There's another great giveaway over at The Pen Addict which you might want to check out...
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...
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Monday, 29 June 2009
This sort of thing just doesn't happen to me; usually!
I spent yesterday with my family at Sno!Zone Castleford, the indoor snow dome near Leeds, for a day's ski training; my darling daughter's a competitive ski racer, but that's another story.
Needless to say I wasn't to be seen on the slopes, instead I went for a stroll round the shops and, having looked at the overpriced ski gear my darling daughter would inevitably be pestering me about later, I was feeling a bit faint and wandered into the newsagent's shop for a little sugary goodness to make me feel better when what did I spy tucked away in the corner of the shop...
Giggling like a schoolgirl I paid for my purchase and hot-footed it outside to examine the contents over my first ever Starbucks coffee (yes folks, this pen-thusiast is no longer a Starbucks virgin!). Still giggling quietly to myself I was getting funny looks from the baristas as I upended the tub all over the table and whiled away a good few minutes sorting through the pile; I may have muttered 'my precious' once or twice, but will deny it if asked!
Here's what I bagged:
2 x VR Ball 0.5 (red)
2 x VR Ball 0.7 (black)
2 x VR Ball 0.7 (blue)
2 x Hi-Techpoint VR5 extra-fine (blue)
2 x Hi-Techpoint VR5 fine (black)
2 x H-325 0.5 mechanical pencil
2 x cream-bodied rollerballs labelled 'PILOT Gel Ink' (with black G2 refills)
1 x Frixion light erasable highlighter (yellow)
1 x Frixion light erasable highlighter (pink)
2 x PermaBall broad (black)
2 x G-Tecmatic 0.7 (red)
2 x G-Tecmatic 0.7 (black)
2 x G-Tecmatic 0.7 (blue)
All for the miserly sum of £4.99 (approx $8.25 US).
The only ones that are causing me any trouble are the two cream-bodied gel ink pens as I haven't been able to track down what model they are. All I can tell you is they use the ubiquitous Pilot G2 refill and seem to be styled after the Parker Vector rollerball c1995, though the clip remind me of the one on my childhood Sheaffer fountain pen. Any ideas?
I'll post a more in-depth review of some of these pens once I've had time to try them out.
[edit: thanks to my good friend Nrepose I now know the cream-coloured rollerballs are discontinued Pilot Execugels]
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Friday, 26 June 2009
No. 4 Cat's been at it again! This happened this morning and I couldn't resist posting. You see, my darling daughter brought this box home yesterday for No. 4 Cat to shred, but No. 4 Cat's cannier than that.
She took one look at the box and, after giving it a good sniff, climbed aboard; it was like watching a contortionist as round and round she went, ever so slowly getting more and more of herself into the box. I have never before seen so much cat go into such a small space.
Just so you know, the box is 9" x 8" and around 3" deep and No. 4 Cat is...err...hang on, I'll measure her...
Ouch...hold still...no, come here...Oh, you...Ow, get your claws out of my arm...for goodness sake...Ouch...it's only a ruler...Ah, there we are...no, we're not...why, I oughta...will you please stop wriggling...there...finally...gotcha!
Ahem! *cough* No. 4 Cat is about 15" long from the tip of her nose to the base of her tail, which adds another 12" for a total length of 27" (all cat measurements are approximate!). Not huge, but neither's the box. And she's apparently not keen on rulers!
Thursday, 25 June 2009
This is one from the vaults - I unearthed these notebooks last night while looking for something else (ain't that always the way?) and was so excited to have re-discovered them I've been up half the night writing this post.
Why so excited you may ask - well, these are homemade notebooks, crafted by this pen-thusiast's own fair hands, and I'd completely forgotten I had them. I made them around five years ago, if memory serves, and they've been languishing in a box since I moved house shortly afterwards. The paper seems to have survived well and is still in good order, so no problems on the archival quality front then; the covers seem to have responded favourably to storage as well.
Originally inspired by a notebook I received as a gift, my notebooks are made from the EcoPaper brand's Coffee Paper and cardstock. I seem to remember this being difficult to obtain in the UK at the time, to the point that the paper had to come direct from EcoPaper's then UK distributor (who's name escapes me).
