It was wonderful to be asked to write a guest post for Noelle’s lovely blog but what was I to write about? I had a think and my mind wandered to the three men in my life. These men have made me laugh and even made me cry on occasion for the last thirty odd years and I haven’t even been married to any of them. Stand up James Herriot, Tom Sharpe and Bill Bryson.
My relationship with Herriot began many years ago. It started in the school library. The humour section beckoned whilst I was trying to read up on a particularly boring biology test which was booked for the following day. No matter how much I read the text book in front of me nothing was going in and staying there and I had reached the end of my academic capacity for the day. As the library emptied I glanced over to the shelf and sticking out was Herriot’s If Only They Could Talk beckoning seductively in my general direction and telling me to ditch the biology and learn from the master. What’s a girl to do? Over the next few years I absorbed every book he wrote and I can still quote passages from them. I also know that if a cow looks as if it is wearing spectacles then it probably has a copper deficiency. As yet I haven’t had a use for it but never say never…
Tom Sharpe was an accidental encounter in a second hand book shop in a small Suffolk town. Never mind meeting over the tomatoes in the supermarket; that was old hat by then. This was the real thing. His rough edged coverings, his enticing artwork. This was a well-thumbed book which had been loved and now needed some appreciation. I was that woman. He made me laugh, he made me wince, he made me realise humour writing was a well-oiled machine of phrases crafted to build an image just enough to allow the reader to take it one step further in their imagination. From Riotous Assembly to Ancestral Vices I wanted to have written those books. Not for the sales but just for the accomplishment and creativity.
Bill Bryson took me by surprise one day whilst on a packed train to London. I rather wish he hadn’t as I laughed out loud at his nickname and description of his Dover landlady (whose name I don’t feel inclined to repeat here as it is rather rude…) in front of several startled passengers and that was before he started putting warnings on his books. Thank heavens I wasn’t in First Class otherwise they would have chucked me off at Hatfield Peverel and I might still have been there. A least I would have had something to read. His perception of the flaws of the human race and his ability to laugh at himself held an appeal which I still find entertaining as I re-read his books to this day. These days he has taken to writing books which explore various topics such as his excellent A Short History Of Nearly Everything and At Home to name just two but it is his travel memoirs such as Notes From A Small Island, Neither Here, Nor There: Travels In Europe and The Lost Continent: Travels In Small Town America which have made me snort tea through my nose and have kept me going back for more. Of course, the relationship soured somewhat when I realised he had totally bypassed East Anglia on his travels as if we weren’t worth a mention and then had the audacity to move here. Well, honestly!
Bodicia can be found on her website where she writes book reviews, articles and entertains guests. You can also find her on Twitter and Goodreads.