Beki Grinter

a confession about stationery products

In European Union, France on October 5, 2009 at 12:13 pm

OK, this is probably not going to be a surprise to you, but I have to confess to a huge enthusiasm for stationery. Actually it’s a set of biases for stationery. This has only been rekindled in France which is a country of all new stationery products for me to explore.

So, let me begin by discussing my ongoing commitment to A4. I use the black and red A4 notebook series. My favourite in this series is the hardback narrowline A4 book. Narrowline seems to only exist in the UK (I can’t find it in France, where there’s an abundance of graph paper and squared paper). Narrowline is ruled, but unlike regular ruled, it’s narrower so there are more lines per page. In my world this is perfect.

The hardback book is also perfect because I can carry things on it. Frequently I go to meetings and I like to bring a cup of coffee with me. And along with my notebook, there’s pens, my iphone and so on, soon it becomes easier to carry everything on the notebook (using it like a tray). I also like the fact that in the land of letterhead extra pieces of paper I accumulate and add into the notebook stick out, which means I can easily find them again if I need to refer to them in a different meeting.

But most of all I just find the shape of A4 more asthetically appealing than letterhead. Letterhead is short and dumpy, A4 is longer and sleeker. It’s an easy choice. Although it does mean that I have to incur international shipping costs for my stationery needs. But, it’s a small sacrifice for good stationery.

So, now in France, I have been experimenting with French products. First let me say hooray for French Staplers. Actually, after last week let me say it’s a mixed bag. But, beginning with the thing I like it’s the form factor. It’s just a very satisfying to be able to hold the stapler in this way. And you know it’s just good to have one’s expectations about staplers mixed up everynow and again. I am very used to the traditional desk style of stapler, and don’t get me wrong, I love my red stapler, but it’s fun to use French staplers.

But, I said that I had a mixed experience. Last week I experienced stapler fail. It began when my favourite one was out of staples. French staple sizes appear to be different than US ones just FYI, and joy joy joy (since I have purchased a French stapler to bring back to the US… my imports of stationery are only going to increase now). Anyway they have a smaller size here, one that staples with pointlessly small staples. It’s this size, mine is even called bebe (French for baby) that is utterly useless. It doesn’t staple and it jams simultaneously. Bloody marvelous.

So, notebooks and staplers aside.

Cheap waterman fountain pens. The French are huge into fountain pens. I can’t be sure but I think that they might be required in school. LAMY seems to make a training fountain pen, one for younger users. And other information seems to suggest to me that learning to write with a fountain pen is important enough that it changes the fountain pen industry a bit. Fountain pens, in my experience, in the United States seem to be a “high end” pen business. You can buy them if you want them, but they are not abundant, and companies like Bic don’t retail fountain pens in the US, whereas they do in France. Parker is one brand that does do cheaper fountain pens in the US but it’s not like Target would carry them (they would carry the ballpoints). By contrast Cora does sell, both the Parker and the Bic brands. But even better it carries Waterman.

Waterman only sell very expensive fountain pens in the US. The kind that make you laugh, wonder, consider remortgaging your house… but here in France Waterman make discount pens of which I now own two (this one and that one). I bought them because I wanted to try out Waterman pens without the cost, be able to say that I owned Waterman pens, and because I wanted to embrace and participate in the fountain pen culture. Especially here where you can also buy cartridges cheaply and in a variety of colours, including my favourite, Havana which is brown (like the Cuban cigars) … guessing they don’t call it that in the United States.

Finally let me close by saying that Metz is Stabilo country, something I’ve said before, but I’m really a fan of all things Staedtler related. I’ll be in Trier soon, and I am hoping that Trier being in Germany and all will offer me enough downtime so that I can go load up on Staedtler products. Of course it’s a new country, which means all new stationery options. What things I do not yet know about (like the fact that there are certain pens you can only buy in certain countries, who knew that Steadtler biros came in purple, well they do in Kuwait, just not in the UK, and you can’t even get those biros in the US.) Germany, new stationery opportunities, please send me recommendations.


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