What's up at Ravens March.

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Posts Tagged ‘Wearever’

Here’s Hoping

Posted by Dirck on 16 June, 2014

I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the recent past that there’s a review I have been meaning to at, as soon as I remembered to process the pictures.

Well, it turns out it was “picture”, singular. I thought I’d snapped more.

No, I have not shown you this picture previously. It just looks rather like a lot of other pens.

What we have here is a bit of an enigma, and I have little to offer on it other than my own particular flavour of speculation.  The word, offered by none other than Dame Rumour herself, is that this is a company set up in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, and that the production was aimed at sales to the occupying forces.

I have no evidence for nor against this.  However, it doesn’t sit quite right, for a few reasons.  First, there’s the very notion of a new business setting itself up in wartime Holland.  Amsterdam, unlike Rotterdam, was not particularly worked over in the invasion, so it’s not an impossible prospect, but it seems likely that anyone doing so would be apt to be tarred with suspicion of collaboration even if they were not collaborating with the invaders.  That would make it hard to hire much of a workforce, if my father’s stories of the social forces in the Netherlands at the time are valid.  However, like certain current national governments, the Nazis were great friends to business, so it’s not absolutely out of the question.

With an eye specifically on pens, established makers in Germany like Pelikan and Montblanc were rather oppressed by the demands of the wartime economy, and it seems out of character for the Reich to smile upon an effort to set up new enterprises which weren’t given to at least nominally military goods.  If the target market were the Dutch population itself, it might be a little more likely, but since the Dutch population was having trouble getting enough to eat, the pen market was probably not so big.  There were the occupying forces, of course, but (1) they were busy with the occupation, (2) they also didn’t constitute a huge market (non-comms and other ranks got more mileage out of pencils, officers weren’t so thick upon the ground), and (3) I suspect they’d prefer a German pen, just to keep the Gestapo from asking pointed questions about loyalty.  One is led to believe this last item became extremely pointy as the war went on.

Then there’s the name– “espero” is Spanish for “I hope”, on the face of it a likely name for a company set up under the shadow of the Nazi eagle, and the sort of thing the Dutch have gotten up to since at least the time of Napoleon when very unlikely family names were offered to tax collectors (things like “of the Salmon” or “the Ribbon“– ridiculous!).  Spanish is a very odd choice, though, as if there’s any nation the Dutch have a historical grudge against, it’s Spain– the yuletide threat against naughty Dutch children is the prospect of being spirited off to Spain by the helper of St. Nicholas.  Now, this may have been a way to disguise subversion, and the same word is used in Portuguese, so this may be another front of speculation that can’t stand up to scrutiny, but I still harbour doubts.

Espero

“The better fountain pen made in the Netherlands”

There is, however, evidence that Espero is an actual Dutch company.  The image to the right is, according to the scanty information provided at the source, from March of 1949, so if the brand wasn’t wartime it might be a post-war employment builder like Merlin.  The slogan is a bit of a slag upon other Dutch pens, because the examples I’ve seen on the internet prompt one to ask, “Better than what, exactly?”  One may usefully compare Espero to Wearever of similar age; an exterior of perhaps slightly better than average attractiveness, filled with works that aspire to nearly being adequate.

The actual pen I had in hand, for example, is a generally robust button filler– it seems a reliable rig, but the whole inner mechanism was gone.  I don’t think it actually dissolved, but if someone took the trouble to shake it out, it can’t have been in good shape.  The clip is interesting, as it is mounted on a very flexible bit of steel in such a way that it can be opened like a clothes-pin, similar to earlier Conklins and the later Sheaffer Stylist.  However, that very flexible spring also gives a little tremulous feedback, as if it is only just holding itself together; “hope springs eternal” does not seem applicable in this case.  The plating is very nearly a res ipsa loquitur;  it might be gone merely due to a long and interesting career, but it’s more likely a result of having been no more than a couple of molecules thick.

