Home Inspiration Mein Füllfederhalter ist kaput!

Mein Füllfederhalter ist kaput!

by J. C. Greenway
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Mein Füllfederhalter ist kaput - two broken fountain pensDisaster struck this weekend when – not one! – but two of my fountain pens broke. I can understand your thinking, this is the digital age, why would a blogger care about a pen being out of action? Use another one, I can hear you shouting, get a biro, (wo)man the fuck up! The truth of it is, that I can’t go back. Forced to write with a fountain pen from a tender age because it was believed it would make my handwriting nicer, I tried to flaunt such bourgeois notions at university by using horrible and inevitably chewed-up old bics. Tried, but I am afraid they don’t cut it with me. I have employed the argument that I can write quicker with ink, as the nib glides across the paper more smoothly than a ball-point which cuts in, so my hand can keep up with my thoughts and I can get it down before whatever it was melts off into the ether. Similarly, writing cheques (another soon-to-be-archaic experience) or letters, or birthday cards, or never-to-be completed ‘to do’ lists, all benefit incalculably from the use of what the Germans so charmingly call ein Füllfederhalter, hence me wailing: mein Füllfederhalter ist kaput.

At school, I went through a – thankfully short, owing to its unmistakable air of pomposity – phase of using a fountain pen refillable from a bottle of ink. Fingers would be permanently stained, pristine white shirts dappled with stray spots, a supply of blotting paper (always luminous pink – why?) could never be too far away. With the old Parkers you could flick the ink, if you were so inclined, by hitting the right angle to unleash a flurry of black dots, marching across your friend’s textbook and earning you both a few deducted marks for your sham Pollock artistry. I can’t image today’s schoolchildren being allowed access to something so fun and so messy, which is a shame, not least for standards in handwriting.

So while the broken utensils are off at the mender and I reluctantly make do with a scabby ball point from a long-forgotten conference, I leave you with this quote from Idler, Tom Hodgkinson:

Go backwards in all things.  Wear tailor-made suits, use a fountain pen, walk through the park instead of taking public transport, keep a copy of Byron with you, go to art galleries at lunchtime, enjoy an afternoon pint in the pub, sneak in a cinema visit during the working day. You must transform yourself in your mind from put-upon wage slave to modern anthropologist. Detach yourself. And force yourself to leave work punctually.

Some of those are harder to achieve than others. The fountain pen is a good place to start (just try not to break it, so you won’t have to say… mein Füllfederhalter ist kaput!)

Out-of-focus shot of a corner of a desk, by me. Also featuring alongside the two broken fountain pens: my Moleskine, glasses, jewellery box and a Mallorcan fan dating from the Seventies. The usual writerly detritus

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Daniel Hoffmann-Gill 18 May 2010 - 10:06 am

The Germans are very good at coming up with words that are far too long and wonderful for the object in question.

Julia Smith 18 May 2010 - 10:19 am

It’s true! Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte will always be my favourite German word but füllfederhalter is now running it a very close second.

And this is all making me want to brush up on my really rusty German…

markwoff 18 May 2010 - 10:57 am

I cleaned my Waterman this weekend. Actually stood and watched it rolling in its little glass of water, plumes of ink curling as if the clouds might part to reveal an excited squid. It was a nice slow weekend. Then the rinse, the dry, and back to full ungammed writing pleasure. Wrote you a postcard J – and there’s another retro-activity to enjoy, perhaps with that afternoon pint.

Next up: Haynes’ cycle manual propped open as I fix the creaking bearings in my crankset (which would be much funnier in German, but I’m not just going to write ‘kränkenschaft,’ for obvious reasons).

Julia Smith 18 May 2010 - 12:44 pm

tee hee, ‘kränkenschaft’. That settles it, I am going to re-learn German forthwith.

Some beautiful imagery there, pal. As ever!

thenakedlistener 18 May 2010 - 4:18 pm

Holy gesundheit! You actually have a Parker Vector 45 fountain pen! I would give my right arm, leg and everything else to have that!

No, seriously, I’m like you. I *was* a regular fountain pen user, but because I travelled a fair bit for work, it’s just more convenient to mess around with a rollerball pen instead.

Sara 31 March 2013 - 5:46 pm

I just feel compelled to write here that I, too, still write with a fountain pen. I have a box full of fountain pens. I’m prepared to recite 20 minutes of hate, if that box and its precious content was to disappear from my belongings. Long live the fountain pens! 😀


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