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Memories of Fountain pens.

Rubysasha has written about fountain pens here and asks what your memories of fountain pens are. I’ve written about fountain pens here before and elsewhere.

But I decided to write a little more about them here.

I got my first fountain pen when I was in third class. It was red. I distinctly remember it was red and it had an old fashioned ink sac. I think they called them vacuum sacs now.  You got fountain pens after many years of writing with a pencil and ball points were just not allowed. Once your writing was reasonably tidy, theoretically you could move to the fountain pen then. We used to fill them out of a bottle of blue Quink ink. Apparently this was tidier and less messy than using cartridges. I remember the cartridges in question; they were round cylinders of blue and you had to stick a pin in them and then shove them into the relevant pen. I can sort of understand why people thought they were messy. We didn’t have international cartridges at the time. About the best you could hope for was a Parker fountain pen which took Parker cartridges the top of which got pushed down into the cartridge when you pushed it into the pen. That was stylish.

But initially, it was this red pen which I no longer have but which has some sort of a goldie nib as far as I remember. I wrote with it until it scratched beyond possible and then I got a Parker. I think I was about 10 or 11 at that stage. The beauty about going to secondary school – eventually – was being allowed to use Bic ballpoints.

The whole thing with pens that had international cartridges really only happened when I was about 15, when I was in France. I found a couple of pens that were about three quid each, that took international cartridges and which had the pattern of piano keys painted on the outside. I loved them. So did my sister. She swapped me for one, so that I only had one piano pen, but its replacement was a shiny Papermate.

When I was cleaning out pens a few months ago I realised I still had one of the piano pens but it was completely unusable so, with some regrets. Basically, it has a converter in it, stuck. I can’t get it out despite much soaking. I still have it hear beside me, with the sellotape I used at age 15 to label every one of my pens. I still have the Papermate which I cleaned the sellotape from only this year. You’ll get one on Ebay for about ten quid now, and I don’t think Papermate still make fountain pens (although they still make great, great ball points). Mine has a cartridge of J.Herbin Ambre de Birmaine; it writes beautifully.

In addition to it, I own quite a few Lamy fountain pens, the first of which was a present, given to me in 1993. So I have it 20 years. It’s a white one, with a broad nib. I love it. I’ve acquired other Lamy’s over the year, kept some, given others away. I own several Safaris and two AL-Stars. Three of the Safaris are limited edition colours, 2011, 2012 and now, the neon coloured 2013. The others are the afore mentioned white, one black, one yellow, one blue. And I have a Vista. I used to have a red one as well which I remember buying in Vannes but I believe I gave it to someone at some stage who coveted. I have converters in most of them and so, I have a rather worrying collection of bottled ink as well. I have four bottles of Mont Blanc in various colours – midnight blue, burgundy red, oyster grey and lavender purple. More interestingly, I have six bottles of Pelikan Edelstein, all of which are in at least one pen and in some cases, two.

Of all of them, the one I am most inclined to write with is any pen which has Edelstein Onyx in it.

Most of my Lamy pens have medium nibs in them. The two exceptions are the two oldest of the collection, the white which has a broad nib and one of the AL-Stars which has a fine nib on it. Actually, come to think of it, I think the black one may have a fine nib as well.

I tend to favour the medium nib for day to day work. I also own a Lamy Friendship which I switch 1.1 and 2mm nibs in and out of from time to time.

I have a bunch of other pens which take international catrdiges, a few which are I think Stypen and bought in France for comparatively little money. One, which I think is called Le Style, which has J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen in it was bought in the Virgin Megastore in the Louvre, now closed. Others I have picked up in tourist shops in Finland and stationery shops in Belgium over the years. I am pretty sure there is at least one more piano, bought separately to the ones mentioned above, knocking around my life somewhere.

I also own a Caran D’Ache fountain pen, an Ecridor. I’ve wanted one for years, and I love it. It currently has Mont Blanc Burgundy red in it.

I have a pinterest board of pens I like the look of and if I have a shopping list of a pen I really can’t afford but covet right now, it would be an S.T.Dupont. Many of the others are special editions which look beautiful. Caran D’Ache have some gorgeous but horrendously expensive and way out of my budget pens.

