I shall start with a confession: Until quite recently I had never used a fountain pen.
Somehow I had managed to get to the wrong side of 40 without ever having written a single letter using this particular type of pen. Contrary to popular belief, it is not compulsory to be taught how to write with a fountain pen in every school in the UK. Whether or not it should be is perhaps a subject for a different post.
So what changed after all this time to arouse my interest enough to actually think about using a fountain pen instead of one of the numerous ballpoints that filled the pen pot on my desk?
In short, a conversation with my work colleague Bob. Over a cup of coffee one day, he was telling me about his prized Montblanc pen that he uses at home. It was given to him as a leaving present from a former employer many years ago. He spoke about his Montblanc with such affection for a pen that I was taken aback, and my curiosity was aroused. After all, a pen is only a tool for writing with isn’t it?
So the die was cast. I decided that I must have one myself to try – but where do you start. With so many fountain pens to choose from and a whole new vocabulary to learn, it was a daunting task.
I thought about maybe visiting a specialist pen retailer to get some advice and try a few out. But somehow that seemed a little clinical and unadventurous. I wanted the anticipation of waiting for it to arrive in the post and the wild excitement of opening the box when it finally did to see my newest acquisition in all its glory.
After reading of a few of the excellent pen blogs, I was still no closer to making a decision. There were several that really interested me, but I wanted the first one to be special. Then Bob came to the rescue.
“You know, the first fountain pen I ever used was a Parker 51,” he said casually, while looking over my shoulder as I was reading yet another review.
He added that, although they stopped making them in the early 70’s, they are a bit of a collector’s item these days. The words had barely left his mouth, and I was already entering "Parker 51" into eBay and filtering the fountain pen results. There were so many to choose from but which one was it to be?
Then I saw it. The advert simply said “1957 Parker 51” and in the description it went on to say that the pen had belonged to the seller’s late father and was in the original box with its receipt. The seller was not sure if the pen worked, but it looked in good condition.
I knew then that I wanted it. This would be my first fountain pen, and I was going to have it at all costs. It was bought by its original owner nearly 10 years to the day before I was born. But, being a Yorkshire man, we are still brought up with a healthy respect for the value of money, so I waited till the last few seconds of the auction before showing my hand and bidding for it.
Success! The iconic Parker 51 was mine and arrived in the post several days later.
It was, if anything, over-packaged. It took a while to remove it all, and then there it was, perfect. Not a mark or a scratch upon it – but did it work? I gently lifted it out of its box, and the first thing that struck me was how well-balanced it felt. Then I unscrewed the barrel and inspected the filler. It all looked to be in pristine condition. I probably should have cleaned it with some cold soapy water first (I read this afterward on the Fountain Pen Network), but filled it with some Parker blue black Quink Ink that I had purchased as soon as the eBay auction had finished.
At first, I could not write with it properly. I had the pen held at too steep an angle, and, in my haste, I was rushing to put my first words on to the page. I was beginning to get a little frustrated and wondering what all the fuss with fountain pens was about. I stopped writing, took several deep breaths and tried to relax, and then started again. I changed the angle of the pen and started to slowly write. The ink flowed smoothly onto the paper. As the pen glided across the page, it felt like the it was meant to be in my hand.
I knew then, in that instant, that things would never be the same again. A whole new world had just opened up to me and strangely enough it made me look at the pens that I was already using in a different light. I have started to think about why I use a particular pen and what I like and don’t about the way it looks, feels and writes.
I am now hooked. I am still obsessed with running to keep fit but I have found that I am becoming a bit of a pen junkie and need the new fix of trying something new. However, my Parker 51 is still my favourite pen and will always be special as it was my first ever fountain pen.
What was your first fountain pen? Do you still have it and use it, or was it something inflicted upon you by an overzealous English teacher at school?