Primary School Theme 2: Stationery

4 min readJan 15, 2021

I have a memory of my first day of school. It’s early in the morning, we’re all gathered near the canteen. It’s still dark outside, we’re carrying our bags, and my first friend is a girl called Manaal. I don’t know if this memory is real or not.

Our bags were so heavy. I remember stuffing the math, English and Chinese textbooks in succession, a rectangular pencil case with a magnetic closing, maybe showing a drawing of Barbie or some other cartoon. Do they make pencil cases like these anymore, with little compartments to hold your pencils?

In Primary 3, we upgraded from pencils to mechanical pencils. In Primary 5, we were deemed mature enough to transit from pencils to inky pens, availing of correction tape. There was a hierarchy of correction tape, the Japan PLUS Whiper MR Correction Tape was king, but also the most expensive.

Speaking of pencil cases, I remember a period where MYUK wallets or pencil cases were the rage among the pre-tweens. You just had to own one of those products with pithy quotes and angsty handwriting, and it was the ultimate cool. An example of a proclamation:
“Torn between this
good girl
bad girl
MYUK girl
Kinda thing”

And it sends me into an instant throwback. When I got older I realised it was a Singaporean brand, which made me even prouder of it. For the alternative of cool brands in the early 2000s were international brands, like a SWATCH Baby-G watch (which I wore for YEARS), and Billabong bags. Damn, those were the days where you would be the envy of the school if you turned up for a school excursion in a Billabong bag. My turn came one evening, when I was 11 years old and my aunt brought me to a Billabong shop in White Sands. The price tag was $50+ for a bag at that time, quite hefty in those days’ exchange rates and for a young girl. We narrowed down to two choices, a blue cloth one that was squarish, and a rectangular one that showcased the evening hues of an Australian sunset. My aunt urged me to get the latter, but I always had a soft spot for blue, and stuck to my choice… regretting it instantly after walking out of the store.

A memory I have associated with childhood things and stationery are the floppy disks. The year was 2004 and I was 10, and we started working on school projects that required computer work. I remember saving individual files into beautifully coloured floppy disks, and doing a project with a Hong Kong boy named Tze Ho who lived in the same neighbourhood. (His name was so unique, and it turns out he had a Hong Kong passport and a British nationality as he was born before ’97) We did a presentation on Mt Faber and his mother had a glue gun at that time. We stuck leaves all over the poster and it remains one of the most beautiful and striking school projects I had ever done.

Back then it was also the rage for girls to have those ‘secret diaries’, and my sister somehow had one. It was voice-activated and could supposedly only open when her voice shrilly announced “Thid-dle Bean”. It also came with its own portable light so you could scribble in the dark. My sister barely wrote in it but I used her diary to store little mementoes. One of them was a note that my longtime crush, a fair boy named Russell, wrote to me. I had harboured a one-sided crush for him for 2–3 years, and one day, he wrote something on a piece of paper and passed it to me. Now the details are blurry, but some other boy intercepted the note, and in a tug of war the note was torn into pieces, and I only kept one piece. Up to now I will never know what Russell wrote on the note, as I was too shy to ask him. But I always kept the crumpled paper in my sister’s Secret Diary, damp with sweat.

The final memory in this collection is the set of coloured Uni-ball Signo pens that were the rage when we were Primary 4 and up. You could get them in either plain colour or in glitter from Popular, a set of 6 or 10 would cost $12? We used to love doodling and colouring our notebooks with them, drawing our fantasies of the Dream House or the Dream Wardrobe, or writing girlish letters to each other. A pen can really do wonders for your writing motivation. In Primary 6, we all carried autograph books with us for others to write on the last day of school. I no longer have that book with me.