Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bill Bryson in Oz


William McGuire "Bill" Bryson (1951 - ) is a best-selling Anglo-American author of humorous books on travel, as well as books on the English language and science. Born in the United States, he was a resident of Britain for most of his adult life before returning to America in 1995. In 2003 Bryson and his wife and four children moved back to Britain.

In his book In a Sunburned Country (British title: Downunder) Bryson describes his travels by railway and car throughout Australia, his conversations with people in all walks of life about the history, geography, unusual plants and animals of the country, and his wry impressions of the life, culture and amenities (or lack thereof) in each locality.

Some of his observations and comments . . .
______________________________

“[Australia] is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluru to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world's ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures - the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish - are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. ... If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. It's a tough place.” 
______________________________

“Australians are very unfair in this way. They spend half of any conversation insisting that the country's dangers are vastly overrated and that there's nothing to worry about, and the other half telling you how six months ago their Uncle Bob was driving to Mudgee when a tiger snake slid out from under the dashboard and bit him on the groin, but that it's okay now because he's off the life support machine and they've discovered he can communicate with eye blinks.” 
______________________________

“But don't worry," she continued. "Most snakes don't want to hurt you. If you're out in the bush and a snake comes along, just stop dead and let it slide over your shoes."

This, I decided, was the least-likely-to-be-followed advice I have ever been given.” 
______________________________

…a waitress came out and plonked in front of each of us a small standard terra-cotta flowerpot in which had been baked a little loaf of bread.

"What's this?" I asked.

"It's bread," she replied.

"But it's in a flowerpot?" She gave me a look that I was beginning to think of as the Darwin stare. It was a look that said, "Yeah? So?"

"Well, isn't that kind of unusual?"

She considered for a moment. "Is a bit, I suppose." "And will we be following a horticultural theme throughout the meal?" Her expression contorted in a deeply pained look, as if she were trying to suck her face into the back of her head.

"What?"

"Will the main course arrive in a wheelbarrow?" I elaborated helpfully. "Will you be serving the salad with a pitchfork?"

"Oh, no. It's just the bread that's special."
______________________________

“No one knows, incidentally, why Australia's spiders are so extravagantly toxic; capturing small insects and injecting them with enough poison to drop a horse would appear to be the most literal case of overkill. Still, it does mean that everyone gives them lots of space.”
______________________________

“Australians are the biggest gamblers on the planet – one of the more arresting statistics I saw was that the country has less than 1 per cent of the world’s population but more than 20 per cent of its slot machines.”
______________________________

"The people are immensely likable— cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted, and unfailingly obliging. Their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water. They have a society that is prosperous, well ordered, and instinctively egalitarian. The food is excellent. The beer is cold. The sun nearly always shines. There is coffee on every corner. Life doesn't get much better than this.” 
______________________________



No comments:

Post a Comment