I was only able to get my hands on one ream of the A4 Coffee Paper, so to eke out my supply I settled on making the notebooks to A5 size (approx 8" x 6"). Each notebook contains 100 pages (50 sheets) of Coffee Paper (which feels somewhere between 80 - 90gsm to me), wire-bound with Coffee paper cardstock covers, though I did experiment a little and covered one of them in faux black leather fabric.
The paper itself is fairly weighty and, whilst smooth enough to be laser and inkjet printer compatible, has enough of a tooth to make writing pleasurable with a variety of pens, including the Platinum Preppy 0.3 that I am currently road-testing. It also features a lighter and darker side, presumably due to the manufacturing process - just flip the notebook over to lead with either the lighter or darker pages as your preference dictates.
What really impresses me about the EcoPaper brand is their paper (which also comes in banana, cigar, mango, lemon and hemp varieties) and paper-related products are made using a combination of agricultural by-products and post consumer recycled content to give a quality product that is not only very distinctive, but which is eco-friendly as well. EcoPaper's manufacturing process is also chlorine-free and a percentage of each sale goes towards supporting an orphanage in San Jose, Costa Rica. What could be better?
At a Glance:
Available from: EcoPaper in the US; anybody's guess in the UK!
Overall rating: paper 5 out of 5; homemade notebooks - you tell me?!
Thursday, 18 June 2009
Little did I realise when I first put finger to keyboard just over a month ago that I'd be sitting here today thanking so many readers for visiting Future; Nostalgic.
I wasn't even sure anybody would find what I had to say interesting and I certainly had no idea I'd have over a thousand hits this quickly; the magical number was reached around lunchtime yesterday BTW.
So thanks to you all, especially to those kind folks who have commented, contacted me or signed up as Followers - it's the kind words that keep a fledgling blogger like this pen-thusiast going.
I am planning something by way of a proper thank-you which I should be in a position to post shortly. Watch this space...
I had an email the other day from those nice folks at The Book Depository and in it was a link to a free e-copy of Tom Reynold's new book. Tom is an EMT working in London, and More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea is the second compilation of posts from his blog relating his experiences of being an ambulanceman in inner city London.
The stories in More Sweat... are funny, sad, infuriating and heartbreaking in equal measure, but however you look at it, the book makes for a great read. Of particular poignancy are the recurring themes of the patchy, and in some cases downright poor care of the elderly in modern-day Britain, and how the overstretched paramedics sometimes find themselves misused.
Tom also delivers a (justifiably) biting social commentary on those members of the Great British public who consider ambulances as nothing more than big yellow taxis with flashing lights on top.
I have the utmost respect for the UK ambulance services and their paramedics, technicians and other ambulance personnel - IMO they're overworked, underpaid, and frankly treated like cr*p by some sections of society.
As an aside, the only time this pen-thusiast has ever been on the receiving end of the tender ministrations of my local ambulance service was some years ago when, in the throes of a violent bout of something that had me leaking explosively from both ends (sorry!), the lovely people at NHS Direct decided to call me an ambulance. I didn't think I necessarily needed one, and reckoned I'd be OK in the morning, but they insisted.
The crew was terrific and insisted on running me down to A&E at the local hospital despite me saying I felt I was wasting their time. I felt guilty taking an emergency ambulance away from properly sick people who really needed it. There again, I had suffered a few chest pains and I wasn't the one who actually called them so I try not to feel too bad about it; and I did thank the ambulance crew afterwards.
I recommend everyone should read this book, especially if you're a UK resident; you might just learn something. If you enjoy the free e-version, buy a paper copy - I know I have.
At a Glance:
Title: More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea
Author: Tom Reynolds
Price: paperback rrp £12.99 (£7.78 at The Book Depository)
Available From: paper version The Book Depository, e-book from here, or here.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
I've just had another delivery - the Lamy Safari Special Edition in White (F nib) I've been expecting.
I'd seen this particular fountain pen online and had decided I (wanted) needed one, but couldn't find any for love nor money in the UK. JetPens and the rest of the usual suspects were out of stock of this particular colour, and it was only a chance viewing of a thread on the Fountain Pen Network that lead me to give PenGallery a try.