The point… how can I hope to comment on it?  If this is a post-war rather than a wartime pen, it might be the original.  If the pen is pre-1945, though, it almost certainly can’t be– it’s of English manufacture, and the rules governing gold-use under the Nazis were essentially “Send it all to Goebbels; he’ll put it somewhere safe.”  Pelikan and Montblanc were having trouble getting any.  A start-up in Amsterdam was unlikely to get special dispensation.  Having said all that, it’s a delightful example of a loose flex point, and I was very happy to have a chance to play with it, however briefly.

And that’s about all I’ve got on the topic.  I hope I wasn’t too contrary, and I hope the owner of the pen enjoys it for a good long time.  Hopefully it’s such a tissue of nonsense that someone with firmly grounded facts will swing in to explain the truth of it all.  We live in hope!

Today’s pen: Cross Century II
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

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Come the Millenium

Posted by Dirck on 10 July, 2013

Let me show you something which will be, by the time you see it, no longer true:

"Right Now" being then, as it were.

“Right Now” being then, as it were.

I’ve filled a thousand of these things.  Holy geez.  I will admit that when I realized what the count was yesterday I slightly regretted not having selected a Parker 50 for the vague Star Wars joke that could be founded upon it.

Another regret is that I don’t have any sort of interesting give-away in hand for this (purportedly) momentous occasion.  As usual, my own greed is a primary element in this state of affairs, but there’s also the matter of suitability.  I know I have given away some marginal Chinese pens in the past, but they generally had some aspect of interest in them.  Just at the moment, there’s a Reform that needs a heap of work on the point and feed, some rather tatty Wearevers, and… nothing that isn’t in pieces or missing a part.  Since the cubed tenth snuck up on me (a sign of how well I pay attention), all my largesse ideas were aimed at the site’s second relight anniversary– and that will be both worth the hubbub and announced well in advance.

As it stands, I think I’ll just pause a moment to mop my brow with a filthy cambric handkerchief while leaning upon the rustic and imaginary digital pitchfork I use to sling bits at the heap and feel the satisfaction of a job… hm.  Not “well done”, since it’s never really done and only intermittently worth a gander.  Shall I say “satisfyingly entered into,” perhaps?

 A long time past I contemplated how many words I’d heaped up in pursuit of this relatively empty howling, and lamented that the same effort wasn’t being applied to the fiction-writing I would like to one day thrust upon the world.  I now realize that I’m only doing my part in the grand labour of modern humanity– creating as much data every day as possible, whether it’s of any utility or not.  I read, after all, that just about all the data ever created has fizzed into existence in the past two years.  Isn’t that great?  We’ve made a huge pile of… well, nothing at all, really, unless it gets printed out.  And here I’ve just made another fine lump of self-referential meta-cognition.  The day’s quota, met!

It does make me wonder how much headway that Prizm thing would actually make.  I know I don’t try to shovel snow while a blizzard is underway.

Today’s quietly celebratory pen: Pelikan Souverän M600
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green 

edited to add:

The odometer, having clicked, clicks on....

The odometer, having clicked, clicks on….

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Man the Pumps! He’s Listing!

Posted by Dirck on 3 January, 2013

It was suggested to me in a comment a little while back that I compose a Top 5 List for the past year.  My initial reaction was to decline, since my pen budget keeps me in rather modest pens and I do more than enough to bore my readers already.  Reflecting since then, I have come to realize that I’m being unfair to my readers in two ways; surely, like me, they are capable of seeing beauty even in the lowliest of pens (and I have even said nice things about some Wearevers) and surely if they’ve been reading me for any time at all their powers of enduring tedium are well exercised.

So, let us begin with the Highly Idiosyncratic Top Five Pens I Liked Based Upon Inconsistent Criteria and Which I Got in 2012:

This No. 2 is #5!

Oh, stop showing off.

Tied at fifth spot are a couple of pens one would be hard pressed to see the connection between, the TWSBI Vac 700 and the John Holland Fount-Filler.  About 100 years separates the release dates of these two pens, but I liked them for much the same reason; they are excellent representatives of rather interesting filling mechanisms.

This example is in the aptly-named Maximum Orange. I should probably add “!!!!” to that.

Number four is the Sheaffer VFM which is not really a fantastic pen, but it is a nice nod from a major maker to the idea that one can make an inexpensive pen without making a cheap pen.  Hoorah, the non-sucky entry level pen!

