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review 2016-11-13 01:03
Enough of the Fat Owl
Billy Bunter Among The Cannibals - Frank Richards

I remember my Dad telling me once that he didn't particularly like the Billy Bunter books where Bunter went for adventures abroad, that is outside of the immediate vicinity of Greyfriar's school. After reading this book I can now see why – it was absolutely atrocious, or more so really really painful. Okay, the excessive use of the N word in reference to people with skins darker than ours may have been acceptable coming out of Bunter's mouth because it is, well, Bunter, but the reality is that even if it is just Bunter's character to be so rude, crude, and racist, it still doesn't mean that I have to accept it. In fact the character of Billy Bunter has become so annoying that I highly doubt I will read any more of his books.



The story goes that Bunter is given a position as an assistant clerk for one of his father's companies, though the catch is that the role is on an island located in the stretches of the South Pacific. Anyway, he is sent out there, all expenses paid, and his school buddies (for want of a better word), the Famous Five, accompany him, if only so he can settle down somewhat. However, upon arrival at the main island they discover that a rather brutish man has taken over, and after giving him a bit of a thumping, they are then taken to the island of Lololo where they discover that the shop has been deserted because the island has been over-run by cannibals.



Maybe Billy Bunter has started losing its appeal, but I was able to read all of the Secret Seven and Famous Five books without being put off as much as this book put me off (though there were some of Blyton's books that I found almost as painful as I found this book). Not only was I rather disappointed at Bunter's excessive use of the N word (and the fact that the guy is a pretty elitist, and quite racist, individual as is), but also the fact that is he so lazy and so oblivious to the fact that nobody likes him, and why nobody likes him. There was one book where they decided to teach Bunter a lesson, namely because everybody had become sick of his attitude, however the thing with Bunter is that he never learns, and you get to the point where you simply start banging your head against the brick wall because you know that nothing is going to change.


Okay, in some ways people love to laugh at stupidity – that is why the Simpsons is not only so popular but why Homer Simpson eventually overcame Bart as being the show's most popular character. However, there are some redeemable features with Homer (despite the fact that I eventually became so sick of the show, and the character, that I stopped watching it years ago) – Bunter has none whatsoever. In fact the only reason that he manages to solve all these mysteries is through sheer luck. The other thing is that Bunter may be the title character but there are a lot of books where he actually ends up in the background (though that is not the case with this book). In the end the premise has started becoming a little worn out where I'm concerned.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1804524510
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review 2016-06-16 03:43
No Wonder the French Hate the English
Billy Bunter's Beanfeast - Frank Richards

As I was trying to work out the next book that I would read I noticed that one of Dad's old Billy Bunter bookers was still sitting on top of my bookshelf (all of the books that I borrow off of people end up on top of my bookshelf so I don't lose them, or get them mixed up with my books). Anyway, since it has been quiet a long time since I have read a Billy Bunter book I decided to give this one a go, especially since it is set in France. Okay, it's set in a the small town of Boulonge-sur-Mar (Boulonge on the sea), which is a coastal holiday resort, and the boys at Greyfriars discover that one can go on a day trip there without the need of a passport.

Mind you, having a bunch of Enligsh daytrippers descend enmass upon your seaside resort is probably not everybody's idea of a fun time, but then again the British press do seem to be blaming the Russians (which I have to admit is not at all surprising).




Anyway, Billy Bunter receives a letter from his Dad telling him that he has just been given an all expenses daytrip to Boulonge, and he is going to send some money to cover all of his expenses. Not surprisingly dollar (or should say pound) signs appear in Bunter's eyes, however as the story progresses it becomes quite evident Billy Bunter's father didn't get to where he got to simply by giving in to his sons every wishes (especially when it comes to food – in fact I get the impression that Billy Bunter's appetite could quite easily bankrupt Bill Gates). As a side note I noticed that Billy Bunter's father is not only a stock broker, but a director of the company that runs the ferry – which once again indicates that he is probably not all that free and easy with his money (and also makes sure that Billy doesn't go on a holiday to Brighton with them).



The rather amusing thing about this book are the attempts of a number of the characters to speak French – especially the fifth former Crocker, who believes that he is a master of the language, but in reality is incredibly inept. Just to think of it, if I had read this book a year (or even six months) ago then it would have made a lot less sense to me as opposed to now after having completed a seven week French course and started another seven week course (not that I'd consider my French all that good – I can describe myself, my friends and family, and neighbourhood, as well as count to a million, and that is probably about it). Okay, it is really only Crocker, who runs around screaming out Garsong (which is Cocker for boy), and Bunter, who are fouling up the French language (though calling the restaurant Soliel D'or the Solid Door was quite amusing), however I can just image that there are probably quite a lot of people who claim to know French and end up screwing it up royally (like what I will probably end up doing).



Which is actually the really big problem with French is that it is really hard to pronounce. At first I was under the assumption that when you speak French you make the last letter of every word silent, which actually isn't the case because if the next word beings with a vowel then you not only pronounce the last letter, you actually run the letter into the proceeding word. Oh, and that thing about making the last letter of every work silent? Well, like English, you make a singular word a plural by adding an 's', however because it is the last letter of the word you don't pronounce it – no wonder we screw up the language and appear to be cretins to the French speaking population.

