"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.