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The Road to Little Dribbling

Cover of The Road to Little Dribbling

The Road to Little Dribbling

Adventures of an American in Britain
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A loving and hilarious--if occasionally spiky--valentine to Bill Bryson's adopted country, Great Britain. Prepare for total joy and multiple episodes of unseemly laughter.

Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to discover and celebrate that green and pleasant land. The result was Notes from a Small Island, a true classic and one of the bestselling travel books ever written. Now he has traveled about Britain again, by bus and train and rental car and on foot, to see what has changed--and what hasn't.

Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis in the south to Cape Wrath in the north, by way of places few travelers ever get to at all, Bryson rediscovers the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly singular country that he both celebrates and, when called for, twits. With his matchless instinct for the funniest and quirkiest and his unerring eye for the idiotic, the bewildering, the appealing, and the ridiculous, he offers acute and perceptive insights into all that is best and worst about Britain today.

Nothing is more entertaining than Bill Bryson on the road--and on a tear. The Road to Little Dribbling reaffirms his stature as a master of the travel narrative--and a really, really funny guy.

From the Hardcover edition.
A loving and hilarious--if occasionally spiky--valentine to Bill Bryson's adopted country, Great Britain. Prepare for total joy and multiple episodes of unseemly laughter.

Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to discover and celebrate that green and pleasant land. The result was Notes from a Small Island, a true classic and one of the bestselling travel books ever written. Now he has traveled about Britain again, by bus and train and rental car and on foot, to see what has changed--and what hasn't.

Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis in the south to Cape Wrath in the north, by way of places few travelers ever get to at all, Bryson rediscovers the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly singular country that he both celebrates and, when called for, twits. With his matchless instinct for the funniest and quirkiest and his unerring eye for the idiotic, the bewildering, the appealing, and the ridiculous, he offers acute and perceptive insights into all that is best and worst about Britain today.

Nothing is more entertaining than Bill Bryson on the road--and on a tear. The Road to Little Dribbling reaffirms his stature as a master of the travel narrative--and a really, really funny guy.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    to show it. He gave a shrug and that was the end of our relationship.

    I was hungry, but now had only twenty minutes before the next bus, so I went into a McDonald's for the sake of haste. I should have known better. I have a little personal history with McDonald's, you see. Once a few years ago after a big family day out we stopped at a McDonald's in response to cries from a back-seatful of grandchildren pleading for an unhealthy meal, and I was put in charge of placing the order. I carefully interviewed everyone in the party -- about ten of us, from two cars -- collated the order on to the back of an old envelope and approached the counter.

    'OK,' I said decisively to the youthful attendant when my turn came, 'I would like five Big Macs, four quarter-pound cheese- burgers, two chocolate milkshakes--'

    At this point someone stepped up to tell me that one of the children wanted chicken nuggets instead of a Big Mac.

    'Sorry,' I said and then resumed. 'Make that four Big Macs, four quarter-pound cheeseburgers, two chocolate milkshakes--'

    At this point, some small person tugging on my sleeve informed me that he wanted a strawberry milkshake, not a chocolate one. 'Right,' I said, returning to the young attendant, 'make that four Big Macs, four quarter-pound cheeseburgers, one chocolate milkshake, one strawberry milkshake, three chicken nuggets . . .'

    And so it went on as I worked my way through and from time to time adjusted the group's long and complicated order.

    When the food came, the young man produced about eleven trays with thirty or forty bags of food on them.

    'What's this?' I said.

    'Your order,' he replied and read my order back to me off the till: 'Thirty-four Big Macs, twenty quarter-pound cheeseburgers, twelve chocolate shakes . . .' It turned out that instead of adjusting my order each time I restarted, he had just added to it.

    'I didn't ask for twenty quarter-pound cheeseburgers, I asked for four quarter-pound cheeseburgers five times.'

    'Same thing,' he said.

    'It's not the same thing at all. You can't be this stupid.'

    Two of the people waiting behind me in the queue sided with the young attendant.

    'You did ask for all that stuff,' one of them said.

    The duty manager came over and looked at the till. 'It says twenty quarter-pound cheeseburgers here,' he said as if it were a gun with my fingerprints on it.

    'I know what it says there, but that isn't what I asked for.'

    One of my grown children came over to find out what was going on. I explained to him what had happened and he weighed the matter judiciously and decided that, taken all in all, it was my fault.

    'I can't believe you are all this stupid,' I said to an audience that consisted now of about sixteen people, some of them newly arrived but already taking against me. Eventually my wife came over and led me away by the elbow, the way I used to watch her lead jabbering psychiatric patients off to a quiet room. She sorted the mess out amicably with the manager and attendant, brought two trays of food to the table in about thirty seconds, and informed me that I was never again to venture into a McDonald's whether alone or under supervision.

    And now here I was in McDonald's again for the first time since my earlier fracas. I vowed to behave myself, but McDonald's is just too much for me. I ordered a chicken sandwich and a Diet Coke.