Putting the frustrations of the French language aside there was actually a really serious note to this book: the dangers of gambling addiction (something that has come to plague our society here in Australia with the deregulation of gaming machines). Vernon-smith, otherwise known as the Bounder, has come up with this system to break the bank at a casino (and any system designed to break the bank is probably going to end up breaking your bank account, unless of course you are the house – the house always wins). Anyway, he manages to get himself invited onto Bunter's holiday and sneaks off to go to a casino where he puts his system in place, and finally loses all his money. This is when the gambling addiction really sets in – when you lose your money you have to win it back, and you are convinced that your system works – you just need more time, and more money, for it to kick in – which is why the house always wins. The scary thing is that I have seen it in people that I have known in the past – they have their system, and they not only end up bankrupting themselves, but also all their friends and family, because the system would have worked if they had just not run out of money. That is why the house inevitably always wins.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1663453468
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review 2014-08-12 22:20
More farcical adventures at Greyfriar's School
Billy Bunter And The Blue Mauritius - Frank Richards

Well, I have just come back from watching a performance of The Importance of Being Ernest and while I would love to write about the play I don't feel that I am able to because while I have seen it performed, I have not actually read it (and I wonder why I would read it since performance that I saw was so awesome that by reading the play may spoil the enjoyment of the performance - but then again it is a play so I doubt it would take all that long), so unfortunately I won't be writing a commentary on it at this stage. However, I have also just finished reading this book, and I can certainly write a commentary on this book, which is what I am doing now.

Now, I am sure many of us (me included) probably do not know what a Blue Mauritius is, though if you are a philologist, you probably do, and probably also know how much it is worth, but for those of us who do not engage in that worthwhile hobby (like me), this is a Blue Mauritius:




This little piece of paper, according to Wikipedia is worth a tiny sum of four million dollars, which was the price at last recorded sale in 1993 (if you believe everything Wikipedia says that is). So, if you are a stamp collector, and have one of them in your collection, well, I would consider taking out insurance on it because you really do not want to lose it. Anyway, I suspect the reason that it is so valuable is not just because it was the first colonial British stamp ever printed, but because it has the words 'post office' as opposed to 'postage paid' on it, and there were only a few of these stamps ever printed. It is like those stamps you get that are printed upside down and released before the error is discovered.

As for the story: a local land owner, Sir Popper, has come into a bit of strife with the tax department (and we discover that this is a regular occurrence) so he is forced to sell his stamp. However, for some unknown reason, he wonders around the woods carrying the stamp in his hand crying over how he must part with it (oh the troubles of owning a valuable stamp). However, there are some crooks about who, surprisingly, also want to get their hands on the stamp, so they concoct a number of plans to steal it (which pretty much involves running up to Sir Popper while he is holding the stamp, grabbing it, and bolting). The problem is that the occupants of Greyfriar's school are also wondering about and seem to get in the way of these thieves and every attempt they make in attempting to grab the stamp ultimately ends in failure.

While I would like to go on, I have realised that what I will end up doing is telling you what happens in the book, and that would not be fair (not that these books are widely read these days), but personally, I enjoyed it. Billy Bunter, at least as far as I am concerned, can really only be taken in small doses, but it is good mindless fun with a bit of humour as well. In fact the story is somewhat farcical (such as Sir Popper not learning from his mistakes and continuing to wonder through the woods looking at this stamp) and there is also quite a lot of slapstick, which generally involved Billy Bunter being slapped, hit, and kicked, usually by his peers (though I believe he also receives the cane at least once in this book). Mind you, Bunter is quite a character, and while he is incredibly annoying, I now realise that he only ever solves the problems through sheer luck. In fact, Bunter is far more interested in food, getting money for food, and dodging class, and then when he gets lines for dodging class (or turning up with a face that has been painted blue because he happened to fall asleep in one of the lounges during break), he does his best to try and get out of them, usually unsuccessfully. He just happens to be the bumbling fool that through his own sheer stupidity makes everything right.

The other thing that I love about these books is all of the classical allusions that are thrown about, and in places Richards will actually use a Homeric analogy to describe how lazy and greedy Billy Bunter is, all the while reminding us that the one thing that Mr Quech, the Form Master, is passionate about, is Publius Virgilius Maro (otherwise known as Virgil), and his version of lines inevitably involves copying out large chunks of Virgil (though that was never the case when I went to school; normally when we got lines it would be something like 'I must learn not to misbehave and be disruptive in class' which we would always truncate it to 'I must be good' - that is if we would actually do them). Actually, as I come to think about it, I don't think doing lines ever made us better students, even though it was based on the false premise that if we write something enough then it would sink into our subconsciousness forcing us 'to be good' however it never seemed to work that way because even though we were given lines we would still play up, and by playing up we would get lines, and when we got lines we wouldn't do them and continue to play up. Maybe our High School teacher should have just sent the entire class to the principal's office.