Now I'm fairly used to ordering from US companies as it's difficult to get the interesting stuff in the UK, but this would be the first time I'd ordered anything from as far afield as Malaysia, and I'll admit to being a little skeptical. Having said that, the price quoted for the Safari was rather good ($21 USD including a bottled ink converter), my pen would be delivered by courier (either DHL or FedEx) and was therefore theoretically trackable online, and shipping was only $18 USD; $18 USD for a courier all the way from Malaysia to the UK?!
There again, at that sort of price I figured it was worth a punt, so I put an order in and waited...
A couple of days later I had a nice email from Stella advising me of a slight delay to my order as they were awaiting stock and I'll admit to a slight wobble, but I needn't have worried as a couple of days after the original email I had another (complete with tracking number and link to the courier's website) advising me of the dispatch of my order.
Well, the DHL courier arrived yesterday, so that's three days door-to-door from Malaysia to the UK, or approx 0.3 cents per mile for shipping (if I've done my sums right) [edit: which I hadn't, calculation now corrected], the Safari arrived securely packaged and PenGallery was a pleasure to deal with. I'm impressed, seriously impressed.
I have a feeling I'll be back for more pens in the future.
At a Glance:
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Friday, 12 June 2009
Back in May I entered the giveaway over at Good Pens, and it must have been something I said, because I won a prize for making Seth laugh; well, actually No. 4 Cat won a prize, but as she can't write I claimed it on her behalf.
The prize arrived yesterday (thanks Seth) and here it is:
A bottle of J Herbin Eclat de Saphir fountain pen ink; how did Seth know Herbin is my favourite brand of ink? Hang on a minute, there's something else in the box...
Oh I say! A Sharpie pen in black. Excellent! I've seen these online, but can't seem to find one for love nor money in the UK yet. Needless to say, my darling daughter spotted the Sharpie and was mightily unimpressed with me as I smiled sweetly and popped it back in the box for safe keeping; if she thinks I'm letting her have it...
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
My good friend John over at Pens And Pencils has just posted a thoroughly fabulous review of the Staedtler Triplus Mobile Office set I sent him recently. You can check out his great review here.
Now I like a cigarette as much as the next man, more than the next man probably as I still enjoy an occasional smoke. Yes, I know, filthy habit, doing me no good, I really should give up, blah, blah; but I digress...
No. 4 Cat is a recent addition to the pen-thusiast household following the passing of No. 2 Cat. She's a sort of 'patchwork' cat (brown and orange tabby, tortoishell and white) from our local branch of the RSPCA and, to be honest, she's a bit strange.
The RSPCA's vet estimated her age at about two years old but, having been an amateur cat-wrangler for more years than I care to remember, I'd put it closer to six months old. She spent her first week trying to sleep on my head and only slowly took to having her own bed; it was like having a baby all over again. She will only eat dry catfood I was informed and this turned out to be true, for about 30 seconds until she noticed No. 3 Cat's dinner - her favourite flavour is now whatever anyone else is having, wet or dry, she's not bothered as long as it's in someone else's dish!
Her favourite source of water is the toilet, and the less said about that the better. No. 4 Cat also likes cheese. Cheddar cheese mind you, and not the cheap stuff, oh no. She will actually fight you for a piece so cheese smuggling is the new pastime at Pen-thusiast Towers. She's also fond of the meat out of your sandwich, all the tastier if you've fallen for her, "Look! there's Elvis!" routine - by the time you turn round to see what she's looking at you're enjoying a sandwich sans filling, but that's not her guilty pleasure...
No. 4 Cat's guilty pleasure is cardboard. Boxes, sheets, the inside bits from toilet rolls, she loves it all. She actually hunts cardboard and will steal it given half a chance, and when she gets hold of some she sits up on her hind legs like a squirrel and calmly and methodically shreds it. She has such a blissful look on her face when she's doing it too.
All of which was fine until No. 4 Cat discovered cigarette packets. Empty ones are her preferred choice, but she's not averse to pinching a full one if there are no empty packets within easy reach; I have the sneaking suspicion she's in league with the 'Stop Smoking' lobby. It seems to be her sole goal in life at the moment to get to my cigarettes before I do, she doesn't eat them, just delights in shredding them into tiny, tiny little bits which she leaves in a neat pile on the floor, then sits next to the pile with her best, "Look what I've done, aren't I clever?!" face on.
