Monday, 8 July 2013

Aunt Gertrude’s Toilet Roll Holder

Having an Australian Aunt staying with us has proved quite a challenge in the entertainment stakes. We’ve tried as best we can to think of English things to do and experience – things which she would not have back home.

We took her to a village tea-shop and sampled scones with clotted cream and jam, we visited garden centers and flower shows (I hate them, but needs must), and we’ve gone for walks in the woods and enjoyed picnics by the river.

“This is not like the bush” she said in her distinctive loud accent which can be heard for miles around, “back home our picnics consist of a bonfire by the billabong with a good chunk of meat roasting; not triangular cucumber sandwiches and tea. I should have brought the amber nectar!” Other picnickers looked in our direction and smiled coyly. 

Whilst I agree with her last sentiment, I hasten to explain that we are trying to re-create English type things to do … not an Australian barbie in the outback.

A friend of ours is a member of an operatic society and they put on their version of The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan at the local village hall. So we decide to go and support her, and also as a night out for Aunt Gertrude.

When we arrived at the venue Auntie said “It isn’t the Sydney Opera House, is it cobber?”

“No it isn’t Auntie,” I replied through gritted teeth, “it is a small village hall with a maximum capacity of 100 people; and a production by a small amateur troupe!”

Surprisingly, she enjoyed the amateur production.

The next day we took her to a car boot sale. This is a British tradition whereby people fill the boot of their cars with unwanted knickknacks and go to an open field where they sell their goods to other people. A bit like a yard sale or a garage sale but in cars.

I stayed in my car listening to the radio whilst they went out bargain hunting. After an hour they returned and Auntie was excited having bought a genuine “Shakespeare toilet roll holder”. It was made of brass, looked old and cost her £5.

“Look at this dunny roll paper holder …” she said with glee, “belonged to the great bard himself too, sport!”

I explained as politely as possible that the modern commercial toilet paper with perforations originated in the 19th century, with a patent for roll-based dispensers being made in 1883. So it’s unlikely it belonged to Shakespeare.

“But it has his initials on it, cobber!” she insisted.

The letters WS were rather scratched and damaged and looked more like WC rather that the poet’s initials. I said nothing so as not to deflate her bubble. She said she’ll put it proudly in her toilet back home.

That evening, to celebrate, she suggested we go out to somewhere expensive. Never mind the cost; she will pay. So we went to the local garage and filled the car tank with fuel.

I then took the family to a Greek restaurant; which we all enjoyed.


  1. I have often wondered what the English really do for entertainment.
    The 'car boot sale' is also called a 'flea market' here in the States (name originating in France). I like the sound of 'car boot sale' much better!

    God's grace to your days...

    1. Hi Hand-Maid,

      Of course some English do have garden tea parties with cucumber sandwiches, or go to the theatre, opera or ballet. Others like to watch football or go to the pub. Car boot sales have become fashionable in the last few years.

      Personally, I like to stay at home and read a book - away from Aunt Gertrude !!!

      God bless.

  2. Isn't it special how our two great nations are united by our common passings? I remember my English grandmother visiting us in Queensland and being utterly fascinated by all the outdoor dunnies. We'd go on outback dunny tours and play Spot the Dunny. When she died, I inherited a china dunny ornament that she took home as a souvenir:-D

    Come to think of it, my grandmother was a lot like Auntie Gertrude. She had a wicked sense of humour but, instead of the grating(!) Aussie accent, she spoke the Queen's English.

    God bless, Victor:-)

  3. Yes ... but I bet you one thing ... your grandmother bless her was much more refined than Aunt Gertrude.

    She came towards the car brandishing the toilet roll holder as a trophy shouting "Look what I bought cobber! A genuine (pronounced gen ... you ... eien) dunny paper holder used by Shakespeare when he had a crap!" Everyone looked at us with a smile.

    God bless, Vicky.

  4. Hospitality brings many surprises. Not always pleasant ones.

    God bless,

    Jose D. Pinell.



God bless you.