I like mechanical pencils too, by the way.

642 Things: What can happen in a second

I can’t measure a second now, and I couldn’t measure a second then. Time is elastic, it goes slowly, it goes quickly. It may be our perception, it may be an as of yet unknown law of physics. We aren’t close to explaining it all yet.

Anything can happen in a second. Anything can not happen in a second. Sometimes life seems like destiny, sometimes it seems just random. In less than a second, I can cross the path of the one. In more than a second, we may intersect, in less than a second, we may miss each other.

In a second, I can catch the greatest wave of my life, in a second, I can come crashing down off the board, another wipe out, another day victim of my surfing incompetence. In a second, I can step out in front of a car, in a second, I can pull someone else from the path of a car.

In a second, everything can change, nothing can change. A sentence taking less than a second to be spoken may utterly change your life. He’s dead. He’s made it. We’ve heard from him. Everything is okay. Will you marry me? I think it’s over. I’ve met someone else. The someone else is your best friend.

In a second, everything can change, nothing can change. Would you like this job in the Caribbean? How about Hawaii. How about the freedom never to have to work again? You don’t like that?

From one second to the next, something starts, something ends. That sweater you’ve been knitting for 3 years? Finished. Last stitch pulled through, all in a second.

A second is such a short space of time. So much can happen in one, so little also. If nothing else, we need to take the space to live our time, maybe not always measure it to the nth degree. Feel the time, feel the life passing through our consciousness.

What can happen in a second. I pick up a book and suddenly, I have projects I never knew I wanted.

642 Things to Write About

I could set up a Tumblr for this project but frankly, I have an abundance of websites and I’m not down with the young in terms of Tumblr anyway.


I picked up a book/notebook called 642 Things To WRite About in Hodges Figgis today. I don’t know what madness possessed me. Maybe it is the five straight days of sunshine.

And I intend to do some (if not all) of the 642 items in it. As I don’t think they line up all that well with the windsandbreezes site I am going to stash them in here.

Water shortages in Dublin

Yesterday evening, Dublin City Council published on their webblog and sent a single tweet that they were implementing water restrictions in Dublin for the weekend, starting last night.

I didn’t find out about this until this morning and from what I can see, a significant number of people likewise only found out this morning. After the restrictions had started. There really was not a whole lot of notice, and not only that, the notice is unclear on what time the daily restrictions end. Either it is 7am or it is 9am, and you may have water, or you may not have water. Your water pressure may drop.

This is in response to an increase in demand thanks to an increased number of leaks.

I have some trouble with this. Water demand from users is probably not changing a whole pile. Water getting wasted by leaks is not water demand, it’s water wastage.

Being honest, I did wonder – given the city’s previous massive problems in the area of water supply post snow events 2 years ago – whether we would have any serious issues given the last couple of days. Being even more honest, I would have to say I don’t think it was that cold that sustained for that long so cannot see why we should have had similar problems. But we do and the restrictions went in place without a lot of people knowing about them.

I follow Dublin City Council on twitter but I am not on twitter 24-7 and I follow circa 2000 accounts on twitter. A single solitary tweet is likely to get lost; it’s as simple as that. For something like this, I really think that Dublin City Council needs to repeat that tweet every single hour until they are finished with water restrictions. Toyota have managed to tell me that Katie Taylor likes singing in her car several times lately and I don’t even follow Toyota.

609 people have email alerts from Dublin City Council. About 14,000 people follow them on twitter. I’ve signed up for the email alerts (service which I did not know was available) in the hope that in the future, I’ll know about these things sooner rather than later. That email alert might be way better than their twitter feed for timely information, or possibly their RSS feed.

If I were Dublin City Council, however, I would certainly look at how effective a single tweet is going to be in terms of getting a major announcement out, simply because twitter time lines are so time sensitive. It is not a big deal – or should not be a big deal – to re-announce these things every few hours.

