Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy what you find here. Whilst you may not agree with everything I post, if you respect my right to my opinion I'll respect your right to disagree with it and we should get along just fine. :)

Disclaimer: the views expressed by the characters in these works may not necessarily represent the views of the author. Got that? Good.

Right then, on with the blog...

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

#FridayFlash: First Foot


In the village where I grew up there is a custom associated with New Year, the custom of the First Foot.

This custom at least partially explains why I’m ruining a £300 pair of hand-stitched brogues wading through the ankle-deep snow in the lane outside my parents’ cottage. It also partially explains the lump of coal and packet of salt in the pockets of my Armani overcoat, and why I’m clutching a £50 bottle of Glenfarclas 105 cask strength single malt whisky in my calfskin-gloved hands.

It does not however, explain why this is the first time I’ve been home in five years. That part of my story is best illustrated by the circumstances of my ignominious departure when I found I could no longer stand the regular beatings metered out to me by my loving father for any little misdemeanour, real or imagined.

At the age of sixteen I left, or more accurately, I threw a few things in a bag and ran, fled all the way to the bright lights of London where, as I soon discovered, the streets are not paved with gold.

Living rough in a big city must be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, even when you’ve learned a few of the tricks it’s still neither an easy nor a pleasant experience.

I spent the next two years living mostly on my wits and managed somehow to keep body and soul largely intact. I’m not saying there weren’t occasions when I resorted to less than legal methods of self-preservation, which was how I came to meet Lucien as I attempted to rob him behind the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

My story could well have been a short one had Lucien not seen something more than desperation in my eyes. He took me in, fed and clothed me and, as the saying goes, turned my life around. Soon I was to all intents and purposes a member of his family with a steady job and, for the first time in my life, money in my pocket. Within a year I was working behind the bar of one of his clubs, the same club I have been managing for the past six months, and managing it well, even if I do say so myself.

So that explains the clothes, the Rolex watch on which I have just checked that it is in fact two minutes past midnight – officially New Year’s Day, and the Aston Martin parked at the end of the narrow lane to my parent’s cottage.

It does not however, explain what I’m doing here, but I’ll get to that shortly.

My parent’s cottage is in darkness apart from a welcoming glow coming from the living room window. My parents are creatures of habit at New Year’s I think as I gently push open the garden gate - see the New Year in with a drink, whisky for my father and a gin and tonic for my mother, then off to bed at half past twelve. The lack of footprints in the virgin snow lying deep, and crisp and even I laugh to myself, on the path reassures me that I will be their first caller of the New Year – their First Foot.

It takes my arthritic mother a few moments to reach the front door after I ring the bell. I use the time to run over in my head the script I’ve been practicing all the way up from London, and then the door is open and there’s my mother, peering out into the darkness, looking right at me.

I take a tentative step forward into the light and hear my mother gasp as the hall light illuminates my dark hair, blue eyes, the same youthfully chiselled, I like to think, features that she last laid eyes on five years ago.

I hold out the coal, salt and the whisky, which my mother takes with shaking hands and a tear in her eye, the reverie of the moment broken only when my father yells through from the living room to ask who’s at the door at this time of night.

The sound of his voice brings it all rushing back as though the past five years never existed. My mother steps back and beckons me inside, but I remain rooted to the spot until finally, a note of exasperation in her voice, she says, ‘Well, come on in then. I’m sure your father will be pleased to see you.’

With that I step over the threshold, pushing the door closed with my foot. As I hang my coat on the end of the banister and my fangs slide into place, I think that I don’t really know whether my father will be pleased to see me, but that I am very much looking forward to seeing him again.



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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

#FridayFlash: Little Johnny's Bike


It seems to me there's something about the festive season which brings out the worst in people, at least as far as shopping is concerned. I do wonder whether Scrooge might not have had the right idea!

The sight of a very large man at our local supermarket doing his level best to sell an equally huge Christmas tree to a very small man (with no transport) for whom it was obviously too large, and not taking no for an answer, provided the initial inspiration for my #fridayflash for this week, which I'm posting early as I'm not sure how much time I'm going to have over the next few days as the juggernaut that is a family Christmas rolls inexorably towards me.

The Christmas tree seller got me thinking, and I began to wonder what would happen if Santa had a complaints department...


Sent: Friday, December 25, 2009 8:32 AM

From: IamJohn1
To: SantaComplaints@northpole.com
Subject: Listen up Santa Claus,
I wanted a bike, not something with paws

Hey Santa Claus, you arsehole,
where's my flamin' bike?
I've been extra good this whole year long
and I told you what I'd like.

The puppy's very nice an' all
but it's shitting on the rug,
and Mum's just shouted, 'Bugger it!'
'cos it's drinking from her mug.

I hope this message reaches you.
It really, really must,
'cos as far as little me's concerned,
There's been a serious breach of trust.

So get your fat red arse in gear,
those bloody reindeers too,
and swap this puppy for my bike,
Really Santa, do!


It's not quite all doom and gloom however, I'm leaving you with my favourite Christmas song of all time, 'Santa's a Scotsman.'



If you enjoy it, please consider buying the MP3, which is available here.

And finally, for those of my readers with young children, don't forget to check out Norad Tracks Santa on Christmas Eve for real time tracking of Santa's progress around the globe.

Merry Christmas!



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Friday, 18 December 2009

#FridayFlash: Christmas Spirit Parts 1 & 2


As it's nearly Christmas I'm going to do something slightly different with my #fridayflash this week, as a one-off I'm posting an extra story. Consider it an early Christmas present, or a buy-one-get-one-free offer if you like, either way get 'em while they're hot!

The two stories are designed to stand alone, but they are linked. If you fancy something light and fluffy, please have a read of part 1. On the other hand, if you'd like something darker, part 2 will probably be more to your liking. On the other, other hand (what, three hands?!) if you have the time, I'd love you to read both parts; go on, indulge yourself, it is (nearly) Christmas after all!

Christmas Spirit Part 1: The Perfect Tree.

Tom trailed after his father, hands stuffed deep in his pockets and collar pulled well up against the cold and flakes of blown snow, which somehow kept falling down the back of his neck. Nevertheless, Tom was excited. This was going to be the best Christmas ever.

Tom and his father had spent hours trudging through the Pick-Your-Own Christmas tree plantation, but none of the trees his father had selected had met with Tom’s approval – too tall, too short, too crooked. For the first time it was Tom’s job to choose the tree and he was taking it very seriously, the tree had to be perfect.

Finding the perfect Christmas tree was so important to Tom, the tree would be the symbol of their family Christmas, and he was determined things would be different this year. Dad was off the booze, Mum had got a promotion at work and for the first time in as long as Tom could remember, his parents weren’t fighting and he was actually looking forward to Christmas. A perfect tree would be the crowning achievement.

Tom became aware his father had stopped on the path up ahead and was stamping his feet and blowing into his hands in a vain attempt to ward off the biting cold.