Despite the name, it isn’t oppressively huge.

Third place appears for similar reasons.  The Faber-Castell LOOM is also a gratifying acknowledgement of the existence of paupers like me by a company which is quite capable of charging vast sums of money for a pen.  This one slides ahead of the VFM because the insistence upon capitalizing the name is very slightly less silly than “Vibrant, Fun, and Modern”.  Very slightly.

Being English, it is able to maintain a stiff upper lip while being pipped at the post.

I was tempted to have a tie in first place as well, but that sort of thing is dramatically unsatisfactory.  My choice for runner-up thus bows to the demands of narrative in both providing a clear winner and offering some substantial conflict.  The Italix Parson’s Essential has, frankly, much more connection to my heart than the eventual winner, since my example of it was a gift from my family rather than something dredged from the sludge of a bay.  This is enough to put it firmly in my “keep until I die” category (which is composed mainly of similar gifts), but when I explain why top pen got to be such, I think I can justify myself… at least to myself.

Hail the conquering hero!

My top pen for 2012 is a pen that hasn’t been made in fourteen years, the Sheaffer Targa.  The reason it takes top place because it represents the biggest turn-around of attitude I’ve had to date in an attitude towards a pen.  When I’d looked at it in pictures, I was entirely unmoved by the Targa.  “Ho-hum,” was one of my more enthusiastic statements about the breed.  Then… I got to actually hold one.  Now I own a couple, and I understand why the enthusiasts for it get so worked up (almost moreso than in the case of the Parker “51”).  So, for having smashed a prejudice, this pen gets the laurel for the year past.

…which suggests this will be an annual examination.  Curses!

Today’s pen: THE WINNER!

Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun

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Time for Your Reading Glasses…

Posted by Dirck on 2 November, 2012


Notes:


Notes:

  • For aspersion casters, I can start with this or that; there’s worse, too, uncatalogued for want of a maker’s name.


Notes:

Today’s jolly pen: Waterman Carène
Today’s festive ink: Herbin Lie de Thé
Today’s mystery: The pink undertone on the writing paper.  Human eyes don’t detect it in the original.

…and now for something completely different:

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Unwanted Refinement

Posted by Dirck on 24 July, 2012

I gave into a very foolish impulse yesterday.  I had a look at eBay.  This is frequently a prelude to looking at a huge list of not very large bids and thinking, “Oh, I hope I don’t win on most of those” (the same effect comes, I hear, from a not very large list of huge bids).  However, it appears the only urge I was open to was the investigative one; the investing one was out round the back with the brandy, I guess.  I should be happy that I have not got myself into a monetary bind, and I am, but there was an obverse to the coin that showed itself, and the happiness is tinged with concern.

To some extend, the exercise was one of seeing how well I could spot makes and models from the frequently dreadful pictures (I’ve taken enough of them to know them when I see them).  This is even more of a challenge when looking at “Grandpa’s desk drawer had all these!” lots; a great jumble of pens, pencils, and other similarly-shaped objects.  Given the nature of my site, I don’t think it’s bragging when I say that I’m not too bad at this sort of spotting.  Had I been in a buying frame, I certainly would have known it was a Parker “21” rather than a “51” and felt a clever chap for knowing it was already over-bid.  However, this cleverness appears to be somewhat alloyed to a cynicism I hadn’t felt creeping up on me.

Looking into one of those Grandpa’s Drawers photos, after about a minute of doing it that I was actively cocking a snook at the lower-tier pens.  I willingly concede that I don’t have much love in my heart for a lot of the post-1950 Wearever lineup, but I had never thought to find myself snorting derisively and even, indeed, sneering at Remingtons, Eclipses, and similar decent if lowly pens.  If this sort of thing keeps up, I might find myself chuckling at the notion of Esterbrooks with the wrong sort of intent.

I suppose it is to be expected that several years of playing with some of the better pens history has to offer will result in a somewhat jaded outlook.  While those lesser pens are as nice as their nature allows, there are some limits on them.  A pen with actual tipping cannot fail but be nicer to write with than one with a set of folded “butterfly” nibs.  A good solid Permanite or Radite barrel gives a better sense of security than an extremely thin mystery material.  If I’ve got the nice ones, why not treat myself?

