Ink Spots and Pencil Tops: My Thing for Stationery

I’ve hidden this month’s credit card statement from my husband.

 This is something I have to do from time to time or run the risk of his leaving me. Or worse, leaving me to pay the thing myself.

 I know that I won’t be the only person who disguises painful truths from their spouse.

 I have girlfriends who’ve quietly disposed of the evidence of a day’s reckless outlet shopping or who’ve understated the cost of a fabulous pair of animal print sling backs in LK Bennett. Nobody wants to cause needless anxiety about the family coffers, right?

 There are people out there with joint credit cards who have to shred the bill in order to keep secrets about their gambling, drinking and online pornography habits to themselves.

 I sympathise with all of the above. I am with them. I am one of them.

 Only my dirty little secret is stationery.

 My credit card has come through with two stationery based transactions. One from Ryman’s (£68.48) and one from Smythson (£UNPRINTABLE).

 I appear to have spent the equivalent of a month’s community charge on a few paper products.

To be fair, the purchases in Ryman’s were anxiety related. I had a meeting and buying coloured plastic wallets seemed to calm my nerves.

 Also, at least £23 of that total was spent on Post-It notes which I will share with my younger son. I’m afraid he has inherited whichever genetic trait determines you will swoon at the mere sight of a Multi Colours Cube.

 Two walls of his bedroom are decorated with sticky notes, upon which he has scribbled Latin vocab, maths equations and French and German verb conjugations.

 I don’t moan. The kid got straight A*s so they clearly worked for him.

 Also, I know that the branded Post It notes don’t leave unsightly marks so I don’t even have to appear anxious when I enter that Den of Knowledge or, as it has also become known, ‘the Cave of the Missing Crockery.’

 My own stationery addiction began in my childhood.

 For four years I was a pupil at an exclusive girls’ boarding school. I only mention this because exclusive girls come with exclusive pencil cases.

 Some of my peers came from exotic places: Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia. Places where stationery was on a different level. They had scented erasers, novelty erasers, cartoon pencil toppers, you name it. Gel pens. Pink ink. Nothing in their pencil cases was merely functional.

 I had a wooden pencil box. It was split into two parts and the top part swung out. It was the sort of thing a child of the 1950s might have taken to school.

 My parents had bought it for me along with a wooden tennis racquet press to complete the look. The look of a child evacuated from the past to the 1980s.

 I had a Parker fountain pen which created mess on multiple surfaces, an HB pencil, some coloured pencils, a ruler which fit precisely the length of the the pencil box, and a rubber. Oh and a compass. I don’t remember using the compass except to dig out mud from my lacrosse boots.

 I felt the utilitarian nature of my collection acutely.

 There was nothing for it but to make a trip to London where I could shop in Paperchase in Covent Garden!

 Young people may not consider Paperchase a destination store now, but back then, there was almost nowhere else I’d rather go to in the capital.

 I blew my pocket money on sheets of pastel coloured paper and envelopes. I bought pencil sharpeners and mini notebooks like they were going out of fashion and, while other kids were sniffing glue, I was inhaling the chemical scents of fruit shaped erasers.

 I knew, as I handed over my pound notes (yes, they were still notes) in exchange for notebooks with magnetic catches, rubbers that looked like lipsticks and pencils that looked like lollipops, that I was hooked.

 Ask my dad about my stationery thing. He was my escort on numerous trips to London to add to my stash.

 Neither of us will forget the day he knocked over a six feet high display of banana shaped pens in Hamleys. Wow, can plastic bananas travel! (Tricky to write with though. The barrel is too fat.)

 So, now you know. It’s not alcohol. It’s not porn. It’s not poker.

 It’s pens.

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  1. Bureau Direct is another source for really lovely pens, pencils, paper etc etc. I’ve recently discovered it online and am smitten. Mike

  2. Recently, bought a packet of 100 sheets of postcard-sized photo paper at a knockdown price.

    The trick is to find nice picture from the family archive to print on the front and write brief, but sincere, message on the reverse then post. Has a novelty value when unexpectedly received by any of the iPhone generation in my family.

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