So besides all these newish pens I have all these oldish pens too

Having access to the internet lets you know when you’re obsessed about something and when you’re not really obsessed about something. I know from the internet that although most people might look at my desk (4 bottles of ink and several boxes of cartridges to fit different pens in many different colours) (and even then they don’t see the four bottles of ink in storage upstairs) that I am rather nuts about pens. Have you seen my pencil case?


I have some really nice mechanical pencils as well. To be honest, I rather like nice stationery stuff. I like nice things full stop but still….

I work with computers all day long, so, for the most part, most of the writing I do consists of To Do lists and the occasional journal entry. Until I started studying maths and now I scribble figures as well. Anyway, back with the fountain pens.

In November, because I was 40, and because I am single and so no one would be flying me off to Prague for the weekend to celebrate, I had a long think about something I really wanted. In this day and age, identifying something like that is harder because I’m older and I tend to have most things I need.

But I eventually decided on a Caran D’Ache fountain pen because I had a number of Caran D’Ache Ecridor ballpoints which I love and linked to that, I find myself writing with the fountain pens again. And I have quite a few of them of which the birthday present is obviously the most expensive, some of which only cost a couple of euro, one of which was the result of a trade done when I was 15 with my sister. I had this really cheap pen which I bought with my pocket money for about three pounds in the local stationers.  In fact I had two, one new one and one not so new. My sister wanted the not so new one because it flowed so nicely. She gave me a Papermate one in return which came with a filler as well. I promptly put that in the other cheaper pen and now I can’t get it out. I know this because I still have both.

Most of my ballpoint pens are Caran d’Ache pens with two or three Cross pens and one Lamy. I put a new refill in the Lamy this mornings (having finally found it). Most of my fountain pens are Lamy Safari or AL-Star. I think there are 7 of those mainly with M nibs, one F and one B. I have one Friendship as well.

But in addition to them, I still have a couple of Stypens, the second of the piano pens which my sister didn’t want, the Papermate she give me, a wooden body pen which I bought in Finland and a couple of others which I don’t remember buying but all of which took international cartridges, which haven’t been touched in years. The ink in the Papermate had turned to glue. I still can’t get the filler out of the plastic piano pen and if you put an amber cartridge into either of the Stypens, they both still write pink. So right now, all the older pens are sitting in cold water healing themselves. It could take a few days.

And I got completely covered in thick ink pigment. I looked such a mess.

The oldest of the Lamy pens which I have is a white one which a friend in Germany gave to me when I was there at the age of 19. It is the one with a broad nib and it still writes beautifully. I’ve since given two others away, a red one and a transparent one. I’m inclined to replace the transparent one because I like the whole transparency thing. The three newest ones are yellow (bought yesterday), green (bought a few weeks ago) and aquamarine (bought about 4 months ago). There is one black matt one and one silver and one silver grey AL-Star. I can’t see what’s on the black matt pen – it’s probably about 15 years old and it looks like a F. The silver grey definitely has a F nib on it.

In addition to those pens, I also have a more recently bought Parker fountain pen, one of their really inexpensive ones, which I just don’t seem to use…it never fits to me and currently, its cartridge is empty.

Do I need all these pens? Probably not. It could be argued that one and one spare is adequate. But then I have different colours in most of them and they do different things for me depending on what I am using them for (yes, I have colour organised my to do list). I could justify them that way.

I just don’t. The point is, I love beautiful things and beautiful things do not have to be expensive. I’m fortunate enough to have found a way to make my handing writing neat when I was about 9 (it took a lot of hard work and fighting). Given a choice between the cheapest of my fountain pens and whatever is in the stationery store at work, I will always choose my fountain pen.

The only difference in the future is I will take better care of them, and I won’t be cleaning the older pens for days and days at a time to clean 15 years of ink pigment out of them.


I have a problem. I have a serious problem. I think it’s called the Shiny problem but it manifests itself in many different aspects of my life and occasionally, it causes operational problems. My current problem is Yarn.

