Keeping My Hand In

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(If you really can’t read my handwriting, I’ve typed it all out down below. The things I do for you people.)

I love words.

Flotsam, zuzzing, dirigible, finch, outcrop, eery, querulous, bench, allotment, flange, speckled, dwindle, supercilium, dyspepsia, audacity, synchronicity, fracture, mithering, serendipitous, incandescent, corollary, soporific, otiose, globule, concomitant, feckless, murmuration, crepuscular, bunting.

Made-up ones, too. Plumpfing, clumsybundle, flummock, drungeworthy, kerrangulate.

Honestly, I could just fill this blog post with brilliant words, words to roll around the mouth and chew on. Words to masticate, if you will.

But while I love words there are some, the mere sight of which on the page will make me fume, seethe (good word), fulminate (even better word) and vituperate (keep ‘em coming!), inveighing (ok you’re just showing off now – stop it).

It’s pathetic, I know, to be triggered by such minutiae, but there it is. I chunter, the same way my mum did when someone on the radio mispronounced ‘controversy’ or ‘Medici’, or referred to Mothering Sunday as ‘Mother’s Day’.

This week’s disproportionate rage trigger was ‘penned’.

‘Mildred Alpine-Chough has penned her first novel.’

No. No she hasn’t. She’s written it. If you insist on finding an alternative, at least be accurate.

’Mildred Alpine-Chough has typed/computered/keyboarded her first novel.’

See how ridiculous that sounds? ‘Written’ is fine.

Believe me, I know how this is making me look. Pedant, stick-in-the-mud, won’t allow language to evolve. Grumpy old man.

What can I say? Guilty as charged, up to a point.

(And yes, I am aware that I’m fond of more than the odd long word where a shorter one will do. Again, guilty as charged. But please do comb every single thing I’ve ever written for examples of what I’m complaining about and send them to me. I’d love that.)

I’m spending too long on this, I know, and it’s not what I want to write about. It is connected, though.

The reason I was reminded of this monstrosity was that this week I bought a pen. (No, I didn’t ‘purchase’ it, and no I’m not ‘utilising’ it to write this post. I bought it and am using it. I’ll stop now.) I am now equipped to pen things left, right and centre. Penning is my new thing.

The pen is a pink Lamy Safari and I love it hard.

Sexy beast

I’ve bought fountain pens before, but somehow never found a perfect fit. I’m a leftie, so everything has to be just so for me to be able to use one. And I’m a hook-handed overwriter, so am always prone to smudgery.


But much as I enjoy a reliable fibre tip or rollerball – and I mean a good one, not a throwaway crap-tip that dries or frays as soon as you look at it – there are few things to compare with the pleasure of writing with a good, smooth-flowing fountain pen. My handwriting improves immediately, and I take more care over every aspect of the writing process.

This is how they used to do it. Everything. Before computers, before word processors, before typewriters. And while progress is a marvellous thing, it’s not the only thing. So it’s no coincidence that having purchased this graphical execution utensil bought this pen, I almost immediately found myself writing letters.

I was sending people books, you see, and couldn’t just commit them to the postman without a covering note. A post-it would be too slapdash, a printed letter too formal. So I took my new love and sat and wrote letters with it, like it was 1865 or something. Proper old-fashioned fountain-pen-on-headed-writing-paper letters. Dear x, I trust this finds you well. That kind of thing.

What a feeling.

I don’t want to get all ‘things aren’t what they used to be kids today don’t know they’re born it were all fields around here when I were a lad we used to have to clean the scullery floor wi’ our tongues’ on you. I’m not like that. I love progress, I love technology, I love that I can be in instant contact with people all over the world should I so wish.

But the feel of a pen in hand, the faint scratch of nib on paper, the pleasing flow of ink, the blotting paper dab, the beauty of even my less-than-elegant script crawling steadfastly across the page… these things are a salve to the soul. Of all the lost arts, letter-writing is the one most worth reviving. Yes of course email and text and Facebook and Twitter and everything else are marvellous. Kind of. But if we can’t find room in our overbusy lives for a bit of handwritten correspondence, then I don’t know what. It were all fields around here when I were a lad.

Do this one thing. Dig out the address of that friend, that relative, that person you thought of when you passed the old cafe where you used to hang out. Write them a letter.

Let’s make letter-writing a thing again.

And if you want me to write you a letter, email your postal address to levparikian at mac dot com and I will gladly oblige.

I might even include your favourite word.

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  1. The Lamy Safari is a lovely pen. I’ve a quiet, unassuming grey one, that I then fill with Diamine’s finest cerise ink, because why not. 🙂 Though I only write in my journal these days, I loved writing letters but too many people I knew, while they loved receiving letters, felt the burden of replying was more than they could deal with. Which was sad.

  2. Drungeworthy? I like it. We had “exterbadant” in our family – as children – it still comes out occasionally.
    I have written thousands of letters in my lifetime and yes, I just plain “wrote” them even if I wrote most of them using a typewriter or a computer. I am a leftie too but nothing will ever make my handwriting legible – although not for want of trying. Letter writing and hand writing are lost arts. Please keep your epistolatory efforts up.

  3. Okay – so you convinced me – I just ordered a Lamy!!! I used to write letters that almost became novels – note the “used to”. I am also about to subscribe to your blog, and your book is winging its way to me from AmazonUK over to California. As is Natalie Fergie’s book The Sewing Machine – which is how I found out about your book. It is a small world – all via the internet of course. Newly retired I am wasting (??) my day back reading Natalie’s blog and will probably now hit up yours.

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