The acknowledgement of one’s addictions is traditionally the first step toward recovery from them, and so it is that I must confess to one now. It’s an unusual one, but I trust there are enough fellow sufferers amongst those who regularly read this blog to ensure that I do not feel solely so encumbered; I think I am not alone.
I try very hard to resist succumbing. I do. I hurry past the shops and stalls of temptation with eyes downcast and face turned away. But something akin to magnetism or gravity drags my unwilling gaze round to the window display and then it is very unusual for me to escape unscathed.
As with so many addictions, I believe mine to be genetic. Specifically, I blame my father. If he hadn’t become a civil servant, an administrator, who knows? maybe I could have been left happily to my own devices without being ensnared by traders flouting their wares.
I gave in again this weekend. I tried to help myself but could not. It was right there, right in front of me, and the little portion of my brain that remained me could do nothing but sit back and watch aghast as once again I fuelled my addiction.
And what is it, you ask, that so devastatingly delights me? Since the closure of Toymaster with its model railway section (“Gavin’s Crack Den”, as my friends called it) there is no model shop in Aberdeen, so it can’t be that; I have been very good about avoiding Forbidden Planet recently, so it’s not that either; there are no DVDs currently in the chart (other than season 4 of Supernatural, but it’s just too expensive at the moment) that tempt me, so nor is it that…so what is it?
And the answer, tragically enough, is that I am a stationery fetishist.
I love notebooks, writing paper, propelling pencils, wet-ink pens… all of them sing to me in happy tones that they are just what I need to record for posterity the magnificence of my brilliance. They are a sensual pleasure – the act of writing, even if it’s utter nonsense, with a nice pen on heavy paper is one from which I derive a great deal of guilty bliss.
Bizarrely, the two most expensive books I own have nothing to do with any author but me. The first is the original first-draft printout of ‘Ghost Among Thieves‘, which I had to get printed in a print-shop in Guaymas, Mexico, at a price that – once I realised how many sheets of paper were involved with the undertaking – physically drove the breath from my body. The other is an entirely blank notebook that I got in Venice. It is hardback, with handmade paper and a handmade leather binding. It is a beautiful object but I’m now frightened to use it, firstly because I’m not sure what content I could put into it that would match the cover and secondly because I’m terrified to mar it with spelling errors. It is a cruel trepidation indeed.
I have other notebooks too, from a variety of art stores, art museums (the gift shops therein are very good for stationery with pretensions of grandeur), dedicated stationery shops – even WH Smith on occasion has worthwhile notebooks. Some of them I use quite deliberately. I have a number of hardback notebooks – I have pulled them out and they are sitting in front of me now – that I used for poetry. I have written poetry for years, won prizes for and even published some of the stuff, and though I won’t embarass either you or me by posting any here it is interesting to see the extent to which it completely dominates my notebooks. One of the things that I did (and had forgotten I did, until just now) was to name and date the books, so that I can work out where and when the poems come from. (I write poems on the laptop – it’s far easier to edit and tighten them that way – but I like to hand-write them into books afterwards). So I have before me five books of poems (so there’s probably nearer to 1,000 than 500 in there) that take me from 2002 (with some of the better school-era ones included) all the way to 2007/8, which was when I seemed to run out of things to say, at least in poetic form.
Then there’s a soft leather-covered book that seems to be a form of occasional journal (and has clearly fallen out of favour, since the last entry is dated 25/08/2007), and a very old hardbacked school notebook (I think orignally from 1st Form Geography) from which all the geography has been torn and the remaining pages used for Ideas. The capital letter is justified: this book contains the very very first mention of Paul Ray and the story that would eventually be told in the Fulcrum War trilogy. I have a small notebook – it fits very neatly into, for example, a breast pocket – that looks like the Penguin edition of ‘1984‘ (a book for which I have particular affection, as that’s when I was born) that I use for spur-of-the-moment-ideas and the recording of important pieces of information. Finally, the book I bought this weekend was another soft-leather type, with very old-looking, very battered black leather covers – it looks like a prop from Buffy or Supernatural – that I am going to use for my Screwtape letters. It has exactly the right kind of ambiance (he said, justifying furiously).
So tell me – are there any fellow-sufferers out there?
Because in the meantime, I have some writing to do…