I knit and I crochet but if I’m honest, not that much. There are people turning out 4 sweaters, 3 scarves and a couple of baby jackets in the time that I oh, start a doily, start and maybe finish a scarf, or may be not as the case may be. I have finished things, of course I have. I took three years to finish a thread skirt which, despite my weight changing several times in the meantime, is actually too big for me and anyway, I want to unpick the end of it and do another 4 inches because I don’t think it’s long enough either. I’ve finished one doily. I’ve finished 2 scarves and one shawl. I even wrote up a pattern for the shawl (it wasn’t very hard). I’ve crocheted two cardigans and one waist wrap around thing.

It’s not a whole lot to be honest. Yes, I know I am busy but still….I have friends who are turning out significantly more. So I can only assume I’m not really a knitter or not really a crochet; they are two hobbies I have but neither of which take over my life. What has taken over my life though, is buying yarn.

It’s fine, I suppose, to have conversations with you friends about your yarn stash if, for example, you’re doing several pairs of socks a month, cardigans for all your friend’s babies, hats to finish off that one ball you had left over from the sweater you did about 4 years ago. You can justify adding to the stash because in fairness, you’re making some inroads into it. I’m not. I’m not making any inroads to my stash in terms of turning it from balls of yarn into some sort of finished object. When I started knitting, I turned into a yarnaholic. It’s really only recently I could walk past This is Knit without going in and buying yarn I didn’t need and didn’t have a project for. And frankly, I’ve been swearing at myself for years not to buy yarn unless I had a project for it. Sometimes I got around buying yarn by buying pattern books instead. I have a phenomenal collection of pattern books, all bought because there was something in it that I might make when I had finished the other nine thousand objects I had designated Works in Progress. I cheat on my projects with other projects.

So currently sitting on my coffee table is a new Rowan book, a Louisa Harding book I picked up in a sale and yet another lot of pineapples. Pineapples mark me out as a crocheter. Not only that, I have rather a lot of magazines in both French and English with patterns as well. Many of them are beautiful. Many of them I want to do. But not quite enough and a lot of them involve yarn I don’t already have, or at least, can’t raid from the stash.

Most of my knitting friends deal with stash embarrassments by knitting them down. I’m now so overwhelmed by mine that I don’t think this is an option. I have not managed knitting particularly well which is annoying since before I looked at knitting patterns I was probably managing the crochet side of things a bit better. My life would, however, be a lot easier to organise, if I had less yarn, sooner, rather than the 9 months at least it will take me to turn it into finished objects.

I’m currently knitting a scarf with some yarn which was a present. It will be beautiful when I finish it; it is laceweight so it will be a while. After that, I have another two balls of yarn which are beautiful and which were presents, one of which will be a hat and the other of which will be either a shawl or a scarf. These are the only new projects I can countenance starting with new yarn that I didn’t own on 1 December last year.

But beyond those, there is currently a tank top under production in 4 ply cotton. There is a stash of 4 ply cotton to do a second tank top when that one is finished,. They are both Rowan patterns, they are both beautiful and they will both take me a while because they are both knitting. I have a lace shawl under production which involves 72 rosettes and a million half Rosettes, somewhere. Don’t ask me where it is at the moment, it’s in the amorphous blob called “one of the yarn boxes”. I have a pink doily under production which is about 1 third done although half the rows are done. It’s circular so the more rows you do, the bigger the rows you have left to do. There’s a crochet free form scarf under production somewhere. These are the ones I can actually remember and assuming I’ve forgotten nothing, besides that there are 4 big boxes of yarn, some of which were bought for projects which I will never do now because I’m like 4 years older than I was when I bought the yarn and the pattern and frankly, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

The only stuff I really want to keep is the crochet thread which serves double purpose for crochet and may also see life with lace bobbins. All the stuff which is more knittable than crochetable, I am seriously considering ditching. I don’t need the stress of having yarn I really will never have time to work up.

I’m considering having a destash coffee/tea/hot chocolate evening and inviting friends to come and raid. Or I’m prepared to donate suitable bits of it to a school or activity centre that teaches kids to knit. Suggestions welcome on that front because I don’t have children myself and I don’t know any possible targets. And failing that, I will probably acquire a big black bag and Be Strong and get rid of the yarn I neither need nor want. I know I can do this. You’re talking to someone who has actually thrown out three balls of Noro that were just not working up either crochet or knitted. This may be hard because as you ditch these things, you are ditching a small part of what you used to be.

