vanishing point

   for some years, perhaps nearing a decade now, I’ve carried the same pen in my shirt pocket. Same pen, same place, toward the mid-line——proximal, as the medics have it. A Pilot, sometimes known as a Namiki, Vanishing Point; A fountain pen which functions with the convenience of a Biro, the nib uncapping and capping with a push button, disappearing behind a mechanical shutter. Recently there have been one or two imitators but for decades the Namiki was the only pen to offer this utility.

Almost invariably it accompanied another pen: generally a Mitsubishi Pencil Uni Power Tank, which represents a pinnacle of disposable ball point pen technology (though I should note it is refillable). The Power Tank has a pressurized reservoir, similar to a Fisher Space Pen and writes upside down, in water, space etc. I have found it to be more reliable than the Fisher, which would sometimes clog. It also has a larger capacity reservoir, or seems to, and is disturbingly cheap at a local discount store where it costs just over one pound, less than half the usual price.

I’ve relied on them for my backup pen; my lend pen; my write in bed pen (when fully reclined and a fountain pen fails as tilted back); my write-on-difficult surfaces pen——a clear enough picture.

I should also say that this is the only pen I will let my children use in examinations. Two children so far have used them, perhaps three————hard to remember that far back. Thus far, it’s never failed them.

It also writes more smoothly than many rollerballs and has sufficient sensitivity to pressure and lightness of touch that it’s a passable stand-in for Pitman’s Shorthand.

Strange bedfellows at first glance, yet bearing many similarities; the Namiki having been chosen with the finest nib to facilitate shorthand has the convenience of a clickable ballpoint (though one has to remember to withdraw the tip purposely to prevent drying) yet with all the benefits of a fountain pen: genuine ink, smoothness and lightness of touch, flexibility, etc. Style?

The Power Tank has every convenience of the ballpoint plus additional benefits whilst possessing superior delicacy of touch to many.

One pen looks cheap but not nasty, the other pricey but strange: the Namiki is oddly shaped and sits with the large button end down, contra-to standard button pens. It is bulged like an Orca and when held in the hand in writing position the clip rests against the index finger. At first this might feel clumsy but it facilitates instant nib alignment and is soon seen as a virtue. I’ve never truly accustomed myself to the shape but familiarity dulled my sense off oddness.

The Namiki is perfect for correcting work or composition when one’s thought moves slowly as one can withdraw the nib, preventing it from drying out, without the distraction of finding, picking up, and replacing a cap only to have to repeat in reverse when the next word comes.

Two days back, at the end of an hallucinatory vigil on account of a second night sleepless——tending to a sick child, I mislaid the Namiki while sitting in my accustomed chair at the computer. Seems unlikely, but lost it was and remains. No place would now seem too strange for it to have reached——at least within four feet of my riser-recliner, as I have scoured the environment. This beast is probably guilty of swallowing it but short of gutting it I have probed it more thoroughly than a trainee proctologist (forgive the Americanism but I don’t think we have an equivalent).

Losing this companion of 99% of my days, even days I’ve not written a word——and of these there have been too many, has had a strange effect. Despite it not being my best pen, certainly not my only pen, I feel as if I’m suffering psychic phantom limb pain. Rather as when losing a friend, thinking of the times one could have served them better: been more kind——I’m thinking of how I wished I’d written more with it. Ensured there were less days when it was only a dumb ornament in my pocket.

It could sound embarrassing sentimental but has a harder edge than that. As if losing it, or at least mislaying it, has forced me to look at the value of what it represents: why have this pinnacle of fountain pen technology in this pocket: is it deserving of such?

I am working hard to devise a resolution, ritual, or renunciation, worthy of it’s rediscovery——I have dared not approach the question of replacement if it fails to turn up or, more pointedly, at what point I declare it truly lost …

My pen, a Pelikan Souverain M1000, has become too dauntingly expensive as the years go by for me to want to take it far and although I have many cheap stand-ins I miss the sense of style.

Vanity of vanities.

I’m tempted to replace it with a technical pencil with a 0.3 lead and write in script sized for The Borrowers. I’m evidently a sucker for high-tech wonders.

Whatever the outcome, my view of writer’s tools, and strange attachments has been altered——I’m beginning to be engaged by the view that being satisfied with a chewed up pencil stub might lead to happier and more contented times.


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