“Let’s Get Breakfast Done”
To help bring 2019, and indeed the second decade of the 21st Century, to as swift a conclusion as possible, the subject of this year’s All Change Please!‘s fractured seasonal literary masterpiece* is ‘Billy Bunter‘, written by Frank Richards (just one of Charles Hamilton‘s 25 pen-names). For the purpose of much-needed satirical humour, All Change Please! intends to re-name Billy Bunter as Boris Bunter.
For those unfamiliar with the stories of Billy Bunter, he is a fictional schoolboy who features in stories set at Greyfriars Boys’ School. They were originally published – as early as 1908 – in various weekly story papers, novels, television shows, stage plays and comic strips. Bunter is famously overweight as he is obsessed with food and is utterly unscrupulous in helping himself to his schoolfellows’ sweets, cakes and hampers. He has every intention of repaying the cash he borrows, but his celebrated postal order, always due to arrive the next day, almost never materialises.
Bunter is in the Remove stream whose 13-14 year-old pupils have been selected to ‘jump’ an academic year in order that later they will have an extra year to prepare for Oxbridge entrance examinations.
As Wikipedia reveals:
‘Bunter’s defining characteristic is his greediness and dramatically overweight appearance. His character is, in many respects, a highly obnoxious anti-hero. As well as his gluttony, he is also obtuse, lazy, racist, inquisitive, deceitful, slothful, self-important and conceited. These defects, however, are not recognised by Bunter. In his own mind, he is an exemplary character: handsome, talented and aristocratic; and he dismisses most of those around him as “beasts”. All these, combined with Bunter’s cheery optimism, his comically transparent untruthfulness and inept attempts to conceal his antics from his schoolmasters and schoolfellows, combine to make a character that succeeds in being highly entertaining but which rarely attracts the reader’s lasting sympathy.
On many levels, Bunter’s character is deeply unattractive. He is the living embodiment of several of the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, avarice, sloth and, most especially, greed and gluttony. Added to these, Bunter is also inquisitive, deceitful and obtuse. However these traits are softened by Bunter’s cheery optimism, his comically transparent untruthfulness and his reliable ineptitude when attempting to conceal his antics.’
Now who could this description possibly remind you of?
The Billy Bunter stories reveal something about life in a public school during the first half of the last century. Perhaps of greatest interest is their use of ‘posh-boy slang’ of the time, with the use of phrases such as….
“Will you let a fellow speak?” yelled Bunter
“Cut off and get it, old chap.”
“You fat, foozling, frowsy fathead —!”
“Can’t find the fat frump anywhere.”
“You fat spoofer!”
“Sorry, old porpoise.”
Meanwhile the references to various items of tuck shop food treats and any examples of inappropriate innuendo made in All Change Please!’s version of Billy Bunter are entirely derived from its rapidly ageing imagination.
Are you sitting uncomfortably? Then we’ll begin…
One crisp late October morning, once upon a long time ago, the Bullying Club (as everyone called them) were assembled in the Bluefriars Boys’ School Remove Study. Grease Smug, Dominic Rabid, Andrew Loathsome, James Stupidly and Savage Livid were busy discussing plans for their traditional end-of-term Christmas Party. This mainly consisted of acquiring and then stuffing themselves with as much festive tuck as they possibly could, including, of course, plenty of well-cooked gammon. Only Boris Bunter was missing from the meeting.
“Has anyone seen the fat round frump?” asked Grease Smug. “He’s looking more and more like a Christmas Pudding every day! Let’s all throw something at him when he finally arrives!” They really were very unpleasant childish bullies, and insulting each other came naturally to them.
Suddenly the door flung open and Boris entered in a state of considerable excitement, wobbling not unlike an enormous pink blancmange being carried in on a plate.
“I say, you fellows! I’ve got some spiffing news! It will really make this year’s Christmas Party the best ever!”
“So spill the baked beans then, you fat spaffer,” said Andrew Loathsome, as loathsomely as he possibly could.
“Well, you know there’s been a lot of talk recently about disbanding the Remove stream and making us all join in with the other classes?”
“How can we possibly be expected to study for Oxbridge if we are going to be dragged down by all the plebs?” said Savage Livid, in a state of utter lividness.
“So I suggested that to settle the matter we should organise a vote on it to elect the School Captain – and they were all daft enough to agree, even though they haven’t got a chance! So when we win and I become School Captain, we really will have something to celebrate over Christmas! Just wait until everyone sees the size of my majority!”
