Once more, I apologise in advance for ‘blogging’. The Rich Tea Biscuit Party is not intended to be a blog in the ‘conventional sense’. In other words I don’t want to routinely journalise the expeditions of my fuck ugly children like others are prone to do, but today I can’t be arsed writing something that makes me look stuff up. I was going to write an article called ’17 Reasons Lady Gaga’s New Album is the Final Nail in the Coffin of Popular Music’, but all I would’ve needed to do was write out the track-listing and that seemed lazy.
Today I carried out one of the most difficult and frustrating tasks I’ve ever encountered. All I wanted to do was purchase a notebook. I don’t mean a laptop, I mean a notebook. Procuring that kind of notebook would’ve been understandably complicated because of the multitude of things to contend with, like deciding upon processing power, weighing up whether or not I needed a good graphics card, and convincing the spotty-little git at JB Hi-Fi that “Yes, I’m totally sure I do not want a Mac because I’ve actually already shredded and buried an enormous amount of money this morning, thanks kindly”.
I wanted a series of thinly divided slices of wood pulp, preferably lined and bound into a book format upon which to record a series of notes. It doesn’t seem like a great deal to ask. I’m not attempting to locate the Ark of the Covenant, I just want a fucking pad to write some fucking notes on. Surely a simple task, right? An easy, cheap, quick task. But, oh no. The pendulum of difficulty was swinging slightly to the left this morning and my tiny, inconsequential quest turned into the Amazing fucking Race.
The entire predicament could’ve been easily circumnavigated had I simply walked into the Newsagent and purchased a run-of-the-mill, A6, lined spiral-bound notebook but my previous experience with such stationery has been a sour affair. Due to my intense, action-packed lifestyle and tendency to utilise my books to dispose of any animals I find that have more than four legs, spiral-bound notebooks in my possession always fall apart. And besides, I wanted something nice. I decided to spoil myself and I chose to do so by selecting a nice pad, because at this junction in my life I seem to suck at buying good gifts even for myself. So I went to Smiggle.
Smiggle, for those of you who don’t know, is one of those unexplainable fashion statements imposed upon eight year olds to stop them getting beaten up by other eight year olds. It’s a stationery shop aimed at small children and Asian girls. Children apparently need a lot of stationery, because they’ve got so much business shit going on. In this crazy ol’ modern age of ours, they need USB sticks and staplers and electronic erasers, all with pictures of monsters and butterflies on them to help maintain their vast stock portfolios. Everything is brightly coloured, bubbly, and generally has some sort of aesthetically pleasing artwork on it. It’s like the estranged love child of an office and a bouncy castle.
I waded my way into Smiggle, dragging my feet through the pond of pre-pubescent youths in the same reluctant way one would clamber through a knee high ball-pool that smelt like some child had pissed in it. Shielding my eyes from the blinding neon of the stock upon the cramped shelves, I attempted to locate a notepad. This was easier said than done, because Smiggle chooses not to arrange their shop into sensible sections like ‘Books’, ‘Pens’ and ‘Electronic Erasers with Pictures of Penguins on Them’. The store is arranged by colour. You have to crawl through children amidst a rainbow of paper-goods and writing implements, and then once you’ve found the ‘Sort of aqua with a kind yellow tinge and white speed stripes’ section, search through the mess of single-buttoned calculators and redundantly short rulers to find the item you’re looking for.
Before I could properly locate the A6 Size Section of the Notepad Section of the Silver Section of the Other Colours Not Normally Associated with a Conventional Rainbow Section, a pre-pubescent youth emerged from the rippling mass and intruded upon the periphery of my vision. This one was wearing a lanyard, so I guessed she was in charge.
“Can I help you find something,” she sweetly inquired.
“I’m looking for a notepad. A6, preferably.”
“Whom are you buying for?”
She hadn’t actually said ‘Whom’, but the squiggly line was giving me the shits. Her question did annoy me though. Why had she instantly assumed that I must be buying for somebody else? Twenty-five year old men are allowed to like brightly coloured post-it notes and USB sticks shaped like turtles too. I mean, we’re the ones who actually have a need for pastel pink to-do lists. What does a kid have to do? Eat, sleep, shit, feed the Pokemon. That’s it.
“It’s for me.”
“Oh okay. What are you going to use it for?”
“Keeping recipes in.”
This was the truth. In an effort to gradually scale the ladder of maturity and sneak into the ‘Adult’ club to be with my friends, I’ve decided that my McMuffin and Twister Combo diet would probably have to come to an end. I need to start eating well. And in order to do so, I need to know which ingredients to get from the shop, so a little carry-round notebook seems like a solution. It seemed apparent by the girl’s reaction that recipe-keeping was not a common request from her customers but she carried on.
“How about that one?”
It was a staggeringly dynamic sales pitch, and I followed her pointed finger to see a neat little satin lined pocket book. As far as design went, it was perfect. No spiral binding, it opened sideways and the cover texture looked kind of cool. But it was plain silver.
