The stationer breathed a sigh of relief today when I went in and brought four colour cartridges for my printer.
"Ha – you thought I was just going to ask for one envelope," I said. He smiled weakly, then quickly and with total stationeresque skill shifted his eyes to a display of pens on the counter. They're recycled. "Made from bottles" said the stationer. I'd just been in the library on Blackstock Road, reading an article in New Scientist about how the distant future for the earth is the extinction of all life, so buying a recycled pen, while a futile gesture, seemed like the right thing to do. Then the stationer's son (Stationer Jnr) came up to me.
"How are you?" he said.
"Poorer after coming into this shop," I said. The stationer looked hurt.
"I don't mean poorer spiritually. Just financially."
The stationer smiled.
The stationer is now officially worried. That's two visits in a row in which I've bought just a solitary envelope. I'd agreed to sell a print of one of my Writers' Workshop cartoons - the one about Franz Kafka's tips for self-promotion – but it has taken me three and a half years to get around to sending it off. There was a massive queue at the Post Office on Seven Sisters Road so I worked out that it would be quicker to get the tube into town, drop off the envelope with the illustration to the buyer, then go for lunch at a nice Italian cafe. I timed it at two hours all in, pretty much the same time as I would have been waiting at the Post Office to buy my stamp.
The person who wanted the print has promised to send me a biography of Franz Kafka, written by her husband. I like the idea of biographies becoming a new kind of currency.
At my local stationers I bought a size 1 Jiffy bag. The Jiffy bag is made from heavy duty brown paper and has a high quality sealing system. I'm trying hard to cut down on stationery items at the moment and managed to stop myself buying some more pens. The stationer looked at me with sad eyes.
"Are you not going to buy an ink cartridge for your printer?"
"No thanks, I'm going easy on the printing at the moment," I said, trying not to look him in the eye.
He sighed. "Oh," then did a sad thing with his eyes – made them big and a bit watery like a lonely puppy – and at that moment I nearly caved in. He then stepped aside so I could see all the great stuff he had behind the counter – pens, CDs, staplers, caligraphy sets, calculators, filing systems. I got very excited but managed to take the receipt and escape from the shop with just my Jiffy bag.
Maybe I have started to beat my addiction.