‘Why don’t we split up, Dad?’ Tom said, ‘we can cover more ground that way. I know the perfect tree’s here somewhere.’

Dave regarded the look of determination on his ten-year old son’s face, ‘OK Tom, just don’t go too far. And shout if you find one. I’ll go this way,’ he indicated a path to the right.

‘And I’ll try over here,’ replied Tom, a knot of excitement building in the pit of his stomach. They had tried pretty much everywhere, the area to Tom’s left was the only place he thought they had not yet looked; Dad’s path lead back towards the warmth of their car.

Racing off into the nearest stand of Christmas trees, drawn up in their dark green ranks like a winter army on parade, Tom soon came to the end of the rows and noticed there was another path leading off past the last few stragglers, deeper into the older, mature forest, which surrounded the plantation. Glancing back over his shoulder for a sign of his father and finding none, Tom thought he would just have a quick look along the path, only for a few minutes. Maybe there was a tree there that no one else had noticed.

Soon Tom was pushing his way through thick, overhanging branches as the path narrowed. He was on the point of turning back when at last he broke through a thicket of undergrowth into the light of a small clearing. Roughly circular in shape and dusted with only a light covering of snow, the clearing was washed by a watery, winter sunlight.

Tom’s eyes took in the heavily snow-laden trees surrounding the clearing’s edge, and the old stones, half hidden under drifts of snow, which marked the perimeter, and then he saw it.

Standing quite alone in the centre of the clearing was simply the best, most perfect Christmas tree Tom had ever seen – tall, green, a strong, straight trunk and, when Tom buried his nose in the branches, the most wonderful scent of pine.

‘Dad!’ Tom bellowed, ‘Dad! I’ve found it! Come quick!’

Brushing the snow off one of the perimeter stones, not noticing in his excitement the strange, angular symbols carved into its rough, weather beaten surface, Tom sat down impatiently to wait.

A few moments later, Tom’s father appeared, puffing and blowing as he jogged up to his son.

Tom simply pointed. And grinned.

‘There,’ he whispered after a moment, ‘There it is. That one. The most perfect Christmas tree ever.’

Dave ruffled his son’s hair affectionately.

‘OK Tom, that one it is,’ he said and, walking over to the tree, Dave pulled a folding tree saw from his daypack and began to cut.

_________


Christmas Spirit Part 2: Fate is Relentless.

The digital clock on the DVD player under the TV read 03: 09 as Tom crept silently into the living room on Christmas morning. Had He been?

He had!

Tom nearly whooped with delight at the sight of the gleaming red bike propped up on its stand in front of the fireplace, a matching cycling helmet dangling from its handlebars, but he knew he mustn’t. His parents were still asleep, and Christmas would only begin officially when his mother got up to make their traditional bacon sandwiches for breakfast, woe betide him if he woke her.

Inhaling, Tom revelled in the icy clean pine fragrance that filled the room. The Christmas tree stood by the window, its perfect branches festooned with ornaments and twinkling lights.

Gazing at his new bike, Tom jumped at a sudden rustling sound behind him. He swung round but there was nothing to see, just the tree twinkling away next to the window. Tom moved slowly closer to it. The sound had definitely come from over here, he was sure of it. He stopped to listen. Silence. Turning back to the bike Tom jumped as the rustling sound came again. It sounded like a small animal running around in the branches.

Tom could just imagine his mother’s reaction at finding something small and furry loose in the living room. Nothing is going to spoil Christmas this year, he thought, and thrust his head deep into the branches.

The breath froze in Tom’s throat, a cold knot of terror turning his insides to ice water as he came face to face with a pair of piercing blue eyes. He barely had time to register the man’s grimy face, the twigs and pine needles in the bushy hair and long beard, before two immensely strong arms shot forward, grabbed his wrists, and heaved Tom bodily off his feet into the tree. Tom did not even have time to scream.

The Christmas tree swayed slightly, a light shower of pine needles falling onto Tom’s discarded red slipper.

* * *

‘Where’s Tom? Where’s my big lad?’ the smile in Suzi’s voice carried to the hallway where Dave had just reached the bottom of the stairs.

‘He’s not in his room,’ Dave replied with mock concern as he walked into the living room, ‘I can’t find him anywhere.’

Suzi winked and pointed to Tom’s slipper in front of the Christmas tree.

‘He’s hiding,’ she whispered, ‘I bet he’s behind the tree.’

But Tom wasn’t hiding. He sat snivelling in the darkness, knees drawn tight up to his chest, hands clasped in front, his knuckles white. Tom’s eyes were clamped tight shut in the fervent hope that when he opened them again it would all have been just a terrible nightmare. A few paces away, a grimy figure, unkempt and dressing in filthy rough clothes of mainly squirrel and fox fur, stood hidden in the shadow of the branches, peering intently out of the tree at Dave and Suzi.

‘Shhh,’ whispered Dave, pantomiming his finger to his lips as he crept over to the tree.

As he leant over to look behind the Christmas tree, Dave’s hand brushed its branches. Instantly a small ripple of breeze went through the tree as Aerdwold’s spirit rushed into Dave’s body, shredding Dave’s soul into oblivion in a heartbeat.

Stumbling slightly then, straightening up, he looked Suzi right in the eye, fixing her with a piercing gaze, which made her feel suddenly uncomfortable.

‘Come on Dave,’ she laughed nervously, ‘stop mucking about. Is Tom behind there or not?’

Aerdwold tried to speak, but it had been so long, his head was spinning, he felt sick, and his new body’s vocal chords were still unfamiliar. All he could manage was a weak, slurred whisper.

‘Wyrd bid ful araed.’

Suzi’s face darkened immediately.

‘I knew it,’ she yelled, ‘I bloody knew it!’ Her voice had taken on that edge which would have told Aerdwold, had he but known, that the flimsy dam of Suzi’s temper, kept in check for so long living with an alcoholic husband, was about to break. Suddenly, the words came gushing out.

‘You’re pissed!’ Suzi shrieked, ‘I should have known you couldn’t lay off the sauce for more than a week. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic! And all that bollocks about letting Tom choose the Christmas tree - I bet that was only an excuse so you could go to the fucking pub!’

‘Well, I warned you, didn’t I?’ she screamed, grabbing him by the arm, ‘warned you what would happen the next time I caught you drinking. Didn’t I? Didn’t I?’

Propelling him roughly towards the front door, Suzi opened it and shoved him across the threshold.

‘Get out! Get out, get out, get out!’ and with that Suzi slammed the door in his face, leaving Aerdwold standing bewildered, dressed only in a pair of Dave’s pyjamas, in the ankle-deep snow on the front step. After a moment, and without bothering to look around him, Aerdwold stumbled down the garden path and shuffled out into the Christmas morning snowstorm.

‘Noooooooo!’ wailed Tom as his mother grabbed the Christmas tree and began dragging it towards the door. She didn’t appear to hear him.

