Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bill Bryson

That it should need to appoint someone from Des Moines, Iowa, as President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, is not much of a compliment to the indigenous natives. It is a considerable compliment for the American author, the Anglophile Bill Bryson who, unlike a good many other recipients, richly deserved his OBE for his work, honorary though it may be in view of his American citizenship.
Anyone who has read his books will appreciate that he has the eye of an astute observer but cleaning up Britain’s trash will be a daunting task.
For a nation that delights in imposing piffling and Draconian regulations on almost every aspect of their citizen’s lives, the British government is oddly reluctant to do anything to curb the abandon with which their population foul their nest.
The other weekend I found myself in one of the outer suburbs of London. Formerly it had been a pleasant country market town where farmers would prod princely pigs and contemplate contented cattle in the market square. A rural and bucolic scene.
It being a pleasantly sunny Sunday morning, I took a stroll into the old town to see what sort of a mess the “planners” had made of it. It was now a largely pedestrian area filled with fast food outlets, clubs and bars, dominated by an American style soulless mall. Initially I was surprised to find large numbers of the populace wandering about aimlessly until I realised - they were waiting for the stores to open. As the remaining population appeared to be busy at home washing and polishing their Mercedes or BMW’s, it led me to wonder just what sort of society Britain had now turned into.
But the dominant feature of my walk was the evidence all around me of the previous evenings revelry. It seemed that the fast food places must have done a roaring trade as I kicked my way through the empty containers and wrapping papers that had been discarded on the pavement. Where food had not been consumed, it had merely been dumped, where it had been consumed, it had frequently been thrown up!
Occasionally there was a tinkle of broken glass as I would pass the odd vandalised telephone booth, apparently a popular target for the revellers. The local resident’s association newsletter contained a heartfelt plea to people to report any such instances of broken glass in bus shelters or phone boxes. They would send someone to sweep it up, they said!
I struck up a conversation with a man waiting for one of the mall shops to open. He said he had lived there all his life but would no longer go into the town at night. He was built upon the lines of a rather healthy Mike Tyson so I regarded his advice as being of some value.
Bill Bryson will need all the help he can get to clean up the countryside and I wish him luck. He sees the problem only too clearly - he could not understand how little the British valued their heritage.
Perhaps, when he’s finished, he could take a look at the cities also.


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