Saturday, 23 February 2013

Shakespeare on Saturday


I have just admitted defeat and increased the size of the image on my laptop screen – again.  It’s easy enough to do and its no great hardship but I have been putting it off for ages because it is yet another sign of the rapidity of the deterioration of my eyes.
It’s either increase the size or keep having to clean the screen where my nose has rubbed against it!  The thought of death has never scared me.  (Though I should prefer it to be some time off and painless.) But the prospect of going blind scares the hell out of me. Hopefully that too – if it ever were to happen – is a long way off.


On a happier note I must mention again the subject of postcrossing.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people go to a great deal of effort to find just the right card and stamps for the stranger to whom they are sending.  All that is required by the ‘rules’ is that they send a postcard to some total stranger picked for them by the computer.  But many people read the person’s profile in detail, choose or find an appropriate card, put the requested type of stamp on it – if available, and write what they think will be of interest to that person.  All that and still posting it as soon as possible – usually that very day or the next. 
For a while just forget my rant against Hilary Whotshername.  Forget the wars in the less fortunate parts of the earth.  This can be a lovely world to live in.

Live Writer

I have decided to use Live Writer as an experiment. But I notice that even with Live Writer I am getting large spaces between paragraphs.  I must see if I can find out why it happens because it bugs me.

Shakespeare Cats

Some books can be read in half an hour and yet still deserve their place on our bookshelves, whence they will be taken down and admired time and again.  Partner-who-loves-tea and I have just been given such a book by a certain member of the genus Poecile.
from “Alas, poor Yorick!”
It’s called ‘Shakespeare Cats’ and is by the artist Susan Herbert.   It is brilliant.  Thirty two paintings with their appropriate brief extract from the play and an artist’s sketch on the opposite page.
“Blow winds, and crack your cheeks, rage, blow.”

Fountain pens

According to the Goddess Wiki - "The earliest historical record of a reservoir pen dates to the 10th century. In 953, Ma'ād al-Mu'izz, the caliph of the Maghreb, demanded a pen that would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen that held ink in a reservoir and delivered it to the nib, which could be held upside-down without leaking, as recorded in Kitab al-Majalis wa 'l-musayardt, by Qadi al-Nu'man al-Tamimi (d. 974). No details of the construction or mechanism of operation of this pen are known, and no examples have survived."
I can confirm that no examples have survived because from the age of nine I haven’t  found a fountain pen that didn’t stain my hands.
“In 1828 Josiah Mason improved a cheap, efficient slip-in nib in Birmingham, England, which could be added to a fountain pen and in 1830, with the invention of a new machine, William Joseph Gillott, William Mitchell and James Stephen Perry devised a way to mass manufacture robust, cheap steel pen nibs. This boosted the Birmingham pen trade and by the 1850s, more than half the steel-nib pens manufactured in the world were made in Birmingham. Thousands of skilled craftsmen and women were employed in the industry. Many new manufacturing techniques were perfected, enabling the city's factories to mass produce their pens cheaply and efficiently. These were sold worldwide to many who previously could not afford to write, thus encouraging the development of education and literacy.”
“In the 1880s the era of the mass-produced fountain pen finally began. The dominant American producers in this pioneer era were Waterman, of New York City, and Wirt, based in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.“
“Pens still tended to leak inside their caps and at the joint where the barrel opened for filling so many inventors turned their attention to the problem of leakage. Some of the earliest solutions to this problem came in the form of a "safety" pen with a retractable point that allowed the ink reservoir to be corked like a bottle. In 1907 Waterman began marketing a safety pen that soon became the most widely distributed such pen. For pens with non-retractable nibs, the adoption of screw-on caps with inner caps that sealed around the nib by bearing against the front of the section effectively solved the leakage problem (such pens were also marketed as "safety pens", as with the Parker Jack Knife Safety and the Swan Safety Screw-Cap).”
“During the 1940s and 1950s, fountain pens retained their dominance: early ballpoint pens were expensive, were prone to leaks and had irregular inkflow, while the fountain pen continued to benefit from the combination of mass production and craftsmanship. This period saw the launch of innovative models such as the Parker 51.”
It is a Parker 51 that I am using at the moment.  Well, I'm not using it at this exact moment because I'm using a keyboard...  But unlike the Parker 51 that everyone else uses my Parker 51s (I have three) all include a something created by a sub-designer.  An auto-leak device to ensure inky digits.
I was thinking about this the other day as I wrote a letter and I was also reminded that at one time pens dripped large parts of their contents, leaving great blotches on the paper.  At least they don’t do that nowadays, I thought.  It was no more than a minute later that the letter was christened with two large blots.  Ah well…

Have a Nice Weekend

I’m off to write some postcards.  Then, if the sunshine of the last few days keeps up I’m aiming to tidy the patio.  Or, to be a bit more alliterative about it, I’m planning to plant pink primulas in the patio pots. What are your plans?


