Scraps of paper worth their weight in Gold

I was at a superb talk given by Dr. Eva Griffith at the London Metropolitan Museum, about ‘Shakespeare’s Rivals’ a few weeks ago. During it we were allowed to look at the documents of the period, which were sometimes just little pieces of paper, that when pieced together told some of the social history of the time.

I was hooked. Old pieces of paper intrigue me. The official name of course for those scraps is ‘ephemera’ described as ‘transitory written or printed material not meant to be retained or preserved’. You know, those are the bits that turn up years later in forgotten diaries like bus tickets, shopping lists, scribbled lyrics written after a break up. I have one piece of paper that was so important to me that I’ve have kept it ever since I was twelve. It came with me when as a child we immigrated to the States and then I brought it back again still intact years later when we arrived home to The Isle of Bute in Scotland again. My treasured item was a postcard of acknowledgement from the publishers Blackie & Son Ltd, to say that they had received my work. Imagine this.... aged twelve I’m sitting at the kitchen table scribbling in longhand and whizzing through a dozen school jotters to create my book called ‘‘Adventure Isle”. (For those who might be moderately interested it was an adventure in Enid Blyton style with lots of descriptions of food...just the way she did it) When it was finished I went to the local printers to see if I could get someone to type it up for me but it was too expensive so I wrapped all the jotters up lovingly in a brown paper package and posted them off. One week later the mail arrived and in it was a postcard. It simply read: “Blackie & Son’s Publishers acknowledges the receipt of ‘Adventure Isle’ by Margaret Nicol” For me this was a magical moment. I was a writer and I could prove it! The postcard was my trophy and I’ve kept it ever since just to remind myself that’s who I case I forget.

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