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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management - Isabella Beeton For the Celebrity Death Match Review Tournament, Mary Poppins (32) versus Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (16)

[Breakfast at the Banks's. MR BANKS eats his toast with an irritated expression]

MR BANKS: Winifred?

MRS BANKS: Yes dear?

MR BANKS: Don't you sometimes think that Mary Poppins is a little too, how shall I put it, magical?

MRS BANKS: Yes dear.

MR BANKS: Then don't you think we should do something about it?

MRS BANKS: Yes dear.

MR BANKS: Well, what are we going to do then?

MRS BANKS: Don't worry, dear, I've engaged a new nanny to help her. She's not magical at all. I'm sure you'll like her very much.

MR BANKS [deflated]: Oh. Good.

[JANE and MICHAEL rush in, followed by MARY POPPINS and MRS BEETON]

MRS BANKS: And here she is. Children, you have a big day ahead of you. Michael, have you taken your cod-liver oil?

MICHAEL [truculent scowl]: No. I don't like it.

MARY POPPINS: Now, Michael, remember what I always say. A spoonful of sugar...

[She has taken out a spoonful of white sugar. Michael eyes it disgustedly]

MRS BEETON: Ah, Mary, I think Michael might prefer some unrefined cane sugar, with just the smallest hint of vanilla. We tried it last night and he said it was a vast improvement. Here we are...

[She takes out a second spoonful. Michael swallows it avidly, followed by the cod-liver oil. MARY looks surprised]

MRS BEETON: But we must hurry, mustn't we? There was that tea-party we were going to attend...

[The scene rapidly flips to a tea party on UNCLE ALBERT's ceiling. MARY pours out the tea. JANE takes a sip and is visibly unimpressed]

BERT: What's wrong, Jane?

JANE: Where do I start? This is Earl Grey, and not my favourite brand either. The tea-pot hasn't been warmed. And the milk is off.

[UNCLE ALBERT, BERT and MARY look helpless. MRS BEETON reaches into her handbag]

MRS BEETON: As it happens, I do have a little Darjeeling here and a bottle of fresh milk. Please let me help.

[She tips out the offending tea, expertly makes a fresh pot and pours out new cups for everyone. JANE gazes at her with shining eyes, while MARY tries hard to seem unconcerned. The children drink their tea contentedly]

MARY POPPINS: I'm terribly sorry, we must go. You're visiting your father's bank.

CHILDREN: Awwww, already?

[The scene flips again to the street in front of Saint Paul's Cathedral. The BIRD WOMAN is selling bags of crumbs]

BIRD WOMAN: Feed the birds! Tuppence a bag!

MICHAEL: Can I buy one?

[MRS BEETON bends down, picks up a stray crumb and examines it carefully]

MRS BEETON: Well, this is simply monstrous! Cheap, stale, white bread, I'm sure it's giving those poor sparrows stomache-aches. And tuppence a bag must be at least a 1000% markup.

MICHAEL: But I want to feed the birds!

MRS BEETON: Fortunately, I came prepared. [She reaches into her bag again] The loaf I baked this morning, for a total cost of one ha'penny, was enough to make a bag for you [she gives one to MICHAEL], Jane, [one for JANE], your father [one for MR BANKS] and even one for this kind gentleman here [she hands one to THE OLDER MR DAWES, who has just joined them].

[Everyone feeds the birds, who can't get enough of the delicious bread]

THE OLDER MR DAWES [to MICHAEL]: So what brings you here, young fellow?

MICHAEL: I'd like to invest my tuppence in your bank, sir.

THE OLDER MR DAWES: Would you indeed!

MICHAEL: Yes, I would! Then I'll be part of... railways through Africa! Dams across the Nile!

JANE [whispers to MICHAEL]: The ships! Tell him about the ships!

MICHAEL: Fleets of ocean greyhounds! Plantations of ripening tea!

JANE: Darjeeling, of course.

MICHAEL: All for tuppence, prudently, carefully, invested in the...

THE OLDER MR DAWES: You seem to have a good head on your shoulders, young fellow. It must come from your father.

MICHAEL: No, from Mrs... [JANE kicks him], I mean, yes sir. Father's taught us all about finance. It's very interesting.

THE OLDER MR DAWES: Has he now? That reminds me, Banks, there's a place coming up on the Board. Perhaps we should talk about it.

MR BANKS: I'd be honoured, sir.

THE OLDER MR DAWES: Well, don't just stand there! Do come in [he ushers them into the bank], Banks, your two charming children, this delightful lady here [he gives a courtly bow to MRS BEETON], and, ah, wasn't there another member of the party?

[He looks around, surprised, but MARY POPPINS has unaccountably disappeared]