    'Do you want fries with that?' the young man serving me asked. I hesitated for a moment, and in a pained but patient tone said:

    'No. That's why I didn't ask for fries, you see.'

    'We're just told to ask like,' he said.

    'When I want fries, generally I say...

About the Author-
  • Bill Bryson's bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods (now a major motion picture starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte), Notes from a Small Island, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize), The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, At Home, and One Summer. He lives in England with his wife.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 21, 2015
    Bryson returns to his adopted country of Britain to revisit some of his favorite sites in this followup to his bestselling Notes from a Small Island, published in 1996. He discovers that some of these places, like Dorset, a coastal city Bryson describes as "rolling perfection," remain relatively unchanged, while others have changed for better or worse. He reports that Manchester, a city he took to task in his earlier effort, has improved, though many of his compliments are backhanded. As usual, he scatters an entertaining mix of wacky anecdotes and factoids (e.g., during an eight-week period in 2009, four people in Britain were fatally trampled by cows) throughout, but his enduring mix of wonder and irascibility is what carries readers through his travels. His wry observations and self-deprecating humor keep him from coming off as a bitter cynic, and his lyrical way with words keeps the pages turning.

  • Alida Becker, The New York Times Book Review "Although he's now entering what he fondly calls his 'dotage,' the 64-year-old Bryson seems merely to have sharpened both his charms and his crotchets. As the title of The Road to Little Dribbling suggests, he remains devoted to Britain's eccentric place names as well as its eccentric pastimes."
  • Nancy Klingener, Miami Herald "[Y]ou could hardly ask for a better guide to Great Britain than Bill Bryson. Bryson's new book is in most ways a worthy successor and sequel to his classic Notes From A Small Island. Like its predecessor, The Road to Little Dribbling is a travel memoir, combining adventures and observations from his travels around the island nation with recounting of his life there, off and mostly on, over the last four decades. Bryson is such a good writer that even if you don't especially go in for travel books, he makes reading this book worthwhile."
  • Griff Witte, Washington Post "...Bryson's capacity for wonder at the beauty of his adopted homeland seems to have only grown with time.... Britain is still his home four decades later, a period in which he went from lowly scribe at small-town British papers to best-selling travel writer. But he retains an outsider's appreciation for a country that first struck him as 'wholly strange ... and yet somehow marvelous."
  • Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake and The Devil in the White City "Such a pleasure to once again travel the lanes and walking paths of Britain in the company of Bill Bryson! He's a little older now, and not necessarily wiser, but he's as delightful and irascible a guide as anyone could ever wish to have, as he rediscovers this somewhat careworn land and finds it as endearing (mostly) as ever. It's a rare book that will make me laugh out loud. This one did, over and over."
  • Booklist, starred review "There's a whole lot of "went to a charming little village named Bloke-on-Weed, had a look around, a cupof tea, and moved on" in Bryson's most recent toddle around Britain. Writing 20 years after his bestselling Notes from a Small Island, Bryson concocts another trip through his homeland of 40 years bydetermining the longest distance one could travel in Britain in a straight line... This being Bryson, one chuckles every couple of pages, of course, saying, 'yup, that sounds about right,' to his curmudgeonly commentary on everything from excess traffic and litter to rude sales clerks. One also feels the thrum of wanderlust as Bryson encounters another gem of a town or pip of a pub. And therein lies the charm of armchair traveling with Bryson. He clearly adores his adopted country. There are no better views, finer hikes, more glorious castles, or statelier grounds than the ones he finds, and Bryson takes readers on a lark of a walk across this small island with megamagnetism."
  • Sunday Times "Fans should expect to chuckle, snort, snigger, grunt, laugh out loud and shake with recognition...a clotted cream and homemade jam scone of a treat."
  • Matthew Engel, Financial Times "At its best as the history of a love affair, the very special relationship between Bryson and Britain. We remain lucky to have him."
  • Daily Telegraph "Is it the funniest travel book I've read all year? Of course it is."
  • Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express "We have a tradition in this country of literary teddy bears--John Betjeman and Alan Bennett among them--whose cutting critiques of the absurdities and hypocrisies of the British people are carried out with such wit and good humour that they become national treasures. Bill Bryson is American but is now firmly established in the British teddy bear pantheon... The fact that this wonderful writer can unerringly catalogue all our faults and is still happy to put up with us should make every British reader's chest swell with pride."
  • Chris Taylor, Mashable "The truly great thing about Bryson is that he really cares and is insanely curious... Reading his work is like going on holiday with the members of Monty Python."
  • The London Times "There were moments when I snorted out loud with laughter while reading this book in public... He can be as gloriously silly as ever."
  • Terry Wogan, Irish Times "The observation, the wit, the geniality of Bryson's inimitable words illuminate ever chapter."
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Adventures of an American in Britain
Bill Bryson
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