The River Anton and Bill Bryson!

Posted on May 6, 2016

Since moving to the south side of Andover last year, I have successfully managed to make no friends whatsoever. This suits me just dandy, as it allows me to walk in peace and generally stay clear of a population of fuckwitts that seems to increase as I get older, which is compelling evidence that intolerance definitely comes with age.

My neighbour seems pleasant enough, but when all said and done he is a policeman and I don’t trust policemen, so I ensure that I keep out of his way and restrict myself to two pints of weak bitter on the few occasions I do pop out to the local pubs that feature regulars who long for a return to the good old days of Alf Garnett and when black people just loved being called wogs.

I did manage to meet a member of the 60’s band The Troggs and he was quite pleasant really and he actually struck a chord (excuse the pun) with me one evening when he started bemoaning all the corporate tax dodgers. “They are all at it,” he said. “Google, Amazon, Cafe Negro…”

In fairness, his wife put him right, but to think that someone thought Cafe Nero was actually called Cafe Negro is spectacularly dumbfounding and kind of sums up the general sentiment in Hampshire pubs; they are full of friendly racists.

So my best new mate is the River Anton, the tributary to the River Test that meanders from the north of Andover, through the town centre, in and out of The Clatford’s joining The Test just before The Mayfly pub, a vintage tourist trap where you can spend your children’s inheritance on a chilli con carne that carries all the excitement of an evening watching The One Show.

I like The Anton because no one outside of Andover, who doesn’t go fly fishing, has ever heard of it. It is the poor relation of The Test, a river for the pompous that boasts glamorous visitors such as US presidents, famous sports stars, offshore tax evasion experts and Russian gangsters. To them, the Anton fishery manager told me, fishing The Test is like playing tennis at Wimbledon Centre Court.

After 30 years of service and loyal to a fault, the Anton fishery manager gave me the impression that River Test sycophants were just a bunch of wankers, and I can’t help but admire that kind of attitude in a man.

Personally, I won’t discredit The Test too much as it is a wonderful part of the Hampshire landscape, but when I excitedly went to walk along The Test Way near Chilbolton recently, only to discover an eight foot panel fence and a plethora of ‘KEEP OUT’ signs, I got rather annoyed with it, or at least the greedy, selfish bastards that were living behind it.

That’s the trouble with The Test, it is so valuable, the people who own large stretches of it don’t want you to see it; they want to look out of their window and say, “Look at that, it’s all mine.”

There are stretches of the Anton that are inaccessible as well of course but in Goodworth Clatford, there is a lovely section that is open to the public that is just wonderful in all its spring glory.

2016-05-06 10.47.49

My dog admiring The River Anton at Goodworth Clatford

So, when I just started wondering whether these solitary walks and an increasing desire for isolation were the early signs of an impending mental health issue, I started reading Bill Bryson’s new book, ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’.

Many of you will remember when Bryson shot to fame about 20 years ago with ‘Notes from a Small Island’ which was followed up by series of other travel books about America, Australia and Europe. Whilst others idolised pop stars and footballers, Bryson a chubby American from Iowa who had settled in the UK, rapidly became my favourite person.

‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ is the sequel to ‘Notes From a Small Island’  and is a joy to read as Bryson once again sets off on an informative and hilarious trek around Britain, exposing all the inadequacies and bitterness of an ageing male as he does so.

I was already enjoying Bryson’s book when the following sentence sprung from my iPad and had me wishing I had said it. Indeed, it was so poignant, I did consider plagiarism until I realised many of you may buy the book, or you may have already read it; the shame of plagiarism is incomparable, no matter how much of an amateur a writer you are.

Here are Bryson’s words.

“What a joy walking is. All the cares of life, all the hopeless, inept fuckwitts that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life suddenly seem faraway and harmless and the world becomes welcoming and good.”

I couldn’t dream to think a better way of describing the joy of solitude with just my dog by my side, than that sentence. Alone, it was worth the cost of the entire book which, as a friend of mine said, is a great form of escapism from all the ills of the world.

Enjoy the sunny weekend!

2 Replies to "The River Anton and Bill Bryson!"

  • Lorna Harrison
    June 13, 2016 (10:16 am)

    Totally get you! And love, love, love Bryson. The adaptation of his book to film, a Walk in the Woods was so enjoyable and life affirming I’ve watched it a few times. He is a gentle, intelligent philosopher of our times with a droll sense of humour. If you enjoy a bit of social history I recommend Bryson’s ‘At Home’.

  • Lorna Harrison
    June 13, 2016 (10:21 am)

    Btw: Padraig is a close neighbour to you in Little Wallop, I think that’s the name and could do with an occasional walking pal as we are both tackling the mid-life time to change lifestyle tack to shed a few pounds. We’re taking our mid-life status quite seriously and have therefore joined the National Trust and are busy skipping around stately homes, their gardens and tea-rooms, lol!!

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