"Rubbers," she says - read "erasers" for any American followers I may have. "Here, smell them," she continues, her whispering tones evoking the erotic rather than the every day. And with a slightly embarrassing delight, I admit that I know what she means.

I don't keep them wrapped up and in boxes, but I do appreciate rubbers. I have a triangular one a student gave me, I like its shape, the way it sits in my hand and that it effectively erases. I'm fond of most stationery. I get a kick out of choosing my writing journals - the quality of their paper, their size, their covers have to appeal to me - I enjoy finding the right pen. In discussion with my husband, I realised I don't get that excited by protractors or set squares or compasses. Though I remembered receiving all three in a tin case as a preliminary for starting secondary school and never, ever using them.

All this reverie was sparked by a discussion on last Friday's Radio 4's Woman's Hour between author Alison Baverstock and technology journalist Claudine Beaumont. Alison is a devotee of stationery, Claudine writes directly onto a plethora of technological gadgets and claims that anyone under 30 would be mystified by the allure of pen and paper.

I do believe that there is a difference in the creative process between writing long-hand and tapping on a machine. In my writing journal, the words change size, shape, form different patterns on the paper. There are "mis-spellings", "errors" in grammar which lead me into new unlooked for thoughts and which a computer would rudely underline in red or green. All this happens naturally, unconciously, as my imagination dictates. With any technological kit, this is pre-determined by whoever wrote the programme.

I am able to create directly on a computer - I am doing it now - but to be at my most creative, when I surprise, and enchant, myself, I need that free hand.

I note that Alison is an author concerned with novel writing, while Claudine is a journalist. Perhaps, that also explains the difference.
I promised myself I would write this post whatever happened. Saturday saw me taking two of my precious poetry-collages through the rain to the local art gallery to enter them into the Pindar East Coast Open. The framer had said cheerfully, you never know this weather might put off a number of entrants. In other words my chances of being selected could be higher because of the snow and the rain. I skulked into the building and out again without meeting the eyes of any of the other hopefuls with hands full of oblong packages of various sizes.

Then three days passed. Excitement would come in waves, perhaps even now my creations were being reverentially placed onto the yes side of the decision room. Only to be quashed, who did I think I was pretending to be a real artist?

Finally at the end of this afternoon I rang the prescribed number. An efficient sounding young woman looked my name up. "No, I'm sorry your pieces have not been selected this time around."

"Thank you," I said. Though what I really wanted to do was wail: you've got it wrong, they're perfect, they're fragments of my soul. To scream: how can you turn them down, you're philistines, you know nothing about art, call yourself an art gallery?! There are few times when exclamation marks come into my writing, this occasion warrants it, however.

I have no way of knowing whether I nearly didn't get in or whether what I offered was thrown to one side with deriding laughter. I'd prefer to believe the former, and perhaps, if only, there'd been even more inclement weather Saturday...


It's been a busy week, with creativity having to move aside as I gear up for the new year of paid work. I'm fairly sure this is only temporary and I will get my balance back once again.

Meanwhile, BBC 4's Dear Diary has been an absorbing end-of-a-frenetic-day watch. So far its looked at the power of diary writing, how people hide or reveal themselves through writing a diary and why people do it. In the most recent programme, there was the suggestion that there has to be a certain level of self-absorption, naval gazing - narcissism even - which motivates a person to keep going with a diary.

I have heard the suggestion that all writers - and especially poets - are narcissists, never happy unless they're able to bore others rigid with their view of the world thinly disguised as a sonnet or a short story.

There's no doubt that there has to be ego in writing, and I am not immune to wanting adoration for what I produce. However, it feels too easy, too dismissive, to leave it at that. The enjoyment and well-being I gain from the act of writing, even if it is never to be shared, goes beyond stroking the self. And then, what of the reader? I have had some responses to my recent article from people who do not know me, thanking me for putting into words what they have experienced or feel compelled to explore, and for encouraging them to continue.

This is the real pleasure of writing for an audience, the connection, human to human, the shared understanding or the debate, which leads to further journeys, further discoveries. Though, of course, my burgeoning narcissist is most content to be having a little preen on reading these enthusiastic emails too.


And the wounds of my heart are red,
For I have watched them die
Extract 'To the Warmongers' by Siegfried Sassoon.

I am no Siegfried Sassoon,
I have not watched them die,
I have only watched their boxes
I have only watched their flimsy cotton shrouds
lined up in some dusty market place
far away.

I have only watched on my TV screen.

Yet do I have the right
to ask
To say,
to pray,
for pity's sake
no more?