road numbering system or post code designations without falling in a heap. The throw away lines like "The [ancient humanoid] Happisburgh people were not like modern humans. They weren’t even like John Prescott." demand to be read aloud to one's spouse or any sentient being you happen to be sitting next to on the bus. And make no mistake: Bryson is a Brit writing for the British.

Bryson and I have been channeling each other since we both fetched up in pre-Thatcherite Britain from America in the early 1970's when houses were cheap, plumbers were bolshie, post offices were in every village and the M25 was yet a distant dream. We share the overly sentimental opinion that Britain reached its peak of societal perfection sometime in 1975 because of these very things. Neither of us could bear to be separated from this island haven. So we found ourselves a couple of NHS nurses in anticipation of old age and settled into a routine of blissful exceptionality that was then afforded to Americans who were forgiven almost any social ineptitude simply because there weren't all that many of them around and they were moderately quaint in a colonial sort of way.

Both Bryson and I also delayed applying for British citizenship for about 40 years - I suspect because when we first arrived no one was particularly interested in how long we might stay or if we were employed or not. In my case a lovely woman knocked on my door my first week in the country to ask if I would like to be inscribed in the electoral roll. So never having been made to feel like an 'alien' as the Americans say, there didn't seem to be much point in formal citizenship. This was of course before the rise of terrorism...or Donald Trump.

And our appreciation of Britain follows a similar script: there may be decrepitude in Britain but this is somehow quaint, or at least limited in scope compared with the US. Britain's bucolic beauty is incomparable - never overwhelming but always profound. Britain, unlike the USA, layers its history rather than levelling everything to new foundations, a fact which is apparent whether one is roaming London streets or gazing over a Cotswolds vista. Nothing seems to entirely disappear: the Roman road has become a farm track; the 16th C toll road is now a quiet lane outside one's house, the 18th C post road is the a largely unused A road which has now been superseded by the motorway. Indeed it is a place wherein the centuries blent and blurred as Rupert Brooke claimed. And it is this physical continuity, which is a consequence of what Bryson calls ‘happy accidents’, that is most appreciated by Americans (well at least two of them) and least noticed by cradle-Brits.

Britain, like its former empire, is an largely unintentional place. It is this apparent un-intentionality that perhaps makes Britain British (or England English if the Scots, Welsh, Cornish, and Irish object). As Bryson knows "The first principle of a British system is that it should only appear systematic." From common law to the common land parks of London, the entire culture is the result of fortuitous muddle rather than programme. Britons take this entirely for granted, but it continues to fascinate Bryson (and me).

The physical continuity available in Britain certainly fills a cultural lacuna of mine, having grown up in the New York City of Robert Moses, the primary characteristic of which was its periodic mass destruction throughout the 20th c. What worries Bryson is that the very unawareness by the British of this historical treasure is the most significant threat to its continued existence. Britain is, unintentionally but fortunately, a theme park of not just Western but Anglo-Asian, Anglo-African, Anglo-Caribbean and, perhaps disturbingly, Anglo-American culture.

Disturbing because it is a culture that is vulnerable to the kind of financial power that exists in the hands of modern day moguls who have the resources to destroy it systematically. In a sense it was only the lack of a Donald Trump (or a Robert Moses) which prevented the London Redevelopment Plan of the early 1970’s from destroying the history, as well as most of the charm, of the city. If anything this vulnerability is even more acute in small towns and in the countryside whose aesthetic ecology is always on a knife edge of development by Big Money which is behind the (now post-Brexit questionable) High Speed Rail Line between London and Birmingham and additional runways at either Gatwick or Heathrow. These are properly national not local issues in Britain. This is the serious point of Bryson's wonderfully entertaining book: Britain, especially physical Britain, is too precious to lose accidentally.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,064 reviews69.5k followers
July 5, 2023
By the halfway mark I realized I was listening to an angry old man rant.
It's a funny rant. And it's a somewhat informative rant. But at times I felt like Bryson was just using the book to get back at people or entities that he felt had wronged (or annoyed) him.
For example, Trip Advisor wouldn't publish his review because he put up a link to an article that said a restaurant had been fined for having rats because the link was considered second-hand knowledge. So he ranted about the gross unfairness of Trip Advisor. It was their policy. Let it go, dude.
Instead, he blasted both the restaurant and Trip Advisor in his book. He dedicated quite a bit of page time to this little story and it made him seem a bit petty and small to me.


I picked this up because I remember (mostly) liking the book he wrote about his jaunt along the Appalachian Trail and so I thought, how bad could another travelogue be? Even though I'm not exactly the target audience for non-fiction, much less travelogues.
I think I've learned my lesson now.
Even Stonehenge wasn't all that exciting to hear about. No druids hanging about apparently. It's a shame. If they want to snag more tourists and make some money on those rocks, I would suggest perhaps positioning some wizards behind random stones and having them leap out at passersby. You could fund a lot of museums with that sort of thing.


And because that is the sort of idiotic train of thought that runs through my head, I'm also pretty sure that I'm exactly the kind of person Bill Bryson would hate to have to sit next to on a bus.
Or just hate, in general.


I mean, you can tell Bryson is an informed & intelligent man.
But he also comes across as a smug ass.
So, the entire book I'm sort of waffling back and forth on which of these two things means the most to me in terms of how much enjoyment I'm getting out of listening to him talk about stuff.
I do agree with a lot of what he says. The older I get, the more I find the sweaty masses to be rude, ignorant, and annoying. I also understand that it's because I'm getting older that I find more and more flaws in things. It's the great circle of life. So as lots of stuff changes for (in my opinion) the worse, I have to actively remind myself that some things have also changed for the better.
Every time some ass pocket walks past me in a grocery store while loudly Facetiming with some other ass pocket, I just think about the fact that I don't get lost anymore because of the GPS in my car.
Is it an even trade?
Only time will tell.


