How I blotted my copybook – with real ink!

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WHEN it came to writing things down the first few years at school were fine. The beloved pencil was, well, at least partly, at your command.

But a few years in it was a big surprise find yourself at a desk with an ink well, a piece of blotting paper and, sitting in a groove at the top of the desk, a tapered piece of wood with a strange lump of steel at one end apparently giving you the V sign.

The idea was sound. You dipped your pen nib in the ink pot, carefully wiped off the excess ink, wrote and blotted.

It sounds simple but when I left school for work at the end of 1958 this system had not been mastered by little old me.

You started writing and you either got a blob of ink on the paper or you scratched on the paper, minus ink. If you tried to write over the scratched bit it would create a little lake of ink for its own amusement.

At some point you discovered that the nib had reached a stage where you could write very neatly with it upside down.

You never got too pleased too soon, however, because suddenly a huge blob of ink would appear from nowhere.

How did you carry this object about? I hear young readers ask. Answer: you didn’t. The pen was left with the desk as you changed classes. What with heavy and light-handed pupils and different angles of writing. it’s remarkable that some pupils didn’t do a bad job!

Fountain pens were in use in the Arab world hundreds of years ago. A salesman in 1884 brought out the first modern workable one, companies like Parker brought out posh versions and the cartridge appeared in 1950.

The Hungarian Laszlo Biro developed the “biro” or ballpoint pen in 1938. His patent was bought by Marcel Bich in 1945 and the biro became the main product of his Bic company.

Neither fountain nor biro pens were at school when I left in 1958. Throughout life I have pondered that, given a decent pen, I could have left school at 14, like my brother, or even 12, like Mum and Dad, such was the time expended on writing with that old nib that could have been spent on subject matter.

n Anthony Buckless lives at Sunny Bank Road, Mixenden, Halifax.