I picked up A Wayne in a Manger beside a cash till in Borders. A perfect stocking filler—lots of stories about funny nativity plays.
The back story is that Gervase Phinn was an school’s inspector in the Yorkshire Dales. He wrote James Herriot-style books about the funny things he witnessed and participated in during those years. The Christmas stories, and anything remotely to do with nativity plays, have been extracted and reformatted into this tiny book.
Small pages, huge type and ridiculously large line spacing. It’s surely a product of Penguin’s marketing department to cash in on the small book you can give away at Christmas market.
I fell for it. Twenty chapters. Some just contain a poem. About two or three genuinely made me laugh. (And I’d love to see Chapter 12 enacted by a group of children.) But the rest of the stories were weak and forced.
On the upside, it gives be a chance to use this still from the nativity play at the end of Love Actually—a quite brilliant film, unlike this book. Look carefully for the octopus! And I would be interested in reading (a second hand copy of) one of Phinn’s proper books ... they couldn’t be as bad as this slimmed down collation.
I close with one of the best paragraphs, describing the entry of the Three Kings in one particular nativity.
‘I am the King of the North,’ said one little boy, kneeling before the manger and laying down a brightly wrapped box. ‘I bring you gold.’
‘I am the King of the South,’ said the second, kneeling before the manger and laying down a large coloured jar. ‘I bring you myrrh.’
‘I am the King of the East,’ said the third and smallest child, kneeling before the manger and laying down a silver bowl. ‘And Frank sent this.’