Some writing I like to do with pen and paper, fountain pen that is. Today my pen ran dry, metaphorically and literally. My pen ran out of ink at the same time I discovered the space that is usually jumping with words clambering to be released, vacuous. On the one hand, Quink came readily to the rescue, on the other ... well what can I say?

It got me reminiscing about the Friday copy book lesson at primary school. Bik biros had turned up, from the unknown place that these things come, at the chemist in Pittsworth. Mum got one for me, she had high hopes and knew an opportunity when she saw one.

I didn't appreciate its value until my teacher asked if he could borrow it for a day. How could I say no! A misuse of power I thought, but unable how to articulate. The status at being the harbinger of new technology had been co-opted and he stole my moment, I thought. When he returned it to me, he said I wasn't allowed to use it in class. How messed up is that? The same bitter sweet avarice and mixed approval was displayed in our community with the arrival of later innovations, the electric wireless, the telephone, mains electricity, television sets, computers, mobiles, and perhaps the covid vaccine.

I was taken aback by my teacher's envy of this yellowy plastic tube with inserted ball point and wondered if he would travel the 50 miles over the rough gravel road to get one. I doubt he had a car, perhaps he'd take the rail motor. Anyone who doesn't realise what a revolution this was hasn't experienced trial by copybook. In 1964 we were still on post office nibs, scary instruments. If you didn't apply just the right amount of pressure, the nib would catch on the paper and spring away, flicking ink in an ellipsoid shotgun pattern, requiring blotting. The damage was irreversible. The stain caused by inadvertently blotting your copy book was, as I recall, a pitiful event that left fellow pupils feeling, "better you than me" and grateful for having missed a bullet, rather than any waste of empathy.

The 'naughty' boy in the class always got the job of leaving the classroom to mix up the ink, unsupervised might I add. It gave the teacher a reprieve from the boy's constant disruptions. We didn't know about ADHD yet, so the main strategy was diversion therapy, that is to say, he'd get to tidy the sports shed, a job that seemed to take hours out of the day, get the daily milk crates in an forlorn effort to prevent them warming in the morning sun thus rendering them unpalatable, (in the 60's, there was a policy where every school child would get a ⅓ pint bottle of milk at elevens'.) And the most enviable task of all, mixing the ink for Friday copy book.

For reasons that have always eluded me, this ink mixing and marks making carried a fascination that captured something unfathomable in the consciousness of a small group of us boys. For quite some time we'd spend our Friday lunch break making our own "ink" by grinding stones on the concrete by the tank stand and then wet the dust so produced to paint our arms and legs. Ironically, the preferred designs were strokes and chevrons that when put together looked for all the world like convict markers.

The following year the Bik revolution was in full swing and the post office nibs and ink powder in their manila envelopes disappeared into the dingy store room, forgotten alongside ancient knobs of plasticine that left the room smelling rank with linseed oil.

For me, the revolution came not with the skinny, sharp edged Bik's but with the fountain pen. In contrast it was full and warm, charged with words of import. The fountain pen has a kind of life of its own, like a breath that rises and falls with its reservoir of thoughts that are magically revealed when tip touches paper, at times with a gentle babble and at others a gorging torrent. It is an instrument that can at one time be soothing and at another, cutting. Such versatility. It shuns the constant attention demanded by of the post office nib, without which chaos strikes out of the blue with a glob of undissolved ink powder, once released onto the page destroys the clean crisp flowing lines of the calligrapher, like a bad movie cut that rips you out of the story, restores disbelief and plonks you back into ill-tempered real time.

So here I am back in real time, fountain pen charged, waiting for inspiration.

© David Salomon