I have a confession to make this morning. I am a stationery addict. Please note the spelling here. I am saying that I have a thing about pens, pencils, and notebooks, not that I want to spray myself with metallic paint and stand motionless in someplace like Covent Garden to have people throw their loose change at me - though I do admire them ... the stationary people, that is. One look at my desk and you would think that I had shares in Staedtler, Paperchase, Rotring, and Rymans. I don't. I don't have any shares at all, apart from a few on Facebook.
You can tell so much about a person from their choice of writing instrument. As children, we all started out daubing the walls with finger paints, chalks, and wax crayons (Incidentally, I saw on the Internet that you can get crayon off wallpaper by using mayonnaise). At Primary School we wrote in pencil until we could form our letters correctly. I have memories of being, perhaps, eight or nine, struggling to master joined-up writing with a stripey yellow and black Staedtler HB Pencil. Oh, the joy when I was told I could go to the school stationery shop and buy my first Platignum School Fountain Pen ... and what a mess I made with it. These days it's a Parker fountain pen for signing important documents, a black 0.7 Uniball for the daily scrawl, or a BIC 0.9mm 'Strong' propelling pencil if I think I might need to rub it out in the future. And lots of colouring pencils ... I mean, literally, hundreds of them.
All of which got me wondering ... if fountain pens are the writing instrument of choice for joined-up writing, what tools are best for joined-up thinking?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines joined-up thinking as 'thinking about a complicated problem in an intelligent way that includes all the facts'. I would add that 'joined-up thinking' also goes beyond thinking about what is best in the here and now to what would be best for the future. They were talking about it on Radio 4 last night in a program on long-term thinking. They were making the point that because most Secretaries of State manage about two years in office on average, that this is as far ahead as any of them look. A quick change of policy, a few headlines and I'll be out the door, thank you very much. Or, probably, sacked.
Sadly our response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been much the same. We have become - as Richard Wilkins, a one-time secretary of the Association of Christian Teachers said - 'incapable of deferring immediate gratification'. We choose to eat one chocolate before dinner rather than wait until after we've eaten when we will almost certainly be offered several.
We need to adopt an 'I2G' approach, that is to say, an 'in two generations' way of thinking. What will the effect of doing x or y be in the distant future? When my grandchildren are in charge? Not the next day, the next week or the next time I have to face an election, but fifty years hence when, unless I have the genetic material to put me on a par with Captain Tom Moore or Dame Vera Lynn, I shall be dead. What will the effect be then?
So, I'm starting a campaign for I2G Education. Well, in my head, anyway. There are too many campaigns these days. I shall start by going down to 10 Downing Street to take Boris a decent fountain pen. Actually, on second thoughts it had better be a packet of BIC 0.9mm strong retractable pencils (he's going to need to do a lot of rubbing out, after all). Then, I'll go along to the various government departments to confiscate all the finger paints, chalk and wax crayons they've been using to write their policies recently. I may even give them some mayonnaise to clean the wax crayon marks off the walls of Whitehall.
Allowing for thirty years per generation, my first great-grandchild, I have calculated, will probably start Primary school in about 2060 when I will either be 92 or, more likely, six feet under. If it is to be the latter then, finally, I shall be an adult stationary. If not, I shall make a point of telling her that I was thinking about her all those years ago ... but that a certain Mr Gavin Williamson insisted upon keeping his finger paints.