Well… in part because I might forget that there are some charms to the deadly cheap pens.  I might not recommend Wearevers as a group, but I should continue to commend the Supreme for the amount of performance that it shakes out of a 29¢ price tag.  I might not altogether enjoy the way a very cheap pen writes, but I should remain open to the merely skin-deep beauty of many depression era pens, since looks were frequently all they could offer and they went quite over the top on them.  I should, in short, remember where I came from and not give into the urge to be a snob.  That’s a narrowing of mind, and I’m of the opinion that that’s not a healthy activity.

As an aside; if the first sentence in the third paragraph doesn’t draw some Google hits for people looking for an entirely different sort of online experience, I’ll be very surprised.

Today’s relatively lowly pen: Lamy Safari
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noire

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Insight

Posted by Dirck on 16 July, 2012

I occasionally wander off into slightly philosophical places when making entries here, and perhaps even into tedious biography.  How about today I combine the two?  Yes, that sounds very economical!

I was cataloguing the recent arrivals, as mentioned last week, and since my cataloguing is (unsurprisingly) based upon paper and the original optical drives, I had an actual book in front of me, and a direct indication of the number of pens I’ve got in terms of thickness of pages.  For not the first time, I shook my head and muttered under my breath, “Say, that is a lot of pens.”

Usually, that’s where I leave things lie, but in this case, there was one of those silly Hollywood echo chambers in effect, and for the next hours or so I was presented with my own inner voice chanting, “Lot of PENs, lot OF pens, LOT of PENS, lot….”  Introspection was almost unavoidable.

I won’t enhance the tedium by laying out the exact stages of this inner perambulation, and simply cut to the chase.  While the utility, beauty, engineering prowess and (in many of the cases in my collection) remarkable longevity of fountain pens are all contributing factors, my tiny psychosis has its genesis in a trauma in years past.  Back in the 1980s and ’90s, when I had but only one habitual pen, there was more than one occasion on which the following item of comedy was rather too true for comfort:

In fact, when this sketch first aired, the following week was filled with friends who on sighting me called out, “Hey, did you see The Kids in The Hall?”  Ho ho, yes.  However, the trauma of misplacing one’s only decent pen is not to be minimized; it’s somewhere between misplacing a book you’ve almost finished reading and mislaying a pair of glasses.  The world doesn’t turn upside down, quite, but gravity seems to lie somewhere other than down and there’s a degree of distraction as one tries to work out where it might have gone.  Is it down inside the couch?  Might I have stepped on it out on the lawn?  Did I set it down in the grocery store?  I’m going to go look in the magazine rack again.

My current approach to fountain pen use is rather different.  While I do get a little askew when I can’t think immediately where a pen I thought was in my pocket has gone, the grosser effects of the loss are moderated.  I am very fond of all my pens (almost), but the somewhat promiscuous way I swap from one to another reduces the attachment to any specific pen, and with the reduction of attachment comes a reduction in the potential terror of loss.  By keeping a swarm of pens, I insulate myself from the shock of loss.

This revelation doesn’t do me any real good, alas.  While I have reduced my attachment to individuals, the attachment to the mass of them keeps me from claiming any virtue of a Buddhist sort and puts a new phobia in my way (Thieves!  Fire!  Sudden Celluloid Crumbling Syndrome!).  The Freudian catharsis has definitely not occurred, and I don’t see any impending end to my collecting ways; two online purchases of an extremely small sort have come since I formulated this realization.

However, understanding one’s own nature is a positive good, even if it’s without practical application.  I’m a slightly and non-demonstrably better person than I was a week ago.  Jolly good.

Today’s pen (a date-specific gift, with some extra attachments involved): Pilot Vanishing Point
Today’s ink (which I am rather fond of): Herbin’s Bleu Myosotis

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Doin’ it by the Numbers

Posted by Dirck on 9 March, 2011

Before I get underway properly– the weather today is not something to complain about!  All I can really get upset about in that regard is that the uncommon amount of snow combined with the sun’s angle makes snow-blindness a real and present menace.  But I’m not shivering, so I don’t care.

