Daily delights: stationery

November 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

My heart leapt with frivolous girly delight on Saturday. I was enjoying a quiet weekend in Paris. Camera in hand, I headed into Le Marais for coffee in La Caféothèque – one of my favourite coffee shops in the quartier – and a photo walk amongst the quirky streets and colourful scenes.

After a bitter Peruvian café allongé, I headed north towards the old Jewish section of the quartier. Before I reached rue de Rivoli, I stopped dead in my tracks at an elegant independent shop to soak in a window-display that would have delighted any old-school stationery addict! Marbled notebooks, bottles of ink, a blotter and – be still my heart – sealing wax. Just like the type I used as a teenager for the long epistles I swapped with my best friend S.

My love of stationery goes back to my first year at primary school, well actually the week before. In the last week of August Mum would drag me and my siblings round the local stationery shop to stock up with the supplies specified by our respective schools. Half a dozen ruled and quadrille notebooks in various sizes, HB pencils, a sharpener, a ruler, a fountain pen and royal blue ink cartridges. Several years into my schooling a protractor, compass and highlighters were added to the list and by the time I reached secondary school, there were textbooks as well as notebooks. By that point I had also decided to ignore all guidance on ink colour and format, insisting on bottles of black and red ink. There was always an aesthetic aspect to my modest acts of rebellion!

My enjoyment of writing implements and paper took on a whole new dimension when I started to find pen friends. From the tissue-thin pale blue airmail paper for long distance correspondences to the heavy parchment-like paper for the girl who lived down the road, I lapped up traditional writing paper. None of the bubble gum coloured, graphic designed writing sets of the Eighties for me! I embraced the paper mediums of Jane Austen’s heroines and the Bloomsbury Group.

Over the years my delight in a new notebook or bottle of ink has barely diminished! I still feel the promise of possibilities each time I open a crisp Moleskine notebook and a frisson of delight as I untwist the cap on my latest bottle of J. Herbin ink.

Over 30 years after first starting school and falling in love with stationery, I am due to go back to school (again) next week. So, I have been organising my school stationery. Of course, as a lot of research is done online and essays are submitted digitally these days, my laptop will be my key tool but pre-reading, seminars and library research still involve manuscript note taking. With that in mind, I have treated myself to some new Moleskine notebooks (in jolly colours) and a couple of highlighter pens to go with my Waterman fountain pen, my favourite inks (Burgundy red and Imperial green) and a pile of textbooks.

My new subjects and university may be completely different from my first steps in education, but the essentials of starting school are the same: a book bag full of blank notebooks, pens, a bottle of water, an apple and unbridled excitement.

To read more about my return to school, please do pop back at the end of next week. 

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