Cigarettes are now kept under tighter security than the gold at Fort Knox and what with that, the cheese smuggling and No. 4 Cat's recent habit of lying in wait on the top of an open door for unsuspecting passers-by, Pen-thusiast Towers is a strange place to be at the moment.
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
My good friend Passion over at The Pen Archives has kindly reviewed the set of Zebra Super-Marble 0.8 gel pens I sent her. You can check out her great review here.
Monday, 8 June 2009
I thought a while ago that I might be in the market for a new fountain pen. It was something of a 'slow burner' of a thought, having rattled round my head on and off for weeks, especially as the last time I'd lifted a fountain pen in anger was at school, where five years of furious note-taking, day-in-day-out had, metaphorically, beaten any enthusiasm I'd had for fountain pens out of me.
Now that I'm getting older, I wondered if it might be possible to learn to like them again, and to see if I could enjoy using a fountain pen for pleasure; I'll be ordering the pipe and slippers later!
I'd also begun a brief dalliance with a Moleskine notebook and I'd read that some users like to use a fountain pen with theirs, so I began looking around for something I thought I might like that would work with the 'skine.
It would have to be cheap as money is tight at the moment, it should have a pleasing grip (something my childhood Parkers and Sheaffers never had), and it needed to be something I could research online as my last remaining local pen shop closed down last year.
Enter the Hero 329. I'd read about it in connection with Moleskines and was impressed both by its price, and by what other enthusiasts were saying about its performance, so I set about trying to locate one for sale in the UK. If it hadn't been for the wonderful chap who runs Andy's Pens I might still have been looking. There were a few 329s on eBay, but the majority of examples I would have to import. Andy on the other hand, had a variety of 329s available for sale on his website (in the Vintage Pens section) and was very helpful in talking me through my first purchase.
The 'beast' soon arrived in the mail - an 'old stock' but brand new 329 in black with an F nib, and it was soon put through its paces filled with Aurora Black ink; a wonderfully opaque and velvety black ink by the way.
So, what did I make of it?
The short answer is - I loved it, absolutely loved it! I must have as I went back to Andy for another three, and a couple of Hero 616s for comparison; at around £7.00 apiece it would have been rude not to! The model I'm reviewing here is the old style Hero 329 (circa 1970s) with the rounded back end and 'Star Trek' arrow symbol above the nib. Now let's consider the 329 in more detail...
Dimensions are as follows:
Length (capped): 139mm
Length (uncapped): 120mm
Length (posted): 146mm
Weight (filled): 16.4g
Barrel diameter: 11mm
Nib: Fine, though with this being a Chinese made pen it equates to somewhere between a Fine and Extra Fine western nib. Feels very smooth straight from the box and produces a very nice wet line.
The cap is brushed steel with a chromed clip, which has the word 'HERO' stamped into it. Beneath the cap is a gold-plated hooded nib with an iridium tip, very reminiscent of the old Parker 51, which the 329 emulates. The barrel unscrews to reveal an aerometric (squeeze) filler system, which to be fair holds a decent amount of ink. A very thin metal clutch ring where the two sections of the barrel meet breaks up the overall black of the barrel nicely, and provides a biting point for the cap, which is pleasantly secure when posted and a reassuringly good fit when the pen is capped.
The only thing I had to compare my first 329 with was a Parker Reflex (M nib) which, to me, was like writing with a house painter's 2" emulsion brush! There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the Parker, but as you may have guessed I'm not a great fan of Medium nibs, neither am I much enamoured of Parker Quink ink - Quink Black is grey, I'm sorry but it is, and for that I don't like it, hence my changing over to Aurora Black which is most definitely BLACK!
Compared to the Parker, my Hero 329 put down a lovely fine line and was very pleasant to write with. As with most fountain pens it did take a while to get used to the feel of the 329 and there was a tiny amount of scratchiness about the nib until I got it bedded in, after that it wrote as smooth as you like.
Since that first day, my Hero 329 has tackled a variety of papers, including Moleskine, without bleed or feather and has given me no cause for complaint or worry - it does as its told and always performs. The paper used for the test in this review is 80gsm Pukka Pad Vellum paper - nice and smooth with a slight tooth, perfect for fountain pens.