What did I learn from The Road to Little Dribbling, you ask?
Looking back, I took 3 main things away from this book.
First, cows are deadly.
As in, they cause death. Didn't know that! Grew up in a place where cow-tipping was a thing we did and I had no idea that we should have been afraid. However, the average person in Britain is aware that cows kill folks, according to Bryson. <--makes sense when you think about it, but since the US media hasn't reported on these killers, we were unaware.


The second thing I learned was that England is covered with garbage.
Again, I had no idea.
But according to Bryson, due to a shortage of public waste receptacles, it's a country full of children who don't know what a trash can looks like.


The last thing I learned was that British shopkeepers are rude. <--this matters very little to me as I do not shop in their stores. I live in the Southern part of the United States and we are a friendly bunch down here.
So. Sucks to be you, Bill.


And that's kind of it.
Profile Image for Scott Nicoll.
72 reviews2 followers
March 13, 2016
By far and away Bill Bryson's worst book. It should be called Notes from Southern England. It takes over half the book to get past Birmingham. Wales gets about a chapter, Scotland gets about 10 pages, most of them on a train. The whole thing reads like a half arsed cash in for the 20th anniversary of notes from a small island. Bryson grumbles his way around the South of England, moaning about prices and being as classist as possible. Throw in some casual transphobia and you've got yourself a real mess of a book. The only reason I gave it two stars is there are a couple of factual diamonds in amongst all the shite. Avoid.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,783 reviews14.2k followers
February 2, 2016
3.5 What can I say? Bryson fans know exactly what they are getting when they pick up one of his books. A bit of history, information, Bryson's thoughts and feelings on said information and history. A good bit of humor, self-deprecating, ironic and at times laugh out loud funny. A good combination and that has worked well for him for many years. He shares the arcane, the personal and the irreverent. My one piece of advice: If one is ever fortunate to meet this man in person do not go with him to a McDonald's.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,332 reviews2,145 followers
November 12, 2015
Bill Bryson represents himself in this book as a grumpy old man and it is frequently hilarious although occasionally verging on the very edge of political correctness. He's does write incredibly well and I found myself reading passages out loud to anyone who would listen and share it with me. He wanders between laugh out loud funny and information packed passages with ease and maintained this readers interest nearly all the way through. Just a little loss of concentration towards the very end when the jokes thin out and the information becomes a bit dry and over whelming. As someone who grew up in England I love the way he pokes fun at the English and yet admires them at the same time. I also very much enjoyed the chapters about places I used to know well. Four stars because it is not quite as good as some of his others but it was still a great read!
Profile Image for Julie G.
897 reviews2,935 followers
June 29, 2017
I've been trying to get my American arse over to England for my entire life, and, every time I fail to do so, I embrace a new British travelogue to soften the blow.

I figure that, by the time I get there, I'll have read so many books on the subject, I'll be an expert, but it's also possible that I'll be so old, I'll have forgotten everything I ever learned.

Ironically, I had never read Bill Bryson's original travel book about England, Notes from a Small Island, which came out a little over 20 years ago. Instead, I started with The Road to Little Dribbling, which was published in 2015, right as Bryson was pursuing British citizenship.

Bill Bryson was born American, in Iowa, but his wife is British and they decided, decades ago, that they were going to live in Britain and raise their children there. If you've been living under a rock and aren't familiar with Bryson, he's a prolific writer of non-fiction, largely satirical and humorous travel books, but some autobiographical ones as well.

This is my third Bryson book, and I enjoyed it, but I must say. . . Wow, is he starting to sound like a crotchety, cantankerous old geezer!

Parts of this are comforting and laugh-out-loud funny, but many (too many) parts of this are him droning on and on about what a load of sh*t all of society has become.

It's not that I delight in men with tattooed knuckles who blow airhorns at football games or women who feed their babies Mountain Dew from their bottles; I do not. But, reading someone's same depressing sermon on society for almost 400 pages was a bit much.

And, damn, does the man love infrastructure or what?? Good God, I learned more about highways and byways and bridges and buildings than I EVER wanted to learn.

Yet, he can write an entire book about England and NEVER mention William Shakespeare or Geoffrey Chaucer or Thomas Hardy, and when he ends up in the village of Chawton, he can only find it in himself to refer to Jane Austen as one of two of our “most celebrated local authors” and writes two insignificant paragraphs about her.

And how does someone manage to go to Derbyshire without even MENTIONING one Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and also manage to visit Cornwall without even once mentioning the phenomenon that is Doc Martin? It's clear that Mr. Bryson and I have some VERY different ideas about what we want to do in England!

I'm giving this four stars for its overall readability, solid writing and some good laughs, but I think I'm going to make my next Bryson book A Walk in the Woods.

