- And so, I must add, while I was rummaging through my blogs to post it here, I happened upon an untitled piece from Dec 2010 which happened to be about Schulz and which I had not lost, just completely forgotten having written, and so link to here.)
It was then that I arrived in a city where the only shops were stationers. These were all narrow-entranced little spaces, invariably stone-arched, with a complex iconography of disproportionately large grotesque heads and pine cones.
Their signs were painted onto curved enamelled metal in a language thick with diacritics but stingy with vowels. The windows often had blinds half rolled down or were hung with thick layers of old orange plastic in an attempt to protect the products laid out on display.
Staplers and geometry sets were popular, with various types of exercise book, usually soberly numbered according to a gradated scale for lineation and weight of paper, but now and then with a gaudy spread of children's cartoon characters - though not from the usual stables of recent movies or famous studios. These were unknown figures that nonetheless sparked some vague recognition.
Pencil sharpeners featured strongly - metal, wall-attached, electric, or more adventurously shaped plastic examples: disguised as golf balls, cigarette lighters, cars (usually vintage); or presented as the mouths or anuses of what were presumably figures from politics, showbusiness, sport (all of these were also unfamiliar, but possessed of that same aura of recognisability: you knew the type).
Bottles of ink of various grades and colours were stacked in pyramids or stood proudly on sheets of paper (often printed on the premises), extolling their virtues - such density, such lustre; so quick to dry, so permanent! Various anthropomorphised cephalopods, themselves executed in swift strokes, or set in impressionistic, billowing clouds, queued to endorse their favourite brands with that interest cows seem to take in cheese and butter, according to the ad-men.
Giant nibs rotated slowly; glowing cases of fountain pens, their inner dynamics revealed by cross section like the anatomies of fossil, somehow chitinous fish, commanded the eye.
Inside, you knew, would be the tiered rows of pencils, graded by the darkness of their graphite, and smelling of the woodwork class; the full range of ballpoint pens, ranked by colour and thickness of stroke - though not produced by the company elsewhere famed for their invention.
Rainbows of felt-tips, watercolour pillules, brushes in their hoggish and equine herds, oil paint tubes; paper of all thicknesses and sizes from the kite tail flourishes of origami squares to the deckle-edged sails of what felt like unevenly bleached rhinocerous hide; rulers and slide rules, wooden, transparent and opaque as femurs; sporadically, as if reluctantly, calculators and their batteries; compasses like wingless insects.