Pens! I Love Them

Today I want to talk about the physical act of writing. I am in the market for a enw fountain pen. For years, I have protested that I can’t write properly with a ballpoint pen. I moaned that they made my handwriting messier, and my hand ache.

Well, having done some research into the wonderful world of good quality fountain pens, I have realised why. Fountain pens work because gravity draws the ink through the feed. Ballpoints, on the other hand, require pressure. This is blindingly obvious, yet it hadn’t occurred to me. Of course my hand aches when I use a ballpoint, because it has to do a lot more work!

I have been using fountain pens since we learned to do ‘joined-up’ handwriting at school, and I was so excited to be allowed to use a ‘proper’ pen! We learned to write script with Berol fibre-tip pens, then in Year Four, when we left Primary school (my area still has the three tiered system of Primary, Middle and High schools) we were given our first cartridge pens as a leaving present.

Since then, I have loved fountain pens, but have never invested in a good one. I had a Parker as a gift for a while, but the irritation of having to buy expensive Parker-brand cartridges was too much. The last five years or so I have used Inoxcrom pens, and I’ve found them really good. However, last week, whilst on work experience with the Evening Star, I dropped my trusty purple plastic Inoxcrom on the pavement whilst getting a vox pop from a lovely old man. It still works, but the nib is bent and it doesn’t write neatly or smoothly.

This accident, and the discovery of with its lovely range of coloured inks, persuaded me that was time to invest in a more ‘grown-up’ pen (the Inoxcrom had cartoon sheep on it). Whilst my novel and my essays are written on a computer, as a journalist a lot of my work is ‘in the field’ and handwritten, initially. I also write quite a few letters, and just generally enjoy handwriting. When you’re taking notes all day, whether it is in the street or in the library, you want to make that experience as pleasurable as possible.

So I decided to get myself a more expensive writing instrument. Of course, I am a student, so by ‘expensive’ I actually mean the cheapest pens of the better brands (incidentally, the same approach I took with my SLR camera). I went for a Waterman pen, because they’re one of the brands that don’t require you to fork out lots of money for their own-brand cartridges. Furthermore, they do offer a range of sexy ink colours.

Derren Brown, in one of his books, writes about his love for good pens and his teenage affectation of writing in brown ink. As I am a pretentious teenager at heart, I thought this was a really cool thing to do. At school I had flirted with purple, turquoise and pink ink, but now I have settled down with black. I really don’t like blue ink, and don’t use it if I can avoid it. To my mind, it looks cheap and casual – the kind of thing you would use to write shopping lists rather than, say, a love letter. Black ink has a kind of gravity that you just don’t get from a blue Biro. However, it can be a bit dull. Brown isn’t as childish as green or purple, but is just a bit more interesting than black. Have you ever seen anyone write in brown ink? I rest my (poser) case.

Further pen-related ramblings will be posted once my beautiful Waterman arrives from France.