I am going to be interested to see if anyone else had this rather bizarre school experience. Of course I only think it’s bizarre looking back, at the time it was all perfectly normal.
When I started in the lower school of my school, aged 6, I was taught to write with a fountain pen. Well actually I was first taught to write in fountain pen style but using a rectangular shaped pencil where the lead was shaped to resemble the nib of a fountain pen.
We spent a lot of time learning how to hold this pencil in the correct way so that when we produced line after line of all the letters of the alphabet they came out with the thin bits and the fat bits all in the right place.
We were then let loose with fountain pens, which had to have a slanted nib to produce the fanciest of writing, and ink. To show how ancient I am, or perhaps how ancient my school was, we had inkwells in the corners of our desks. I won’t go into the amount of lesson time that was spent soaking up ink from those wells into strips of blotting paper, that were then scrunched into sodden balls to be pinged at another pupil. But I’m sure I would have learned considerably more if those wells had not been present. Anyway most of us had bottles of ink, so you can imagine the mess. For several years the top parts of my first and second fingers on my right hand were permanently stained navy blue (the regulation colour). And no amount of scrubbing would remove it.
For those of you who have had children imagine sending your little darlings off to school every day with a glass bottle of ink in their bag. What could possibly go wrong?
The enduring image of my lower school years is of never managing to have one piece of school uniform that didn’t have an ink stain on it somewhere. A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, was constantly covered in ink blotches, both on her clothes and skin, and she even gave herself a tattoo one day with the aid of her metal compass. Happy days. Our mothers must have been tearing their hair out.
I also remember seeing the first girl arrive with a fountain pen that held a cartridge and thinking, now that, is the future. And yet another who broke all the rules by writing flamboyantly with turquoise ink, of which I was terribly envious.
I was equally envious of all those who produced beautiful handwriting. Mine was then, and still is, atrocious. My teachers told me constantly to slow down but thoughts always came too quickly and in my rush to get them down my handwriting suffered. Nothing has changed.
We had to progress into middle school before we were allowed the relaxation of using a biro. Ah, the lessons I’d spend in the science block melting my biro over a Bunsen burner just enough to be able to tie it in a knot.
Anyway, why I’m writing about this is because last year I was bought the very generous gift of a fountain pen by a client. I had always been impressed by the way he produce his for signing his books at launches and he wanted me to have the same. What a lovely man he is!
I tried it out, signed a few books when the need arose and kept it in its box, for best. When I next came to use it I really struggled to get it working, the ink wouldn’t flow, the nib was scratchy and I felt terrible. I’d somehow managed to break this wonderful gift.
In any other year I’d have taken it back to the shop where it was under warranty and ask them what I’d done wrong but this isn’t any other year so that’s not been possible. Which turned out to be just as well.
Because then I thought of Youtube and found out all about flushing in this delightful video:
The only problem with my pen had been lack of use. Ink had dried inside it and once I’d flushed it out it worked perfectly. Lesson learned. In this year of all years we should all remember, don’t save anything for best, get on and use it. And so I have. My fountain pen has replaced the usual rollerball I have on my desk and I use it for everything. Although sadly, my writing is still atrocious…
And the other moral of this story is… if in doubt always turn to Youtube…
Over to you… Do you write with a fountain pen? Or would you like to? Have you ever kept anything for best that you shouldn’t have? And do you think it’s odd to make such small and inept children learn to write first with a fountain pen?