Sunday, 16 January 2011

Endangered Species

When I was a child, I lived around the corner from a shop called Geo. White, Stationers. It was just across from Cullen's and, in the other direction, Macfisheries and the establishment known in our household as 'the Smoking Man.' I was regularly despatched to the Smoking Man by my father, to get him a packet of those fags that had a rather nice picture of a bearded sailor on them (Capstans?).

Anyway, Geo. White was a shop I spent a lot of time in. In fact, I shocked my family once by saving up my pocket money until I had five shillings and spending the lot on a really nice block of paper I found in there. As a result of the fuss made about this purchase, all the pleasure I might otherwise have felt each time I used a sheet of the paper was blotted out by guilt.

All of this is by way of saying, 'I love stationery'. And it is because I love stationery that I have been worrying about its future in what promises to be a largely paper-free world. 'What will become of paperclips?', I've been wondering (although I was cheered by an article in praise of them in one of the papers recently) and 'Will pencil sharpeners like my trusty brass one -

(Isn't it beautiful? Strange how I'd never noticed before that it was made in Germany) -

survive?' I'm not sure that I was reassured about the survival chances of pencil sharpeners by the news that this chap had set up in business (he says it's not a joke, but I'm not entirely convinced). I was pleased though to read this hymn to the act of pencil sharpening, printed in November in the Weekend Australian:

(And, before anyone says I'm being an alarmist, I should point out that, according to my favourite pen shop, blotting paper is pretty much a thing of the past.)


  1. I love that poem

  2. Under the circumstances of this little tub-thump, 'blotted out by guilt' is an appropriate turn of phrase.

    Somewhere, I have a sharpener like that, only 'tis silver.

    I was devastated last year, in a move, to discover that I no longer had the wooden 12" ruler that I purchased from Ells in Newcastle whilst at Teachers' College in 1968.

  3. Nurse - there was another good one of his in the last ALR.
    Julie - I have a double silver one, but my favourite is the brass. I am very sorry about the ruler, as only someone who loves stationery as much as me can be.

  4. I used to buy my dad 'Capstan plains'. No filter, blue box, bearded man. Could they have been 2 shillings each? And sometimes he rolled his own from tins of tobacco that mum used for budgetting when they were empty - one tin assigned for each monthly bill. I have a memory of an election night, with the radio tuned correctly and dad at the dining table with the full list of electorates and candidates from the daily paper spread out, several pencils sharpened, a rubber (eraser!) and a pile of 'rollies' beside the ashtray. Ready for anything!

  5. My memory is that the box was white and the picture slightly raised, like the writing on really smart invtations - and maybe there was even a gold line or a navy line or both somewhere round the edge of the box. Or am I literally gilding the thing in memory? I'm afraid election nights round at our place are a bit like that one you remember even today - although 'rollies' are no longer allowed or any kind of smokable substance - but the general idea of an election as an exciting kind of sports fixture is retained. And large quantities of wine replace the pleasures of earlier times.

  6. Another stationery fan here! Let me loose in a book shop or a stationer's and I'm a happy chappie (or, lassie). We have been clearing out ma-in-law's place (she's 96 and is fully compus but legally blind so has moved into a low are hostel) and I found a handful of rulers - mostly pre-metric. Ah, I sighed, we can't get rid of THOSE.

    Meanwhile, back at my own ranch I have mugs scattered around the house full of pens of all types, pencils, highlighters, paper scissors and so on. I've discovered that I can justify acquiring more pens on the basis that they provide occupation for all those mugs that keep multiplying.

  7. Some lovely chuckles here.

    My election evenings have been described to a tee. Any election will do ...