  1. I use Live Writer. I don't notice whether my paragraphs have big gaps.
    If you are loading full width pictures drag and drop them. Don't hit Enter before captioning them, use the space bar.

  2. As usual, a very interesting post, and although I miss an Ivy-picture, it is not entirely cat-less.
    For many years now, I do not own an ink pen. My handwriting is terrible, and I feel as if I do not "deserve" using a proper, expensive pen. Actually, I have not used one since my school days, I think. I am rather fond of pencil, but at work for taking notes it is mostly the very banal ball pen I use.

  3. Oh, I forgot to reply to your question about weekend plans.
    Today, I'll help my sister moving stuff in her flat from one room to the other; she's having the floors done.
    Tomorrow, it'll be a day of rest, play, read and write, and an hour-length phone call to Mary, my mother-in-law.

  4. I see no large spaces between paragraphs? (Maybe you've figured it out between your writing and my reading of this post.)
    Sorry about your eyes, I know that fear too well even if my eye problems aren't the same as yours. I think I need to make an appointment with my optician soon, I know he can't do anything about my tiresome floaters but better check up if there have been other changes as well.

    1. Live Writer seems to have solved the large space problem, thanks.

  5. Oooh Scriptor... Pink primulas sound amazing... I wish I had my own house... But due to the size of the city I live in and the pricing here, it seems erm... Ok, let's stop with this one ;)
    "What are your plans?"
    Well, my today's plan is to relax a bit with my partner. Am going to cook some pizza, he will take some tasty beer from the nearby beer shop (blush), and we have a film to watch... Am going to cook one pizza with salami-sweet pepper-olives-cheeze; another one with smoked bacon-mushrooms-cheeze and one with shrimps and blue cheese... The last one is for the first time. Hope it'll be tasty :)

    1. Oohh. That second one sounds really tasty - I wonder how it would survive in the post!

  6. I've always loved the word "nib". That being said, I have yet to make nibs on the feather quills I bought, and try them out with my new ink. I don't know what's holding me back. I bought the feathers, heat tempered them, and bought the ink, and an antique inkwell. And there they still sit.

    Plans for the day? A bit of antique store rambling, a bit of Wall-O-Withnail construction, and then a private Academy Awards Party for Two, complete with cold steak and sauces, and hot wings (spicy chicken)/celery/bleu cheese dressing!

    And yes, more Ivy pics please! 8-)

  7. I loved the cat illustrations.
    I won a Platignum handwriting competition two years in a row while I was at school...good thing I didn't have to know about the history of the fountain pen back then, but I enjoyed learning about them..thanks for this useful info CJ.
    Don't worry about increasing the image size on your laptop...haven't you noticed that my blog is written in Large font? There's a reason for

    1. Funnily enough, Virginia, I hadn't noticed. Because I increase the size of everyone's blog with the Ctrl+ buttons I probably assumed that was what I had done with yours. I know at least one other of my regular readers who has to do the same thing so perhaps we should form a group. We could call ourselves the ControlPlusser. OK, perhaps not!

    2. I should have added a 'Wow, Congratulations' about the prizes at school. I would have been saved so much heartache if mine had only been acceptable. My Biology teacher used to give me detentions to make me write my work out more neatly and it still wasn't really legible. I am so envious of people who can write neatly. (And yes GB I know envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.)

  8. Having, much to my own surprise, almost immediately worked out the book donor's identity from your cryptic clue I went onto one of my beloved subjects: fountain pens. I own quite a few and actually posted about them in A Real Letter. I still use some of them regularly and have some in New Zealand as well. In fact when I did my last public inquiry in 1994/5 I filled 8 100+ page A4 books with my notes - all written with a fountain pen. My oldest and favourite is a Parker I've had since I was 9 (although it was reconditioned by Penfriend over 35 years ago)


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