The Full English Is a Gas, Gas, Gas

Bull Garlington gets all Ugly (Hilarious) American with the UK

“Catch a boat to England, baby, maybe to Spain,” sang the young musician Jackson Frank in 1965, in his seminal downer ballad “Blues Run the Game.”

Too soon, way too soon, the troubled savant would fade from the world’s cultural scene and, decades later, die destitute and alone.

Luckily, a fellow by the name of Bull Garlington is still with us and not even as old now as Jackson Frank was (56) when he died in 1999.

But this Garlington’s not a musician – he’s a writer.

So never mind catching a boat to Spain, is my connective point here, but if you’ve ever considered catching a boat (or a plane) to England – or Scotland or Ireland or maybe to check out the entire UK at one go? Here’s a preparatory text, Garlington’s new book The Full English, to give you a wild, picaresque taste of what’s coming your way.

The Full English is worth your while not just because the living Garlington is also neither destitute nor alone – he’s accompanied, during this affected spectacle of a trip, by his wife, their two kids, and his own mother – but because his travelogue unscrolls with such biased, curmudgeonly hilarity that any blues you might have will have to go and run some other game for a while. At least until you finish the book and return to your own miserable life.

(Note: Not that reading writers who are destitute and alone isn’t worth your time, of course. To suggest such a thing would only serve to further alienate 90% of all authors on the planet, wouldn’t it?)

You want the information contained in The Full English in your head, is what I’m betting. You definitely want to enjoy Garlington’s idiosyncratic view of what it’s like to take a family vacation, via luxury bus and Approved Tourist Stops with Many Drinking Opportunities, through the United Kingdom.

Here's a sample of the man's style:

“… just stepping out into London briefly allows you a taste of the deeply complex structure of a city that grew up from the turf, like some kind of gargantuan mycological deity, streets developing from paths of people trudging off or from, a city where the streets on a map look like the blood vessels of a giant brain. Getting around in London is so complex, most Londoners simply consider themselves partially lost at all times. If you ask Siri to give you directions in London she just laughs and turns off your phone.”

Even if you never plan on visiting those isles across the big pond yourself, to accompany this Bull Garlington – a short, fat, out-of-shape, somewhat grouchy and not uninsightful and alarmingly funny man – as he struggles through Piccadilly Circus and The Dr. Who Experience and Strawberry Fields and around the various lochs, fens, tarns, etc, of Scotland and The Irish Castle With All The Rampant Codpieces On Active Display … to accompany him as he fights for his basic human dignity and his right to pass gas like some kind of relentless, rampaging, kaiju-level fartmonster – against obstacles both geological (steep inclines!) and human (Mildred!) …

To accompany the Ocoee-raised, Chicago-based journo on this once-in-a-lifetime journey is to be tickled by a narrative humor that’s often as deft and riotous as Thurber’s “The Night the Bed Fell.”

(Note: No beds fell in The Full English. But, go ahead, try to read of Garlington’s drunken, bladder-wracked experience with a tourist-bus’ lightless bathroom without you falling out.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle