One of the things that happens when you get older is that you discover lots of new ways to hurt yourself. Recently, in France, I was hit square on the head by an automatic parking barrier, something I don’t think I could have managed in my younger, more alert years.
Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling marks the return of the world’s favourite anglophile to his beloved Britain, and the result is a still properly-funny, and sometimes withering, summary of where we are today.
Two decades ago saw the publication of Notes from A Small Island, Bryson's often-ascerbic and sporadically baffled gazeteer of our fair isle; his humour and evident love for Britain found a legion of fans, with Waterstones in particular providing a certain kinship for Des Moines' most famous son. Now many, many shop events and a number of equally-superb books later, The Road to Little Dribbling reminds us of just how clear-eyed his vision is: there's much humour here, but it's a humour laced with a certain quiet truth that Blighty has undergone massive change - and not all necessarily to the good.
In a journey that takes us from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath (by way of a myriad of other destinations, largely as yet unobserved by the gimlet-eyed Bryson), we are served with his unequalled delight in obscure fact and ability to cast a new light on the deeply familiar, presenting a version of Britain that is at once revealing and strangely compelling.
Transworld Publishers Ltd