“Who will be daft enough to try to oppose us then?” asked Dominic Rabid, rather rabidly.
“Well, let’s see. The main chaps in favour of the idea of removing the Remove stream are Joe Swansong’s Library Democrats – they want all of us to Remain together in the same classes as we were in the First Form – but don’t worry, there’s not enough of them to make a real difference. Although for librarians they have been making quite a lot of noise recently – apparently their slogan is “We shall not, we shall not be Removed” – but that’s never going to catch on, is it?
Then there’s Jeremy CorBlimey’s Common Room followers who don’t seem to be able to make their minds up whether they want a Remove or a Remain stream, and anyway he spends all his time digging the school vegetable garden, so no real problem there. I guess there will a couple of marginal swing seats in the playground, but let’s face it, we hold all the cakes… We’ll make mincemeat of all of them! Indeed, if I don’t win: “Ego vellem magis mortuos in fossa.”
“Except I doubt if there’s a ditch anywhere big enough to fit you in!” joked Grease Smug, exceedingly smugly.
“What we need to do first is to write our manifesto, making up lots of unbelievably fantastic things we say we’ll do if we win,” continued Bunter. “We can just promise anything we like – afterwards no-one will actually remember what we said we would do. And if they do we can explain it was all aspirational and just a statement as to what we might do if and when the opportunity arose over the next five or ten years and it helped us stay in power for even longer. We could even announce we would Take Back Control of the Tuck shop, even though we never lost it. So any suggestions you fellows?”
“Well, we could offer to provide 100 new low-cost ‘starter’ desks for first formers,” suggested Andrew Loathsome.
“Excellent, we got away without doing that one last time, so we can use it again,” said James Stupidly.
“Wait!” said Bunter. “I can Trump that! Let’s promise to privatise Matron, and then we can get an attractive blonde American nurse instead. Someone who can teach us all about the latest medical technology.“ Suddenly, and in those more innocent days for no apparent reason, Bunter remembered that he needed to urgently visit the Tuck shop to acquire a couple of nice cream pies with enormous red cherries on top, along with two rather scrumptious-looking iced buns.
“And just wait till you hear Dominic Cunning’s plan,” Bunter continued. “I bumped into him coming down the corridor and he came up with the brilliant wheeze of promising the school an extra 350 jam tarts a week from the tuck shop. Of course when we say extra jam tarts, that includes all the ones they already stock. He also suggested we paint it on the side of our battle bikes as a slogan and cycle all round the school pavements – though of course that would be the naughtiest thing I have ever done.
“Those are all very clever ideas,” said James Stupidly, “but how are we going to pay for them? Some interfering teacher is bound to ask.”
“No problem,” said Boris – “I’m expecting a postal order soon from my rich uncle Vladimir Bunter in Russia.”
“And then of course there’s the all important Green vote to consider,” said Dominic Rabid. How about we pledge to get the woodwork of the school pavilion repainted back to its original green colour? And don’t forget that the most important thing is to ensure our secret school garden hedge fund is kept in good shape for the future.”
“Fracking Hell, what Wizard Wheezes!” exclaimed Savage Livid.
“I expect Jeremy CorBlimey will offer everyone free full-fibre broad beans,” suggested James Stupidly, and not at all cleverly.
“Don’t be such an old parsnip! It’s going to be years before people become interested in eating high-fibre diets” exclaimed Grease Smug.
“Hadn’t we better suppress our last end-of-term reports?” asked Loathsome somewhat nervously. “There are some awkward comments about us there we wouldn’t want leaking out into public.”
At that point, Boris shouted ‘Fag’, and a rather vacant, somewhat intoxicated-looking youth immediately appeared.
“Ah, there you are Gover. Go over to the school office, find our last reports and burn them, will you? Cut along, now. And no jokes about not sitting on them, please.”
“Yes, at once Bunter,” said Gover, somewhat glibbly, and he scurried off.
“What a Jammie Dodger** you are Bunter,” said Rabid. “How many more clever lies can you think of to tell everyone?”
“I’ve never tried to lie,” lied Boris. “I just get things wrong sometimes.” He felt his nose grow slightly, but just in time remembered that fortunately his father had taught him how to spell Pinocchio, so he knew he was clever enough never be found out.
Undeterred, Boris went on, “I will give a speech on the main school steps to launch our campaign, and I’ll be sure to include lots of Latin phrases that no-one will understand but will make me sound jolly clever. I’ll have to ask Mr Google, the new Latin master, to help with the translations, although I’m not quite sure how accurate he is. I know! How about: ‘Veni, vidi, cepi’ – ‘I came, I saw, I feasted.’?”
