Last summer I was reading one of Fabio Volo’s witty love stories,"IL GIORNO IN PIU' ", and I discovered that all around the world there are nice cafés called Starbucks where you can comfortably sit and just have coffee – especially long American coffee, big mugs of it – reading, writing, or just looking around for hours if you like. The atmosphere he described was so inviting I heartly wished to go to one of those cafeterias somewhere in the world some day. It came true and I found myself alone in a Starbuck’s café in London about 3 weeks ago during the Easter holidays. Why am I telling you about that? Because I read part of the book I want to tell you about just in that place, for 2 hours, sipping a very huge quantity of English/American coffee. I was sitting there alone waiting - unlike Fabio Volo who was waiting for a beautiful Italian girl in New York to make her a surprise- for my husband and son who were visiting the Stanford Bridge, the stadium of the Chelsea football club. So, all alone there, I spent some time leafing through Bill Bryson’s NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, which I finally completed last night. It was odd to read this travel book about England, written by an American journalist/writer, while I was an Italian tourist visiting London for some days…
After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson, took the decision to move back to the States for a while, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him (!)
Bill Bryson is considered a master of witty prose and indeed he made me amile more than once and laugh out loud even at some of his humorous anecdotes. He tells about his last trip around Britain before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country which had been home to him for so long.
A short excerpt from pp. 98-99 of 1995 edition:
"One of the charms of the British is that they have so little idea of their own virtues, and nowhere is this more true than with their happiness. You will laugh to hear me say it, but they are the haappiest people on earth. Honestly. Watch any two Britons in conversation and see how long it is before they smile or laugh over some joke or pleasantry. It won't be more than a few seconds. (...) I used to be puzzled by the curious British attitude to pleasure, and that tireless, dogged optimism of theirs that allowed them to attach an upbeat turn of phrase to direct inadequacies - 'well, it makes a change', 'mustn't grumble', 'you could do worse','it's not much, but it's cheap and cheerful', 'it's quite nice REALLY' - but gradually I came round to their way of thinking and my life has never been happier. I remember myself sitting in damp clothes in a cold café on a dreary seaside promenade and being presented a cup of tea and a teacake and going 'Oooh, lovely!', and I knew the process had started".
In 1999 NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND became a two-part TV travel programme. Bill Bryson went on the long tour narrated in the book again and commented the situations and the places reading pages from his books.
Have a look at this clip.
CHARMS OF THE BRITISH
Tonight I'll start reading a new book, an essay about Jane Austen and her novels by DEIRDRE LE FAYE. My beloved Jane Austen and "The World of Her Novels" will be on my bedside table or in my bag for a while.
Now I must prepare my lessons for tomorrow. Have a nice afternoon and FLY HIGH!