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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Mightier than the sword?

The big one carries Barcelona FC's colours. Twas a gift
Great claims were made for the ball-point pen introduced soon after WW2. A triumph of technology, they said. There was even a suggestion that it would write for ever. Father Christmas put two of them - a red and a green - into my stocking in the late forties.

Enthusiasm for ball-points died away just as rapidly as it had grown. Some schools forbade their use, saying they would corrupt calligraphic skills. There was a legal interdiction against signing certain documents with a ball-point. As a journalist  using Pitman's shorthand I found it duff given it was incapable of producing thick and thin lines. After a month or so non-drying ball-point ink started to migrate into the surrounding paper, rendering what was written illegible.

My pal Joe suffered mightily. A ball-point, stowed away in the breast pocket of his newish jacket, exploded leaving an ineradicable large blue stain. Imagining this to be a purely cosmetic defect he kept on wearing the jacket for a while. But the stain assumed the power of  a stigmata and he was forced to discard this otherwise serviceable garment.

In parallel with the ball-point's decline arose a renewed - though minor - affectation for the fountain pen. This despite the fact that it was unwise to travel far without recourse to a bottle of Quink. Some deep-seated prejudice on my part associated fountain pens with people who voted Tory.

And then the word processor was invented, granting us all legibility and an infinite ability to make corrections. A style enhancer for those who cared to see it in this light. These days I use my ball-points to sign cheques. Hallelujah.

2 comments:

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Yes, ballpoints and ballpoint ink are devils' tools, a plague on them.

However, I always carry at least two of the monsters in my handbag along with a notebook for keeping track of useful stray thoughts and/or sketches. Some of those sketches in which the cursed ink has sunk into the other side of the paper are rather good, I must admit. This could not happen with a word processor.

Roderick Robinson said...

Natalie: Consider this. To a journo a good intro (ie, an article's first para) is vital. In pre-WP days one took a sheet of paper, a sheet of carbon (making sure it was the right side up), and then another sheet of paper and fed this tri-partite sandwich into the typewriter's roller.

One attempted a felicitous intro, failed, took out the defective sandwich, removed the carbon and slid it between two fresh sheets of copy-paper, screwed up the failed sheets and fed the new sandwich into the typewriter. Und so weiter. This could go on for a long time.

You are into graphic arts I am an ex-journo. I would take a million pretty ball-point blotches to come anywhere close to compensating for the loss of that gorgeous feeling (post-WP) when I realised I had screwed up two sheets of paper for the last time.