Probably my favorite thing about the beginning of the school year is new stationery - new notebooks, new pens, new equipment - I don't think that's changed since I was seven. There's nothing like an empty lined exercise book to make one convinced that this time, one's going to take all one's notes in an inspired and organized manner. No wonder that I was deeply struck by a passage in David Lodge's early academic novel, The British Museum is Falling Down (1965) in which a penniless student stares into the window of a stationers' shop near the British Museum (in those days, the British Library used to be in there too - when I was a grad student I loved the dome of the Reading Room, with all those great authors inscribed round the rim who, as Virginia Woolf famously pointed out, don't include a woman among them). And he thinks that if only he could afford all those file cards and folders and pens and other tempting treats, he could write his dissertation (I think I may have a similar relationship, these days, to computer programs that promise to organize all one's to-do lists for one...).
Someone can't have liked their crayons, though. These were crushed and broken into the dampish - still - earth outside Murray Hall (a left over from Monday's festivities)? and have a sadly abandoned air - they look rather like spent fireworks. They reminded me, too, of Arthur Rothstein's famous dustbowl picture of a cow's skull - famous not just because it suggests desolation and barrenness, of course, but because he moved it from some grass to this parched and cracked earth. For I could have gathered these, and some other similar mutilated crayons together, and probably put together an even more suggestive composition - but I remembered that skull, and didn't.