A bit of a Bottler


A few people have written to me lately to ask why I call my husband, Ken, “The Professor”. A ‘professor’ is a professional Punch and Judy artist and the term dates back to Victorian times. You can read a little about the background on Wikipedia. Checking on it before I posted the link, I realised that makes me a bit of a ‘Bottler’. The Bottler was the Professor’s sidekick who hung around outside the booth, engaging with the audience. I’m a pretty flakey sort of Bottler and if the Professor could sack me, he probably would. As much as I love Mr Punch, I don’t collect money on his behalf and generally prefer to sit in a nearby cafe or library writing, rather than spend all day hanging around the booth.

This morning the Professor was up at dawn. He’d arranged to do some promotional performances at the local arts market and had to get down to the market to set up bright and early. I dutifully tagged along and minded the booth while he raced off to do a radio interview for the local radio station. Later in the morning, the local Arts Council ran puppet making workshops between short Mr Punch excerpts and tomorrow the Professor will do a full show at the nearby Mud Brick Pavilion. I handed out a few fliers on the Professor’s behalf but mostly enjoyed the aspect from the verandah of Lucy’s Home Made Rice Noodle House that overlooked the market.

I wish I was a better ‘Bottler’. I’d love to be able to play the piano accordion and be a more integral part of the show but in the end, I’m more at home in the audience than on stage. Perhaps it’s why I write. As much as I like to show off now and then, I’d rather write about the show than actually be part of it.

It’s after ten p.m. now and the Mallacoota Foreshore Holiday Park is full of late night laughter and the scent of smokey campfires. Our charming neighbours, a group of young Persian-Australians who are up from Melbourne, have just brought over several delicious shaslicks for us to sample. The Professor is asleep and has missed out. Lucky me.

On the opposite side of our Gloria/Punchmobile, the Bombala Cricket team sound sleepily worn out from a long day on the pitch (they were very noisy last night). Earlier in the evening they told the Professor ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, it’s how sunburnt you get.’

And maybe they’re right. Maybe just being part of the game is what really counts.So perhaps I’m allowed to claim being a bit of a Bottler simply because I hang around and get a little sunburnt.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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