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.