Tag Archives: Bill Bryson

Stovepipe with a quick legover – Bill Bryson on cricket


In his book on Australia, Down Under, (entitled In a Sunburned Country in the USA and Canada), there is a moment when Bill Bryson is trying to find something to listen to on the radio while driving towards, if I recall properly, Adelaide. Nothing seems to be on the air. But, eventually, he comes across coverage of a cricket match. This gives him an opportunity to unleash a hilarious parody of cricket terminology and commentary styles. If you don’t know anything about cricket and can’t tell a square leg from a silly point or a third slip, have a look at the map of real fielding positions above, which may help you to understand what he is making fun of.


Eventually the radio dial presented only an uninterrupted cat’s hiss of static but for one clear spot near the end of the dial. At first I thought that’s all it was — just an empty clear spot — but then I realized I could hear the faint shiftings and stirrings of seated people, and after quite a pause, a voice, calm and reflective, said:

“Pilchard begins his long run in from short stump. He bowls and . . . oh, he’s out! Yes, he’s got him. Longwilley is caught legbefore in middle slops by Grattan. Well, now what do you make of that, Neville?”

“That’s definitely one for the books, Bruce. I don’t think I’ve seen offside medium-slow fast-pace bowling to match it since Badel-Powell took Rangachangabanga for a maiden ovary at Bangalore in 1948.”

I had stumbled into the surreal and rewarding world of cricket on the radio.

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Tough questions

(This is a passage from Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Big Country” which makes me laugh every time I think about it. It is the start of a chapter entitled “Drowning in Red Tape”.)

I’m not even going to begin to tell you about the frustration of trying to get a foreign-born spouse or other loved one registered as a legal resident in the United States because I haven’t space and anyway it is much too boring. Also, I can’t talk about it without weeping copiously. Also, you would think I was making most of it up.

You would scoff, I am quite sure, if I told you that an acquaintance of ours – an academic of high standing – sat open-mouthed while his daughter was asked such questions as ‘Have you ever engaged in any unlawful commercial vice, including, but not limited to, illegal gambling?’ and ‘Have you ever been a member of, or in any way affiliated with, the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party?’ and – my particular favourite – ‘Do you plan to practise polygamy in the US?’ His daughter, I should point out, was five years old.