“Or perhaps ‘Piffle, wiffle, waffle?’” Savage Livid sniggered savagely. “Whatever that means? Perhaps it’s ‘I piffled, I wiffled, I waffled’?”
Boris gave Livid a stare as cold as an empty chaired ice-sculpture hiding in a freezer to avoid journalists. “And we’re going to need a jolly good slogan,” he continued, as usual completely ignoring anything he didn’t want to hear.
“What about: ‘Unleash Bluefriars’ Potential’?”
“Unleash Bunter’s trouser belt, more likely!” joked Stupidly, fortunately without clarifying exactly what he meant.
“Let’s Get Breakfast Done?” Smog suggested.
“No thanks,” replied Bunter. “I already got a substantial breakfast done about three hours ago, and anyway it will be lunchtime soon. Going back to the slogan, we want everyone to think we’re going to take back control and clear up the current mess – even if was one we made it ourselves. Everything needs to be clearly labelled, neatly organised and put back exactly in its proper place according to the rules – the way things used to be: ‘Make Bluefriars Straight Again’.“
“OK chaps, remember our aim is ‘panem nostrum comedemus et erit etiam’ – to have as much cake as we can possibly get hold of, and then to eat it all. Mind you then we won’t have our cake any more, so we can’t actually have our cake and eat it too, but who cares about logic?”
And so the electioneering began and Boris and the Bullying Club got up to all sorts of dirty tricks, spreading all sorts of false facts, porkie pies, and tall tales just like they were butter on a toasted crumpet.
Sadly though Boris Bunter was such an amiable buffoon that everyone voted for him without realising what a fat, foozling, frowsy, fraudulent fruitcake of a bounder he was. In the end Bunter achieved a majority that was even larger than he was. What a fantastic Christmas Tory Party the Bullying Club had, and between them they somehow managed to scoff all the festive tuck intended for the whole school, and without a care for all the poor losers who were just left wondering whether Bunter would turn out to be a benevolent or a malevolent school captain.
Bunter had successfully managed to mislead everyone into thinking that the most important thing was to get breakfast done, even though it would take much longer than he was prepared to admit for the kitchen staff to prepare his half-baked, oven-ready offering. And they had also been persuaded to believe that Jeremy CorBlimey would ruin the school by admitting a lot more disadvantaged pupils and raising the school fees to pay for them by amounts that Bunter had grossly exaggerated. Thus the turkeys voted to get Christmas done, and got duly stuffed.
“We now have an overwhelming mandate to democratically deliver the will of the pupils,” pronounced Bunter the day after the election. “In a word, this is the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the Bluefriars’ pupils. I will not let the 47 pupils who voted for us down, but we will of course completely ignore the needs and wants of the 53 that didn’t vote for us,” he wisely didn’t add as he knew Maths was not his best subject.
“We are now united in our aim of making this school the best in the world, and indeed, one day I predict a Prime Minister shall come forth from our midst. But for now I urge everyone to find closure and let the healing begin, or to put it a much better way, to find the kitchen and let the eating begin. Let’s get Breakfast done!”
Immediately after the election Joe Swansong, Dennis Skinny-Latte, David Awkward and Chuka Umma Gumma were off-rolled for their poor results before they did any further damage to the school’s reputation. Jeremy CorBlimey was last seen pausing for reflection while digging a deep hole for himself in the school allotments.
“I say,” said Boris afterwards. “That was a truly jolly jape! Sometime when we are older we must do it all again, except not just in a school, but across the whole country…”
Unfortunately Frank Richards died in 1961, so we shall never know what happened to Billy Bunter when he grew up – if he ever did…
* Other previous fractured seasonal literary-based posts are also available, such as last year’s ‘Br’er Exit and The Tory Party‘ or ’Tonight at Morning Break’, ‘Theresa in Wonderland‘ and of course the classic ‘The Gove of Christmas Present‘.
** For the sake of historical accuracy, and to help prevent the possible spread of false news, it should be noted that back then it would be unlikely that Savage Rabid would have called Bunter a ‘Jammie Dodger’, as the popular biscuit was not named as such until it was first manufactured by Burtons in the early 1960s. The name was derived from Jammie, meaning ‘lucky’, and the surname of Roger the Dodger, the character from ‘The Beano’ who first appeared in 1953. But that doesn’t make Boris any less of a Jammie Dodger….
With best wishes for Christmas and the coming Blue Years from All Change Please!