Papier Passions

Paper people: Claire Ratinon

Why the organic food grower and writer relishes a fresh page.

Words

Claire Ratinon

Images

Toby Lewis Thomas

Claire Ratinon is an urban gardener and writer, whose work ranges from growing crops for Ottolenghi's restaurant, Rovi, to running food growing workshops and writing for a bunch of esteemed magazines.

There’s one key ingredient that has helped our Papier pal get to where she is today: paper. Whether it’s for ordering her thoughts, sowing new ideas or penning the chapters for her book, How to Grow Your Dinner: Without Leaving the House.

We chatted to Claire to find out what it is she loves about planting pen to page and her hopes for turning over new leaves, as we enter post-lockdown life.

On pen & paper

I’ve always loved stationery. Nothing quite as satisfying as finishing one notebook and then cracking into a new one. I rely on my notebooks and planners to help me stay organised and to get my thoughts in order, plus I like to journal whenever I can. While I do most of my writing on a laptop, I much prefer to write in pen on paper.

I think it's the visceral nature of writing with a pen that enables the words to flow that I like the most. It’s a process that feels familiar and reassuring. And it encourages you to write with commitment, abandoning perfectionism and allowing the words to pour out without worrying if you’ve got it ‘right’ or going back to fix them.

I always have a notebook in my bag. So wherever I happen to be is where I use my notebooks. But I most often use my notebook at home, especially after the last 18 months! As much as I love a fresh notebook, I always find it hard to make the first mark. In fact, I always leave the first page blank and start on the one after.

On turning over new leaves

The day I found Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in New York City, completely changed my life. It was the first time I saw edible plants growing and pretty much everything I’ve done since then has been to be close to the process of growing, harvesting and cooking food.

We moved a few months before the first lockdown so most of our time in the countryside has been framed by some version of pandemic anxiety. But I’ve been so lucky to have a home with a garden near where we can walk in the woodland or by the sea so moving when we did was a stroke of luck and has been an incredible privilege.

I’m hopeful about going on more adventures and hopefully feeling less anxious about doing ordinary things. My hope is that now we are able to have people stay, we’ll be able to share our home with our friends and family who need a break from the city.

My plan for the rest of the year, when I am able to, is to actually rest instead of just talk about wanting to rest! I’ve tried to embrace the call to slow down during the winter months and I’m hoping this year is the year that I manage it at last.

The stationery Q&A

Your most treasured piece of stationery?
A brass pen that my partner Sam bought me to congratulate me on signing my first book deal.

Complete this sentence: ‘Stationery is…’
...my favourite gift to receive.

Old journals and notebooks: keep or recycle?
Should probably recycle, but you never know when you might want to revisit something you once made a note of.

Notebook covers: always get the same or mix it up?
Mix it up.

What item of stationery could you not live without?
My notebook.

Are you a doodler or a neat notetaker?
Neat!

Lined, plain or dotted notebooks?
It’s pretty new for me but I like dotted these days.

Pen or pencil?
I like the permanence of using a pen but I enjoy revisiting the feel of writing in pencil.

Plans in your diary or reflections in your journal?
Both.

List ticking or creative thinking?
Also both!

Do you send notecards and letters?
I probably should but I tend to text my gratitude these days.

If you’re looking to plot your future adventures, peruse our collection of planners and more this way.