Last weekend I bumped into Honesty Girl, and asked if she too was going to Seedy Saturday.
She looked down her nose at me in a manner reminiscent of the great Edith Evans dismissing the very idea of a handbag (or for a more modern reference, the look on a Mexican’s face when discussing Jeremy Clarkson).
‘Good gracious no. It’s bad enough when the weather’s nice, but today…’ she gestured to the windy rain swirling round us. ‘No, today I’m going to buy up the remaining stock in Sussex Stationers.’
‘It’s such a shame, isn’t it?’
‘I’m gutted. It’s another blow; I was in a state for weeks when Pen to Paper closed. It’s a conspiracy, you know.’
She pulled me into a huddle and hissed, ‘They don’t want us to have the means of communication. Slowly they’re removing all pens, paper and chalk from the town.’
‘Then they’ll have us just where they want us.’
‘But we’ll still have email and texts and the internet, won’t we? Who are “they” anyway?’
‘Ssssh!’ She looked round wildly, and I thought significantly, in the direction of the parking shop.
‘The NCP? But why would they…’
‘Not them. Heavens! Say no more. Walls have ears.’
She straightened up and said in her normal voice, ‘Well, better go. I want twenty tubes of Pritt. Enjoy your… seeds.’ You sad little person, she didn’t quite add.
I never worry too much about the state of my friends’ emotional wellbeing. It’s their little foibles that make them interesting. So off I went in the rain to be seedy. But after a few swaps and some merry banter in the Grange my mind started to wander, becoming preoccupied with thoughts of nice crisp pastel-coloured card, fresh packs of Berol felt-tips and multi-coloured drawing pins.
Stationery unites people. You’ll find that if you confess a deep love of paper-based items, many others will reveal the same passion. My first job was in a stationery shop, applied for as a foot fetish might seek work in Russell & Bromley. I was not only allowed but positively encouraged to rifle through rainbow post-it pads and align packs of envelopes by size. I became something of an expert on posh pens, and once sold a solid gold Mont Blanc to a rich gentleman with no taste. I had to take it out of the safe, which remains the highlight of my working life.
News that WH Smiths have bought up Sussex Stationers brings some cheer, though we don’t yet know if they’re going to Smith it up, close it, or turn it into something un-stationery. Just in case it becomes a boutique, I went to the sale and bought a pile of notepads and a packet of chalk.
‘Look!’ I showed Honesty Girl at the checkout. ‘Now they won’t be able to stop me communicating.’
She gave me that Evans/Clarkson look again. ‘It wouldn’t hurt you, actually, to communicate a bit less,’ she said.
Beth Miller, 9th February 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com