Sunday 24 September 2017

#261 Does anyone still write using a fountain pen?

I bought a new fountain pen recently. I was writing out a card and decided I couldn't possibly withstand the disgust I'd feel from completing it in biro.

Why on earth was this?

To understand my unreasonable fondness for the messy cartridge guzzlers, it's necessary to hark back to my early schooldays. My thoughts and feelings in this respect will be anything but original. As far as I'm aware, most of the country's children are still taught in exactly the same way. That said, I suppose some foreigners may regard the practice as quaint, or maybe I simply fancy that they might. I read that some private schools have implemented "biros and rollerballs only" policies, to the jubilation of certain parents and the annoyance of others.

As soon as I was old enough to write in ink, my parents were instructed that they must procure nothing less than a fountain pen. Like most requests that came from the school, this was idiotic at best and loony at worst. My classmates and I spent the next few years with ink stains all over our work, our hands, our clothing and our faces.

An ink spill is like a miniature oil slick. Unpredictable. Damaging. Difficult to repair and time-consuming to clear up. We were told fountains were better for handwriting. Sheer dogmatism. I found them scratchy, unreliable and as useless as the cursive handwriting we were made to adopt. The only time I really hurtled at cursive was using a biro and even then, I was always at my fastest when breaking a few rules and reverting to print here and there.

Despite its drawbacks which were many, I developed some affection for the clunky old fountain pen. It seemed to command sincerity. Probably because the wretched things were so cumbersome to wield that any poor sod who had gone to the trouble of doing so deserved their words to be read.

As I've said here, none of this is news although it does seem odd that the pens are still in such wide usage. I'm basing this on the fact they're still stocked in stationary shops. How have they not gone the way of the typewriter? The only possible explanation is that millions of people are using them. Yet I struggle to recall more than the odd occasion when I've seen someone do so. 

Perhaps they sit in old drawers of fall down the backs of chairs and radiators. Maybe some make it into the bouquet of a pencil pot and stay there, a reminder of the letters their owners fantasise about writing. I like my new pen, probably for that reason. It allows me to imagine being a bit like the sort of person who I believe might own one.


Running on empty said...

"bouquet of a pencil pot"

Nice line, very nice. We had fountain pens at school too. Like the recorder, I got quite good at mine. I don't know why the powers that be prescribed them.

Profound Familiarity said...

Recorders make sense from a practical point of view because it's one of the cheapest instruments. Fountain pens I think are harder to justify although maybe the ink can be cleaned away easier than biro.

Running on empty said...

I got very good at several sizes of recorder and played it in the school band. Also got proficient on the harmonica, two of which I carried around, and to school sometimes, but my main instrument as a school student was the piano.

Profound Familiarity said...

You're so talented Cath. Harmonica sounds fun to play in bars.

Running on empty said...

I haven't picked it up in years, my kids used to muck around on it.