A mixture of the present lock down situation, plus posts from other bloggers has got me to thinking back about earlier pens. Thus in the near future I will start reviewing the ones I still own as a trip down my memory lane, but for today a little personal fountain pen history.
For me fountain pens were not mandatory at school from what I can remember. Note this could be clouded memories. Certainly (and here we’re discussing the UK school system in the 1970s/80s) at junior school we were only allowed to use fake desk pen ballpoints (I believe made by BIC) after having passed writing tests. It was pencils before then. I do have vague memories of buying a Platignum (note not Platinum) fountain pen from the local news agents on the way back home some time around 1977 -1979 (ah those days when in our early teens we could wander the streets without any real paranoia or political correctness and when we were taught to be aware and careful), but what it looked like I can not remember I just have a vague recollection of the purchase and inky fingers.
Come September 1979 I was fortunate to start at Merchant Taylors’ School for Boys, Crosby. My 4th year teacher at Farnborough Junior School, Southport, persuaded my parents to put me forwards for the entrance exams for he identified I had a lazy streak and there I would always have a teacher hovering over me. It was around this time I was bought my first decent fountain pen, a Parker 25 (which I still have and will be covered in a week or two). Fountain pens were not compulsory and I do not remember much in the way of peer pressure, but it did make me feel more grown up using it. I also seem to remember some other cheap pens, a Platignum or two and a cheap French fountain pen probably bought from a hypermarket while on holiday (a Reynolds ?).
Over time and birthday presents my Parker 25 set expanded to include most the range and a second fountain pen. A Parker 45 Harlequin pair were another present (the older version where the alternate colour was etched, not painted) and while the ballpoint was ‘borrowed’ by some unknown person, the fountain pen is still in my possession. There was also an inheritance of sorts. I can’t remember the year, but when my paternal grandfather died, on clearing out his things my father and I found a pair of Parker 51s. We each took one.
I went through a fountain pen free period. My university days. I used what was cheapest and often free. What I did discover was I get RSI from using a ballpoint, something about how I hold them and apply pressure. Oddly enough I’ve never ha a problem with a mouse or keyboard. Net result was I once more tried one of my fountain pens and wondered why I had ever stopped using them (actually I didn’t think about it – student finances and priorities ….).
Role forwards the years and I’m now working in IT. For much of my early career there were always free gel pens in the stationary cupboards so the fountain pens stayed at home, but come 2000 and post the .Com crash, those luxury pens were replaced with the cheapest of BICs, often also rationed out. Now I was still using my few fountain pens at home (actually just one and just one ink – how times change) but I started taking one to work. I’m not sure why but I decided to treat myself to a new pen. I think the reason was because I liked using my Parker 45 much more than my 25s, however it rolled off the kitchen top and landed nib first …. – it went back to Parker but was never the same again. Still being naive to what was out there and being a Parker man that was the direction I went (plus let’s be honest, were there any on line trading pen shops in the UK back in 2002 ?). I was horrified at the costs I saw and eventually settled for the reasonable priced Inflection model (price wise consider it to be similar to a lower end IM). Now at the time I did enjoy using it. I also started to notice the more senior I became in IT the more I seem to be writing.
The next part of my progression towards the fountain pen event horizon was around 2008 when I made the decision I wanted to use a fountain pen for a second coloured ink. Oh how rebellious of me. Now back then The Pen Shop was a far larger entity than it is now and it was also staffed by actual pen users, so when I entered the Leadenhall Market branch (now alas closed) near Bank/Bishopsgate in London to look for a red ink (initially to put in one of my Parker 25s) I was shown swabs of all the bottled red inks they had in stock. I then started browsing their pens, cringing at the costs. The salesman asked me if I was interested in a new pen and when I mentioned I was just toying and the purpose he told me to ignore all the expensive stuff and instead consider this cheap plastic pen (at the time I think it was £8) and the slightly more expensive metal version (£12), that way if I regretted my decision I had not thrown good money away. Thus was purchased my first Lamy, an Al-Star.
While another low end Parker (an IM) appeared not long after the above, it was not till 2013 before the search for a burgundy ink (back at school I used, and was allow to get away with using, Parker burgundy cartridges) lead to the purchase of the newly released TWSBI Diamond 580 (note all polycarbonate, no aluminium in the section) and my true descent in to the world of fountain pens really began.
This feels like the ramblings of an old man and also means I need to ink up some old pens to properly review. My inspiration for this potted history and the upcoming related posts actually came from Rupert Arzeian, who recently has been reviewing some of his older pens. Hopefully in the same way he has influenced this maybe a few others might look reminisce about their early fountain pens.