Now you may have a particular passion in life – one that you like to read about, browse websites, discuss with your friends… Apart from photography (there’s a surprise!) we have a shared love of (wait for it!) …stationery!
The Staples superstore (super in every way!) was a favourite place for many years until the Wigan shop sadly met its demise, as so many of our high street brands do. Their catalogue was favourite reading for many years as we browsed pages of pens and paper, fancy envelopes, labels – even getting excited about staplers and don’t start me on the label machines!
So, October half term in Keswick, what would be top of your list of things to do? Mountains, lakes, bracing fell walks in beautiful autumn scenery, maybe fish and chips at the Old Keswickian, definitely some mint cake and, if there’s time, a trip to Grasmere for the gingerbread.
What about us? Well… Keswick has a pencil museum! A whole museum dedicated to pencils! No prizes for guessing whether we visited or not (prizes for answering their quiz questions all correctly though!).
The fun (sorry – we really do love stationery!) started at the entrance when having paid a very reasonable £4.95 for entrance we were handed a clipboard with the aforementioned quiz and a genuine, beautiful, stylish, wonderful Derwent Pencil Museum HB pencil – so lovely I definitely didn’t want to spoil it by writing with it!
The museum, on first viewing, seems very small, but thanks in a big part to the quiz, you will discover all sorts of interesting pencil facts and figures; history; special creations; meet the world’s biggest colour pencil and so much more.
But perhaps the most interesting and truly inspiring story, is tucked away in the top corner of the museum. The story of the wartime ‘secret agent’ pencils, which were brought to life from the mind of M19 agent Charles Fraser Smith by the skills of the Derwent workers. A story kept hidden (thanks to the Official Secret Act) for more than 30 years. The pencils, which probably saved the lives of many an airman in WW2 , were created by workers from the museum after hours in complete secrecy - designed to hold a potentially lifesaving map and compass inside, away from enemy detection, a vital part of the wartime escape networks. A fascinating story to learn about and even more fascinating when you watch the video of how they tried and struggled to recreate the pencils using modern technology.
Time flew in the museum (did I tell you we love pencils!) and our reward for our completed correct quiz sheets (100% correct! Did I tell you we love pencils…) was three more pencils to take home – including the very beautiful Derwent Academy Watercolour Raw Umber – perfect colour for autumn.
Time for a browse around the shop and a few purchases for ourselves and some early Christmas gifts. What next? Oh I know let’s get the studio out and photograph them!