On, then, with the excitement promised yesterday.  An age ago, somewhere in the back pages of this enterprise (I can’t find it through the search function, and I don’t expect you to look for it, so please take my word for it), I threatened to do something to slightly rationalize my pen choices.  This was back when I was using a different pen each day, and it was something that would have enhanced my life immensely… but of course things that enhance your life immensely never arrive in time.  The something I was going to do was to set up a spread-sheet, to establish objectively which pens have been used and which are wanting for use.

Well…

…there is it.  This is the surprising head of the list, as arranged in descending order of use.  Surprising, because I really didn’t think I used the Lamy 2000 that much (by the way, the full week of using that pen was only counted as one instance), and that Parkers had gotten that much more use than Sheaffers.  I repeat here the notion I mentioned previously that memory is a fallible instrument and not to be entirely relied upon.

Which is why I persisted in this little exercise.  There’s a couple of things that I have avoided using because “Oh, I just used that” which appear on the list once.  There are some weekend uses that didn’t get catalogued, which are probably throwing off my perception, but if my well-loved readers didn’t see it get used, it was in a certain sense not used at all.  I will mention that my various Vacumatics all got used with the same frequency, so in that particular subset I am at least democratic and regular.

This week’s choices were not driven by the new list, and not all future choices will be.  I’ve got some cartridge-based Wearevers that I’m not going to be stampeded into using just because the spread-sheet insists it’s their turn.  However, there are some interesting objects you may look forward to seeing that have yet to appear here… and how I’ve missed them I can’t tell.

Today’s relatively low-frequency pen: Sheaffer Imperial IV
Today’s ink:  Pelikan 4001 violet

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16 Tons, Loaded.

Posted by Dirck on 13 October, 2009

The vague musical reference of the title should not lead the reader into the belief that I had a bad weekend, although it was labour filled. By dint of the extra day away from The Regular Job, I was able to finally catch up on the home chores that the previously reported hospital extravaganza delayed, and got stuck into my own business, as it were.

After yesterday’s vestigal effort here, I had a couple of choices before me. Chip away at the ever-growing mountain that my website has become (there’s but four faces on Rushmore, and people make a big deal? Poo!) or attend to what threatens to become a backlog of clients’ pens. The latter is less visible but more pressing, so that’s what got my day.

The day advanced quite nicely, too. I installed a “fountainbel” cartridge in a Sheaffer Vigilant which I’d thought I had resurrected the original seal in some time ago– a happy delay with another of the client’s pens made sure the failure happened on my workbench rather than in her pocket– and I’m very happy with the result. All the moreso because it’s reversible. My next use of that sort of thing will be with the more permanent application to a later model pen, but given the instant results I’m actually sort of looking forward to mutilating a pen for science.

The only sour note was a very gooey sac in a very bad place. I borrow a phrase from Partick O’Brian’s Dr. Maturin when I say I could wish to the devil the man who thought of crimping the end of a sac protector in a Sheaffer snorkel filler. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s a great annoyance. If you don’t repair your own pens– this is the reason you’re paying someone else to do it, trust me.

Moving from my own developments to my son’s: I had mentioned earlier his own interest in other people’s pens, and this took on a new aspect on Friday. He lifted from my pocket the Wearever I wore that day, and apparently mistaking it for one of his old playmates (the Parker “51”) tried to pull the cap off. It being a screw-cap, and he not being much mightier than the standard child of his age, I didn’t do any more than smile indulgently (as opposed to the hoot of terror I give when he’s got the “51” or when any adult gets hands on one of my screw-caps). Thwarted, he gazed at the pen for a moment… and then unscrewed the cap. Hoot! A hoot of terror with a large tint of admiration, though– I’m very pleased with both his motor control and his cognitive effort.

Two final notes on the day: A totally gratuitous plug for a pen shop I will likely never visit, but one of my fellows on the FPN wrote a delightful word-picture of it–

LEE’S PEN SERVICE
Lot G-8
Bangunan Pak Peng
76 Jalan Petaling
5000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 00 603 2078 7987
Fax: 00 603 2078 7987
Email: leespen@pd.jaring.my

…and there is a much better review of Gojira no Gyakushu by an actual scientist than the mere mention of it I made myself, which I encourage the interested to peer at.

