On Tuesday, I called Notes From a Small Island ”insightful and hilarious.” I read a section that afternoon that nailed both of those qualities, and also gave a prime example of why I want to move to England.
“One of the charms of the British is that they have so little idea of their own virtues, and nowhere is this more true than with their happiness. You will laugh to hear me say it, but they are the happiest people on earth. Honestly. Watch any two Britons in conversation and see how long it is before they smile or laugh over some joke or pleasantry.
And the British are so easy to please. It is the most extraordinary thing. They actually like their pleasures small. That is why so many of their treats–tea cakes, scones, crumpets, rock cakes, rich tea biscuits, fruit Shrewburys–are so cautiously flavorful. [...] Offer them something genuinely tempting–a slice of gateau or a choice of chocolates from a box–and they will nearly always hesitate and begin to worry that its unwarranted and excessive, as if any pleasure beyond a very modest threshold is vaguely unseemly.
‘Oh, I really shouldn’t,’ they say.
‘Oh, go on,’ you prod encouragingly.
‘Well, just a small one then,’ they say and dartingly take a small one, and then get this look as if they have done something terribly devilish.”
Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson, pg 79
I read that and sighed, because this is one of the things I love the most about England and one of the biggest draws to moving there. I am tired of the constant striving for bigger-better-more, and at least in this one area, that isn’t as common in England.
I thought about it some more, and realized this is also what draws me to Jane Austen. Her stories are concerned with the basic concepts of life. There’s no political posturing in her writing, and even her keen social commentary is understated. Her characters were real people with real problems, and she wrote about their lives. Nothing more, nothing less.
The closer I get to my move, the more antsy I become to just be there, already. I love my library job, but I love writing more. The pull to quit and just leave is strong, but I’m determined to be smart about this. I’ll be able to enjoy the little pleasures England has to offer soon enough; until then, I will stay calm and read Jane Austen.
PS: I finished the first rewrite of Loving Miss Darcy on Tuesday night. Tonight, I’ll dig into edits back at the beginning of the book. Things seem to be progressing nicely, which means I’m due to hit another roadblock any time. Until then, I’ll leave you with this book cover. Every time I see it, I think of Richard.