Sunday, October 18, 2015


Over the years I have accumulated what can only be described as an eclectic `library.`   It`s not really a library as such - rather just a couple of book cases stuffed pretty full.  Because of limited space, every now and then I`m encouraged to have a sort out, donate some books in the charity bag, but there are quite a number that I have grimly held on to and which I read again and again.

Mostly they are books about Britain - travel books - about places I know and love and visit; Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire, the West Country generally.  Some of them are really very old now - one in particular is a lavishly illustrated book about the Dorset and South Devon Coast published in 1910 which I bought in Modbury years ago and I also hang on to the Ward Lock Red Guides which go back to the 1930s.   I have cricket books, Southampton FC books, books on physics, mathematics, astronomy, exploration, biographies, National Service, but it is the books about England that hold a lasting fascination.

And over the years I have discovered that one of life`s real pleasures is reading in the bath - a risky business with the constant danger of the book slipping from my grasp and being consigned to the deep and with the consequence that some of my volumes became a little soggy, requiring painstaking remedial action.

But the latest book which accompanies me into my nightly soak is Bill Bryson`s `The Road to Little Dribbling` - more Notes From a Small Island - updating his impressions of Britain from those of 20 years ago.   I`ve only got about a third of the way through it but it`s already clear that, as well as his abiding affection for our country and our peculiar ways, there is an understated grumpiness which comes with the passage of time and with which I entirely identify.   An early example comes with his chapter concerning a visit to the New Forest (which isn`t new and not all of it a forest) and an area where I spent much of my boyhood over half a century ago.

Back in his hotel in Lyndhurst, he sat on the edge of his bed "waiting for it to be time for a drink and wondering how many tens of thousands of days have passed since BBC One last showed a programme that anyone not on medication would want to watch."

An excellent start - he speaks my language - and so I look forward to the next few nights wallowing in the grumpiness and cynicism to which I find myself inevitably drawn as the years continue to pile up.   I just hope my ageing wrists will be strong enough hold the book firmly in place and saving it from the same watery fate of some of my others. 

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