When Words Fail, There's Always The Gift Of Writing.
Not long ago, on one of my frequent sorties away from Bali I found myself in a restaurant in K.L.
While sitting there I couldn’t help being privy to a conversation happening at the table next to mine.
What was transpiring was obviously the culmination of financial transaction as, after one of the suited gentlemen, obviously satisfied with the details of the contact, reached into his inside pocket and extracted a magnificent Mont Blanc pen, unscrewed the top and signed the document with a flourish.
Oh, it was sheer poetry in motion!
It was a rare sight and maybe we are seeing the demise of the mighty pen, that instrument constructed for the art of writing that has been with us for centuries?
When I was a rather junior copywriter with Grey International I was given the task of trying to re- ignite the consumer's interest in acquiring a fountain pen to facilitate their writing, or perhaps to bestow as a gift to a loved one. The brand, if memory serves me correctly, was Cross Pens and we embarked on a series of advertisements extolling the virtues of the classic writing instrument.
My colleagues and creative directors must have realised that I had a love of writing copy for the pen manufacturers as, over the years, besides Cross I also worked on Mont Blanc as well as Waterman.
The clients often gave the creative team a variety of pens to 'try' out, so as better to enjoy the skill and craftsmanship that had gone into the creation of these fine tools. They encouraged us to enjoy the smooth trajectory across the page, to marvel at the fine and intricate nibs beautifully engraved with the manufacturers logo and to revel in the 'feel' of the timeless design.
They were indeed fine pieces but as irreverent copywriters we treated these fine instruments will little or no respect, trying them out on the back of toilet doors scribbling mindless graffiti, or using the wonderful inks and cartridges as vicious bombs used to throw around the art studio at the unsuspecting account executives.
Several of these pens ended up being imbedded in the ceiling tiles.
Yes, we were Philistines!
Years later one seldom sees a fountain pen appear to compose and craft a letter on fine parchment with inks that have originated in exotic locations.
No, the ubiquitous e-mail has put paid to that.
All apparently is not lost as, recently I had the occasion to lunch with a budding author who had recently finished her first novel. When it came to settle the bill, it was she who insisted on paying, and signed the credit card slip with a slim, elegant Parker pen whose ink was the colour of the Aegean Sea on a cloudless day.
When pressed, she told me that her journals as well as her manuscripts were first written with the trusty pen as she felt that seeing her written words on the page gave her far more pleasure than re reading her script perfectly formatted on a computer screen.
Bravo. I thought perhaps there is life in the old writing tool yet.
I still believe that the art of the poison pen letter is far better served when the recipient has to open an envelope and read a well thought out and crafted letter created by hand with an amenable fountain pen. The insults have more punch and will stay with the reader far longer.
Even today, when I receive a letter with my name and address written in ink on the envelope it is the first I reach for as it always has a flavor of expectation about it.
Perhaps creditors should consider sending their bills out in handwritten envelopes. They might not get paid but at least they will get opened.
Sadly, apart from my budding author friend, these days I never see my colleagues, family or friends put pen to paper, carefully constructing a missive that will communicate in a flowing hand precisely what they are trying to say.
The fountain pen does not allow mistakes, it is unforgiving in that department, as it has no built in auto spelling correction facility meaning the writer has to think about the sentence before the nib touches the paper.
Pens will always be with us, as how can our world leaders sign those massive treaties that we see televised, where Presidents, Popes and Royalty use the mighty pen to sign into history peace accords, trade agreements or when it comes to Royalty, signing the visitors book.
The fountain pen has more style, more oomph than an e-mail, that your computer will format, auto correct and send along with all the millions of other e mails in cyberspace.
If we are seeing the demise of the fountain pen, and what’s more we will have lost the pleasure of seeing all those wonderful coloured inks!
Paul v Walters is the author of five best selling novels. When not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali he scribbles for several international travel and vox pop journals.
His latest novel, Scimitar was released in September 2016