Thursday Book Feature: Notes from a Small Island

Notes from a Small Island

by Bill Bryson

Copyright 1995

 

Journalist Bill Bryson, author of A Walk in the Woods and other travel books, grew up in Iowa, then moved to England, where he married and started a family. Later, his family moved back to the U.;S. so his children could be exposed to American culture. Before doing so, he took one last trip through England and parts of Scotland, sometimes on foot but mostly using public transportation. A couple of times, he rented a car.

Notes from a Small Island describes this journey, starting at Dover and ending near Inverness. Bryson describes each town he visited, giving some history and sharing memories of earlier visits. With humor, he reflects on the idiosyncrasies’ of the English bus and train system and of the English people in general. He emphasizes his love for England.

I found this book not only informative but also amusing. Bryson’s descriptions of English people reminded me of Garrison Keillor’S comic depictions of people in Minnesota. His account of a shopping trip with his wife, while taking a break from his travels, reminded me of James Thurber’s short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mittee, in which the protagonist daydreams to escape his demanding wife. Bryson’s descriptions of times when his guidebook misled him reminded me of a trip with my father to Mexico years ago when we had the same problem.

Why waste time, money, and effort on a trip to England when you can read this book instead? Of course things may have changed since Bryson made the original journey, but it’s still a good read.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Let’s Talk About Music

Thanks to My English Cup of Tea for inspiring this. Before I started writing full time, I was a registered music therapist, working for fifteen years in nursing homes and other facilities that served senior citizens.

I understood and still appreciate the power of music to heal. Even today, music relaxes me when I need to unwind and motivates me when I need to get up and do something.

When I ran across Kathrins’ musical tag, I decided to give it a try. Here are my answers to the questions provided on the site.

 

What sort of music do you like to listen to?

 

I enjoy classical, jazz, and some standards from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. I also like a little contemporary music once in a while.

 

Do you play an instrument? What is your favorite instrument?

 

I play piano and guitar. Although I no longer work as a music therapist, I still visit nursing homes and other facilities from time to time and play my guitar and sing for the residents. I like the guitar’s portability, but I can do more with the piano.

 

What is your favorite quote about music?

 

I’m not sure where this came from, but I remember it being the theme of a concert I attended years ago featuring a college choir along with a children’s group sponsored by the YMCA. “Music is the doctor.”

 

Who is your favorite singer/musician?

 

My favorite singer is Linda Ronstadt. I read her autobiography a couple of years ago. She had an interesting life. “Heart Is Like a Wheel” is still one of my favorites. I don’t think it was as popular as her other work, but it echoes my sentiment after my husband passed.

 

Who is your favorite songwriter/composer?

 

I don’t have any favorites here. From Beethoven to Joni Mitchell, I don’t think any one is better than another.

 

Who is one musician or composer you secretly like but won’t admit?

 

I don’t have any, and that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

 

If you had to get stuck on a desert island with only three works of music, what would they be?

 

I would choose songs representing different turning points in my life. Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa” was on one of my first eight-tracks when I was a kid. It was the first song I sang for a talent show, accompanying myself on the piano.

Barbara Streisand’s “Songbird” was one I listened to frequently during my music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota. At the time, my supervisor didn’t think I would be successful as a music therapist. The song echoed my sentiment.

I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You” from The Mask of Zorro was a song my late husband and I enjoyed listening to together while snuggling. Even today, I’m amazed that a man wanted to spend his lifetime loving me. You can read more about this in My Ideal Partner.

 

What kind of music do you dislike?

 

I hate heavy metal. It grates on my nerves. I also don’t like modern atonal classical music. It sounds more like noise, but then again, one person’s noise is another’s music.

 

Now it’s your turn. If you have a blog, you can answer the above questions there and link to your post here. Otherwise, you can share your answers in the comments field. Either way, I look forward to hearing from you and wish you many more happy hours of music listening.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

Sunday Best: Third Thursday Poets Meeting

This past week, my Third Thursday Poets had its regular meeting. For two hours each month, we write, share, and critique. We take turns facilitating, and the person in charge gives a homework assignment for the next session.

Since I was in charge last month, I gave the assignment for this month. I got the idea from Writing Poetry (Second Edition) by Barbara Drake, the textbook for a correspondence class in poetry I was taking from the Hadley Institute. The prompt was to write a six-line poem, using the following instructions.

 

Line 1. Write a line, a sentence, with a color in it (or two colors).

Line 2. Make a one-line statement about a town.

Line 3. Say something about a time of year, a season, or the weather.

Line 4. Finish a sentence that begins “I wish.” Line 5. Say something about a friend or a famous person.

Line 6. Finish a sentence beginning with the words, “Next year at this time.”

 

When we do these assignments, we each make copies to pass around and read our poem aloud. When I read mine, everyone thought it was funny, and no one offered suggestions for improvement. I guess that goes to show that you have to have a sense of humor about these things, and that there are times when a poem needs no improvement. Here’s what I wrote.

 

MY HOMETOWN

 

With blue sky, white clouds,

Sheridan, Wyoming, is the place to be

in summer when the sun shines,

far away from Donald Trump,

where Bill Cosby fades into the sunset.

Next year, I’ll be where I am now.

 

Now it’s your turn. See if you can write a six-line poem, using the above instructions. As you’re writing this, follow the instructions and don’t worry about it making sense at first. You can always go back and revise after you finish it.

Please feel free to share your results in the comments field. If you prefer, you can write about the best thing that happened to you this past week. In any case, I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

Saturday Song: We Shall Overcome by Joan Baez

In light of events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, this song offers hope that maybe someday, we can overcome bigotry and hatred and live in peace. The name also happens to be the title of my first book. Despite all the violence in the world, I hope you can have a great Saturday.

 

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.