‘And this bastard thing can go too,’ Suzi grunted, heaving the tree, lights, ornaments and all, into the front garden.

Tom sat alone in the darkness sobbing as he heard his mother slam the door again.

* * *

From his place of darkness, Tom occasionally caught a glimpse of his mother through the branches. He saw her regularly for the few weeks after Christmas while the police investigated his disappearance. He saw her when the “For Sale” sign went up outside the house, and again when she left, lugging two heavy suitcases down the garden path to the waiting taxi. Each time Tom called out to her, but couldn’t make her hear him.

Tom was still calling for his mother when the council workmen arrived during the first week of February to dispose of the street’s unwanted Christmas trees which, by now, had turned brown and brittle and had shed most of their needles. As his tree died, Tom grew weaker, only able to manage a whisper of protest as a workman loaded the tree into the jaws of the shredder.

‘Looks like this one was perfect,’ the workman remarked as the machine’s steel teeth began to tear the tree apart.



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Saturday, 12 December 2009

#Fridayflash: That Damned Cat!


First off, apologies if the adult language offends, and for this being late. BTW, I am not a poet, so please be gentle!

That Damned Cat!

That cat just tried to kill me,
the damned, flamin' furry thing.
I swear he stuck his foot out,
just to prove that he was king.

And off I went - went flying
down the length of our damned stairs.
He really takes the piss sometimes,
I don't know how he dares.

So here I lie, a' wincing
in a twisted, painfull heap.
But, should I be able to get up,
to make it to my feet...

I'll kill that ruddy cat of mine.
Yes, yes, that's what I'll do.
I'll be wearing catskin slippers,
And I bet you would do, too!



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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Fifth Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper


It's that time again - the Fifth Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper is now on over at Goldspot Pens. Make sure you check it out!



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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Christmas, Cats and #Fridayflash


Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@FutureNostalgic) will no doubt be familiar with the Christmas preparations here at Pen-thusiast Towers, namely the fun and games we've had putting up our Christmas tree. I swear, it was only out of its box for 30 seconds before No. 4 Cat took up residence...

Mrs. Future; Nostalgic called in a feline relocation expert (yours truly!) and once No. 4 Cat had been raked out of the branches, and I went to staunch the bleeding, she managed to get the decorations on the tree. Just in time...

It's worse now there are toys to play with - the poor Christmas Robin decoration will never be the same again - I'm sure it's having nightmares!

I have however, noticed how No. 4 Cat shares an ability with small children of a similar age - and if you've ever tried to get a recalcitrant toddler into a pushchair (stroller) you'll know exactly what I mean. As soon as she feels me apply that lifting-out-of-the-tree grip, No. 4 Cat goes all stiff and heavy. It's not as though she actively hangs on for grim death, it's more like extremely effective passive resistance; I wouldn't be surprised if she's out doing sit-ins and campaigning for mice's rights or some such when she's older!

I suppose there is an upside to having a cat with so much personality (did someone say too much personality?), and that is she does provide some inspiration for writing, which brings me neatly on to #fridayflash.

Friday what?!

#Fridayflash.

Err...isn't that...

No! Nothing at all to do with hanging around in a public place on a Friday, wearing nothing but a dirty raincoat! #Fridayflash is all about writing. Let me explain...

Created by J. M. Strother, #fridayflash is, in a nutshell, short fiction of 1000 words or less, posted on the author's blog on a Friday, with the title and URL Tweeted on Twitter along with the #fridayflash hashtag; it is also possible to post the URL on the #fridayflash group page on Facebook.

Last Friday's list of #fridayflash stories can be found here.

I was (so they tell me) quite good at English Language at school and used to enjoy creative writing essays, in fact it was about the only part of school I did enjoy, but what with one thing and another (work, life, family, etc.) it's been years since I've done anything like that, and I wasn't sure I still could.

Last month was NaNoWriMo, and a few of my friends on Twitter took part. I, on the other hand, took one look at the idea of writing a 50 000 word novel in a month and was last seen driving a (metaphorical) fast pair of feet in the opposite direction! 50 000 words in a month? Me? Yeah, right!

Enter #fridayflash. Hang on a minute, 1000 words maximum and no time limit? Hmmm. Surely I can crank out 500 words or so? How hard could it be? Well, it wasn't easy, but I did it - then I checked my word processor’s word count feature. 1014 words! Hold on, how did that happen?! Out with the red pen, and a couple of days later I'd managed to get it under the 1000, so I posted it in the hope maybe a couple of people might possibly stop by and read it.

Wow! I was truly humbled by all the wonderfully constructive and supportive comments. What a great bunch of people the #fridayflash authors and readers are.

Maybe I should have another go...

I've now written a couple of #fridayflash stories, which (shameless plug!) can be found here, and here, but I'm already coming to see what a great medium #fridayflash is. If you have access to Twitter, do search the #fridayflash hashtag, you will not be disappointed!



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Friday, 4 December 2009

#FridayFlash: Twist in the Tale


Sophie danced from foot to foot, wringing her clammy hands with excitement. Mum was home. She’d arrived home late last night, and now here she was, standing in the drawing room, carefully unwrapping something. Sophie didn’t know what was more exciting, Mum finally being home from the dig in Egypt, or the package she cradled in her hands.

It must be my present, Sophie thought, Mum always brings me a present.

Sophie glanced around. She hated this room with its antiques, old furniture and paintings, all arranged “just so” to show her aunt’s things off at their best. Sophie was only allowed in the drawing room on special occasions, and even then she was always under the austere gaze of her aunt, lest she be tempted to touch something. Sophie hated her aunt too, but since her father died, there was nowhere else to go when her mother was away.

When Mum was home, the house seemed lighter, full of fun and laughter as they raced each other through its rooms and corridors, making mischief which, under normal circumstances, would have Sophie’s aunt apoplectic with rage.

The last of the wrappings fell away to reveal a small, painted clay statue of a cat cradled in Mum’s hands. Surely it must be for her, Sophie thought.

As if sensing her daughter’s thoughts, Millie turned to face her.

‘Sorry Pumpkin,’ she said, ‘not this time. They made us leave early and there wasn’t time to go shopping before we left.’

Sophie’s face fell, a knot of disappointment in the pit of her stomach as tears blurred her vision. So that was what “deported” must mean, she had heard Mum and Aunt Sarah arguing about it the night before.

‘I’ll take you up to London next week,’ Mum continued, ‘and we can pick something out for you then.’

Sophie cried. She bawled and screamed and nothing her mother did could mollify her. No present. There was always a present. For the first time in her whole eight years of life, Sophie felt rage. White-hot, all-consuming, rage. There was no present. Turning on her heel, Sophie fled from the room leaving her mother calling after her in vain.

* * *

It was just after midnight when Sophie pushed open the heavy oak door and crept silently into the drawing room. Shafts of silvery moonlight shone through the leaded windows casting pools of cool light across the floor like ethereal searchlights.

