From the bins of minimalists

Parker 51:b

Disclaimer: Somewhere, not a million miles from where I sit writing, there is a beautiful lady who now knows that her mother is not above delving into other people’s bins, and for that I am truly sorry.

This is a Parker 51 fountain pen. It is old; it has been on adventures; it has, frankly, seen better days, yet it is lovely.

Strictly speaking, it has never belonged to me although I have given it house room on and off over the years. When it has lodged with me it has always sat firmly in the “memorabilia” section of my life because I have never been bitten by the vintage bug in this area of my interests. That is unusual because many fountain pen users are very fond of vintage items, and also because I like vintage clothes and furniture a lot. Over the years I must have read hundreds of reviews of old pens yet remained firmly in the modern camp, and by ‘modern’ I mean pens that are current models when I buy them. Over the course of my life these might well turn into vintage items themselves, but they will always be modern to me.

Despite my lack of interest and my deeply held preferences, I find myself besotted with this Parker 51 and that is for one reason only – it writes like a dream.

Parker 51 Pen Test

The nib is incredibly smooth and it starts perfectly every time I pick it up, despite my worries that the cap may be rather loose and lead to the nib drying out. I did have to put in a fair bit of work to sort out the ink flow initially. I had dipped it in ink to check if the nib was damaged and it didn’t appear to be, but the first time I filled the pen it dried out after a few words. This led me to think the feed must be pretty clogged up and there ensued several bouts of rinsing through and soaking over the course of a couple of weeks, interspersed with filling and emptying of ink. Actually, after the final soak and rinse through, I just put it to one side without bothering to ink it up to test, because I had no intention of using it (on account of not being interested in vintage fountain pens!). Then at the end of last week I decided I would just pop in some ink and test it again which led to an interesting weekend during which I compulsively picked it up to write pages of nothing because it is so pleasant to hold and to write with. I want to fill it with an exciting coloured ink and…. do something.

Something. But what? I aready struggle to use all the fountain pens I have. I love each and every one, and I find it incredibly difficult to leave any of them resting ‘out of rotation’. I miss each one so much if it is not inked up and ready to use. I’m going to have to find a way to hand-write even more!

And yes, thank you, I know that one paragraph sums up why people become minimalists. It would be much simpler just to have one fountain pen. But who said life had to be simple?

One final thought occurred to me when I was playing with the Palm PDA earlier in the week and that is how much easier it is to dispose of pens and ink and paper.  When our electronic items get broken, stop working, or simply become obsolete, we must jump through hoops to dispose of them, taking them to special collection centres, or sending them away to be dismantled responsibly. Fountain pens have proven to be pretty durable, but if one breaks, you have no more than a slight pang about putting it in a bin. You can recycle your paper, and your ink bottles so long as they are glass. So, if having rather too many fountain pens is complicating my life, it is nothing compared to the complications my electronic devices bring.


 

Ink update/Crocker’s Pen

Currently inked update 1
Update on pens inked

So it’s time to update you on the inks in my fountain pens, now we are heading through October.

Colour me satisfied

I finished up the Graf von Faber-Castell Violet Blue ink very soon after my previous update and inked up the Waterman Hemisphere Blue pen with a cartridge of Caran d’Ache Chromatics Ultraviolet.

After that I worked my way through the cartridge of Graf von Faber-Castell Moss Green in my Waterman Hemisphere Rose Cuivre. I waited a while before refilling this one as I am searching for a decent purple ink. My favourite was the Lamy special edition Dark Lilac and nothing really comes close to that from the brands that I enjoy using. I have just bought some cartridges of Waterman’s Tender Purple to try out in this pen.

I am also constantly checking out red inks to find a favourite – I want a nice vibrant red, either a true red or one towards the bluer end of the spectrum. My favourite to date is J Herbin’s Rouge Caroubier. I decided to try out the Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red in my wetter-writing Visconti Rembrandt to see if it brought out more of the red, but this remains at best a dried-blood shade whereas the fictional Crime Scene Investigator in me wants fresh, arterial blood spatter!

I am currently nearing the end of the black cartridge in my Lamy LX Rose Gold and this pen may sit out of rotation for a while, although I love it dearly and will no doubt ink it again within a couple of weeks of making this decision!

