I'm often bemoaning to anyone who will listen that there are no good travel writers besides Bill Bryson. His mix of humor and personal disaster is hard to replicate, apparently. That's why I was thrilled to read the new collection of essays More Postcards from across The Pond: Dispatches from an Accidental Expat by Michael Harling. Harling explores his life as an American transported to Britain with a mix of humor and affection for his adopted land that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Much like his previous book Postcards from Across the Pond, the day to day difficulties of adjusting to life in a foreign (if mostly familiar) country are explored. It's also very interesting that, as an "outsider" (even one with newly-minted dual citizenship), Harling is able to notice how quickly Britain is changing, and not always for the better. Not only can you now find Krispy Kremes without too much difficulty (great for the taste buds if not for the waistline), but American holidays such as Thanksgiving and Halloween are frequently celebrated (if not fully comprehended) in modern Britain.
This book contains some humorous examples of Harling's travels with his wife on vacation (as well as for work) that don't always go smoothly. A beach side holiday on the island of Fuerteventura proves that early visitors to the isle weren't kidding when they christened it "Great Wind." Although the temperature was balmy, swimming and even sleeping turned out to be impossible due to the constant gale-force winds. The accommodations also required a great deal of minor repairs -- done by the guests -- to make the stay possible.
Not only does Harling have to deal with holiday DIY disasters, but his flat in Britain (described as being "constructed at the close of the Boer War") also requires occasional updating. This proves to be easier said than done when it comes to actually contacting the landlord and actually scheduling appointments for repairs.
Even everyday commutes are not without problems, as buses keep somewhat, er, flexible schedules, train timetables leave just seconds for connections to be made, and taxi drivers cannot comprehend an American accent.
It's very interesting to note the things that Harling already misses from his early years in Britain, among them plain scones (which are apparently being overtaken by the raisin and cheese varieties), the multi-culturalism of his neighbors (now nearly all young families from the same country, India), and the demise of the traditional pub. There is also a tide of "modernization" sweeping the country in terms of the availability of goods (well, American goods at least), wide availability of things such as air conditioning and dishwashing machines, and relaxed pub opening hours (when you can find a pub).
I really enjoy reading these "postcards" for their look at everyday life in a changing Britain. I'm already looking forward to "Even More Postcards from Across the Pond" from Mr. Harling! (hint, hint!)
Disclaimer: I received a copy of More Postcards from Across the Pond from the author
Final Verdict for More Postcards from Across the Pond: Five Gherkins, for being a very funny look at daily life across the pond