Photo Diary


DSC_0008, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

There are few things which are quite so lovely as a good pen, good paper, and a steady flow of real ink, to a writer like me. I am a mad keen Apple computer user, but that doesn’t change the fact that I appreciate and enjoy the use of the older technologies.
Some while ago I bought my second Conway Stewart. Admittedly there had been a gap of about thirty five years between purchases – the first one was a rather heavily beaten up pen that expired, sadly, mainly due to the unreasonable demands placed upon it by this clumsy and rather careless scribbling student – but I always have appreciated pens and finer writing instruments.
Some years ago (Dear God, it’s a quarter of a century now) I began to invest in Cross equipment. When I was a kid, the exceptionally narrow Cross biro was a piece of beauty, and thus it was given out by firms like IBM to respected clients. That was why my dad had one. It was also how my brother got one, I think – although he was an employee and not a buyer!
But the sight of those lovely gold biros appealed to me enormously, and while I worked for Wordplex I bought a biro. Then, when slightly richer, I bought a fountain pen. Later, I got a second fountain pen, this time in red metal rather than gold. Later still, while I worked for Bluebird Software, I got myself a propelling pencil in the same style. And I still have them all.
Both fountain pens have failed on me, and it is a matter of enormous importance to me that both of them have been mended free of charge under the superb Cross lifetime guarantee. Very impressive, too, that when the pens could not be mended, Cross offered me new pens in exchange – and then sent me my old pens anyway, with a nice note saying that they felt sure that the old pens would have some sentimental value, so would I like to keep it.
The black pen here, though, was my second Conway Stewart. I didn’t migrate from Cross because of any annoyance. No, this was a good year and I had earned some money, so I thought I would celebrate with an expensive pen. So I bought this one.
Why this model? Well, first, I am always keen to buy UK produce. So I looked for an English supplier of pens. To my surprise I learned that there are still some UK manufacturers. And then I discovered that Conway Stewart are now made in Devon, here, only a few miles away. And this pen, strictly Edwardian in outlook, was named the “Churchill”, because Winston used a Conway Stewart all through the war (it didn’t look like this, but what the hell!).
This Churchill has served me enormously well. I love it. The looks are delightful, I think, and the size is gorgeous. I have used it for four years now, and have used it to sign almost all my contracts from Headline since buying it.
So why get another pen?
Well, this year has not been a particularly good one from the point of view of work. I have had to make some difficult decisions – one of which was to stop shooting airpistol. I was a very keen practical pistol shooter until the British government managed to force through an absurd knee-jerk piece of legislation in 1997 and banned all real handgun shooting. Since the confiscation of my guns, I’ve been shooting airguns, but to be quite honest, there is not enough pleasure for me in punching holes in paper targets. It wasn’t so boring with .22 pistols, but airguns are not for me. So a month or two ago I decided to sell the airgun, but to replace it with something that would be as well made, as beautiful, and would last as long or longer.
And I found my Conway Stewart Francis Drake edition.
The first motivator was, that my Churchill developed a fault – just some crud in the feed mechanism, I think – it happens sometimes with pens using older inks – and I had to send it back to CS for their fellows to look at it. Again, under their 100 year guarantee, all the work was done free of charge. Wonderful service.
But then I mentioned to them that I was considering a Drake, but didn’t know what nib type to buy. Suddenly the company kicked in. They arranged for me to visit them, and set up a test with a Drake and a variety of nibs. That, I thought, was helpful. Then they offered, if I wished, to alter the nib on my old Churchill. That, I thought, was service over and above the call of duty.
But it wasn’t all. Oh, dear me, no, Laddy.
Then they arranged for me to visit them and I was given a full factory tour with their enormously helpful Marketing Manager, Sean. He showed me (and my family) all around the place. And then, astonishingly, he gave small leather pouches to my two children. Both contained a pair of beautiful little “Dinky” biros from forty years ago. And my daughter left there saying it was the best day of her life (well, she’s clearly had a depressing life until now!).
And the really good thing is, the Drake is every bit as delicious to write with as I had hoped.
Many thanks to Conway Stewart for all their help!

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