I’ve always liked stationery, but I much prefer convenience. The modern age affords us the ability to tinker away on our texts with next to no cost, until we’ve chiselled our lunk-headed thoughts into beautifully constructed prose. All the extraneous words, punctuation and formatting lie around the base of the finished work, chipped away as we sculpted – well, maybe not David, but at least a very nice email to HR.
So why pens? All those years ago at grammar school it was dictated that we should only use fountain pens. This led to a few years of blue fingers and exercise books which appeared to be sponsored by Ralph Steadman or Jackson Pollock, until, around the third or fourth year, enough confidence had been gained to do the right thing rather than the mandated thing: buy a biro, and cast the fountain pen, half-filled bottle of ‘Quink’ and far-bluer-than-it-used-to-be pen case into the nearest bin.
Despite all that, and filled with a spirit of contrarianism, a few years back I bought, for no good reason, a Lamy fountain pen. It’s a lovely thing, much better than the trashy numbers that blighted my childhood, and it writes beautifully. It was a great pleasure, until I realised that the only things I ever write long-hand these days are shopping lists or telephone messages. “Bob called, he’s on his mobile,” on the back of an envelope doesn’t really warrant the dignity a fountain pen might try to bring to it.
But still – once an idea gets in your head it’s hard to shift. If you have to write out long-hand in the twenty-first century the obvious choice is the gel-pen, but that didn’t stop me last week when I was grabbed by the thought that a moderately upmarket ball-point might be just what I needed to make my life complete. To that end, I got myself a Parker IM ball-point pen, which I can only describe as disappointing. Hey! Why not get a Parker gel refill! That should do it! A further six quid into the hole, and no more satisfied.
So what is the allure of pens? Messy, awkward, disappointing and, unless you’re caught in a pinch, not really up to the job of getting words on the page. Well, not in the right order, anyway. I guess it’s nostalgia mixed with that weird physical pleasure that comes from gliding the nib across the paper. Not the best way of doing it, but somehow comforting. Like vinyl, or chemical photography.
Anyway, in an attempt to alleviate the disappointment of the Parker ball-point fiasco I’ve ordered a Parker fountain pen with a set of pink cartridges. You know, for corrections. Because that’s something I need, right? For corrections, yeah? And if you’ve got to use a pen, why not use a fountain pen, amiright? The feel of that glide across the paper, the look of that slightly uneven distribution of ink. I can’t wait ’til it gets here. Because that pen is really going to rock. I just know it.