A few days ago, I was prodded into thinking about how much I use my pens and all that paper and ink I love to keep to hand. The question posed was, do I really use all this stuff as much as I think I do? I cast my eyes over the assemblage of pens, paper, bottles, and accessories in my office… and a small pang of guilt makes the smile of stationery anticipation twitch a little. I should start by declaring that I have probably got more ink than I will ever use in my lifetime… and I still hesitate at buying bottles of less than 30ml… what if I run out?
Notebooks are another guilty pleasure, I have about a years’ worth of my favorite Tomoe River Traveller’s Notebook inserts sitting in a desk drawer, and several other beautiful books on the go for things like personal journaling; PhD record-keeping; research-group meetings; course notes and lesson reflections; personal creative writing; notes on books that I’m reading; articles that I should look up, and so on.
And pens, well, that’s a little embarrassing. Not as embarrassing as some I’m sure, but probably more so than a great many others. I’ve never really bothered to keep a record of just how much I write by hand, versus keyboard hammering, so I was thinking that, making a pen, ink, and paper diary for a week could be fun. Depending of course, on your definition of fun… you’re reading this blog, so I’m guessing we probably have some parts of that definition in common.
This is a Thursday, which means I’m in my office for most of the day, until I put on my instructor’s hat for a social justice course between 7:00PM and 9:00PM tonight.
Telephone messages during the day are recorded in a pretty crappy university notebook, with the ever-lovely Waterman Carène and Pelikan’s 4001 Brilliant Brown. The notebook is a nice A5ish size, with the useful feature of perforated removable pages throughout, which makes it great for message notes; but the paper is just a bit too rough to be called entirely fountain pen friendly. It’s more fountain pen barely-tolerant; I won’t be buying another one.
All the while, I’m preparing for tonight’s class, which mostly means making notes on the readings that a couple of groups will be giving presentations on tonight.
These were recorded in my Traveller’s Notebook, in a Taroko Design (52gsm, lined) Tomoe River insert, with a Montblanc 146 (LeGrand), 14K gold, extra-fine, using Sailor Jentle Grenade ink; and a bit later, with a Pelikan M200 Classic (M400 14k gold nib unit), in a fine, with Montblanc Toffee Brown ink. I’ll be taking my Pelikan M600 with the red stripes, 14k gold extra-fine nib, Diamine 150th Anniversary Blood Orange ink to class with me, to make notes on the presentations and anything else that crops up.
It’s our 17th wedding anniversary, and I write a suitably romantic message in a handmade card, based on a photograph of where we got married. Here’s the photograph…
… aaaand that’s it, the romantic note is not for public consumption; but it was, of course, very romantic and extremely well written, using a Sailor 1911L, with a 21K gold Mike Masuyama medium stub nib, and Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses ink. See? Even the ink was romantic.
For most of the day, I’m out on the road, driving from meeting to meeting, but I recorded my notes with a Sailor Pro Gear Special Edition Earth, 21K gold, broad nib, using Kobe #8 Arima Amber ink, in a Rhodia Heritage notebook in Black Escher, which I’ve been keeping in a nice, simple leather cover from DMLeather Studio, China (by way of their Etsy shop).
The notebook is a fairly typical Rhodia product, except for the aged finish to the cover and the stitched binding. I like both, but I keep the book in the leather cover, which means I never really see the Rhodia design. The stitched binding does make a difference to the notebook though, as it means—with or without the leather cover—the book lies nicely flat, which is very popular with me.
It’s a Saturday, and I have an early-morning coffee down by the lake (well, earlyish), just prior to moving firewood from the heap dumped by the guy that supplies a lot of the local area. It’s a big heap, and it goes into my hand-built log shed–10m long (about 32 feet), by 2.5m tall (about 8 feet), by 2.5m deep. My father-in-law tells me the log-shed leaks like a lobster cage; he’s not wrong 😦 Message me if you want one… I work for pens 🙂
Not a lot of writing done today, but I do find some interesting quotations for my poetry/prose journal. This book is a Peter Pauper Press (PPP) Inc., Golden Splendour hardcover journal, lined, and I use my Pilot Falcon, 14K gold, soft-fine nib, filled with Kyo No Oto Adzukiiro (Red Bean) ink.
I’ve had a couple of these PPP notebooks now, and I find the quality of the paper and the variety of their designs—from quirky to classic leather—are truly excellent. The paper doesn’t have that—sometimes too smooth—sheen that you find on the Clairefontaine/Rhodia type of stock, but there’s still no bleed or show-through on the pages, and feathering is almost non-existent with anything but the wettest of nibs. Their designs are many and diverse, and I’m sure would appeal to a whole array of tastes. I would definitely recommend checking these out.
I don’t get to use all of my inked pens every week, so most Sundays, I take fifteen minutes or so to sit at my desk and work through each of the pens I have inked. I write down what they are, and what ink they’re using in a little booklet I keep for the purpose. It’s the only blank notebook I use. My wife brought it back for me, from an academic conference in Gothenburg, Sweden last year.
I webcam my father back in the United Kingdom, and I even make a few notes during the call. Lorraine will be visiting the UK in a couple of weeks, en route to yet another conference (and maybe another ink journal? The Gothenburg one is getting full). I remind myself that my father likes Tim Horton’s, sour-creme glazed TimBits. These are bite-sized mini-donuts, and even well into his mid-late 80s, my father can power his way through a box of 40 of these things in less than a day. When questioned about his sweet-tooth, and his liking for fried breakfasts, by an unwary nurse some short while ago, he looked her in the eye and asked, “What are they going to do… shorten my lifespan by 20 years?” I say nothing, and make a note to remind Lorraine about the donuts. I pick a pen from my case, and deliberately go for one I haven’t used in a few days.
