Bill Bryson Book Review

Bill Bryson, a native Iowan, is a proliferative and award-winning writer of travel books. In “The Road to Little Dribbling” he writes of his travels from the south end of Great Britain to the north end along a route he calls The Bryson Line. There is no real place called Little Dribbling, but it is Bryson’s way of making fun at the various names of British locations. 

This book follows another by Bryson twenty years earlier where he visits many of the same places. As he reminisces about these favorite towns and villages it seems many have lost some of their appeal, but it is difficult to tell if this is so or if Mr. Bryson has just become older and crankier. 

Bill Bryson became a British citizen and it is clear that he loves his adopted country. He does a good job describing both the beauty and history of Great Britain. He does a fairly balanced job of ranting and raving about those things he approves and disapproves. 

I enjoyed the sense of humor in this book. Bryson is acerbically funny and he is an equal opportunity offender. I’m sure that British citizens appreciate that he does not hold back his negative thoughts when it comes to the USA. 

I especially enjoyed this gift book having traveled in some of the areas described by Bryson and hoping to return to Great Britain to visit more of England, Wales, and Scotland. 

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“I think Canadians are great satirists because we sit in the middle of these two giants: Great Britain and the U.S.” Martin Short

 

Rocks

Rock & Roll       

Hard as a Rock

Rock On!

Dumb as a Rock

Rock, Paper, Scissors

As you can tell I have rocks on my mind. I’m sure some who know me might say I also have “rocks for brains.” And, today that might be appropriate.

When I went to Great Britain recently, I was so grateful and amazed to see Stonehenge for the first time.  https://crookedcreek.live/2018/10/10/stonehenge/

For good reason visitors are not able to touch the huge rocks that make up this wonder. I was very fortunate that our hosts on this trip knew where there were similar stones nearby that could be seen up close and that could be touched at will. 

Kevin and Helen Elliott took our party to Avebury where the rocks in the slideshow below were personally accessible. I loved seeing all the random rocks, so similar to those with which Stonehenge was built but not arranged in the same pattern. I felt a strange reverence when I touched these stones from so long ago. 

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Around these huge rocks were grazing sheep, burial mounds like those surrounding Stonehenge and in a few places even roads that traversed the mounds.

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On this same trip while in the home of friends in Wales, I became aware of a different type of stone called crystal. While there I was given a rose quartz crystal that I now treasure. I am not yet knowledgeable enough to say much about crystals and their possible powers, but I am beginning the process of learning. I wanted to share this with you while we are on the subject of rocks, which are not technically the same thing, but they are both contained within the earth and no doubt carry many secrets of the past. What powers they may hold, I hope to learn. 

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“In my work, and my life, I feel a desire to merge. Not in terms of losing my own identity… but there’s a feeling that life is interconnected, that there’s life in stones and rocks and trees and dirt, like there is in us.”  Bill Viola

Tintern Abbey

Wales’ Best-Preserved Abbey

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Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131 by Walter Fitz Richard of Clare, an Anglo-Norman lord. This community of buildings where monks once lived and worshiped had one of the most advanced drainage systems of its time, however, there was only one room where there was a fire for the residents to warm up or dry their clothes. There was an infirmary on the grounds and many early carvings. Traces of medieval glass can still be seen in the imposing windows.

After suppression by Henry VIII, the Abbey changed from its religious purpose to crowded cottages and an early industrial complex. 

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Wales

I loved the drive through the countryside in Wales. There were sheep scattered all about the hills presenting the peace that only such a pastoral scene can provide. There were signs to “Mind the Sheep” because in certain areas the animals were allowed to graze along the roadsides. 

Another interesting thing that I noted while in Wales was that signs were in both English and Welsh languages. All the maps and brochures that I saw in Wales were equally bi-lingual. While just about all citizens speak English on a daily basis, the government claims that 24% of the population over age three can speak Welsh, the official language of Wales. This makes this Celtic language the only official language of the United Kingdom other than English. 

I would love to return to Wales one day. 

 

A Castle in Wales

Chepstow Castle

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In beautiful Wales, there are many well-preserved castles. This Medieval one was built a year after the Battle of Hastings. For nearly 1,000 years Chepstow Castle has sat atop a cliff overlooking the Wye River below.

I felt almost a reverence as I walked onto the grounds and looked up at the stone walls and towers. I kept thinking of the people who lived there long ago and wondered what their lives must have been like. Walking along the chambers and climbing the stairs I wondered how life was for children who were born there.

I’ve chosen some of the 50+ photos that I took at Chepstow Castle and shared them with you in the slideshow below.

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“I had always been interested in mythology. I suppose my brief stay in Wales during World War II influenced my writing, too. It was an amazing country. It has marvelous castles and scenery.”

Lloyd Alexander

Great Britain

The Unexpected

Before my trip to the UK last week I was cautioned to take an umbrella, raincoat and boots. I took the umbrella, but it was not needed. What a delightful week of sunny blue skies and cool breezes. 

I’ll write more later, but just had to say now what a great time I had touring London and the countryside of Gloucestershire and Wales. It was a week of planes, trains and automobiles, castles, pubs and charming villages.