Right now, I'd rather read the ruminations of a less embittered man.
Profile Image for Louise Culmer.
849 reviews42 followers
October 21, 2015
Bill Bryson's rather peevish follow up to his hugely successful book 'Notes from a Small. Island'. here again he travels around britain (mostly England) visting a variety of places. Some places, he likes, some he has his knife into. For instance, he hasn't a good word to say for Dover, which is odd considering his alleged interest in history. You would think he might at least mention Dover's huge and spectacular castle, or the wonderful museum with its stunning Bronze Age boat, or even the Roman painted house. But th entire section on Dover is taken up with complaining that some hotel he once had lunch in has closed. On the other hand, he raves about Selbourne in Hampshire (it's nice to know there are some places he likes). Inbetween some amusing observations about the various places he visists is an awful lot of grumbling about food (cost of and difficulty in obtaining). in fact, he generally seems to resent paying for anything (his books evidently haven't brought in as much money as you might think). he dislikes rudeness, but isn't above being rude himself from time to time(he particularly enjoys tormenting young men who work in macondalds). perhaps realising that 'island' implies more than just England, he gives fifteen pages to wales, and actually sixteen to Scotland (much of it taken up, naturally, with conplaints about food and paying for things). there are occasional asides about other countries, he likes sweden, apparently, but dislikes Switzerland (i daresay the Swiss will survive this crushing blow). it is a long time since i read 'Notes from a small. Island' but surely it must have been more amusing than this, to have been so hugely popular?
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
December 1, 2020
I was a bit apprehensive going into this one,having read some negative reviews that Bryson had turned into a grumpy old man.

I think Bryson is his usual self in this one.Sometimes the humour works,and sometimes it doesn't.

It is a fairly entertaining sequel to his first book on Britain, Notes from a Small Island.He describes the beauty of the British countryside noting that it is a country which wants to be a garden.

In addition to London,he visits a lot of little known places,and adds a fair bit of trivia and historical detail.

He visits the homes of several well known figures,including Jane Austen and narrates the story of how Roger Banister ran the four minute mile for the first time.

One thing I didn't particularly like is that Bryson has become increasingly fond of using expletives.In the beginning,the book is very funny,though it's not as interesting later on.

Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,679 reviews2,668 followers
January 13, 2016
(3.5) Bryson’s funniest book for many years. It meant a lot to me since I am also an American expat in England. I kept recognizing places I’d been and agreeing with the sentiments. Two points of criticism, though: although he moves roughly from southeast to northwest in the country, the stops he makes are pretty arbitrary, and his subjects of mockery are often what you’d call easy targets. Do we really need Bryson’s lead to scorn litterbugs and reality television celebrities? Still, I released many an audible snort of laughter while reading.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,105 followers
September 6, 2017
A Bill Bryson book will rarely let you down. It is a reliable companion if you want to have a jolly time. That said, this book cannot avoid comparison with one of Bryson's best - Notes from a Small Island.

According to my calculations, laugh-out-loud moments in More Notes clocks in at around 0.264 that of the Original Notes.

This book is more like a long afterword to the original, but if Bryson has more to say about any place, even if a more geriatric, petulant, and less funny version of the Bryson you expect, you better pay attention. You will still get more laughs than from most books, at least from those that attempt to entertain as well as inform.

The book closes with two key notes that echo across the two books:
1. How beautiful Britain is
2. How it is not being looked after half as well as it should be

I have said it many times before, but it really cannot be stated too often: there isn’t a landscape in the world that is more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in, than the countryside of Great Britain. It is the world’s largest park, its most perfect accidental garden. I think it may be the British nation’s most glorious achievement.

All we have to do is look after it. I hope that’s not too much to ask.
130 reviews
November 20, 2015
This one kind of broke my heart a little.

Bill Bryson is a master of the English language. He wields it not as a sword in fiery rhetoric, and not as a scalpel in poetry. He uses it as a hug with some light tickling.

Reading his books is an exercise in warm, comfortable conversation with someone who likes and admires you. He complains, he trips, he discovers fascinating things and people, and you're there for all of it.

None of that has changed.

But poor old beleaguered Bill is now an actual old man who: goes into an electronics shop and is astonished by Bose headphones, is outraged by the cost of a sandwich, has to sit in traffic, thinks television shows are pretty bad, it goes on. It's nothing more than his complaints and idle musings. They're done with charm, but no real interest.

It feels like it was dictated from his daily muttering.

Every great athlete stays one season too long before they accept it's over. Time to raise the jersey, Bryson.
Profile Image for Xandra.
295 reviews235 followers
March 7, 2016
An unnecessary follow-up to Notes from a Small Island that, in usual Bryson fashion, is packed with trivia that runs the gamut from intriguing to tiresome, and, unlike his other works, generally lacks excitement, humour and wit. Petty jabs masquerading as humour are, on the other hand, unpleasantly frequent:

"…the boy was gone and the crisp packet was on the ground. There was a bin three feet away. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that if Britain is ever to sort itself out, it is going to require a lot of euthanasia."

"But then, I suppose, that is the thing about the internet. It is just an accumulation of digital information, with no brains and no feelings – just like an IT person, in fact."

Profile Image for Bianca.
1,084 reviews926 followers
March 21, 2017
I am like a grumpy, old(er) man ... I thought that of myself when listening to The Road to Little Dribbling. Just for a little while. Bill Bryson's grumblings about people, service or lack of service, and the general lack of proper grammar and punctuation are just some of the things we have in common. But then, I remembered that Bryson's older books, written in his 40s, were similar, so I will just call him, and myself, critical thinkers who are fed up with the lowest common denominator, and when noticing things are vocal about it.

Bill Bryson, you're one of a kind! How I love thee. I love your sense of humour and I am grateful to you for making me laugh out loud. I love your sarcasm; obviously living in the UK for over forty years has made you more sarcastic, because, let's be honest here, Americans are not known for their sarcasm. I love your appreciation of museums, trains, nature and your lack of pretences when it comes to expensive cars, clothes and other typical signs of affluence people like to display. I love how you're so interested in all sort of facts, many of them, obscure, and you resurrect some of the people that history had forgotten and that you bring to my attention facts and tidbits that I never thought I would find interesting. And yes, I love that your statements are supported by data, statistics and facts. I love that you're self-deprecating. You're one special kind of person. We need more people like you. Britain is lucky to have you. And we are lucky to have your books.

