Colour me blue in the Lake District
It was shortly before Christmas 1950 when I first spotted the box of 12 Lakeland coloured pencils in the window of my local newsagent. There they were, enthroned on a shelf decorated with festive green crepe paper.
On the lid of the long box was a colourful scene of the Lake District in England. The lid was slid back enough to tantalisingly reveal the six pencils on the top row. Oh, such colours: aquamarine from the sea; a pigeon’s-wing soft grey; blue like a sliver of sky; moss-like deepest green; golden buttery yellow; and an amazing colour called American Beauty, made from the richest purple and the deepest cyclamen.
Desperately coveting the pencils, every day I visited the newsagent’s window just to linger, look and long for. The neat little price tag was marked 12 shillings and sixpence, a fortune in those days when the average weekly wage was 100 shillings.
One afternoon as I stood drooling, the newsagent’s hand reached into the window, closed the lid, picked up the price tag and disappeared. I dashed into the shop to see him place the box into a brown paper bag and accept a pound note from the expensively gloved hand of a matronly lady. It took every ounce of my energy to prevent myself from snatching the pencils and crying out, “They’re mine! They’re mine!”
They were gone and all my daydreams of multiple coloured drawings disappeared. Because the coloured pencils were considered such a luxury, the newsagent in our working-class suburb ordered only one box.
That was the last time I saw a box of 12 Lakeland coloured pencils until 40 years later my husband and I were driving around the Lake District and stopped for coffee in Keswick. Nearby was the Cumberland Pencil Museum (pencils have been made in Keswick, originally using Borrowdale graphite, since the early 1830s), which we decided to visit as it was starting to rain. Passing through the modest little museum (closed now for refurbishment, but reopening in June) I saw my coveted box of 12 Lakeland coloured pencils displayed on a shelf in a glass cabinet.
I pleaded with the curator to sell it to me, but he explained that box was the only one they possessed and was part of their historical display. The same disappointment from decades before clutched at my chest. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: firstname.lastname@example.org. Columnists will receive a Braven 405 Bluetooth speaker with a lightweight, durable and waterproof casing, 15m wireless range and 24 hours of play time; $129.95. More: braven.com.au.