Sunday, 25 July 2010

Of Pen, Ink and Pencils

When I was a child, we lived in a house which was separated from one of the neighbouring properties by a fence and a corner of a field, which had been bought, long before, by public subscription, for the use of the local hospital board, to raise money, by fetes and so forth. In the middle was a bandstand, which I never remember being used and long, overgrown grass that was mown once a year and stored in an eerie old barn at the bottom of the field. Down across this field led a well-worn path, which wound around a beautiful old oak tree. Up in the corner was a stile that led up into our neighbour's orchard. This was nearly as overgrown as the field and had within it a derelict chicken coop and precarious Edwardian hothouses, where our neighbours, 'Dolph and Mary, grew smouldering, scented tomatoes and big, twisted, seedy cucumbers, which they let me have sometimes. Very often in an afternoon or an evening, I used to wander up through their garden and either find them there for a chat or go on up to the house and ring the bell-pull outside. I cannot recall that they ever turned me away at once and I used to spend many happy hours talking to them. He died in 2005, at ninety three, so that would make him forty seven years older than I was and so when I was eight, he'd have been fifty five. Mary was a little younger. I recall many things that they told me but one thing has relevance for a blog concerned (however obscurely and nearly half a century later), with style: they cautioned against the use of ballpoint and felt-tipped pens and said that a man's character should be allowed to shine through his handwriting and that this was possible only when he used a lead pencil or a dip or fountain pen. I have to say that, in the pace of modern life, (for which the computer is the usual tool, aided by notes scribbled with anything to hand), I have often neglected their good advice. But I have never forgotten it and, for any significant document or letter, I should always employ it. In the photograph (courtesy of Penfriend) is a vintage Parker VP Lapis (circa 1906).

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