I know, this is not exactly a book review. I'll summarise: it's what you'd expect from Bryson. And thank XYZ for that (one of the sucky bits about being an atheist is that I can't find any supernatural beings to be grateful to). Ah, one thing I noticed is that Mr Bryson swears much more, or at least, I don't remember him cussing so much in previous books. I loved that as well. :-)

NB: I've listened to the audio for this, although I have the paperback on my bookshelf. Nathan Osgood was OK, I would have preferred Bill Bryson himself as the narrator. It was an excellent audio book as far as the production was concerned.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,143 reviews
December 18, 2015
Notes from a Small Island was first published 20, yes 20 years ago. In that book he visited place new and revisited old haunts from when he first came to UK in the seventies. His points of view as an outsider were refreshing, fairly blunt and quite frequently very funny. The book came about after his publisher remarked that it might be worth having another look at the country now he was actually a citizen.

He did consider doing a journey between what most people think of as the two furthest points, Lands End and John O’Groats. But a couple of coincidences mean that he starts in Bognor Regis of all places, with the intention of aiming to end at Cape Wrath. He follows a very erratic journey round the country visiting new towns and passing through some of the places he visited in the first book. He unearths a variety of factual nuggets and anecdotes on each place, reminds us of how it once was and is often pretty blunt with his opinions on some of the changes that have taken place. Being older now he is a little more of a curmudgeon too, but it does make for some hilarious encounters with surly and unhelpful staff in hotels, restaurants and the attractions that he visits.

This is a country though that he loves with a passion; he is not afraid to point out the dumb things we do as a country, and he is particularly scathing of mediocrity, be it celebrity and political leaders. But he also celebrates the places we have, the beautiful natural country, the history and culture that stretches back thousands of years. He has even compiled a list of just how long it would take to visit each historic site. But even though he has lived here for years now, this country still has the ability to perplex, madden and more importantly gladden him.

A new Bryson book is always a treat, and this is no exception. Brilliant stuff.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,257 followers
February 5, 2017
For all its stogy, stoicism and unspoken rules of social etiquette, England is a peculiar place full of strange people doing odd things. Many and more are found here in The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain.

American-born writer Bill Bryson has been living in England so long he's written a sort of 20th anniversary sequel to his popular Notes from a Small Island. While The Road to Little Dribbling may sound like more of the same, Bryson made sure to steer clear of the sights he visited the first time around.

Following very loosely what he has dubbed the Bryson Line...


...the longest straight line through Great Britain that doesn't cross the sea, Bryson samples a bit of the countryside and a little of the city life in the heart of England and Scotland. It's often a delightful and upbeat view of the land and its people. History buffs and jolly old England enthusiasts will find a lot to love here.

On the other hand, this is not a book for the young. Middle-aged, part-time curmudgeons will find a kindred spirit in Bryson, who gets grumpy over the littlest of nuisances:

"Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a little oik of a kid about 13 years old in a Chelsea shirt at a bus stop eating a bag of crisps. When I came back a few minutes later the boy was gone and the crisp packet was on the ground. There was a bin three feet away. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that if Britain is ever to sort itself out it is going to require a lot of euthanasia."

He's that old greybeard in the group that's always asking "but why?" (much like a 5 year old actually) and who will argue a pointless point to everyone's annoyance and just won't let it go.

But for the most part, Bryson likes England and in this book he mostly likes what he sees, so the reader is treated to a lovely tour of a quaint country with a fairly congenial tour guide in The Road to Little Dribbling. Recommended!

Profile Image for Helle.
376 reviews376 followers
November 12, 2015
(3.5 stars) I read once that the furthest distance the average American will walk without getting into a car is 600 feet, and I fear the modern British have become much the same, except that on the way back to the car the British will drop some rubbish and get a tattoo.

I’ve spent many happy hours in Bill Bryson’s company since I first read his delightful Notes from a Small Island (for the first time) some 15 years ago. I’ve chuckled to the sound of his voice narrating his own quirky-brainy anecdotes while cycling to work; I’ve giggled, hand over mouth, above the Atlantic Ocean while reading one of his books in a cabin full of sleeping passengers, my reading light being the only one turned on.

This book is the sequel to Notes from a Small Island, published almost 20 years ago, and this time he decides to travel along ‘the Bryson line’ – from Bognor Regis in the South of England to Cape Wrath in the North – his idea of the longest straight line possible on the map of Britain.

There’s something decidedly heartwarming and wistful about Bryson’s nostalgic trip around Britain. He is a font of information about all things British, historical and current, and though he still has the keen eye of the knowing outsider – being an American from Iowa – this book bears evidence to his greater familiarity with Britain since his first book.

To be honest, however, this one seemed more of an economic enterprise than the first book. I still loved many of his digressions and anecdotes, but there was, at times, too much inconsequential and repetitive rambling that seemed stretched out for the occasion. Also, he is infinitely grumpier this time round. All is not as it should be in the paradise that is Britain. But then he, like the rest of us, has gotten older, and Britain has changed, too. I can bear witness to that myself.

He is on a mission in this book, I felt, telling anyone who’ll listen that e.g. the British countryside should be preserved, that people should think twice before covering the country with litter, that the level of stupidity (notably in Austin, Texas; only partially in Britain) is becoming critical. To a large extent I agree with him, but he came off a bit too angry some of the time, whereas previously he was merely funny, even when complaining about the state of things. I also felt the f-word was strewn a bit too generously into the anecdotes. I’m no prude, but it underlined how curmudgeonly this usually gentle American expat has become. (Part of the problem could simply be over-exposure to Bryson’s tried and tested formula, charming and humorous though it often is).