Today’s pen: Guider Vishal (having not updated the site, I think I’ll be back into relatively posh pens tomorrow)
Today’s ink: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist.

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Fuyu Syogun

Posted by Dirck on 9 October, 2009

I live in Canada. Mon pays c’est hiver, if I remember the song lyric properly (unlikely– je ne parle pas francais), and we are no strangers to Russia’s great general (whose name, japonified, is this number’s title as well as an ink colour). And yet, I am very put out by the fact that it snowed overnight, and I actually had to wear gloves against the cold. Early October is meant to be an elegaic period, when the chill in the air– the limited, well-above-freezing chill– is balanced by the last strength of the waning sun, and one can still call forth the sensations of summer. The leaves aren’t even off the trees yet!

I am once again, as is a seasonal event, brought to a contemplation of Noodler’s line of “polar” inks, which are apparently proof against freezing. Ink freezing in a pen would be bad news, I’m sure; the expanding crystals putting pressure on the delicate parts of the feed, fractional distillation dumping pigment in great clumps, the reservoir itself threatened by pressure from a growing lump of ice. The polar inks are resistant to this sort of thing down to temperatures which even I haven’t been out in.

But… I don’t take my pen out in that kind of nonsense. It’s not right in next to my skin, but it’s closer to my own warm person than to the raging elements. I suppose I should carry some kind of recording thermometer to be sure, though, as on the days that the temperature goes below -30 it does seem that the cold batters its way through all layers of clothing.

For the moment, I’m going to concentrate not in ink purchases but on tires. The lately-purchased minivan has not got a lot of skin left on it’s front wheels, and I discovered in a rather direct manner this morning that the ABS system is functioning as it ought. That’s as much excitement as I want out of a winter that won’t officially begin for more than two months.

I blame Safeway; they’ve already got the egg nog on the shelves.

Today’s low-end pen: Wearever Pennant— a grey lever-filler.
Today’s non-boutique ink: Lamy blue

Post Scriptus: I’ve just come back from lunch where the waitress found she’d left her pen elsewhere while cashing me out. I have no qualms whatever about leanding today’s pen, and so I did. “Nice pen,” said she, as she applied it in the correct orientation and pressure to the item she needed to write upon. A tiny ray of sunshine in this cold and cloudy day.

Post Post Scriptus (regarding post): I just learned it’s World Post Day. Hoorah, Olé, and Banzai for the Postal System!

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Good works

Posted by Dirck on 28 August, 2009

I’m not sure that this isn’t an extension of the soft-heartedness (or is it head) that brought me to my current living arrangement, but today I’m giving away pens.

This is not, I’m sorry to say, one of those things where I encourage people to comment on my blog by offering a small prize. “Sorry to say” because of the possiblility of having raised, however briefly, expectations of free stuff in what is turning out to be a score or so of readers, and also because it reveals a flaw in my personality in the direction of miserliness.

No, the pens I’m giving away are already spoken for. One, a Hero 616, is a very low grade parting gift for a co-worker who returns to full time school next week, and who has been spoken of previously as the focus of another co-worker’s efforts to draw her into Mannenhitsu-do. It cost me very little, and it will drive her to go buy some ink eventually, an act almost certain to land her near some better pens.

My other donation is a box of five pens, on their way to Wales to be experimented upon by one who is interested in learning the art of repair, which is definitely a wing of Mannenhitsu-do. The only one that there’s any real hope for is the inherently hopeless Wearever Pennant (a proper lever-filling model, at least). The rest are all the sort of thing that a beginner need not fear rendering beyond repair while learning, because they’re already there.

I am slightly abashed in this so-called good work, alas. I’ve asked the recipient to cover postage. I expect Marley’s ghost to be hanging off the end of my bed tonight.

A final aside, as I take one more shameful snipe at Sanford– thanks to the efforts of the crew of the Penquod, we may have found what has become of the colour that used to reside in Parker ink– it’s being stuffed into pencils.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Compact II (it goes well with the waistcoat I’m wearing today, but it’s so darned short!)
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noir

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