The Sheaffer Imperial Triumph, with a 14K gold, fine inlaid nib, never lets me down—manufactured in 1961 and well-tuned by John Culmer at the Peel Pen Shop in Toronto, this pen is a pleasure to use; no hard starts, and never any skipping. For weeks now, I’ve kept it inked with Pen Addict/Robert Oster, Fire on Fire orange ink, and the two are a perfect couple.
Later that night, I find myself out of bed, another coffee in-hand, and sitting in front of that poetry/prose journal again. This time I’m using my Waterman Carène and the Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown ink—I’m not sure I deliberately chose that pen, it kind of chooses itself as I open my pen case and reach inside. I write about a page of my pretty-lousy poetry. It’s maudlin stuff, still driven by the death of my mother. What I’ve written quite obviously reminds me of somebody else’s work, but I can’t quite remember who, or from where… and I can’t be bothered to try and track it down in the middle of the night. I’m not so unhappy with it that I want to remove the page—that’s happened before—but it’s a close-run thing.
Today, I had another one or two phone messages, including one from a rather confused lady at our insurance company, who was certain we hadn’t payed our last car insurance installment. Thankfully it transpired she was talking to entirely the wrong customer. I was relieved, she was embarrassed. I took notes with my Sheaffer, and Brad Dowdy’s orange ink, in that crappy perforated notebook, and later with the Pelikan M200/M400 in my Traveler’s Notebook.
A few days of my PhD., observations and data collection notes also got written up in a Rhodia web notebook (A5, lined), using my Platinum 3776, with a 14K gold, medium nib, and Platinum’s Carbon Black, one of their waterproof, permanent inks. This amounted to between 11 and 12 A5 sheets of text, plus a roughly sketched table of about two-thirds of another A5 page. There won’t be any samples though, because my observation notes include study details that I’d rather not disclose in a public forum, because, well, ethics. Contrary to the opinion of the guy I sold that two-year-old Saab 900 to before I left the UK, I really do have some.
And at least it was a clean Saab 900.
Teaching on social justice again tonight, three of my groups are presenting profiles on significant advocates of social justice from the last 50 years. I know the names they’ve chosen, and I make a few notes on each for tonight. I use my Traveler’s Notebook, my Laban 325, the Pelikan M600 and the Pelikan M200/M400.
When I go to class tonight, I’ll be sitting at the back, making notes in the Black Escher Rhodia Heritage notebook again, possibly with the Laban, which I keep clipped to my Traveler’s Notebook, and inked with Diamine Ancient Copper. But more likely is the Pelikan M600. I have become seriously attached to that pen.
Also, I’ll be handed a stack of about two hundred, one-page summaries of a social justice issue that each student has personally encountered, and their analysis of that issue through the lenses of their course readings. Sometime over the next week, I’ll be sitting down to jot some comments on those and assign a grade, probably with the Pilot Falcon and the Kyo No Oto Adzukiiro, because that’s the finest nib I have inked at present.
Another strange week-day today, I spend the morning sitting in a hair salon as my daughter has her back-to-school hairstyle primped and perfected by an oh-too-bouncy-and-cheerful young lady, who—very kindly—also manages to keep me plied with rather nice coffee, and an Oreo or four. Not much writing is done, but I did manage to finish reading Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind, a book my daughter and I have been reading together… she reads a bit, I read a bit. It’s not the first time we’ve read this book—for either of us—and probably won’t be the last. Over the years, we’ve read a lot of books like this; we read sections, pick the parts that resonate with us the most, and talk about them… over dinner, in the car, wherever. A couple of years back, we held an impromptu book club meeting whilst sitting in an emergency room waiting for the doctor… who just so happened to have read the same book, and joined in the discussion. It turned out we were all pretty disappointed with Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Anyway, these quotes are from the last few pages of Annie on My Mind…
… written with my Pelikan M600, 14K gold, extra-fine nib, Sailor Jentle Grenade ink—because the pen ran dry, and I wanted to see more of the Sailor Jentle Grenade, in preference to the Blood Orange. I’ll put the Diamine Blood Orange in my Montblanc 146 when that runs out. I was writing in the PPP Golden Splendour hardcover journal, because I like to keep the poetry and the fanciful prose separate from the academic work.
I used most of my pens over the last week, and for real writing, honest! I haven’t faked a thing… not even when I sold the Saab. Those pens that are inked, and don’t actually get used, still get an outing once a week in the Gothenburg ink journal, but I suppose that doesn’t really count. Out of thirteen inked pens, I count ten that I actually used for an A5 page or more of text, and I wrote about thirty of those pages overall. In a truly objective piece of quantitative research, I’d have to keep a diary like this for about a year, then pick a sample of about thirty weeks, and run a t-test or something on the data to see if this was really a typical kind of week. But, frankly, even I’m not that completely off my head. This was enough thanks, and it seemed like a pretty average week to me. What would be an average week for anybody else reading this I wonder?
Also, if I were being truly honest, I do have to make a conscious effort to use most of the pens I keep inked. I could probably get by with filling only three or four of my favorites, and regular readers will notice that one or two of those were not even inked this week (e.g., my Edison Collier). But I ask you, where’s the fun in only using four pens? Or only four inks? I like to sit at my desk and think, now what am I going to use for what today?