I learned that:

- Mount Everest is named after a man who never saw the mountain, and the name is actually mispronounced: Mr. Everest himself pronounced it Eve-rest (Adam’s mate + two syllables)

- Cows are more dangerous than bulls and have actually killed ramblers in Britain (Bryson goes out of his way to downplay this problem because people were developing a fear of cows, but I just never knew cows had it in them to trample people so it was news to me).

- There is a name for the rather pervasive (modern?) phenomenon of someone being so stupid that they don’t know just how stupid they are: The Dunning-Kruger effect (I’ve previously called it the X-Factor syndrome: ‘how can they not hear I sound like Beyonce?!’)

- The British citizenship test which he takes at the beginning of the book is clearly as stupid and ridiculous as the Danish equivalent, making it nearly impossible for any normal native of the country to actually pass. (His description of this test was just priceless. He did pass it though and is now officially a Briton).

Read it if, like me, you have a small crush on England, enjoy a good dollop of encyclopedic fun facts and travel commentaries and a narrator who doesn’t take himself too seriously. If you’ve never read him before, begin with Notes, but do begin.
Profile Image for Whitney.
652 reviews56 followers
September 16, 2016
Something is wrong with Bill Bryson. Maybe it has been too long since I last checked in with him, but this book is a cry for help, people.

He hates everything—public transportation, private transportation, food, non-food. And it seems like he has forgotten the names of his family. Every chapter he goes on about "my wife." She has a name, Bill. She's Cynthia! Everyone knows this!

What happened to the cheerful buffoonery and sunny outlook that lifted so many of his other books into a place of joyful reading?

This is just one long gripe, with obviously biased sentimental piffle interspersed. (Paraphrase goes like this: "Oh, the best restaurants in England were horrible, but I did love the various kinds of brown glop because I was younger then. And I hadn't met my wife yet. Why do I need to eat this foreign food? Oh, well, I suppose it's okay because I just drank three pints of beer.")

But hey, he likes Stonehenge now, just FYI. It's okay to go there now. Apparently it used to suck.
Profile Image for Carole.
504 reviews92 followers
March 30, 2020
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson is a little jewel of hilarity and tongue-in-cheek musings of his wandering over hill and dale in the UK. I was listening to a more serious audiobook and decided to opt for this one: laughter is sometimes a requirement during difficult times and this provided it nicely. Bill Bryson sees things differently than the rest of us and enjoys passing on his wisdom. This was a second read for me but I enjoyed it just as much as the last time. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Simon.
1,032 reviews4 followers
July 16, 2016
He's become the Paul McCartney of travel writing; once sublime and now pushing out books that we buy because he's given us so much pleasure in the past. Maybe it's very clever writing: the ageing scribe and observer returns to look at England and finds it changed mostly for the worse and so reflects this in his prose; also changed for the worse. There are a few laugh out loud moments; but these are largely fart jokes. I don't mind a curmudgeon and age suits this persona. I just don't much like the name dropping multi-millionaire with friends in academe spending half a day in so many towns and then bemoaning that they're not what they could be. My own home town of Barrow comes in for a particularly sneering write-off when he walks along the economically depressed Dalton Road and is offended that there are some unemployed people there making the place look untidy with their dogs. Surely, after travelling many miles (there is no other way of getting to Barrow) he might have had a wander around the rather good Dock Museum; after-all he does like a museum in middle class towns; the glorious beaches and nature reserves of Walney or the silent splendour of Furness Abbey, the incomparable loveliness of Roanhead, even the size and purpose, ugly but impressive, of the Devonshire Dock Hall; all within walking distance of where he was. No, a cup of coffee in a chain was his idea of the acceptable face of a town I am very fond of.

I'm glad he finds fault with the political mind-set that sees cheese-paring as the route to making Britain great again. We won't improve anybody's quality of life, or even save much money, by closing down libraries or removing greenery from urban plazas. But I'm afraid his outsider's ability to spot the glories and weaknesses of British life has declined with passing years. Seeing the world through the windscreen of a car; and I'd imagine a big car at that; re-tracing steps he specifically says he won't re-trace, rehashing old material about the supposed delights of dried cake and hard biscuits, having a pop at a popular travel writer (in this case the pop-worthy HV Morton): it's all a little tired. It isn't a bad read but it is by no means a good one. Like Paul McCartney he re-invigorated his genre and delighted a generation. The old stuff is still worth the read (especially Notes From a Small Island and the wonderful Walk in the Woods) but this is Red Rose Speedway.

The main criticisms of HV Morton (and it has become fashionable to find fault with old Harry) are that he made half of it up and the rest he painted with a rosy brush. (Putting aside his serial adultery and desire to see fascism established in England). I'm afraid Bill Bryson is guilty of both (rosy paint brush and inventing encounters, not multiple shagging and longing for the Third Reich to cross the North Sea). His meetings with people seem stage-managed and mostly fiction and his admiration of the English countryside comes across as shallower than it probably is; as well as touching the clichéd. I'm also surprised and disappointed that he's reverted to the 'short walk around and then into a pub for pints of lager before a curry and bed' approach to exploring a town.

