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The Battle of the Pens (when a Bic biro just won't do)....

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

Is there really such a difference between a fountain pen and a biro? There certainly is, in my humble opinion. It tells you about that person, immediately. In a split second, I have already made the picture in my head of the person with the pen and who or what they are. When I'm not writing on a beach, I will often go to my favourite coffee shop where I need to people watch for a while and build on characterisation. It's a coffee shop that for me resembles in my head the inside of Battersea Power Station. The gargantuan pipes and steels become a contemporary part of the fixtures and fittings. Rather than being hidden behind smoothly painted walls and flanked with über-cool prints and artwork. These places appeal to me. The industrial feel in an upbeat coffee shop, on the third floor of an equally cool building.


Someone might pull out a notebook from their bag and a Bic biro. Then there's that someone who pulls from their bag a notebook and fountain pen. Here lies my original take on who it makes you become. They personify your personality. Immediately it draws you into the expression of that somebody, who is none other than a stranger in a coffee shop. But a stranger who becomes something more than that, they share the same love for something so simple and elegant.


I can remember my first fountain pen it was a Sheaffer. I then moved onto a Parker, because I rather enjoyed the ink bottle as opposed to the cartridge. It gives a somewhat calm moment as you refill the cartridge that's just peaceful and fulfilling, or maybe that is just me. If not an ink bottle yoga-like moment, the pop you get from puncturing the cartridge and the perfectly formed, deeply thick bubble that sits on your nib waiting to be blotted before writing. I love that moment, that thick velvety ink touching the paper once more.

As you watch the ink dry, you can see the different shadings and its a lustrous rainbowlike play of colour caused by differential refraction of light waves, a little like an oil slick or that wondrous moment when you catch a soapy bubble in your hand for your child before it pops in the garden and as the sun strikes its light through it you get the glimmering shades of oily colours. Life has moved on since the simpleness of blue and black. There are oodles of beautiful shades now and bottles as beautiful and romantic as the ink inside them. With names to each bottle and colour that are reminiscent of a sonnet or scent from a beautiful Fragrance House. And the writing on the front in a calligraphy style. Who could possibly not want that sitting on their writing desk instead of a cardboard box with twenty Bic biros inside?


I remember moving up a notch and buying myself a Waterman and went all out from my first fountain pen being a single figure, my second pen being double figures and my Waterman I hit the heady heights of triple figures. It's a sleek black pen with an even sleeker nib. I held it in my hand and tried it as if I was trying on a pair of shoes. Wanting that Cinderella glass slipper fit. Did it feel right? Was it slim enough? Was the nib round enough for me? Did the nib flow effortlessly from the pen? Did it fit my hand like a kid-leather glove? I took my time with this, does this make me a 'Fountain Pen Nerd', quite possibly, but I'm rather proud of this 'nerdship' and I love my Waterman! Every book is signed with it, every letter written with it, every page in my notebook filled with its ink. One day I will take myself to the king of the fountain pens, a little like the Pol Roger of Champagnes. I will buy myself a Montblanc fountain pen one day, I have already the ball-point a beautiful gift for my 30th birthday and I always know where that is too.


An ink pen's smoothness glides across a page like Torvill and Dean on ice. Thoughts promise to pour out honestly with an ink pen, that is one thing I can say with quiet confidence. Then copied and written again onto my MAC. But the beginning and end are always made by a journey of ink.


I can remember as a little girl the ink bottle of black Parker ink sitting on my father's bureau. It's a vision I can never forget, a memory that stays with me forever. And yet it's a humble bottle of ink but paints a picture so perfectly. One that I'll cherish.


I listened once to an expert on handwriting on the radio. Very rarely do I listen to experts talking but this guy caught my attention. He spoke about how to tell what was going on in a person's mind or indeed the personality and style of that person by the pen they wrote with or their handwriting. The same people he used were asked to write with a fountain pen and then with a biro. The simplicity of how he evaluated them just on how the style of their writing changed was interesting. You do write differently with a biro than an ink pen. With a biro it's a little more erratic, untidy which can't be said be with ink. Perhaps that's how your mind thinks but when you write the same sentence or words in ink, there is less of a scrawl, each word is perhaps thought about, the mind slows down and there is a psychological balance. It's a little like a dinner suit to me, every guy can look elegant and every bit like James Bond in black tie and that's the same for ink versus ballpoint, the scruffiest of handwriting can be transformed by ink. There's an unwavering style.

You always know where your fountain pen is, you never have to scrabble through a drawer when you're asked by somebody on the phone have you got a pen? You always know its exact whereabouts because it becomes a precious part of your life. You know the letters you've penned with it and the places its travelled with you too. Little can be said for that Bic biro, that hits the bin when it's finished or worse still is put back in the drawer where you think you might find a pen that works.


I always write in ink. The keyboard will never be the Goliath for me, it's my aid but the true David is by far my fountain pen. Maybe I enjoy the psychological balance a fountain pen gives and indeed the romance it conjures up.


If you sit down and write to somebody, whether it's a 'thank you note for a wonderful dinner' or an 'I'm sorry letter' or even a 'love letter' you write it differently. You will sit more quietly and your approach is more eloquent and the result, well I'll leave that with you to decide but the time it took you to write in ink versus biro, is the time it took for your mind to catch up, unscramble and become less of a scrawl and the note you pen I am sure will be very different.

When you finish a letter with ink you can trail the end like a black floating ribbon and where does that lead, to another place of eloquent romantic imagery, that can't be said with that understudy of a pen the biro. But I am a fountain pen nerd, so I would think like that.


Now with the resurgence of Lamy, a popular brand with the younger generation with its myriad of colours and cool styles, the fountain pen is making a bold and strong comeback and long may it continue.


#montblanc #waterman #ink #fountainpen #romantic #elegantstyle




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