Hefting the toffee hammer she’d stolen earlier from the kitchen when cook’s back was turned, Sophie stole towards where the statue stood on top of Aunt Sarah’s grand piano.

Dragging a richly upholstered stool from its place next to the fireplace, Sophie winced as the metal feet scratched across the highly polished oak floorboards. Soon though, she had positioned the stool next to the piano and scrambled up, coming eye to eye with the Egyptian cat statue.

Sophie smiled at the cat, the metal of the toffee hammer cool in her small hands. She was just calming the last of her scruples when a large, moth-eaten grey cat appeared suddenly next to the statue.

‘Major!’ Sophie hissed, her heart hammering in her chest – she hadn’t seen her aunt’s cat follow her into the room, hadn’t heard him jump onto the piano. She was sure she’d nearly swallowed her tongue in shock.

Major purred and rubbed his face on the statue, making it sway dangerously on its narrow plinth. Major looked squarely at Sophie and meowed.

‘Shhh!’ she hissed.

Sophie began to raise the hammer.

‘Sophie, what are you doing in here at this time of night?’

Sophie jumped. Swinging round she caught sight of Jennings, her aunt’s butler standing in the doorway, his thin frame wrapped in a threadbare tartan dressing gown two sizes too big for him, his wispy grey hair sticking up at various jaunty angles.

‘I, err…,’ Sophie stammered, sliding the toffee hammer behind her back. Had Jennings seen it?

‘Come on, back to bed with you,’ Jennings said, walking towards her. ‘And as for you mister,’ he said, turning his attention to Major, ‘you know you’re not allowed in here.’

Jennings swatted his hand at the cat. Major hissed and, skidding on the polished wood, spun round, his bushy tail catching the statue just the lightest of glancing blows as he slithered off the top of the piano. It was enough. Almost in slow motion, the statue rocked first this way then that before finally falling onto its side, shattering into tiny pieces amid a great cloud of dust.

‘Quick!’ spluttered Jennings through the dust cloud, ‘Bed! Now!’

Sophie, coughing through a mouthful of dust, sprinted for the door. Scooping Major up as she went, Sophie ran all the way to her room and dived under the covers with the old cat as the enormity of what had just happened descended on her like a huge, cold, dead weight.

* * *

The police had already been called by the time Sophie awoke, wreathed in sweat, from an unsettling dream about pyramids and strange cats. Major was nowhere to be seen.

A policewoman tried to explain to Sophie about Aunt Sarah’s accident – she’d tripped and fallen the full length of the main staircase, breaking her neck in the process. How Sophie’s mother had died the same night, apparently from suffocation but without a mark on her, she could not explain and so did not try. There were trained professionals for that sort of thing.

* * *

In the cool shade of the old Summer House Major lay curled up on an old cushion. He was still a bit sore where he’d miscalculated his leap and Aunt Sarah had trodden on him as he’d tripped her down the stairs. It had been easier with Millie, she’d been drunk when he’d curled up on her face.

Major sneezed, the smell of ancient statue dust still tickling his nostrils. She would be pleased, he thought.

[edit: to improve change in POV towards the end of the story. Thanks to jdanetyler for mentioning it.]



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Thursday, 26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving to all of Future; Nostalgic's US readers.




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Friday, 20 November 2009

#FridayFlash: Mr Fluffles and the Art of Feline Psychiatry.


Well, here it is, my first attempt at #fridayflash fiction. By way of an introduction, this is the sort of thing that happens when I’m trying so hard to write something else and not getting very far! I swear this story wrote itself. I was in two minds whether or not to post it as it still needs some work (did I mention this is my first attempt?), but after two days I’m in danger of tinkering for tinkering’s sake, so here we go…


Mr Fluffles and the Art of Feline Psychiatry.

‘There’s this cat, see? It’s following me. It’s everywhere I go. It was bad enough when it moved in, but it follows me when I go out too! There it was, sitting outside the supermarket last Saturday morning when I went to get some breakfast. And it was still there when I came out. And at the dentist’s yesterday. It followed me home, again. On the bus. The driver thought it was funny, a cat using the bus by itself – he said so. But it wasn’t. Not to me at any rate. That cat’s been following me everywhere for the past month and it’s creepy, like it knows what I’m thinking or something.

I like cats, used to have one when I was a kid, but this one’s not normal. It’s the eyes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely looking thing, sort of a marmalade cat with a white bib, but that’s not the point. It’s evil. I’ve even tried boarding up my windows, but it still gets in, somehow.

The damn thing even followed me to my Mother’s house this morning. I went to see her before I came here, and it came in with me and, and, she fed it! The silly woman fed it, right there in her kitchen. She can’t see how dangerous it is, not like I can. I know what it’s up to, I know! And I’m scared that after it’s finished with me it’ll go after her.’

The young man shifted nervously in his chair, wringing his hands while the nervous tic beneath his left eye beat out its silent Morse code. He wondered how he was going to make the man seated across the desk from him understand without giving too much away.

‘It’s OK, Mark,’ Dr Brown said slowly in his best “reassuring the patient” voice. ‘We’ve been here before, now haven’t we?’ he continued, running a hand through his thinning grey hair, ‘and do you remember what we agreed last time? Stick with the medication and the relaxation exercises, keep your CPN appointments, and everything will be just fine, I’m sure.’ He smiled.

Patronising git, thought Mark.

Dr Brown scribbled something on his prescription pad, tore the sheet free and held it out to Mark.

‘Thinking about it,’ he said as Mark reached out a thin, bony hand for the prescription, ‘I’m going to change your medication. I think this tablet will be better for you. Take one in a morning and one before bed, and any problems with side-effects, just give my secretary a ring.’

Mark shoved the prescription into a pocket of his filthy, torn, army surplus combat jacket.

Dr Brown’s voice became suddenly serious, ‘Do not,’ he paused, ‘Exceed the stated dose. This drug’s fine at the usual dose, but can be quite dangerous if you take too much. OK?’

Mark nodded.

‘And make an appointment,’ Dr Brown said, switching back to his reassuring voice, ‘with my secretary for next week. Try not to worry Mark, we’ll get you sorted out, it just takes a bit of time to get the treatment right.’

Standing, Dr Brown extended his hand as a sign the consultation was over and watched as the unkempt young man left his consulting room. Would he take the hint about the medication, Dr Brown wondered. It might be easier all round if he did.

The clickety-click of slightly over-long claws catching in the weave of the deep shag pile carpet made Dr Brown stiffen and, looking over his right shoulder, he watched as a large white tomcat padded slowly into the room from the half open door of the private bathroom adjoining the office.

Dr Edmund Brown, consultant psychiatrist, slumped into his leather executive desk chair as the cat jumped silently onto the end of his desk and began to wash its face. It was a very nice chair, deep chocolate brown Italian leather, and fitted in perfectly with the other high-end fittings of his large, plush consulting room. He thought he would rather like to keep the chair, the office, his current lifestyle, so when the cat nudged his hand and meowed, Dr Brown sighed quietly to himself, opened a new blank word processing document and pushed his laptop towards the cat.