The book opens with Bryson's publisher pointing out the money-making possibilities of Small Island Part II. The book is little more than an exercise in cashing in. (Incidentally it does get a little wearing when this very wealthy man objects to paying a few pounds entry fee, and downright patronising when he tells us we really should be putting more into cathedral collection boxes and be raising money for charity). The title is supposed to be an evocation of the unique and slightly humorous quaintness of English place-names. It equally serves as a description of the contents and style.

You've made your pile Bill. You've made us very happy with your early books. Perhaps it is time to enjoy a well-earned retirement where dribbling can be, and should be, a more private activity.
Profile Image for Tracey.
1,083 reviews252 followers
June 16, 2017
I've always enjoyed Bill Bryson. I loved A Walk in the Woods and The Mother Tongue and his Shakespeare book, etc. This? Not this. I couldn't manage this.

Yes, it was lovely to learn that we've all been pronouncing "Everest" wrong (and that George Everest never went up it). It's good to know that almost 40% of London is park and the city is almost half as populated as New York, and France and England are only 20.6 miles apart at their closest point, and such. Motopia is a very cool idea and I'm enjoying running it through Google Image. But…

>“It’s not the same thing at all. You can’t be this stupid.”

>“Well, pardon me for saying so, but you’re an idiot,” I said matter-of-factly.

This is Bryson quoting … himself. And both times he was talking to a young person in the service industry. If he's being honest and not self-mocking or self-parodying or whatever, Bill Bryson is apparently a jackass.

“Do you want fries with that?” the young man serving me asked.
I hesitated for a moment, and in a pained but patient tone said: “No. That’s why I didn’t ask for fries, you see.”

Seriously. I don't want to spend time with this person. When he calls Leslie Charteris "a recluse and a bigot" it feels very much like a pot and kettle pronouncement.

The humor is forced, and very much largely unfunny. I'm disappointed – and I quit.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.
Profile Image for Julie.
2,015 reviews38 followers
April 12, 2020
Simon and I have been listening to this audiobook together, usually in the evenings, as a way to unwind. Today, is Easter Sunday, a quiet, leisurely day for us, as it turned out. We just listened to the final words of this book while working on a puzzle and it feels bittersweet.

We laughed out loud many times along the way and reminisced at our shared memories of Britain as it was when we were growing up independently of each other, then, living there as a young couple from 1983 to our eventual emigration in July 1989. The author writes of the Britain we remember fondly, and ends with a wonderfully moving explanation of why he chooses to make his home there now.

Favorite passages:
"The British really are the only people in the world who become genuinely enlivened when presented with a hot beverage and a plain biscuit."

"They (the British) are also very good at remaining happy when others would falter. If, for instance, they are walking in the countryside and it starts to rain they pull on their waterproofs and accept that's they way it is."

"What really sets the British apart is that when things go really wrong [...] is when they are happiest of all. A Britain standing in a minefield with a leg blown off who can say, "I told you this would happen," is actually a happy man." This moved me, as we are truly a stoic lot and used to making the best of things.

Finally, I loved what Bryson had to say about the countryside, "There isn't a landscape in the world that is more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in than the countryside of Great Britain. It is the world's largest park its most perfect accidental garden. I think it may be the British nation's most glorious achievement."

Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,301 reviews450 followers
December 15, 2015
I love Bill Bryson. I'll just state that right up front. I've read other of his books, though not all, and enjoyed them immensely, but I think this is my favorite so far. Maybe because he is honest from the outset that he is 65 years old, and somewhat of a curmudgeon, but has earned the right to grouse about, among other things: aging, the younger generation, people who litter, stupidity (individual and political), incorrect punctuation and grammar from those who really should know better, and the cost of things. Those are subjects I can really get behind and agree with anyway, but Bryson is just so funny and snarky that it's a joy to ride along with him. Actually I should say walk, as he does a lot of it in this book, as he visits some places for the first time, and revisits places he saw in another book written 40 years ago, "Notes From a Small Island". He obviously loves his adopted home in England, and just recently became an English citizen, so this is a love letter to Great Britain as well.

Just a warning: You have to beware of where you choose to read this book. If you read in bed at night, you will certainly wake anyone in the same room with you, and possibly the entire house, with loud peals of laughter and snorts. Ditto if you read in a public place, people will look at you like you're a fool as you dissolve in unrestrained merriment and glee. And by no means try to read this book while eating or drinking anything at all, as it will be all over the walls and table. So where to read may be a problem, but well worth it.

I read an ARC of this book. It will be released in the US on January 19th, 2016.
Profile Image for Mikey B..
1,007 reviews373 followers
October 31, 2019
Another achievement of Bill Bryson! It’s both highly entertaining (as in not to be read in a public place for fear of embarrassing yourself as you laugh loudly) and most informative with many tidbits of knowledge.

There are many new English destinations here, as Mr. Bryson covers territory he missed in his first volume “Notes From a Small Island”. But again there is very little on Scotland and Wales.

Mr. Bryson is both lavishing in praise on his adopted homeland and caustic – so you have been warned!

Page 225 (my book) when visiting Cambridge

I am an admirer of Sir Lawrence Bragg, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on X-ray crystallography in 1915… He loved the work, but missed gardening, so he took a job as a gardener one day a week at a house in South Kensington. The woman who engaged him had no idea that her gardener was one of the most distinguished scientists in Britain until a friend came for tea one day and, looking out the window, casually asked: “My dear, why is the Nobel laureate Sir Lawrence Bragg pruning your hedges?”

I have experienced this kind of total befuddlement in passenger train stations on the European mainland while waiting to board a train.

Page 226 (at the Cambridge station)

… a train looking very like a London train pulled in at platform one and stopped there. But the TV screens said “This Train Terminates Here” and clearly intimated that it would be foolhardy to board it because it might at any moment leave to go to a depot… or some place equally unwelcome, and then we would really be screwed.

