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Bill Bryson

December 23rd, 2007 (02:27 am)

I'm rereading Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson's account of the trip he took around England before moving back to America after 20 years. I love Bryson's books, but a large part of why I enjoy them is the fact that he, a professional travel writer, appears to be the world's most hapless traveller since Columbus.

This man set out on tour around England, mostly on foot, but also by rail and bus, with ludicrously poor preparation. He apparently didn't bother to do any research at all, choosing instead to rely on his 20-year-old memories of his travels in 1973. Those of you with functioning nervous systems will realize that the Thatcher years fell in that interval, and that the sensible traveller might reasonably expect to find some of the unprofitable services cut back, such as hourly intercity bus service. But Bryson, despite having been a journalist all that time, is constantly amazed to find that Thatcher's great antisocialist reforms have actually changed anything.

Plus he appears to be able to get lost in a closet. He tells of getting lost for half an hour in the pedestrian underpass at Marble Arch. I've been in that underpass, and it's just not that complex. There are only a few junctions, and the maps are quite clear. Yet Bryson complains about getting lost in pedestrian underpasses all over England, and never seems to consider the possibility that the reason is that he is a clueless git who should no more travel alone than an epileptic chimpanzee should perform brain surgery.

Oh, and he's continually griping about getting rained on...while on a walking tour of England. In March.