For the price (£7.00) the Hero 329 is an excellent investment for the novice fountain pen user, those on the go who can't bear to be without 'wet' ink, or just about anyone who likes fountain pens. Mine has travelled all over the place with me without leakages or other problems, though I have yet to take it anywhere by air.
At a Glance:
Model: Hero 329 (old style)
Colour Choice: Black, Red or Green, all with brushed steel cap
Available from: Andy's Pens in the UK or HisNibs.com in the US
Price: £7.00 at Andy's Pens; $15.00 at HisNibs
Nib: Extra Fine - Fine
Filler: Aerometric (squeeze)
Ink: Bottled ink only (no cartridges) as the filler is non-removable
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Monday, 1 June 2009
'Bravo Jubilee' is the third in Charlie Owen's series about UK policing in Manchester during the 1970s. It might seem a bit odd to review the third book in a series first, but I've just read this one and it's still fresh in my mind; I'll get around to reviewing his other two novels, 'Horse's Arse' and 'Foxtrot Oscar' later.
Charlie's third novel continues the tale of the D Group coppers from Hanstead nick during the build-up to the Queen's Silver Jubilee of 1977 and is like, as it states on the cover, '...The Sweeney...only harder.'
The novel opens with a double murder and the pace just picks up from there, weaving the aftermath of events from the previous novel ('Foxtrot Oscar') with new stories, both serious and funny, and an underlying theme running throughout the novel of CID's efforts to thwart an LSD manufacturing operation whilst the uniform cops get up to their usual antics; and a bit of law enforcement!
Join the uniformed coppers Pizza, Psycho, the Brothers, Ally and the others to get a glimpse of UK policing from a bygone era, complete with gags, wind-ups and all those things you thought coppers probably got up to but didn't like to ask! Catch up with DCI Harrison and his CID team as they cross swords again with Turkish gangster Sercan Ozdemir who is, predictably, up to no good again, and look forward to the reappearance of 'Ooh Yah' Young and police dog Alfie, who are just as mad as ever; and don't forget to keep an eye out for Psycho's spiked pepper mill!
Charlie Owen is a former police Inspector who wrote his first novel whilst convalescing from injury and it shows, his characters and the situations they find themselves in could only have been written so well by someone who's actually done the job.
All in all 'Bravo Jubilee' is an excellent read, the bad language and crude humour only add to a reader's understanding of what the characters face and how they cope with life policing a place like Handstead New Town in the 1970s, back in the days when the police force was a 'force.'
At a Glance:
Title: Bravo Jubilee
Author: Charlie Owen
Price: paperback rrp £5.99 (currently £3.86 at Asda)
Available from: The Book Depository and all good booksellers.
Overall Rating: five out of five.
Contains adult themes and bad language; excellent!
Following another of my darling daughter's shopping trips, this interesting new offering arrived on my desk at the weekend.
The Pilot B2P is another gel pen which uses the ubiquitous G2 refill, so little needs to be said about the writing qualitites of this pen; if you're familiar with the characteristics of G2 ink, you'll know what to expect.
The unique selling point of the B2P however, is the pen barrel, which is manufactured from recyled mineral water bottles and is styled to match, complete with a mineral water-esque label round the middle of the barrel. That explains the name, B2P - Bottle to Pen.
For some reason it looks as though there should be some 'give' in the plastic barrel as there would be in an empty mineral water bottle but no, the barrel's rock solid and well made, so no worries on that score. According to the Pilot website, the B2P will take both 0.7mm and 0.5mm G2 refills, access to the refill is via unscrewing the nib end of the pen.
Other than the styling, the B2P is nothing special to be honest, and whilst it's an interesting, if not remarkable pen, the only thing this pen-thusiast can find to recommend the B2P (apart from the quality G2 ink, that is) is the sheer novelty value of what it's manufactured from. Nevertheless, the good quality ink and unusual styling make the B2P an interesting addition to any pen-thusiast's collection.
At a Glance:
Colour choice: Barrel transparent blue, with black, blue or red ink.
Available from: Ryman in the UK, CultPens online, Pilot stockists.
Price: £1.76 - £1.99
Overall rating: 3 out of 5