A Glimpse of Great Britain, Bryson-Style (Travel)
It’s his keen observation and a sharp wit, that kept me turning page after page. I had to laugh as he pointed out how British life is touched with a kind of genius for names of prisons (Wormwood Scrubs), to pubs (Lambs & Flag) to flowers (Lady’s bedstraw), to the bizarre names of towns: Whiterashes, Wigtwizzle, Blubberhouses, Titsey, Lickey End, and more.
Bryson praises the Britons’ cheerfulness and uncomplaining manner as they smile and laugh easily, yet they can also been unyielding in their ways and you could be a target of their ire for merely standing in someone's usual spot at a train station.
It is evident throughout the book that Bryson has a particular love for old architecture, and he laments that the British heritage, set in “445,000 ancient or historical buildings, 12,000 medieval churches, 1.5 million acres of common land, 120,000 miles of footpaths and public rights of way, 600,000 known sites of archaelogical interest,”  is being nibbled away instead of preserved.
He complains about the rain—“that special kind of English drizzle that hangs in the air and saps the spirit.” 
And he notes how he “had never had tea with milk in it before or a cookie of such a rocklike cheerlessness. It tasted like something you would give a canary to strengthen its beak.”
I can attest to the density of British biscuits, as they’re called, because lately I’ve been hooked on The Great British Bakeoff show where highly skilled amateur bakers whip up fantastic desserts that look like something from a magazine cover. I was so tempted by their creations that I broke down and bought British master baker, Mary Berry’s, Baking Bible. Just to get my feet wet, I thought it wise to start in the “kids” section.
|My first attempt at Pinwheel biscuits.|
Unfortunately, my first attempt at it didn’t go so well. My biscuits looked more like flat potatoes than chocolate and vanilla pinwheels. The second batch looked more like that tempting photo. But looks can be deceiving, because they tasted just like Bill described…rocklike cheerlessness. (I did have more success with the cakes that not only looked good but tasted delicious, if I must say so myself.)
|My Hazelnut Meringue Cake and my French Apple Tart.|
But just watching that show set in such a verdant, gorgeous location made me want to pack my bags and jet right over. And I believe Bryson when he wrote “Britain still has more landscape that looks like an illustration from a children’s storybook than any other country I know.”
Crikey! I think it may be time for a visit.
As a side note, my husband has read a lot of his books. He particularly liked The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Neither Here, Nor There, In a Sunburned Country, and A Walk in the Woods (which I also read and loved).
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