Thursday, February 23, 2012

The very wish of water is reversed

Do you use a fountain pen? I use one, and it is the fifth which I have used so far. Three of the previous ones I used so long and so much that they were completely worn out, and one was no good from the beginning, and I soon gave up with it.

My three last fountain pens have been of the Parker brand. I'm sure that there are other good brands, but the fact of having access to ink cartridges has determined the brand for me.

Until this month I have always resorted to ink cartridges, thinking that it is too much hassle to use bottled ink.

But now I'm trying out a converter for the Parker pens, of the screw type, the so-called "luxury" converter. Although I don't know what is "luxury" about it, as the price was about the same that for a slide converter.

My first try with filling the converter from the bottle succeeded reasonably well, with a little bit of spilled ink, some of it on the fingers. But so far so good.

If you haven't used a fountain pen you may wonder why use such a thing? Well, I write a lot by hand, and my hand easily gets tired if I don't have a good writing tool. A fountain pen works well for me.

Now that I have a converter (actually, I bought two) I don't need to go to buy cartridges so often. Usually I buy two packages of five cartridges when I buy them, and one cartridge lasts about two weeks. A bottle should last much, much longer.

By the way, I bought the converters and the ink bottle from a shop in the UK, called The Writing Desk. Seldom I have seen such care in packaging the items; a remarkable thing given the rather modest price of what I bought. The next time I'm shopping for a fountain pen I think I'll look first here at what is available.

(Posting title is from the poem A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra by Richard Wilbur.)


Colin Griffiths said...

My wife (rather extravagantly) bought me a Montegrappa fountain pen for my 50th birthday. I've used a Sheaffer fountain pen for years, but never owned a pen of this quality and I love using it and wouldn't dream buying cartridges! It's one of my possessions that I treasure most.

Andreas said...

Interesting. I used to use fountain pens, always with cartridges, for years, through university, but I have mostly stopped hand writing sometime in mid-90s. It's a little like books, vinyl, CDs and wrist watches. I really liked wrist watches, I was fascinated by complicated chronographs, but now, when I want to know what time it is, I look at the display of my mobile.

There is no regret either. It is just the way it is. But of course I am a software developer who mostly can avoid conferences. In your position it may be different.

Juha Haataja said...

@Colin: Lucky you!

I searched at home for my old fountain pens and noticed I still have several old ones, even though they no longer work well. And I realized I have used up more of them than I thought.

I think my first one was a Rotring, a cheap one, then I had a Shaeffer, which worked very well for several years, then I bought a Ballograf which also worked well, though not very long as the cap got loose, then I got a fountain pen as a present from some visitors at work, but sadlly that one never worked well, it was drying up all the time, and then I invested in several (cheap) Parker pens in succession.

Your Montegrappa seems like the real thing, something to treasure.

Sometimes fountain pens can cause problems, for example when flying, which I discovered last autumn on a conference trip. I had the pen in my pocket and it leaked badly, staining the cloth. Luckily no permanent stain, but still it was a nuisance.

I noticed some instructions about this at The Writing Desk, about flying: "A pressurised aircraft cabin can cause air in the ink chamber of a fountain pen to expand, expelling ink from the nib. This ink can get on the inside of the cap and in turn on the gripping section. In extreme cases the pen will "burp" a large blob of ink. The cure for this problem is to either completely empty or completely fill your pens prior to flying. Do not use your fountain pen during a flight, just in case."

Juha Haataja said...

@Andreas: Well, it used to be that I wrote all my texts first for by hand and only then using the computer. But during the years this has changed, I no longer use the pen so much as I used to.

But still, the pen is very good for making notes, drafting pictures, etc. It seems that I can think best when I have a pen in my hand. This is also why I like to use a whiteboard or a flip chart in my office at work.

At meetings, conferences etc. I use the pen for making notes. I seldom read the notes afterwards, but the making of notes is for me a way of storing some essential points to memory.

Your comment about wrist watches is very much like I feel. It seems that the only people who nowadays use wrist watches are certain types of businessmen, for whom it is a status symbol.

Andreas said...

Regarding watches, it's not necessarily a matter of status symbols. When you think of it, there is often a point when using a certain technology crosses over from being a necessity to being a sometimes dear habit.

Film photography comes to my mind, or yesterday I saw a Kickstarter project for cutting printing types with fonts that had originally been designed on a computer. It's unnecessary today, even the process of using them to print books is slow, inconvenient and messy, but for many authors the idea of seeing their work printed in old-fashioned technology is fascinating. And it sure is.

The other obvious thing is media consumption. I use eBooks now whenever I can, but I know many people who feel strongly against eBooks. It's not only DRM, its their insubstantiality, the lack of almost everything of what we have learned to consider a book. This may change in a generation though.

With music it's probably less severe, because you have always turned on some gadget, and then this gadget has produced the sound. If it's a turntable, a CD player or a computer makes a difference while starting, but not while listening.

Printing of photos is also such a thing. We have still no archive solution for the masses, at least nothing that in the long term works as reliable as a shoe box.

Juha Haataja said...

@Andreas: Today we visited with the children a clock museum, and it may be that clocks and watches are soon only to be seen in museums. (Except for some dedicated people...)

I haven't yet really used an electronic device for reading books, although I have tried both a Kindle and an iPad. But soon these may really be so good that they suffice.

What I have been wondering is the future of libraries when all media becomes digital. Will there then be such an institution as the library in society, or will it be replaced by something else?

Bill Birtch said...

When I was about to retire from teaching I was asked what I would like as a parting gift so I suggested a fountain pen. I would be retiring to a small cabin in the bush - no running water, heating and cooking with wood, solar powered electricity and so on - and I thought that a fountain pen would suit my new back to nature life style. Over the next 18 months I managed to fill two daily journals using only my Waterman fountain pen. I absolutely loved writing with that pen. The sheer pleasure of using it actually kept me motivated to make my journal entries on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I can no longer hold a pen in my hand or write legibly if I do manage it so I use a keyboard exclusively. Incidentally, I almost always used an ink bottle and only kept a few cartridges around in case I ran out of the bottled stuff.

Juha Haataja said...

@Bill: Indeed, there is something special in using a fountain pen. I have also found that after using a pen for a while it seems to adapt to the hand, as if it would be a living thing.