Oh, we also get to meet Ms Elizabeth (Bessie) Bunter in this book as well, and as it turns out, she is the female version of Billy.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1021351983
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review 2013-12-05 22:37
BBC Radio 4: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers
The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers

I meant to post this while episode one was still online, oops - it's not, but you should be able to listen to episode 5 if you want to hop in on the last three.


The Nine Tailors (link to episode 1 of 8)

"Posh sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey probes an unsolved jewel theft and a grave mystery. Dorothy L Sayers' mystery with Ian Carmichael. First Broadcast 17 Aug 2009."


Wikipedia: The Nine Tailors


I keep forgetting to snag borrow a copy of this from my mother - it's one of the Wimsey mysteries I've not gotten around to reading. As always, I enjoy BBC radio's version of Sayers. I'm counting this as an audio book but it's actually a dramatization. A very thorough one too. Specifics - loved the patter between Wimsey and Bunter. Bunter was particularly good in this version. (Meanwhile it's always SO hard not to type Whimsey.)


Quotes from the BBC 4 production:

Wimsey: Bunter, I warn you that I'm growing dangerous.


I'll revisit this review when I read the book. I always consider audio books somewhat the equivalent of reading the book, and dramatizations a bit less of one just because there's always a lot of editing to be done to pull that off. My grandmother, a drama teacher, was big on dramatic readings (old school!) and we have countless books of hers with huge amounts of writing in them and lots of crossed out paragraphs. Removing chunks of text is just the normal process of drama, like cutting parts of a play to fit the time you're given. Thing is, even when done well it's just not the same as reading the book. Not that it's a lesser experience - just different. Sometimes the right reader can make the audio version better, sometimes worse. And in the case of Sayers I do love reading her, so reading this when I can snag the time is actually something I look forward to. Plus it's so much easier to quote from a book!

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text 2013-11-30 07:42
Billy Bunter joins in a protest against the school
Billy Bunter's Barring Out - Frank Richards

This is the forth of the Billy Bunter books that I have read (and there are a couple more sitting on top of a plastic case for me to read) and it is actually the third in the series (if the statement on Goodreads is anything to go by, and there is no reason that I should doubt such a statement), not that I have been reading them in any particular order (I tried getting the first one from Ebay but surprisingly enough it never actually arrived, though who am I to accuse the fine seller that I purchased this book from as being a fraud, especially since he had a high Ebay rating – but don't let this statement be an indictment of Ebay, since I have purchased a few things over that particular internet site and I have only had bad luck twice – this time, and the time I purchased a computer game only to discover that it was a copy).

Anyway, Billy Bunter decides that he wants to play a prank on one of the students, namely Bob Cherry, due to an incident that occurred in class earlier that day. However, as is typical with the Fat Owl of the Remove, his plan goes wildly wrong, and he ends us sooting his teacher, Mr Quelch, as opposed to Bob Cherry. As such, the lazy bugger (though I am not suggesting that he swings that way, I am only using a term from my childhood) decides not to own up when Mr Quelch goes storming around Greyfriars, and instead Bob Cherry gets into trouble, which results in him getting expelled.

This is where the fun begins, because just before Bob Cherry's departure, all of his friends, Bunter included, go and say farewell to him in one of the rooms, and then proceed to barricade the door and refuse to leave until such a time as Bob Cherry is allowed to remain. This creates a rather difficult situation because, as anybody knows, this act is an affront to the authority of the school, and if the school were to back down, they would immediately lose face, and no doubt their reputation would suffer, so instead that try all sorts of tricks (including bringing Bob Cherry's father in, who gives Bob Cherry a word of encouragement and tells the school that he is quite proud of his son and supports him in his endeavour) to get them out, all of them failing.

I won't say how it ends, but as we can expect in books like this, everything ends up okay and everything goes back to normal (and nobody gets expelled) but also we find out that it all comes down to the fat-headed Billy Bunter pulling a trick that leave us puzzling as to whether Bunter actually has cunning (which, I must admit, he does, because it takes an awful lot of cunning to be able to sniff out food, and get your hands on things that you are not supposed to, despite the fact that half the time he ends up getting caught - namely because when food goes missing everybody instantly knows who the responsible party is).

Anyway, as I mentioned, the entire drama is about saving face. It is similar with the idea of the United States never negotiating with terrorists because the belief is that if they begin to negotiate with terrorists then it will only encourage terrorists all the more (despite the fact that their refusal to negotiate with terrorists tends to not reduce the amount of terrorism that goes on inside and out of the country, though in many cases a lot of people end up doing such things because they: don't actually appreciate the consequences; they believe that it will be different for them; they have nothing left to lose). As for the school the same thing applies. The whole idea of the school, especially a high-end private school like Greyfriars, is the ability to maintain discipline, and once the teachers give in to such demands, the ability to control, and maintain, discipline is suddenly undermined. However, it is clear that the students do not appreciate this, but more so, realise that Cherry has been tried and found guilty without any attempt to get to the bottom of the case (as is made clear when Cherry's father pays them a visit). This is a case where the ordinary, hard-working, student who respects and appreciates the authority of the school (with the exception of Billy Bunter, but then he is always an exception) realises that in this instance they have gone too far, and they have decided that they need to make a stand to make the school realise that there is always a limit to authority.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/773362936
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