Slowly, carefully, the cat began to type with its right forepaw, one key at a time. Dr Brown almost smiled at the look of concentration on its face. Yes, he thought, he would like to keep the office, all except for the large potted palm by the door to the outer office. He’d keep that too if the cat would stop pissing in the pot, he thought with a momentary flash of irritation, which he quickly suppressed. The cat paused. Dr Brown made a swift mental apology and the cat resumed its typing. When the cat had finished, it stared up at him, baleful yellow eyes making contact with his pale blue ones.

Retrieving the laptop, Dr Brown dialled the number the cat had typed, the telephone only ringing twice before an efficient voice answered.

‘Liquidation Team, how may…’

‘Mr Fluffles has another job for you,’ Dr Brown interrupted flatly, reading out the cat’s instructions before giving Mark’s address and personal details. He pictured the cat that ran the Liquidation team, a black tomcat with a penchant for typing “Go! Go! Go!” DCI Gene Hunt, with fur.

‘Thank you,’ said the disembodied voice when he’d finished, and the line went dead.

The medication, Dr Brown thought, remember the medication, Mark – make it quick and painless, before it’s too late.

Looking down at his hands, Dr Brown realised they were shaking, and he was perspiring profusely. He rose from the chair and walked towards his bookcase, intent on the eighteen-year-old bottle of single malt currently residing behind his copy of Freud’s Dictionary of Psychoanalysis.

On the desk, Mr Fluffles smiled. This one, he thought, watching Dr Brown fumbling with the bottle top, had potential.

* * *

If you enjoyed the story, check out more #fridayflash fiction here, and don't forget to Twitter Search the #fridayflash hashtag.



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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Scripto


The first time I came across the name Scripto was in an email I received some time ago from my good friend George over at My Supply Room. Initially I wondered what it was all about as the name sounded to me a bit like a 1950s superhero! Not so.

Scripto, it turned out, is the name of an American company (still in existence today as ScriptoUSA), which produced a range of mechanical pencils and graphite leads from the early 1920s to the mid 2000s. In 1955, Scripto also began producing a range of refillable lighters marketed under the name of ‘Vu-Lighter,’ and later they manufactured a range of ballpoint pens. More information on the history and products of the Scripto company can be found at George’s blog, or at Roger Russell’s website.

George very kindly offered to send me a package of Scripto pencils, though owing to postal delays, which were down to either USPS or Royal Mail not George (just wanted to make that clear), George decided he would mail a second package just in case the first one had been lost. Imagine my surprise when, almost within days of each other, the two Scripto packages arrived.

Thanks to George’s immense generosity, I reckon I probably have one of the largest, or most complete Scripto collections in the UK! I remember we joked about it at the time, wondering if my collection warranted a knighthood or something – so if the right people are reading this, an OBE will do just fine, thanks.

All the pencils now in my collection are great, but there are a few that, for me at least, are true gems – the first of these is the WordMaster:

Produced in the mid 1940s, the WordMaster really is a thing of beauty. Measuring just over 5 inches in length, and weighing 20g, it features a gold plated clip, bands and point – that’s real gold by the way! The cap is a push fit, which can be removed to give access to an eraser, beneath which there is storage space for an additional six leads. The WordMaster operates using a twist mechanism for extending the lead and, whilst a bit stiff, the one in my collection still works, not bad for a pencil made around sixty years ago. Roger Russell’s site features a WordMaster advertisement from the May 31st, 1947 Saturday Evening Post magazine, which shows these pencils were originally sold for $1.00!

The second of my gems is this, the Scripto Classic:

I have two Scripto Classics, sometimes referred to as the twist or spiral type, one green and one blue, and both in fully working order. They really are a joy to use – simply grasp the pencil and twist the chrome band above the clip to advance the lead.

The rest of my collection is made up of Scripto pencils manufactured USA, Mexico, Japan and Korea, among others, and I am having great fun learning more about this famous manufacturer as I slowly catalogue the collection.

Before I sign off, here’s a pic of the ‘Vu-Lighter’ butane lighter George also kindly sent me:

George recommended I should be careful when filling, as sometimes these lighters developed a leak around the filling aperture and you could end up with a handful of lighter fluid if you weren’t careful! No such problem with this one though, as George had it serviced before he sent it to me.

PS: I wouldn’t want my readers thinking this was all a one way trade, I did sent George some Pentel pens he was having trouble sourcing for his own collection, which he blogged about here, and here.



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Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday - We Will Remember Them


In the United Kingdom, Remembrance Sunday is the second Sunday of November, the Sunday nearest to 11th of November (Remembrance Day), which is the anniversary of the end of the hostilities of the First World War at 11 a.m. in 1918.


On this day, people across the UK pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by our Service men and women, both in current conflicts and those of the past. In 2009 Remembrance Sunday is Sunday 8th November. The Two Minute Silence is a customary part of Remembrance Sunday, and this year, for the first time, there are plans for The Two Minute Silence on Twitter (thanks to @PoppySupport) starting at 11.00am GMT. Please support it if you can.

From The Royal British Legion website:

The Royal British Legion has always supported the traditional Remembrance Sunday services and the customary Two Minute Silence on that day. As the national custodian of Remembrance, the Legion also believes that when 11th November (Armistice Day) falls on days other than Sundays - on working days - Remembrance should be brought into the everyday life of the nation on those days as well.

The Royal British Legion was formed in 1921 to support the veterans of the Great War. Since then, Britain has been involved in many other wars and fields of Service, creating a continuous supply of Service men and women, and their families, who need assistance.

The Legion helps people of all ages and backgrounds. To be eligible for our help, they must have served in the Forces for at least 7 days, or be the dependant of someone who has served. It really is that simple.

Each year support for The Royal British Legion's charity work is through the Poppy Appeal.

The first official Poppy Day was held in Britain on 11th November 1921, inspired by John McCrae's poem In Flanders' Fields. Since then the Poppy Appeal has been an annual event. The Poppy Appeal's current theme, "Serving those who Serve," emphasises the way in which the appeal's focus is shifting with the increasing need to help the service personnel who are serving today, as well as ex-service personnel and their dependants.

The iconic Poppy worn by so many on Remembrance Day was first produced in 1922 after Major George Howson formed the Disabled Society to help disabled ex-service men and women from the First World War. The original poppy was designed to be easily assembled by workers with a disability.

Flanders' Field of Poppies, Ypres

For more information about the Poppy Appeal, please visit www.poppy.org.uk and for information about the history and current work of The Royal British Legion, please visit www.britishlegion.org.uk

On a personal note, MIL was a member of The Royal British Legion and a lifelong supporter of the Poppy Appeal, the retiring collection at her funeral raised over £280 for the Poppy Appeal, so Remembrance Sunday will be particularly poignant for us this year.

Pictures courtesy of The Royal British Legion



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Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween!


