Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Joy Of Stationery

I firmly believe the world is divided into two types of people: those who get so excited by the sight, smell and feel of new stationery that they could quite happily spend a few hours wandering around Paperchase, stroking silver fountain pens, sniffing ink and trying to convince themselves the forty nine pristine notebooks they already own need just one more to complete the set; and those who are quite puzzled by all of the above and regard a pen and paper as a means to an end: a shopping list, a note to the delivery man, a recorded phone number.
Needless to say, I'm firmly in the former category.
My one abiding memory from my first day at school is of the smell of the multi coloured crayons, nestling in a pot in the centre of the knee high table.  That waxy smell stayed with me all through school. It was the scent of excitement, of creativity, of pure happiness, and that never changed.  I don't know whether those crayons influenced my career choice, or whether I was drawn to them because I was already feeling the stirrings of an artistic future, but opening a box of them for the grandchildren instantly transports me back to that first day at school and the excitement that lay ahead.
When I was sixteen I went to France for two months, between 'O' Levels and 'A' Levels, supposedly to improve my French. I stayed in a Children's Home, up in the mountains, away from all other civilisation: Nobody spoke English, there were no houses and only one shop within a 10km radius. The shop, bizarrely, sold stationery and nothing else. I can remember, quite clearly, setting off alone for the shop, on a rare free afternoon, my mind desperately seeking a reprieve from the stomach churning home sickness that had enveloped me since I'd arrived.
The shop was tiny and dark and packed with notebooks, envelopes, pens and pencils.  I was eyed suspiciously from behind a huge stack of cream paper but I didn't care, I was in heaven and I had few centimes to spend.
I still have the notebooks that I used as diaries. Their tiny squared pages are crammed with writing so small that I struggle to read the words that tell me how sad I was to leave behind the children from the home, and how I cried all the way down the mountain on the first leg of my journey back to England.
Visiting my parents this weekend, my dad beckons me over to his desk. 'You know where this came from?' he asks, as he does each time I'm here. He holds up a 'silver' propelling pencil. It's a rhetorical question. We both laugh. Of course I know, it came from the only shop on a French Mountain nearly fifty years ago.
It's been lost more times than I can remember, turning up down the sides of sofas, under the piano, at the back of a drawer. Its sides have worn smooth with use, it produces writing rather more shaky than when it first landed on dad's desk and it's worth far more to both of us than the few centimes it originally cost.
'That' Propelling Pencil
Blue crayon skids across the newsprint
A shaky sea slides in, sky looks down shyly
Pencil, gripped in clumsy fist,
Makes the first markings of a giant
M for Mummy, for Me
Letters firm and neat, joined up, 'Real Writing'
Pencil swapped for coveted ink pen
Stories spring to life
Across a page with margins and feint lines
Happily ever after?
The end?
The humble pencil is no longer
the sharpest tool in the stationary cupboard
Tablets rule
Thanks for reading,    Jill 


Anonymous said...

I can totally relate to this. I cannot walk past the stationery isle in Tesco's without stopping to admire the notebooks. I have a cupboard full of them - all with good intentions attached of what they will one day be filled with. I love a trip out to a good stationery shop and much prefer this to shoe shopping. So good to know I'm not on my own with this obsession. Love the poem Jill.

Adele said...

Jill - the artist was there from the start. Thank goodness it was nurtured. Smashing read.

truthnotlies said...

Thanks Adele xx