The mighty pen

by Patricia Collins

At the risk of sounding like a fossil, I’ll tell you that I learned to write with a slate and slate key, progressed to a pencil and on to a dip pen i.e. a wooden holder with a changeable steel nib that was dipped in the inkwell that was set into the corner of my school desk and replenished every week by the ink monitor. With a few adventures on the side with chalks, powder paints and wax crayons, this took me happily to the 11+ and the ritual fountain pen.

The fountain pen had a rubber bladder that was re-filled with ink, but it was made of a hard plastic casing and was, as I see now, my first non biodegradable writing instrument. When work for O-Levels commenced, we all yearned for Rapidographs. Wonderful tools for drawing maps and graphs that were like writing with hypodermic needles. I still have mine and see that though it too was re-fillable, it has a clear plastic ink reservoir.

‘Biros’ were considered to be detrimental to our handwriting and were strictly forbidden until the Sixth Form. My first biro was precious; it had a metal casing and was refuelled by purchasing a metal cartridge of ink.

And now – biros arrive in the post as ‘free’ gifts from charities either urging me to support their work or to thank me for supporting their work, arrive as promotional Christmas gifts from local businesses. They also seem to have a life of their own, accumulating in my desk drawer and shopping bag from I know not where.

Many of the charities send pre-paid envelopes with their gifts, so it’s an easy matter to return the pen, and say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to any more.

patricias pencilcase

Plenty to fill this (c) Patricia Collins

For the accumulation, I’m taking a two pronged attack. Firstly, greater care in restoring pens to their rightful owners. No more thoughtless pocketing of other people’s biros. Secondly, a little sewing project – an oddment of material, a re-purposed zip and a pencil case is born. A sweep of the shopping bags. desk drawers and back of the sofa throws up a nice assortment of spare pens and pencils to fill it. A trip to the EFL centre where local asylum seekers have their English lessons to hand over the filled pencil case.

I can only lament my years of ‘green’ writing and the proliferation of plastic today and realise passing on the unwanted biros does nothing to solve the bigger problem, but at least people in need can practise the great art of writing.

-oOo-

Thanks to Patricia for another thought-provoking post.

Last year, before we passed our old dresser on to my niece, we cleared it out and discovered loads of old pens. I fished them out and Sister of Snail tested every one to see if it worked. Now I have an old cutlery tray full of pens… perhaps I should find new homes for them?

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13 Comments

  1. I can relate to this fully, I seem to have a never ending stream of cheap, free plastic raining through my letterbox!

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    • It’s astonishing how much of it there is about, isn’t it?

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    • Patricia Collins

       /  January 3, 2019

      What else comes your way. Wybrow? Any thoughts on ‘re-locating’ it all? You put free next to plastic and that really made me think. Is there truly any free plastic.

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      • Quite agree there really is no such thing as free plastic. I am a teacher so battle constantly with glitter, straws, paper, fruit and milk deliveries. We have just changed our milk supply and are currently working on our fruit suppliers. Small steps!

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  2. Oh Patricia, what a wonderful lateral thinker you are! Giving them to those who need the biros more may not solve the plastic problem, but it does mean they can be used.

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  3. Ann Pole

     /  January 3, 2019

    I too have an old cutlery draw for surplus writing materials, though baring the odd biro it is pretty much just pencils (I therefore keep the odd one or two promo pens). I do tend to use pencils at home, firstly as I have a surplus, and secondly because they are wooden. Strangely enough, most seem to have HMSO on them – as does the rather large and yellowing stack of foolscap paper. I must point out that my dad was usually a very honest man, so I cannot think how these items found their way to his desk… Maybe they had a clear out? I’m sure Her Majesty doesn’t miss them. 🙂

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  4. Patricia Collins

     /  January 3, 2019

    If you have spare pens in the Snail household, then SweetFallenAngel has the cutest patterns for patchwork pen cases on her Dec Scrap happy blog. Sorry can’t put a ink here.

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  5. Most of the writing that happens in the home is pencil. I like that I can change things by rubbing out and re-writing, and I can also use them for drawing, a bonus. I have a few biros, and for whatever reason, don’t seem to be subject to the hail of promotional writing implements, so the number doesn’t increase greatly. I miss my fountain pen: when I got my first proper job I treated myself to a Waterman fountain pen with the squeezy rubber ink bladder, a gold nib and a metal body covered in tortoiseshell-effect enamel. I had it for years until my handbag was stolen and the pen with it. Somehow, I never got round to replacing it… I don’t use pencil cases, though, I have a range of ceramic and metal mugs and golden syrup tins!

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  6. I thought there was a gremlin in my house that lives on pens! I buy them (when the freebies run out) but there is never one to hand when I need one and none at the back of drawers or down the sofa so there must be something eating them. I know several people who have the same problem. Now I realise that the gremlins actually take them from houses like mine and deposit them in those of the select few who are accumulators!. Let it be known that I am happy for anyone to rehome them again in aid of a good cause!

    Like a number of other commentators I use pencil most of the time and a fountain pen for permanent stuff although on glossy paper ink pens just make a mess so a biro has to be used. The other week the lady next to me in the Welsh class asked to borrow a biro and as my pencil tin only had my fountain pen (never lent) and pencils, I gave her one of the latter but she pulled a face. The tutor saw and lent her a ‘proper’ biro which she happily accepted – maybe the face was because she was a primary school head before she retired and thought she was too old for pencils?

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  7. It’s beautiful

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  1. ScrapHappy January 2019 | The Snail of Happiness
  2. Patricia Collins | The Snail of Happiness

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