Greetings and Happy Halloween to all of Future; Nostalgic's readers!

I hope you all have a great time. Thanks to a few of my friends on Twitter (@lauraeno and @adelejournal in particular) I'm planning on having a great time this Halloween getting through the large bag of candycorn @adelejournal kindly sent me. Thanks also to another Twitter friend (@Okami0731) for her help in locating a recipe for home made candycorn - now I'll have a supply all year round; I hope my dentist isn't reading this!

For any of my readers who have not partaken of the US delicacy that is candycorn, and for those who are wondering what the heck I'm on about, this is the aforementioned candy, ably modelled by Bertie, my Halloween rat:

If you have the opportunity, you owe it to yourself to try this stuff, but be warned, it's addictive!

Right...nomnom...must go, this...nomnom...candycorn won't...nomnom...eat itself ya know!



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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

PSN & Flash Notebook Giveaway at Notebookstories


Notebookstories has a great review and giveaway for the above notebooks going at the moment, why not stop by and try your luck?



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Review: Moletape


A little while ago, after asking for reviewers, the folks at Molecover kindly sent me a sample of their Moletape strengthening tape for review. To be fair, I'm not a huge Moleskine user, though I did have a couple of notebooks lying around, neither with any damage to the spines, but I decided to fit one of them with the Moletape anyway.

Molecover also sells Moleskine notebooks and the Molecover, a protective leather cover for your Moleskine notebook. Currently available in black, white or tan leather, their website states they will include a strip of Moletape with every Molecover order.

Here's the Moletape as I received it, next to the pocket Moleskine it'll be going on:

My Moletape sample arrived on a Molecover-branded backing sheet and was already pre-sized for a small Moleskine. There was what turned out to be a little ink transfer from the Molecover branding on the backing sheet to the note it came wrapped in, but no dye transfer from the Moletape itself. So far so good.

Initial impressions were good, the Moletape is a strong, matte-finished adhesive cloth tape in rich black, one improvement I could suggest would be to pre-score the backing sheet along where the tape will attach to the spine of the Moleskine so this part of the backing may be removed separately, making it easier to line the Moletape up straight while applying it to the notebook's spine. I do however, like the pre-cut tabs to fit over the ends of the notebook's spine.

Now for the fitting. Here goes...

Separating the Moletape from its backing sheet proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated, and the amount of force required did deform the shape of my sample a little. Any more force and I was afraid the tape would tear where the spine end cutouts join the main piece of tape.

Applying the Moletape to the spine of my Moleskine was relatively simple, requiring only a little trial and error to line the two up by eye, then take the plunge and apply Moleskine to tape; this seemed the easiest way to do it - applying the spine of the notebook to the tape whilst the tape was lying flat on a firm surface.

Then it was simply a matter of smoothing the Moletape over the front and back of the notebook, and here's where I hit my first snag - whilst applying Moletape to the spine of the notebook was simple enough, ensuring a neat straight line down the cover of my Moleskine proved almost impossible; maybe I'm being a bit picky here, but the end result was, despite quite a bit of tweaking, not as sleek as I had hoped.

The extra length of the Moletape was great for folding over the edges of the cover, until that is, I began to tackle to rear cover where the pocket is. I found the only way to fit the Moletape was to trim the fold over flaps so they didn't obsure the pocket opening - trouble was, to do this successfully I had to leave them so short as to only just fold around the rear cover of the Moleskine.

Fitting the tabs down the inside of the Moleskine spine was easy, I opened the Moleskine so the covers were touching which bowed the spine enough to poke the tab down the opening with the help of the blunt end of a pair of tweezers.

So, there was have it, a Moletaped Moleskine.

So, what did I think?

Overall, I think Moletape is a great product, though fitting it is not as simple as I expected it would be, and whilst at least some of the end result is down to operator error, Moletape's adhesive backing makes it very difficult to separate the tape from its backing without deforming the overall shape. Had I possessed the skill to apply it to my notebook and retain a sharp edge to the front cover I would probably have been happier with the end result.

That said, I have no doubt that Moletape provides a wonderfully strong extra layer of protection for the spines of Moleskine notebooks, and I really like the look of the new colours choices in the Moletape range. I would be inclined to give them ago so I could colour-code my notebooks at the same time as protecting their spines.

At a Glance:

Model: Black Moletape (Pocket sized Moleskine size)
Colour: Black. Also available in Russet, Yellow, Pink, Sky Blue, Violet, Olive, Red, Orange, Grey and Brown.
Available from: Molecover in the USA
Price: $20 for 5 strips (Small or Large size)
Overall: 4 out of 5



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Friday, 23 October 2009

Still With My Hat On...


The recent trip to Berwick has given up a second slew of goodies which had been lurking at the bottom of a rather large suitcase. Now I can get at them, I thought I'd share...

First there's this small selection of items from the German company Nici, which I picked up in a bargain bin at some rather good prices. There's a pencil case decorated with Nici sheep in various colours - some of them are even wearing coats! The sheep also appear on the cover of the pocket sized notebook, whilst the address book features 'Taking it Easy' sheep and Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. My darling daughter also picked up the plushies of these to hang off her bag. They're very cute!

On the way to Berwick, we stopped off at the village of Seahouses, gateway to the Farne Islands, for lunch (chips from the fantastic chippy in the High Street) and, whilst munching I was drawn to the gift shop opposite where I picked up these two postcard books by Simon Drew. Each book contains 20 individually-designed postcards, all very well-drawn and extremely humorous; it is merely a coincidence that those in the photo above happen to feature cats.

I also picked up this colourful notebook with Puffins on the cover at the same shop, though the wooden bowl came from an outing over the weekend to Paxton House, just across the border into Scotland.

The bowl is interesting inasmuch as it is turned from Bog Oak by a local craftsman and the wood is around 4500 years old! That particular purchase didn't take much thinking about to be honest, as I can count on the fingers of err...a couple of fingers, how many Bog Oak items (that I could afford!) I've seen for sale. The bowl is a deep, glossy black and, depending on the light, you can just about make out some of the striations of the natural oak.

From what I'm told, Bog Oak most often surfaces when peat bogs are drained, and it tends to emerge as whole tree trunks, though usually only the heartwood of the log is in any fit state to be worked. Sometimes the whole log is unuseable, so it's always a bit of a gamble buying a Bog Oak log, though when there is good wood still to be had, gems such as this bowl are the result.



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Wednesday, 21 October 2009

You Can Keep Your Hat On...


...and your coat, scarf, gloves and thermal socks! Apologies for mangling the lyrics of that well known Tom Jones song, but a weekend in a caravan in Berwick upon Tweed in October can be a mite on the chilly side; it's the first time this pen-thusiast has slept fully clothed for fun!

Who says we don't suffer for our art?!

It's not all bad news however, as Berwick is home to a couple of little gems as far as stationery shopping is concerned.

