Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Stationery - the written word.

I wonder... will there still be paper and pens when my Grand-daughter reaches my age? Will people even remember how to hand write a letter?

I remember my father's desk: It is one of my clearest childhood memories. I was six years old when we moved into The Everest Hotel in Maghull. It was a brand new pub, built in the middle of a rural village between Preston and Liverpool, dedicated to first ascent of the mountain by Hilary, Hunt and sherpa Tensing. The walls were decorated with climbing gear and photos.  I realise now that it was an early example of what we now call 'themed pubs'. My father's office, like all the rooms in the flat that we inhabited above the public bars, was behind one of eight doors that opened onto one side of a long corridor that stretched the full length of the angular building. There was only one door on the other side, leading to a sunny flat roof at the rear. 

Inside Dad's office stood dark grey, dexion shelving, stacked with cartons of cigarettes, roll towels for dispensers and other sundry items. Ascent of the shelving lead through a loft hatch into another world of high roofed loft space divided into separate rooms, bigger than the bedrooms below. In one section was a large flat boarded area surrounding a large, cold water tank. here my brothers set up their Hornby train set and their Scalextric track.  The first time I ventured up, I discovered a large room, with another boarded area and once I had negotiated the beams, separated with insulation, I discovered a large brown trunk, filled with all my sister's ballet costumes,

While my brother's played, I dressed up, alone and happy in my own imagination, dancing. Sometimes they would turn off the lights and close the loft hatch , climbing down the shelving and leave me, without realising that I was there. Any way ... where was I ? Oh yes, my father's desk. It was a compendium of fascinating objects for a small girl and the brand new polished wooden furniture had sliding drawers, unlike my school desk with lifting lid.

The drawers were filled with headed notepaper, envelopes, pens, and paper clips.  On the top was a large blotter, bottles of back and blue ink, a stapler, the telephone and a small sponge in a case.  dad would dampen the sponge to seal envelopes and glue stamps to letters. I recall that he also dampened the tips of fingers when counting money.  The fountain pens sucked up the ink but splattered and blobbed in my inexperienced hands. The black ink bottle was particularly intriguing, being tall and flat on both sides, with a ridged neck.  The label bore the words 'indelible black ink', a  phrase that at that time was just beyond my comprehension.

One day, while my father was busy in the bar, I found myself at his desk, playing. The black ink bottle tempted me and I nonchalantly opened the bottle and slowly dripped a few droops onto the sponge pad, watching them disappear. Suddenly, I was disturbed by my mother, calling from the kitchen and left, fully intending to return and rinse out the sponge. To my regret - I forgot.

Over the next few days, the family were engaged in choosing wallpaper for bedrooms while the decorator was busy in the lounge. On completion his next task was to paint my father's office and as a consequence, my his paperwork moved temporarily to the dining room table.  One evening, I was sitting there doing sums, ( my eldest brother used to set me maths homework).  My youngest brother was watching TV, distracting and teasing me. In a moment of sheer frustration, I picked up the sponge and launched it towards him.

Suddenly, it was like a scene from One Hundred and One Dalmatians, as huge black spots began to spread out onto the newly painted white walls. The brand new, very chic, 1960's,  brilliant orange, standard lampshade behind me was splatted with two huge spots. We looked at each other in disbelief. We were sunk!

Ten minutes later, having realised that the decorator was still upstairs in the flat, we managed to get him to repaint the walls. We blotted the lampshade but couldn't remove the ink, so we took a risk and turned it round so that the stain was on the side facing the wall. Neither of us spoke of it again. We didn't tell. Goodness knows what Mum and dad thought when they finally saw the ink stains.

In 1974, I went with my parents on a short cruise round the Mediterranean. Sailing into Lisbon, a number of Portuguese families came aboard for the trip across to Tangier, celebrating Mardi Gras.   Among them was a very handsome young man called Rui Ventura., who decided that I was the one for him.  He wrote too me many times after our return home, inviting me to stay with his family in Estoril. My father refused to allow me to go. I still have the letters in a leather case and re-read them occasionally.

Love Letters

You sent me love letters,
Letters from Estoril,
Letters of love, teenage love,
Letters that I keep still.

Your letters are my treasures,
Your letters warmed my heart,
Your letters penned in your own hand,
A lovely, dying art,

You were the boy on holiday,
You were so handsome then,
You promised to love me forever,
I never saw you again.

I still keep your letters,
I keep them deep in a drawer,
I take them out and read them again,
And I am young once more.

Thank you for reading.  Adele