I always look forward to Bill Bryson’s next book. He’s entertaining and educational. Many of his books I’ve read multiple times and walk away each time having learned something new while laughing. Most consider his best to be A Walk In The Woods (the book not the lame movie). I however favor A Sunburnt Country, about Australia, though The Lightning Bolt Kid was awesome. Actually I can’t name one I don’t consider worth multiple reads. So I snatched up his latest the week it was released. The Road To Dribbling is him revisiting the places of his book Notes From A Small Island. I looked forward to seeing how Bryson fared moving back to Great Britain and visiting places twenty years later. Would he prove what Thomas Wolf did in Look Homeward Angel that you can’t go back, or is England timeless and 20 years didn’t make that much of a difference?
The first think I related to and laughed about was Bill’s observations about the effects of aging. Yes I too now stop to stand and collect my thoughts. I’ve not done it where I could be hit by a parking gate but I do see how that could happen. Poor Bill. I relate to that and not moving as nimbly as I did 20 years ago. That was his first observation about changes aging had caused in him in the past twenty years on his trip from the southern most point of Great Britain to the northern most point. Along the way he too is clueless about these people in tabloids, just as I am. Upon reading about said people he too thinks they are shallow and silly as much as I do. But were the stars we followed back in the day any better?
Along the way he finds some places have changed for the better while others for the worse. Much like a person aging, some things are much better – others, like moving from thought collecting to jumping out of the way in a timely manner – are changes for the worse. Places he wanted to see again aren’t there but others have improved. The saddest part is when they are the same but time worn and tired.
Along the way I learned about sites little seen by tourist like me but are now on my list should I have some time to wander I will make a point of finding. I find the English laws on walking paths fantastic. While Bryson’s thoughts about cows and bulls amusing. To his surprise they can be dangerous when walking through waving a walking stick to make them move.
Bryson reminds us all that time moves on and with it the world changes. To go back to a place and expect it to be the same as it was back in the day is a fool’s errand. The one thing we all can count upon even with historical sites, museums, and lost memorials is change. The question is how do we experience that change? What caused the change? Are we keeping up with the change? Do we want to keep up with it? In the end Bill comes to his own answers with what he finds twenty years later in his adopted country and isn’t that what we all have to do as we age?