So about five hundred of us stood around looking at the empty train for ten minutes or so. Eventually a few brave souls got on, and then there was a kind of rush, like when they opened up the Oklahoma Territory to settlers, as nearly everyone hurried to get a seat. But we all had to remain poised to leap off again if it turned out that this train really was headed for servicing… In the event, it turned out we had all guessed correctly… So we won the game. Our prize was that we got to ride to London seated. The thirty or forty people who had remained on the platform because they trusted the television screens got to play a new game called Standing in the Vestibule All the Way to London.

And to show that Mr. Bryson can pick equally on his own original countrymen, here is this passage.

Page 284 at a hotel in Austin, Texas

When I checked in, the clerk needed to record my details, naturally enough, and asked for my home address… The girl typed in the building number and street name, then said: “City?”
I replied: “London.”
“Can you spell that please?”
I looked at her and saw that she wasn’t joking. “L-O-N-D-O-N”, I said.
“Can you spell that?”
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,482 reviews104 followers
September 24, 2022
Let's take a trip with Bill Bryson, the humorist travel writer, on what he calls the Bryson Line...... from the southern most part of Britain (Bognor Regis) to the northern most point (Wrath Bay) with a few side trips. And who better to travel with than Bryson, an American who has lived in Britain most of his adult life and holds dual citizenship.

He loves his adopted country and knows it like the palm of his hand but can also get snarky (his style) about some of its shortcomings. He takes the reader to places that the majority of people never knew existed, such as small villages which still look the way they did 100 years ago and those that have been destroyed by modernization. We discover that the grave of author Mary Shelley is located in an overgrown cemetery and forgotten; once popular resorts have fallen into obscurity and decay; a commemorative statue of JFK can be found in the countryside on a tree covered hill that no one ever visits, ad infinitum. But above all is the beauty of the country from the ancient buildings to the forests/parks and the history that lives on there.

This is an interesting and fun book, full of anecdotes that will make you chuckle. Recommended.

Profile Image for Ray Nessly.
366 reviews23 followers
December 29, 2022
Read January 2022, edited 11.19.22
Pretty much my first review of this year. One person saw it, so I'll give another shot.

“The pleasant fact is that the British are not much good at violent crime except in fiction, which is of course as it should be.” --BB

Loved, loved, loved, this book. Endlessly entertaining, hilarious, and informative.
I intend to visit someday some of the places he raves about. Now, a few reviews on this site might leave you thinking this book is an endless rant. One is entitled of course to dislike a book, of course, but not to unfairly mischaracterize it. Sure, Bryson is often a curmudgeon, often complains about high prices (um .... me too!), & bitches about stupid people when they are indeed being stupid (bully for Bryson!). When he does complain, it's often in an entertaining, exaggerated way, and/or he lets us know, self-deprecatingly, that he does dumb things himself (sometimes the exact dumb thing he's complaining about). Moreover, the instances where Bryson criticizes something are heavily outweighed by the countless passages that illustrate his generous spirit, his unmistakable love for Britain.

The most common word in this book? "Lovely". Eight hundred thirty two appearances. (Something like that.)

I could quote from every page, but here is a sample of his wit and his interesting observations.

“That is the most extraordinary fact about Britain. It wants to be a garden. Flowers bloom in the unlikeliest places–on railway sidings and waste grounds where there is nothing beneath them but rubble and grit. You even see clumps of flowery life growing on the sides of abandoned warehouses and old viaducts. If all the humans in the UK vanished tomorrow, Britain would still be in flower.”

“Somebody needs to explain to me why it is that the one thing your body can suddenly do well when you get old is grow hair in your nose and ears. It’s like God is playing a terrible, cruel joke on you, as if he is saying, “Well, Bill, the bad news is that from now on you are going to be barely continent, lose your faculties one by one, and have sex about once every lunar eclipse, but the good news is that you can braid your nostrils.”

“I wondered idly what the builders of Stonehenge would have created if they’d had bulldozers and big trucks for moving materials and computers to help them design. What would they have created if they had had all the tools we have? Then I crested the brow of the hill with a view down to the visitor center, with its café and gift shop, its land trains and giant parking lot, and realized I was almost certainly looking at it.”

“The pleasant fact is that the British are not much good at violent crime except in fiction, which is of course as it should be.”

“The patients on Tuke Ward were a pleasant and tractable bunch and practised insanity with a certain elan.”

“And now here I was in McDonald's again for the first time since my earlier fracas. I vowed to behave myself, but McDonald's is just too much for me. I ordered a chicken sandwich and a Diet Coke.
'Do you want fries with that?' the young man serving me asked.
I hesitated for a moment, and in a pained but patient tone said: 'No. That's why I didn't ask for fries, you see.'
'We're just told to ask like,' he said.
'When I want fries, generally I say something like, "I would like some fries, too, please." That's the system I use.'
'We're just told to ask like,' he repeated.
'Do you need to know the other things I don't want? It is quite a long list. In fact, it is everything you serve except for the two things I asked for.'
'We're just told to ask like,' he repeated yet again, but in a darker voice, and deposited my two items on a tray and urged me, without the least hint of sincerity, to have a nice day.
I realized that I probably wasn't quite ready for McDonald's yet.”

“I had never really stopped to consider what an extraordinary thing the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is. Think about it. A troubled ship calls for help, and eight people – teachers, plumbers, the guy who runs the pub – drop everything and put to sea, whatever the weather, asking no questions, imperiling their own lives, to try to help strangers. Is there anything more brave and noble than that?”

