Stationery pursuits


When did it begin, this interest… all right, obsession, concerning paper and pens (specifically fountain pens)? I guess as a writer you can’t help but be serious about it. After all, if you’re not a screen demon, it’s what you spend most of every day interacting with. I suppose it has its roots in my childhood, watching Dad working on his cryptic crosswords. He pens a mean block capital, my dad. Very precise and committed. He’d work his way through the fat stack of weekend papers, performing miracles on the Skeleton, the Azed, the Everyman. Once the puzzles were completed he would carefully cut them out of the newspapers and get me to address the envelopes. This I did, desperately trying to ape his measured caps.

He likes his stationery, and has often observed that he owns enough pens to enable him to open his own shop. I’m not quite that bad (not yet), but though I own enough notebooks to last me a lifetime and then some, my head never fails to be turned by the stationery come-on. That said, I’m not what you’d call a committed ‘spotter’. I don’t do smear tests on inks to find out how long it takes for a particular brand to dry out. Ink is wet. It needs time to dry. This I allow it to do. It doesn’t matter to me if it takes two, five or ten seconds. If I like the colour and it makes writing more enjoyable then it gets a big, fat tick. Feathering and bleed… that’s a different kettle of fish; such things irk me probably more than they should. As does a scratchy nib (although you can probably get a cream for that).

I have quite a nice little collection of inks, but I’m not a guzzler. I won’t splurge a fat wedge on a full set of Iroshizuku bottles from a Japanese website, however desirable they might be (I do have one: the ubiquitous kon peki, and very nice it is too). I’ve been leisurely acquiring the J Herbin range over many years, but I doubt I’ll complete it before the old rouge caroubier drains from my, er, sac (but I’ll draw the line at their scented inks, I think).

I thought, in addition to the usual posts I make about writing in general, I’d spend some time talking about the specific things that make it possible for me to do my work – from the tactile knurling of a Faber Castell E-motion Stealth pen, say, to the equally touchy-feely glossiness of a couple-of-quid Rhodia notepad – and how effective they are. Consider it a paying back, of sorts.

Please let me know of your own favourite brands and products; I’m always on the look-out for the next toy…

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