Mountains from Ashmoleans

A brief trip to the Ashmolean Museum today. I’ve been attempting sketching recently—if I can’t type a decent story then I can at least do something else with my hands that’s detrimental to my eyesight—so I went prepared. Sketchbook, a few pencils, and my case of cute graphites, a little-used present from an ex’. I chowed down in the Norwegian-pine basement café and set to the exhibits.

Stood next to a glass case of eyes of Horus, I decided to jot down the forms and variations of the amulets. I couldn’t very well rattle out my container of graphites, as I had to stand to make the sketch. So I tried to pull the pencil out of the pocket of my new jacket, a parental Christmas present. Bastard… stuck. I yanked on the pencil, and heard a short rip followed by a snap, as of pencil lead. Blast. Not to worry: my case of graphites had a pencil shapener in it—oh, no, it didn’t.

The glycaemic dip that I knew would follow the capuccino and lump of shortbread I’d had in the museum café finally struck me, but I would not be beaten. Museum shops sell pencil sharpeners; they’re famous for them, overpriced and underused after purchase. Right.

Could I bloody find one? Eventually, after whirling round the shop like a dervish, I saw them stacked like Nestlé products by the till. Dayglo cog-shaped lids sat side by side on top of black plastic containers, with a hole for access to the pencil sharper stored away inside. Sixty pence was a bit much for a pencil sharpener I’ll never use again, but then it did say “The Ashmolean” on it, and I’d always have that to look back on, wouldn’t I? Cough up, receipt, no bag thanks, and retreat to a corner to shiftily try it out.

I turned the pencil in the hole. After two scrapy revolutions there was a more plasticky snap than before, and the whole sharpener housing came loose inside the cog-lidded box. I whimpered. A short time later, outside, I tried to reseat the rattling sharpener in its mounting. Nothing doing. 60p? They should all be locked up or hit with a stick. But at least I could now stand like an ostracized smoker by the bin and tip my shavings straight into it. After losing a few more millimetres of broken lead and pale wood I once again had a writing implement of such calibre as it had left the house with.

Finally, I thought, and strode back in to the Egyptian section. There’s the case. Here’s my pencil. Now, where did my sketchbook go…?

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