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Monday, 7 September 2020

The Write Stuff

Tradition, an explanation of how and why things are done in a certain way, and always appear to have been done. It can be a way of drawing a conversation to a fairly abrupt end.

Don't ask, don't question, it's tradition. It was a familiar word as I grew up, I often saw it tucked behind my Dad's ear, embossed in gold lettering on the barrel of a pencil.

A Joiner by trade. Not a carpenter, he once emphasised the difference,  a Joiner, and his tradition was a pencil. The red and black striped Staedler. 

I watched him with it, marking out a job, scribbling a sketch or a note. I never saw him use any other. He liked the way it kept its point and the mark it made against the wood.

The tradition I gained was to look for the right qualities in the tools for the job. My search for the perfect, or the best available notebook, the one that suits me. is joined with finding a writing instrument to match.

Burdened by the urge to scribble things down quickly, my hand writing resulted in an erratic scrawl described as a cross between Michaelangelo and a spider on acid. It was funny, true, and not entirely a compliment.

School began with pencils, the Staedler came later, and  progressed to ballpoint. A strange plastic Platignum design that looked like an old fashioned dip pen. (Ironic, given the school desks had the wells for ink pots in the top right hand corner). The ballpoint encouraged the scrawl until I came to the fountain pen.

With incessantly inky fingers from squeezing the rubber bladder inside the barrel. It required more control, and the  slower writing speed helped smooth out the scribble. 

Heavy handedness wasn't good for the nib,  a working compromise was achieved.The ink would flow freely if I eased off on the pressure. The general idea, write on the paper rather than engrave the words into it.

I digress, the Tradition pencil revealed an overlooked aspect of tradition. It is about what is passed on. Dad used that particular pencil, his tradition, and drawn from that I learned the value of the right tools. 

The Red and Black striped barrel became a benchmark for a pencil. The default pencil in the pot on my desk is the yellow and black version. 

The Staedler's made in Germany have a tighter grain and a different texture in the graphite than the British made ones. (I'll use a point cover, to keep the point in my pocket, and an extender when necessary, so I can work with the shorter stumps,)

The Tradition is wood, but the mark on the paper moved me towards technical solutions. 

I often had the pencil, but not the sharpener, or the blade was dull, and the fine line became a broad stroke. 

Enter, mechanisation. The propelling pencil. Compared with today's sub-millimetre standard lead, the chunky Platignum pencil that came with a matching fountain pen laid a wide stripe across the page.

It was a consistent stripe, not a variable thickness, broadening as it worked towards a visit to the pencil sharpener. The smooth touch of the graphite on paper has a strong attraction for me, and frequently the first steps on any project are done in pencil. 

The mechanical, propelling, piston, or clutch, gave me a reliable line and steered me back to pen and ink.

Pencil, Ballpoint, Rollerball, Fountain, with a love of the written word and means of recording them.

I like a fountain pen, a good one. Not always the expensive models. The connection lies with the sharp end, the nib, or the point.

The Rollerball is a compromise, a useful intermediary.

In any choice, the key is how they suit my hand. Weight, balance, ink quality, reservoir size, are all factors.

Eventually, the fall back, the default choice was arrived at, and the draft of this was put down with one. 

The ubiquitous Parker Jotter. The style, weight, balance, ink flow, refill capacity, (and availability,) and the solid click of the action. All work for me.

The ballpoint is simple, has an elegance to its line, especially the all metal bodied version and is robust, all make it my go to pen.

The Jotter fountain pen as the same personally favourable qualities. 

For a while I've used Waterman "Havanna" ink. A Dark red-brown that appears like dry blood on the paper. An old friend used to write cheques with it, (especially to the Inland Revenue).

My choice has a tradition,  to make the mark clearly on the page. To pass something on.

An aide memoire, among many other things, no doubt.

The scrawl still needs attention.


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