Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Pieces of Paper

Some of my current notebooks
I have many more packed
away for posterity!
In 2007 I attended a writing course. Yesterday I had a chat with the leader of that course and happened to mention that I still refer to her course notes.

“How exciting!” she said. “I’ve been through several computers since then and no longer have those notes.” 

My copy had survived because I had written them in one of my many notebooks - see photograph left. (And yes, I did type them up and email them over to her.)

Have we forgotten about paper as we tap away at our computers? I hope not. There’s no saying how permanent this digital form of writing is. We only have to look at the ancient books on museum shelves to see how comparatively permanent they are proving to be. What’s more, paper feels good, smells wonderful and can be tucked into a pocket, thereby preserving anything from a shopping list to a secret formula to a declaration of love.

Five snippets about pieces of paper:

1. The earliest mention of paper is from about 2,200 BC when the Egyptians discovered that overlapping layers of papyrus created a surface for writing on.

2.  Paper made in the last 50 years is more prone to deterioration than paper from about 500 years ago. One of the reasons for this is that modern paper is less likely to contain cotton or linen. It could also be due to the increased use of recycled fibres and colourings.

3.  A student from the University of Leicester has calculated that you would need 136 billion sheets of paper if you wanted to print out the entire visible content of the Internet. You wouldn’t, though… would you?

4.  The maximum number of times a piece of paper can be folded (regardless of its size) is apparently seven. I remember trying this with a class of 10 year olds and it seemed to be pretty accurate. (I now expect someone to post up a comment saying that they’ve managed more folds. I will require photographic evidence, you realise!)

5.  “Peace in our time” conjures up the picture of Neville Chamberlain in 1938 stepping off a plane after meeting with Hitler and waving a piece of paper at the waiting cameras. Some say that it was a convenient prop, possibly a bill for his laundry, but it was, in fact, a private accord signed by Chamberlain and Hitler expressing the “desire that our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.”  So much for pieces of paper!

To end on a more positive note, I still have recipes written on small pieces of paper, now going brown around the edges, in my Mum's handwriting. Precious treausure, indeed.


  1. there is a purpose to paper and notebooks, etc. Good job. I'm sure that teacher really appreciated those notes. I too have recipes from my mother on file cards. They are fading and splotched from using them. Very precious - you are so right.

  2. I wouldn't be without my notebooks - those snippets you overhear in cafes, or the high-jinks of the lads at the back of the bus - it's so much easier to make a quick note in a book than get something electronic out and fiddle about with a keyboard.

  3. Good post!

    I always say it's good to have a tangible back up.

  4. The letters I received from my daughters are all saved. I cannot say the same about their emails! Good points and a lovely post, Ros!

  5. I can't believe you typed them up rather than scanning them! How kind of you to do that.
    I confess to an enduring love affair with paper - I am writing my current novel in an old notebook at the moment, and I type it up daily, editing as I go.

  6. I have recipes on a set of cards, kept in a black box. One of them was written by my mother. Precious - yes.

  7. You are so correct Rosalind about using paper. I refuse to keep a record of future and past arrangements and appointments on electronic devices. My daily diary is "full to the brim" and next to me I have lots of lists for shopping and things to do.
    I have kept all the letters and postcards sent to me over the years and they give me much pleasure. I have in my purse a couple of love letters and poems that will not ever be thrown away. I hope the ones that I have given are kept as well. Petra.


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