Remember the days when you would read anything? The small print on a bar of chocolate, the rubbish on a packet of cornflakes?
And then, some people would also write on anything. Graffiti folk on walls and bridges. Drunks on beer mats. Children on books and wallpaper. Poets on anything at all.
Scribbling memorably – a human instinct as old as print itself.
I had an emotionally turbulent week last week. However, a small calm place in the middle of this was Nick Asbury’s Wrapper Rhymes project.
From this I learned that St Andrews University, only 20 miles from my home, is home to an august body known as The Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Appreciation Society, a club which this year has no fewer than 120 members and whose president is a fourth year student of astrophysics.
The TCWAS is a whole separate entity from Tunnocks, the noble Scottish family firm which still manufactures the caramel wafers I so often eat instead of lunch.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes – the museum of the University of St Andrews is currently exhibiting a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer wrapper sporting a handwritten poem by Ted Hughes. It is one of three wrappers to inspire the bard.
And this wrapper, having inspired the poet, subsequently inspired the museum to make it a feature for exhibition, then inspired the Scottish Poetry Library to post a picture of the wrapper poem. This, in turn, led to a Twitter conversation between the Scottish Poetry Society, Inpress Books, Glasgow Design Firm Effective Studio and Nick Asbury, of Asbury and Asbury.
Phew. The Twitter conversation (who says Twitter is mindless rubbish?) focused on the idea that wrapper poetry might be a whole new genre.
Could this be? Would you like it to be? Read on.
WrapperRhymes is about to be a whole collection of poems written on wrappers, following the example set by Ted Hughes. It has been launched by Nick Asbury, using a beautifully designed platform (Effektive Studio) and a lovely little Asbury piece on a Chewits wrapper.
Submissions are invited. It’s free. How could you resist?
But wait. It’s hard to write on a caramel wafer paper. The waxy surface, with smears of chocolate (who left this in the sun?) is resistant. However, it’s not impossible, as Ted demonstrated.
Between periods of turbulence, I have spent a week considering which wrappers you can write on and which you can’t. Ah, it is not as easy as in Ted’s day. Back in 1986, when y-fronts went out and boxer shorts came in, a wrapper might have been silver paper (as we called it then) underneath but a good, old, paper outer-sleeve offered its services on most confectionery products.
And now? I leapt at the opportunity of a KitKat, (which still sells with a paper sleeve as well as the shiny version) but I imagine so did several other would-be wrapper rhymers. I had to cheat with a Curlywurly, although it strikes me as just possible a CD marker might write on that slippery surface. Equally, it might not.
Green & Blacks Organic was better. I have eaten several bars this week while thinking about the possibilities. You can just about write on the waxed wrapper as well as the outer paper. In fact, this week I’ve eaten things I’ve resisted for years, just while exploring the wrapper possibilities.
But oh how things have changed! Do you realize how many chocolate bars are wrapped in a slippery sleeve that nobody could write on? We’re mainly enticed by wrappers made of plastic and aluminum laminates, a combination described by those in the know as “extremely durable, both chemically and physically”. That means not only can you not write on it (unless you cheat in some way – labels, post-its etc), but, unlike poetry, it will probably never die. (I know your alter-eco can make more things out of them, but you almost certainly won’t.)
Meanwhile, there are a few things you can still write on. I’m about to consume breakfast cereal. It comes in a box. You can write inside a box, while thinking outside it, and munching. I could probably fit an epic inside some boxes . . . .