The first of these is Geo. C. Grieve Ltd. Stationers & Bookseller on the corner of Marygate and Church Street. Not just your average provincial stationers, oh no! Geo. C Grieve's is a veritable cornucopia of stationery-related goodness - postcards, notebooks, paper, pens, ink, art supplies, calenders, maps, local books, the list is (almost) endless. Grieve's is always this pen-thusiast's first port of call on a trip to Berwick.

Grieve's is a wonderfully friendly shop (of which there are precious few around these days) and this pen-thusiast has never failed to find something interesting or unusual to buy - it's worth a trip to Berwick just to visit this shop! It's also nice to be recognised and greeted warmly, even when your last visit was six months ago. A word of caution though, Grieve's website lists but a fraction of the stock available, so should you not find what you're after, please do email them, they'll be happy to try and source stuff for you.

The haul this time included a 0.5mm Pentel Graphgear 1000 drafting pencil (which came supplied in a great black pen sleeve), a Pentel Ain Clic eraser in red, a Stabilo Marathon ballpoint in black and a six-pack of Artline Multi Pens by Shachihata; no idea what I'm going to do with this last item, but they looked cool and are bound to be useful!

Add to that a few interesting postcards of the local area and a couple of magnetic-backed FootNotes notepads, and it was a happy pen-thusiast who set off, his wallet suitably lightened, to the next regular stop on the itinerary.

The second port of call on our whistle-stop stationery tour of Berwick is Doolally in Marygate, just round the corner from Grieve's in fact. Located on the ground floor of the historic Town Hall (which dates from 1761), Doolally is a combination bookseller and gift shop with a cafe, so you can enjoy a rather lovely cup of coffee while examining your purchases.

Doolally is located through the arch in the end of the building pictured above centre.

Visiting this time brought me my first contact with Momiji - incredibly cute dolls from Japan (I believe). Now these are not really my thing, but my darling daughter picked up the Kittie Doll, which even I have to admit is rather cute! We both grabbed one of the Momiji notebooks and a couple of the matching pens too.

I really quite like the notebooks - they're about A5 size, with wipe-clean plastic covers and have different designs on the pages, making them ideal as inexpensive journals (possibly more suited to our younger viewers!). The pens are needlepoint rollerballs and come with black, blue, red and green ink, each colour having a different barrel design.

Should you be heading up to Berwick, you can contact Doolally on 01289 306 796.

Not a bad haul for a weekend's work, eh?



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Monday, 12 October 2009

Of Cabbages and Kings


With apologies to Lewis Caroll...

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax,
Of cabbages, and kings..."
"And pens," said Sam. "Don't forget the pens."

loosely based on The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

I feel the time has come to attempt to draw a line under the sad events of the last couple of months, and in so doing I'd like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to all of Future; Nostalgic's readers who have emailed, commented or Tweeted kind thoughts and condolences during this difficult time, you've been brilliant and I appreciate your support more than I can tell you.

It remains my intention to blog about MIL's army career during WW2, and the nice people at UK Army Records have confirmed they have a file relating to that period, though it is likely to be six to eight months before I can get my hands on a copy.

Thanks again folks, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.



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Friday, 11 September 2009

A Sad Loss



It is with much sadness that I have to report we lost my wonderful Mother in Law on Moday 7th September. She passed away peacefully in hospital at 9.05am GMT and we miss her terribly. Thankfully MIL's passing was very peaceful and she wasn't suffering or in pain. My wonderful wife was with her when she passed and MIL was awake and aware until about five minutes before the end.

MIL was an absolutely fantastic lady, fiercely independent and with a heart of gold. I do intend telling her story once things get back to normal.

MIL had been in hospital for a few weeks and she was amazed to discover she had an international fan club, it really made her smile. Thanks to all Future; Nostalgic's readers and Twitter followers who got in touch to offer MIL kind thoughts and support, we really do appreciate it.



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The Second Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper


The Second Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper is now on over at The Pen Addict, don't forget to stop by! Also, remember to check out the Carnival Home Page here.



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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

How To: Platinum Preppy Eyedropper with Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa (Iron Gall) Ink


I've been meaning to have a go at making an eyedropper-fill fountain pen for a while, ever since seeing similar pens on the blogs Unposted and Good Pens however, events have been conspiring to prevent me from having a go, namely:

a) My Preppy would just not run out of ink!
b) Locating plumbers' silicon grease in the UK has proved extremely difficult and,
c) I couldn't think what to replace the grease with until...

It was one of those 'Eureka' moments - what do UK plumbers use in place of the grease? PTFE tape, that's what! A quick trip to my local DIY barn and I've now armed myself with a roll of the stuff for just a couple of pounds; and the Preppy has finally run out of ink.

PTFE tape - also known as 'Teflon tape', 'Thread seal tape', or 'plumber's tape' is a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) film cut to specified widths for use in sealing pipe threads. The tape is wrapped around the exposed threads of a pipe before it is screwed into place. Since the PTFE is malleable, deformable and impermeable, it acts a little like putty under compression, being forced into small gaps between threads in order to create an air- and watertight seal when threaded into a joint.

I was also hanging on as I've got this ink I want to test, but as it's an iron gall ink and I've read all sorts of horror stories about what iron gall inks can do to the insides of your favourite fountain pen, I was determined to wait and test the ink in something potentially disposable.

Well, here we are at last - a Platinum Preppy 0.3mm eyedropper fill using PTFE tape and filled with Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa ink. I'll discuss the ink shortly, first here's how I made the pen...

Should you decide to have a go at this conversion, you will need:


Yes, I forgot to include the syringe in the picture!

a) A suitable donor fountain pen, such as a Preppy
b) A roll of PTFE tape
c) A syringe or eyedropper, and
d) Ink of your choice

Step 1



Unless yours is a new (or previously cleaned) pen, remove the cartridge or filler and put to one side, we won't be needing them again.

Step 2



After ensuring your pen is thoroughly clean and dry, take the PTFE tape and wind tightly, but not too tightly, around the threads of the nib section a few times. Maintain the tension while you're doing this to ensure the tape sits well in the grooves of the threads - not too tight though, or the tape will stretch and wrinkle and may not form an ink-tight seal.

Step 3



'The Water Test' - if you know your way around PTFE tape, you can skip this step, other wise fill the barrel of your pen with water (ordinary tap water will suffice for the test) to just below the start of the threaded part (indicated by the red arrow in the photograph above). Assemble the pen and test for leaks. Depending on which pen you are using, somewhere between three to six turns of tape should provide a watertight seal.

It is worth mentioning that the tape should be wound anti-clockwise (with the nib facing to the left) so it remains smooth when the pen is screwed back together - wind it clockwise and it'll bunch up into an almighty mess when you try putting the pen back together!

Any time you re-fill the pen it is worth replacing the tape.

Step 4



Presuming the water test was successful, repeat steps 2 and 3, though this time fill with the ink of your choice.

Now I've got the pen working, let's talk a bit about the ink...