And when that is done, and all that’s left is in a clearly organised and labelled box and I know exactly what I have, it is entirely possible that the two boxes of houselinen, the towels and sheets, will fit on a shelf somewhere that they don’t at the moment because the boxes of yarn are in the way. And I will be able to go back to tapestry.

Designing a Filofax that (might) work

I confess, I own 3 Filofaxes, a personal one which is at my parents, and two A5s. I spent a lot of December trying to work out an attractive way to organise my life, read 1 million organising, journal and lifehacking articles, spent hours talking about this with friends and eventually decided that the reasons that the filofax stuff didn’t work for me was because the Filofax system wasn’t personalised enough to me. So I decided to empty out the junk from the two Filofaxes, dive head first into the world of printables, say feck that, fire up Photobox and not have time to watch any television for about a week. Well two days anyway.

I like beautiful things, so I designed a beautiful Filofax for me. It’s not finished yet – there are holding pages in some places, and my printer needs new cartridges so full on designs in some places were delayed. But I thought a lot about what I wanted from a journal and I basically want it to be very customisable, and beautiful, and inspiring, and likely to be used. I cheated on one small thing – I bought Week on 2 page calendars and some vertical and horizontal year planners mainly because a) I didn’t have time to lay them out myself and b) if I did, they’d cost a lot more to print than buying the Filofax ones. I may change this during the year if it again is obvious the Filofax layouts aren’t working for me.

So this is the front page.


It’s got my name and contact details, and has a binary brush design on it. I printed it on Tesco cotton paper which is more expensive than their cheap white paper but is cream and pretty and will be used for a lot of dividers.

Some of what follows was done in Photoshop, some in Word, depending on what purpose I was trying to fulfill.

I wanted my organiser to have a place to go when I need a break, a little inspiration, a little reminder that life has many beautiful things in it. So the first section is an Inspiration section.


I don’t really use tabs all that much – just wider dividers. This is about a cm wider than normal A5.

It includes a bunch of photographs I took myself, a verse of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, the first page of the second movement of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto.

Inside the section is a page devoted to XKCD which is one of my favourite things on the web


some poems printed on parchment


a few photographs I took myself


a couple of pieces of travel writing of places I love (in this case Brittany but I’m going to add to it)


and in a plastic pouch some cards by other photographers I like, like Philip Plisson and Lyn Tait.

Then there’s the Personal Development section:

which looks like this:


The two quotes are key to the idea of doing rather than talking about doing and it’s got a review of last year in it as well.


In fact, this theme is prevalent because it covers the actual time planning as well:


I did a number of month based dividers as well – January, February and March are done. I wanted them to have a little beauty, and they were printed on the cotton paper again – and each of them has a poem.




I’ll use songs as well if I find ones I like for the other months, or quotes out of books.

I’ve got lots of projects which is why I need an organiser.


and I have lots of things people have said about organising projects.

and just to prove I do use little post-it type thingies as well:


this will organise the inside of projects as lots of small projects really can’t demand a whole pile of graphic design every time. I will do dividers to sort projects into blog thingies, data thingies, sports thingies and the like….

I’m currently studying maths at the Open University plus a bunch of other things via coursera, MIT OCW and Udacity.


so that needs to be organised as well.


There’s a travel section as well:

and a finance section:


and lastly, a wishlist organiser.


so that I spend a lot less money on impulse buys and can sanity check more of them. The one thing I do need is an A5 metal punch for my Filofax – couldn’t get one in Dublin and the plastic one struggles with photographic card and anything thicker.

In terms of what I used, there are Photoshop textures and brushes which I have accumulated over the years. Most of the textures came from Metal Militia. A lot of the brushes came via Brusheezy and Deviantart. The font is a paid for font, Academy Engraved I think, which I love although the front page one is a script like font which either came with Photoshop or I picked up from I use Tesco Finest cotton paper, HP Brilliant or Eco white, some parchment which I bought in Easons years and years ago, a HP printer and an AWFUL lot of time.