“Do you have that kind of book, but with that monster on it?”
I pointed to an adjacent piece that had a picture of a monster on it. I’d seen the cartoon seconds earlier and I wanted it. It wasn’t in anyway an intimidating character, but I knew it was a monster because it had horns and lots of eyes. In an instant, I’d formed a spiritual intimacy with this little creature and I knew I would not be leaving Smiggle with any of their products unless they were branded with my new best friend ever.
“No,” the girl replied promptly.
I left shortly after.
The next stop was a store called Kikki-K. It also specialises in stationery, but this a more adult orientated environment. I don’t mean they sell fluffy pink handcuffs, and phallic objects, or unlabelled VHS tapes with ‘Skoolgurl (Asien)’ scrawled on them in silver marker. Everything was pastel coloured, and all the furniture from the shop looked like it had been bought from Ikea. This is perhaps because Kikki-K is an ‘Award winning retailer offering unique gifts, gorgeous stationery and organising tools in Scandinavian designs’, so it probably was from Ikea. I imagine that offices in Sveeden must look like science-fiction sets from the seventies. Except everyone’s wearing hiking boots and shorts.
Kikki-K is also fucking expensive. I’m not entirely sure how the ol’ Euro is doing over in Sweden, but there was a notepad that cost $50. What the fuck do you have to do to a notepad to generate that kind of price tag? What magical properties does it provide the buyer with? What sexual favour does it come free with? Yeah, it was leather bound, but it was shit rough-finish leather that looked like Ray Liotta’s face, rather than a notepad.
A large lady approached me and asked if I needed help. Why. Fuck, I’m not buying a car, okay. It’s not a house. It’s not a large, intricate investment I’m making here. It’s a fucking notebook. Why do people think I’m not capable of selecting my own stationery? I don’t need a second opinion when choosing what pencil sharpener I’m thinking about buying. I’m pretty good with decision making up to the $100 mark, and even then, I’d not suffer the opinion of a middle-aged mega-bint wearing an apron in a fucking stationery store. What are you going to spill on yourself? It’s not like the walls are decked with Shakespearean inkwells.
I politely declined the lady’s offer of assistance and browsed the shelves, noting the contrast in layout to Smiggle. Kikki-K was more spacious and neatly laid out, possibly to accommodate the fat lady. There also weren’t drooling zombie herds of children occupying the entire floor-space and financially cautious adults trying to figure out how an apparently featureless pencil case could cost twenty bucks. The products themselves were all very pleasant, and I was particularly fond of a small book with a picture of an owl that said ‘Olietta makes cinnamon buns all day long’, all though judging by the bird’s pupils, ‘cinnamon buns’ was clearly code for ‘crack’.
Kikki-K is evidently for rich Swedish people who need a moleskin lined address book to match all the other umlaut covered labels in their cuboid, self-assembled faux-pine abodes. I’m not rich and Swedish, and I quickly noticed none of their stuff had pictures of monsters on the cover, so I ducked out when the fat bitch’s attention was diverted by a presumably affluent duchess in need of a new mouse-mat for the Royal Dell.
At this point I was almost submitting to frustration and considered heading on over to the safe but unimaginative reliance of the newsagency, but I happened to pass Borders on my way. I popped in, lured by the smell of the café inside and began to browse. Initially I’d intended to buy a novel, because I’d finished reading the first page of Assassin by Tom Cain and gladly placed it back on the holder next to the toilet. I’d also been reading it by the pool and the sun’s heat had melted the binding causing a large number of the pages to fall out, proving that our solar giant has a better eye for editing than whoever was responsible for that awful, awful book.
I actually wanted to find Catch 22, because I’ve always meant to read it but somehow they didn’t have it. They’ve got Twilight. They’ve got New Moon and New Dawn and New Lunch Time, or whatever all that shit is titled. But no Catch 22. A couple of years ago, that would’ve been weird.
What I did find, was a stationery section. A lovely, small, uninhabited little stationery section that stood at the back of the shop like a cute, reclusive nerdy girl at a party. As I would’ve behaved in the presence of said cute nerdy girl, I brazenly approached the stationery section ready to get something where most people wouldn’t think of looking. To my joy, I found a book. It was perfect. An A6 lined, 48 sheet, acid free, PEFC certified (What?), 90g notebook with a smooth ‘tobacco brown’ satin finished. It was everything I wanted; small, smart and sexy. But it was $18. Fuck that. I could get one at $2.50 at the newsagency. Downhearted, I began to walk away, sulking at the prospect of the bland, flimsy disgrace of a pad I knew I’d be getting. I fought back tears.
Then I happened to see the same notebook, but in a two-pack. I checked the price and to my amazement, the two-pack was $9.95. No wonder Borders has gone bankrupt. Can they not divide? Can they not do math? Surely they’ve got a book somewhere that would give them a clue. But I don’t mind. Finally, after about an hour and a half of searching, I have a little notebook to write my girly-fag recipes into.
If anyone wants to buy the second one off me, it’s yours for $16.