Rohrer & Klingner of Leipzig, Germany, has been manufacturing lithographic products since 1892, and now makes a range of eighteen tones of fountain pen ink, details of which can be found here. In the UK, Rohrer & Klingner inks are available from The Writing Desk, colour swatches of the range can be seen here; two inks in the range, Scabiosa and Salix are iron gall inks.

Stayed tuned folks, here comes the history/science bit...

Iron gall ink was traditionally made by combining tannic acid from oak galls with vitriol and gum arabic. It was the ink of choice during medieval times and was still in widespread use up to the middle of the twentieth century. Iron gall made a perfect travelling ink as the ingredients could be mixed dry and water added only when necessary. It was also indelible and difficult to remove from the writing surface, making it ideal for official documents.

Traditional iron gall ink starts out as a pale grey solution, which darkens gradually to an intense purplish-black on contact with oxygen. Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa is a delicate shade of purple, somewhat reminiscent of Diamine Damson. In my tests it tend to come out of the pen as a pale purplish-lavender, then darkens to a rich purple as it dries. There is a small amount of shading even with a fine nib, though I imagine much more shading would be possible with a wider or flex nib.



All in all I've been very pleased with this pen and ink combination, and have yet to notice any adverse effects to the Preppy from the iron gall ink. Over the past week there has been a small amount of ink-creep along the threads, though the PTFE seal has held so far. I daresay a few more turns of tape will cure that, so things are looking good for a more long-term test.

At a Glance:

Pen: Preppy available from JetPens in the US, Cult Pens in the UK
Price: JetPens $3.00; CultPens £3.99
Ink: Rohrer & Klingner ink available from The Writing Desk in the UK
Price: £3.90 per 50ml bottle.
Tape: PTFE tape available from all good DIY stores in the UK
Price: £1 - 2
Overall: 4* out of 5

* until I completely cure the ink creep.

You may have noticed the Preppy in some of the photos is not the 03mm nib version mentioned in the text, the original pen was in use when the pics were taken, which necessitated the use of its stunt double, my 0.5mm Preppy! ;)



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Thursday, 20 August 2009

Review: Noodler's Eel Lubricating Ink


I was struggling with a very dry-writing Parker 61, admittedly with an EF nib, when the chance of a trade with my good friend Jackie (@Jafferty on Twitter) from the blog Letters & Journals came up. Jackie's blog has some great posts about letter-writing, journaling, pens and stationery, as well as detailing progress of the magazine she is setting up, due for launch at the end of 2010, or the beginning of 2011. If you can help with Jackie's magazine surveys, please head on over here, it will only take you a few minutes.

Jackie asked if there was anything she could send me as the US part of the deal and I plumped for some Noodler's eel lubricating ink in the hope that might cure the 61, it was either that or the Parker would have to go off somewhere for a bit of a professional 'talking to.' Also, as far as I know, Noodler's eel inks are not available in the UK yet; at least nobody I asked stocks it.

Emails and packages duly exchanged, I am now the proud owner of not one, but two bottles of Noodler's eel ink in Cactus Fruit (pink/purple) and Gruene Cactus (green); Jackie, I thank you for your generosity, and for this awesome postcard which preceded your package.

Lily pads, Moose Lake State Park, Minnesota

The plan was to wait till I had plenty of time and to approach the whole rinsing, filling and testing procedure with some form of calm and precision - like that was going to happen! Having had mediocre to poor results teaming my Parker 61 with Private Reserve Sonic Blue, Parker Quink Black and J Herbin Eclat de Saphir, the latter of which was a surprise as I have found J Herbin inks to be quite free-flowing normally, I couldn't wait to try the Noodler's eel and so rushed off to change the ink almost as soon as I had Jackie's package open.


I decided to try the Cactus Fruit first, and can honestly say this stuff is nothing short of amazing! My Parker 61 is like a different pen, starting first time without protest and laying down smooth, wet, extra fine lines as I had always imagined it should.

Cactus Fruit is an interesting colour which I'll do my best to describe - it's kind of a deep cerise pink with a hint of purple, though under some lighting conditions there appears to be a slight blue cast to it, meaning that I would have to classify it as a 'cool' colour. Either way, it's certainly eye-catching and is a pleasure to write with. Gruene Cactus is more of a bright, mid green and I plan to try that one out when the current fill of Cactus Fruit runs out.


From what I've read, Noodler's eel lubricating inks were developed to counter the effects of detergents in some modern inks which can, over time, leach away the lubricants from fountain pen pistons and seals, leading to stiff filling mechanisms. A side-effect of the formulation is the super-smooth writing effect and improved ink flow I am now experiencing in my Parker.

At a Glance

Model: Noodler's Eel Lubricating Ink
Colours: Cactus Fruit, Gruene Cactus, Polar Black, Blue, Turquoise and Rattler Red.
Available from: Noodler's and Noodler's dealers
Price: msrp $12.50
Overall: 5 out of 5



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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Giveaway at The Pen Addict


There's a giveaway at The Pen Addict which you really, I mean really ought to check out...



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Monday, 17 August 2009

Oh, That's Just Great!


There we were, on our way back from hospital visiting at the weekend when I drove over a speed hump* in the road and something under the pen-thusiast mobile went, 'twang!' Cosmic! Pulling over revealed the exhaust (US: muffler?) hanging off at a jaunty angle and every time I drove over a speed hump as I nursed the mobile home, the exhaust was catching on it, threatening to rip itself off altogether. Great, just great!

*for those not in the know speed humps, bumps, sleeping policemen or 'traffic calming measures' as they are referred to in language you can use with your maiden aunt in the room, are raised areas in the road, designed to cut vehicles' speed as they negotiate them. Most are ramped at both sides though some, like the one in question, resemble the north face of the Eiger and would be better tackled with crampons and climbing gear rather than by car. IMHO they are an absolute menace - this is the second time my exhaust has been ripped off by one, both times whilst driving well within the posted speed limit.

Of course, by the time I limped home the local exhaust centre had closed for the weekend so all I could do was sit and fret about the amount of money (that I didn't have) it was going to cost to fix come Monday morning.

Picture copyright HiQ

So first thing this morning, the mobile and I picked our way gingerly down to HiQ and explained the situation to Chris, Walley and the guys who almost instantly set about fixing the problem. While I was there I figured it was about time I replaced the back box of the exhaust as my mechanic tells me the baffles have gone. Do what?! All I know is that, when the engine is idling passers-by stare at the mobile like they're wondering how I got a Sherman tank engine in there in the first place, all the while listening to the wonderful symphony coming out of the back end - which sounds like someone gargling with a bag of rusty spanners!

How long can you hold your breath? Well, I've discovered I can manage it for about as long as it takes for Chris to ring his exhaust supplier and give me a price! Credit where it's due, the new part was delivered within the hour and shortly afterwards I'm back on the road with the exhaust so quiet I have to keep checking the mobile hasn't stalled! Hat's off to Chris, Walley and the guys for the excellent service; that's why I've been going there for years.



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