I use my pens how?

It has struck me during the past month that although I will often have multiple fountain pens inked with different colours, I tend to use them pretty monogamously. Whichever pen I am using at a given time, I will use for pretty much everything I write – journal, appointment diary, catch-all notebook. Occasionally I will break out a different pen, usually if I need a contrasting colour for some reason, but I don’t seem to rotate between the pens I have inked during the same time period. I quite like the way this gives a visual represenation of the time when I was writing particular things, especially in my journal when I have a stretch of entries in one colour, followed by a further stretch in a different colour.

I thought it might be good to put in an example of my journal-writing, just in case anyone is reading who thinks that what you write in your journal needs to be exciting, or momentous, or even vaguely readable!

Journal example
My daughter is so looking forward to the day she inherits my mind-boggling journals!

I journal in an A5 Rhodiarama notebook, by preference the Sapphire colour cover which comes with orange end-papers, ribbon and elastic to keep it closed. Over and above my preference for colour, I am strict about journals having fountain-pen friendly paper and strongly, strongly prefer lined paper. These Rhodia notebooks have 7mm ruling and I would say that’s about right for my handwriting.

Crocker’s Pen Day

That was going to be it for today’s entry, but I watched what might count as the best episode ever of Kojak over lunch today and have decided to nominate today as Crocker’s Pen Day.

In this episode, which had me roaring with laughter on many fronts, Detective Inspector Theo Kojak and Detective Robert Crocker travelled to the middle of nowhere, Nevada, USA for reasons too complex to get into. Crocker lent Kojak his pen to sign in at the Motel and they left it sitting on the register. Now, I am sure any pen user watching would have been shouting along with me “Don’t forget your pen, Bobby!” As they exited stage left to their room, a suspicious-looking dude entered stage right – he had been dispatched by the bad guys to find out who these New York cops were.

Have you guessed? Yep, he picked up Crocker’s pen, wrote some information with it and pocketed it, despite Crocker returning and telling him it was his pen. The infamy! Later in the episode Kojak and Crocker got involved in a spectacular bar-room brawl, mainly due to Crocker not being able to let this guy get away with nicking his pen – perfectly reasonable if you ask me.

And here, for your delight, is the moment of the pen theft.

Give me my pen!
“Give me my pen!”

I believe there is a lesson to be learnt here about never letting suspicious-looking dudes get their hands on your pen!


Playlist: If this doesn’t make you want to take a listen to Elvis Costello “Watching The Detectives”, I don’t know what will!


It really is a graphite writing stick!

Tarrant_graphite writing stick
Tarrant: “A graphite writing stick…”

Here is an admittedly low-quality screen grab of the moment in Blake’s 7 when Tarrant is handed a pencil and utters the immortal line “A graphite writing stick. It’s the first time I’ve seen one of these outside museums.” This line has always amused me for a couple of reasons – firstly I like the idea of a dystopian future where you still get taken on school trips to the museum; and secondly that Tarrant and Avon go on to simply use this ancient technology as if they have been doing it all their lives.

I was reminded of this clip when I unpacked my subscription box from Mark + Fold this summer and found this:-

Graphite stick
It really is a graphite writing stick!

And if you are interested, this is how it writes:

Graphite writing

Thank you, Mark and Fold, for making me a happy girl.

 

Where did my handwriting go?

Lovely pen

I used to be able to write neatly.  When I was at school I won a prize for keeping a neat notebook.  I have a love of all the paraphernalia of writing, the notebooks, the pens, the ink, the heady smell of a stationery shop.  So when did I lose the ability to write, and where did my handwriting go?  Did the rot start the day I first lay fingers on the keys of a typewriter?  Certainly, by the time I was taking my creative writing course I could write much more effectively sitting at a computer than handwriting on paper and then laboriously transcribing it.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but my handwriting was already starting to drift away from me.  Yet even a few short years ago I was capable of turning out page after page of readable script when I put my mind to it.  Now, it disintegrates into an ungainly scrawl which the finest pens and ink cannot remedy, and I can no longer love it.

I don’t know if my handwriting and I can ever be reconciled, but it feels like a part of me is missing if I cannot pick up a pen and produce something sweet.