Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More From Bill Bryson

From Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson--

On Britain's weather:

To an outsider the most striking thing about the English weather is that there isn't very much of it. All those phenomena that elsewhere give nature an edge of excitement, unpredictability, and danger --tornadoes, monsoons, raging blizzards, run-for-your-life hailstorms -- are almost wholly unknown in the British Isles, and this is just fine by me. I like wearing the same type of clothing every day of the year. I appreciate not needing air conditioning or screens on the windows to keep out the kinds of insects and flying animals that drain your blood or feast on your extremities while you are sleeping. I like know that so long as I do not go walking up Mount Snowdon in carpet slippers in February, I will almost certainly never perish from the elements in this soft and gentle country.

On Britain's accomplishments:

...and it occurred to me, not for the first time, what a remarkably small world Britain is.

That is its glory, you see -- that it manages at once to be intimate and small scale, and at the same time packed to bursting with incident and interest. I am constantly filled with admiration at this -- at the way you can wander through a town like Oxford and in the space of a few hundred yards pass the home of Christopher Wren, the buildings where Halley found his comet and Boyle his first law, the track where Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile, the meadow where Lewis Carroll strolled; or how you can stand on Snow's Hill at Windsor and see, in a single sweep, Windsor Castle, the playing fields of Eton, the churchyard where Gray wrote his "Elegy," the site where The Merry Wives of Windsor was first performed. Can there anywhere on earth be, in such a modest span, a landscape more packed with centuries of busy, productive attainment?

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