Here is the text of a talk, taken from The Malcolm Noble Show on Spreaker
If you have listened to the podcast, please help by answering our ten question survey
 
 
  People in England are divided into two; those who watched Jack Hargreaves television programmes and those who didn’t.  Hargreaves was already an experienced journalist when he began to present “Out of Town” on Southern Television in the 1960s.  Over the years, it bounced around the schedules but I like to remember it as the half hour show after my Sunday lunch.  We knew that we had to endure the ill-fitting signature tune, sung by Max Bygraves, but we had no inkling of what was to follow.  Sometimes Jack showed us how to make flies for fishing, how to prepare and cook game, the purpose of that gadget on the wall behind him, the difference between a good and bad pipe, the meaning of an old song or a report of his recent visit to a horse-fair.  It was always a one man show, as far as I can remember, and presented from his den (which I still cannot bring myself to accept was just a studio set).
 
One Sunday, he showed us how to make a book and, immediately, I was away and dreaming about how to fill this gorgeous leather bound journal of posh paper and intricate stitching. (Years later, I read George Harrison’s introduction to his book I Me Mine where he acknowledges that Hargreaves programme was the start of it all.  Strange to think that while I was digesting my beef and roast spuds on a housing estate in Dorset, a Beatle was watching the same TV programme in his Surrey mansion.)
 
When I left home, the second book which I read in my new digs was Georges Simenon’s memoir “When I Was Old”.  Again, he mentions the romance of a new set of writing books – in his case, delivered by special order from his stationer.  I’m afraid I can’t grow out of this obsession.  My wife and daughter know that, for me, no Christmas or Birthday is complete without a fresh set of exercise books.
 
You won’t be surprised that I have dozens of jotters on the go at the same time. (I write detective novels and need plenty of alibis.) But like Agatha Christie’s scribbling books, they are neither numbered, dated nor organised, and many are full of my best ideas, lost to the world because no one, least of all myself, has any chance of deciphering the writing.  But those labelled “My Notebook” are different.  “My Notebook” is always carefully written (no alterations allowed) and filled with the trivia that is the best clue to my life.  I recently came across one from the 1980s and found the scores of a card game with my wife, my thoughts on seeing a Policewoman in trousers for the first time, a recipe for a disgusting type of hamburger, and three or four paragraphs which I thought would make good openings if I ever got around to writing my different novels.
 
There is something about the need to write on paper, isn’t there?  Perhaps the same drive that made cavemen draw on walls and still prompts children to scrawl on bedroom wallpaper.  But I am more conscious of a need to record things – anything.  I will rest comfortably beneath the epitaph, “Let’s get it down on paper.”
 
Here, I want to restore the pencil to its rightful place on the writer’s desk because the poor old pencil has suffered so much in the recent age.  Pretty soon, this old friend will be a country bygone for Jack’s successors to talk about.   Overlooked, uncared for, denigrated and given all the horrible jobs and so often found –dirty and chipped – in the bottoms of drawers, the pencil family is rarely recognised for its true strength.  Let’s look at the advantages over the pen (and especially that infernal invention, the ball-point). 
 
The pencil may need sharpening but it will always work.  Ball-points do not. Once you have mastered applying different pressures, you will have far more control over a pencil than you will ever have over ink-flow, enabling the pencil to indicate what is old thinking and what is new, what is important and what is frivolous and which remarks should be grouped together.  No squiggly lines needed here; it’s all done by weight and twist of hand.  Pencils don’t leak, their marks can be erased and, most of all, the writing does not fade.  Words from a ballpoint do.
 
Now, step forward, the spirit of Jack Hargreaves.
 
With the dropping of the pencil, we have lost another skill.  The craft of pencil sharpening.  Of course, this was sent into decline when the pencil sharpener was invented. Pencils should be kept up to scratch, lightly, with a sharp blade, carefully fashioning the shape and gauge of the point, just as you need it.  If you were ever a young lad who whittled (ah, whittling!) your pencil will recognise an experienced hand of fine judgement.
 
Yes, Jack would have made a damn good programme about pencil sharpening.  Right up his street.
  
Advertisements