Drawn journals

While I was wandering around pinterest the other day, I came across journals where people just drew one picture per day and laid them out in the shape of a box calendar, you know one where you’ve all the boxes to write appointments into and stuff. I liked the idea, and thinking about it yesterday, I decided to do something similar.

I’ve never done a 365 photographically but that’s because I have been known to post 1000 photographs a day during kite competitions. But I wondered about the discipline involved in drawing a single picture every day to depict something of the day for posterity, something that makes me smile (usually) or something which makes me sad. Something that touches the day. I resolve to find something.

I’m not very good at drawing, mind so this could be entertaining.

I own a couple of beautiful notepads, including a couple that I picked up in Paperchase in Arnotts under the heading of “I’ll definitely find some use for these:


Let’s face it, I do like pens.

This morning’s sketch – I know the day is barely half done – but nothing, I suspect is going to top this. When I woke this morning, and looked out the window, the eastern sky was a beautiful orange glow. The western sky was lit by a waning but almost full moon. Despite my view being rooves and other people’s gardens, it truly was a gorgeous way to start a new year.


This is it.

Happy New Year.

Best thing I bought (from a use point of view) in 2012

Laptop stand in IKEA. It cost about 5 euro and had the impact of raising my keyboard but especially my screen and suddenly using the thing is a whole lot more comfortable. Recommended.

On needing to be organised.

So 2013 is fast approaching and I have realised that in the way most people have to budget money – I am amongst these most people – I also seriously have to budget time.

I used to be very organised. I used to have a lot less to do with my time. In 2011, I started studying maths and statistics with the Open University. I have a deep desire to add a bunch of skills as well in the way of Python and various data analytics related items. I have a bunch of private projects to look at. I have a desperate tendency not to get enough sleep, not to be able to keep a lid on the filing, not to make time to go swimming. I also have to work a full time job.

So I have been taking time out to read a lot of stuff on getting organised. Personal organisation. Time management. In the way of Rule 34, you have just no idea how much stuff there is on organisation out there.

I’ve typically worked off my Google calenders synched out to my phone and iPad. I have lacked a decent overview of what is actually happening in my life at any given time so I have decided to build a life planner. To do this, initially I was going to use an A4 folder, then I remembered I owned one, not two filofaxes. So currently, I am giving time to sorting out the filofaxes in a way that works for me. I want Pretty because I like Pretty.

I have failed with Filofaxes before (obviously seeing as I have two of them). I just couldn’t get their bits of organisational stuff to work for me. However, I have realised that I own a decent printer, Photoshop, Word 2010. I don’t have much time but theoretically, if I work things right on the organisational front, I’ll get the time back manyfold. Well I won’t because the time I didn’t have to go swimming I will now spend swimming.

One of the things I have not had any time at all to do lately is creative stuff. So when I lined up to start designing dividers for my usefully A5 sized Filofax (the general organiser), I couldn’t actually remember the last time I did any graphic design at all. I could not find any of my Photoshop tools. So I spent time dragging them back from external drives. I had two Photoshop tools drives one of which is missing. I thought it was in my camera bag (but it’s not).

Things like this never used to be normal. I’m not saying they are normal now – I rarely if ever lose things. That being said I was able to drag down the tools from another back up (and I’m pretty sure they are on even another back up after this).

The truth is, I have, in general, managed to reasonably keep a lid on the many plates I’m spinning but even though I can do this, I can’t tell you how many plates I have spinning. There are a lot of things I want to do so I really need to do a better job on budgeting time for them. I need to do a better job on budgeting time for stuff I don’t have time for any more. The more I do this, I reckon, the more I’ll get done.

Like getting blog entries written. All of my blogs are suffering at the moment. Yes, I have five. No, they are all getting somewhat neglected.

In the meantime, as a bona fide more organised person, I have discovered labelmaking machines. I am in the process of labelling all my plugs. This gives me an extraordinary feeling of achievement sometimes.

I leave you with the words of Calvin Coolidge:

We can’t do everything all at once. But we can do something at once.

Of course, that could be misinterpreted but I read it as “get stuck in because every little bit you achieve takes you closer to the goal”.

Happy New Year.