“But for reasons that genuinely escape me, it has also become spectacularly accommodating to stupidity. Where this thought most recently occurred to me was in a hotel coffee shop in Baltimore, where I was reading the local paper, the Sun, and I saw a news item noting that Congress had passed a law prohibiting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from funding research that might lead, directly or indirectly, to the introduction of gun controls. Let me repeat that but in slightly different words. The government of the United States refuses to let academics use federal money to study gun violence if there is a chance that they might find a way of reducing the violence. It isn’t possible to be more stupid than that. If you took all the commentators from FOX News and put them together in a room and told them to come up with an idea even more pointlessly idiotic, they couldn’t do it. Britain isn’t like that, and thank goodness. On tricky and emotive issues like gun control, abortion, capital punishment, the teaching of evolution in schools, the use of stem cells for research, and how much flag waving you have to do in order to be considered acceptably patriotic, Britain is calm and measured and quite grown up, and for me that counts for a great deal. —”

“Only twenty-six British universities have total endowments greater than the amount given annually to the Ohio State University football team.”

“Durham Cathedral, like all great buildings of antiquity, is essentially just a giant pile of rubble held in place by two thin layers of dressed stone. But—and here is the truly remarkable thing—because that gloopy mortar was contained between two impermeable outer layers, air couldn’t get to it, so it took a very long time—forty years to be precise—to dry out. As it dried, the whole structure gently settled, which meant that the cathedral masons had to build doorjambs, lintels, and the like at slightly acute angles so that they would ease over time into the correct alignments. And that’s exactly what happened. After forty years of slow-motion sagging, the building settled into a position of impeccable horizontality, which it has maintained ever since. To me, that is just amazing—the idea that people would have the foresight and dedication to ensure a perfection that they themselves might never live to see.”
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
816 reviews2,589 followers
May 5, 2017
This is a wonderful, entertaining, and truly funny book about Bill Bryson's return to the United Kingdom. I laughed so many times! It's not just what he writes; it is how he writes his stories, his unexpected phrases, that make his sarcasm endearing rather than irritating.

In this book, Bryson returns to many of the same locations in Britain as he wrote about in his book of 20 years ago, Notes from a Small Island. He compares the progress--or lack of it--in many of these locations.

Bryson tells a lot about the history of the various places he visits, as well as the people behind these places. He writes a lot of social commentary, and discusses in detail many of the decisions made by city planners--both good and bad. He fills the book with all of the personal anecdotes of his travels. It is obvious that he often exaggerates, but nevertheless, he is so funny!

I didn't read this book; I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Nathan Osgood. He did an excellent reading--I highly recommend the audiobook.
Profile Image for Will Ansbacher.
316 reviews88 followers
December 27, 2017
A lovely book, and one where there are far too many diverse encounters to focus on any particular one, but it had me laughing on almost every page.
As part of the 20th anniversary of his first Notes from a Small Island, Bryson set out to travel the “Bryson Line” – which he claims is the longest straight line in Britain from Bognor on the South Coast to Cape Wrath at the top of Scotland, though he rambles all around it and spends most of his time nearer the southern end.
What a joy walking is. All the cares of life, all the hopeless inept fuckwits that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life suddenly seem far away and harmless, and the world becomes tranquil and welcoming and good.

Not that he walked the whole island of course, there were many car, train and bus journeys, which itself provided a fund of distractions and acerbic comments about driving habits and clods with cell phones in public places.
Bryson is his same witty, sardonic and entertaining self that appears in all his books, although leaning towards the tetchy side here. But his tetchy moments are surely the best: the book is filled with his unspoken comments and imagined actions:
I stared at her for a long moment with something like awe, then raised my walking stick high in the air and calmly beat her to death (on encountering a woman who haughtily refused to deal with her dog poo)

‘But then again’, I pointed out, ‘your shop is kind of a dump, you didn’t say hello when I came in and you give every appearance of being a miserable old git’ (not said to the proprietor of a small shop lamenting big-box stores)

‘Well you know what, you are a spoiled, brainless fuckhead,’ I said. Actually I didn’t say that, I just thought it. Instead I muttered some pathetic lamentation in the British style and just hung up. (to a supercilious young woman, unconcerned that patrons of a shop had been left standing in the rain)

Bryson is enchanted by how much historic and interesting stuff there is, and how accessible and understated it all is. But in many ways this is also rather a sad book. He laments the passing of an era when Britain was a poorer but more generous place, with greater tolerance for idiosyncrasies such as the Royal Holloway Hospital (where he was first employed as a psychiatric nurse in the ‘70s) where inmates were allowed to roam the streets of Virginia Water. Or where he asks, after observing a well-dressed woman pretend to leave a tip:
Am I wrong or is this becoming a feature of British life – and I mean by that behaving in quietly disgraceful ways when you think no one is watching?

I have seen several reviews that take Bryson to task for wanting to preserve a mythological 1950’s version of Britain, but that’s not it. It is more that he is taking to task the current spiritual poverty that eliminates something as minor as a pleasant area where workers could eat their lunch:
... I just thought: is that really what we have come to now, in this cheap shittily dispiriting age - that we can’t even afford a few shrubs in a planter?
This was occasioned by a visit to Durham Cathedral where he observed that 11th-century artisans lived in an infinitely poorer era yet had had not only the ability to create such a magnificent building, but the foresight to allow for a forty-year settling of the lintels and jambs to create a structure that would not be perfectly aligned until years after their death.

So yes, I loved this book but I didn’t get that same sense of sadness and regret from his first Notes and I’m interested to re-read it now to compare.
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