Next month my fountain pen is 34 years old. I’ve worn all the black paint down to the brass where it’s held in my hand, and because I’m jealously possessive of it, the only hand that’s held it is mine. The brass showing through is not a consistent, unbroken surface, but has a lovely shiny marbling to it, a filigree of minute curving cracks bending onto one another like crazy Lilliputian latticework (that I don’t have a good enough camera to capture for you, sorry). Since reading about the Japanese art of kintsugi on Valerie Davies blog [bookmark it if you’re wise], I have come to think of my pen as a work of art; better, working art, for I write with it every day, at work and play, despite I stopped being able to read my handwriting fifteen or sixteen years ago. Indeed, I can only read what I’ve written while it’s in memory (and afraid to say, as alarming as it is, at 51, that can be as short as hours, at best, a day). Also alarming has become the cost of ink, and sourcing it, which I suspect would be impossible now without the internet.

My sister, Barbara, (second eldest of my four sisters), gave the pen to me as a present all those years ago, and the first exercise I used it for was to write my lecture notes for the stage II English literature papers of my BA. We’re a close-knit family, but of the three sisters with contractable names: Christine, Barbara, and Phillipa, there has never been a Chris, a Barb, or a Phip or Pip within the family, certainly not at the dining table where we quaintly all sat while growing up around nightly roasts and self-basting chocolate puddings. Formality like that is … well, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Some would call being made as youngsters to eat meals around a table, stuffy. But perhaps it’s more the modern trend of meals on laps around telly with no conversation is sloppy.

Two years ago in a moment of familial bonhomie over food and wine – two joys of life, outside my pen and my lovely wife, Pauline – I proudly told my sister ‘I’ve still got that pen, Barbara, you gave me 32 years ago, it has become a treasure and a keepsake; I’m even thinking of writing it into my Will it be interned in my coffin.

She replied, ‘what pen?’

So, here’s today’s painting (be sure to read my qualifer below it). The Moneylender and His Wife, 1514, by Quentin Metsys (from the Twitter timeline of @marisabeloyo ).

[Another reason] I love paintings is because they connect us to ourselves (not paintings as constructs to be bent to the interpretation of a lecturer/autocrat in a lecture hall, but as our past, present, skin, blood and values – real people, [even money lenders]). It’s incredible, to me, The Moneylender and His Wife was painted 502 years ago, yet change that book for an Apple Mac and a spreadsheet, and there’s little in the way of discernible difference to a daily scene in our, or any, office. Those two are us. Although the wifely close scrutiny in the painting isn’t fair on Pauline, for I get to spend as I please (the pocket money she gives me).


No, I am being mischievous and unfair. Pauline will be mortified with that casting. If anything I am naughty in that I leave all cash management in the household to her because I can’t be bothered. I know what we’re worth on 31 March of each year, outside of that I don’t care. The positive framing of this would be that’s just the old hippy in me – it’s worthy of note that despite a formal upbringing, my professional attire has become a skivvy, long-shorts and jandals – but it’s more likely I’m just lazy.

And the pocket money I’m given really isn’t bad. After I buy my Press each day there’s enough left over for the TV Guide – it’s a veritable bounty of riches.


9 thoughts on “Sheafferuede

  1. Hi Mark

    I enjoyed the subject matter and the tone of your new blog. You have an interest in renascence art – who knew?

    I have subscribed, and look forward to future posts.

    Go well


  2. Very nice, Mark. I like fountain pens too. Those pictures on my blog? Those are all pens of mine. I’ll admit to being lazy and using ballpoints a lot, too. But there is nothing like the feel–and smell–of a fountain pen. Ink from Schaeffer or Levenger’s. I just wish I could find blotters again!


  3. Lovely piece Mark, which brought back all sorts of memories like my tenth birthday, spent at Belsen, and my father who had been away at war on all my other birthdays gave me a string of pearls and a black fountain pen with gold bits… that was more precious than the pearls !

    The picture – gorgeous… love the details like the open book she’s reading,(I have a book called’ Women who Read are Dangerous’ ) and the miniature reflection of the rest of the room and its window in the little round mirror in the foreground, and even the buildings to be seen beyond the window…

    It’s a lovely idea to give us a painting so that we really study the details and see it, instead of shuffling along to the next picture on the gallery wall, suffering from a surfeit, but anxious to get value for our money…

    Oh and a grateful PS, thank you so much for your little plug for me – so generous…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Val(erie) 🙂

      There was something nice about being gifted a pen, wasn’t there (past tense). I don’t imagine it happens now.

      I’ve looked at that painting a long time and yet still missed the window reflection in the mirror; how observant.


  4. Lovely piece Mark, which brought back many memories, including my tenth birthday spent at Belsen with my father… the first birthday with him since he’d been away at war. He gave me a string of pearls and a black fountain pen with gold bits…. much more valued than the pearls,

    The picture was so intriguing, love the details, her opened and illustrated book ( so valuable then – I have a book called ‘ Women who read are Dangerous’) and then there is that gorgeous little round mirror reflecting the rest of the room, with its windows, and even the buildings beyond… amazing… so much better having one picture to absorb than shuffling along in a gallery suffering a surfeit of paintings but trying to get value for one’s money !!

    Oh – and a grateful PS – thank you so much for your generous plug… much appreciated!


      1. Hello Mark, no, the first comment seemed to have disappeared… when will I ever understand computers ?so I laboriously tried to re-construct the first… and then found there were two…
        You were right not to truncate valerie ! I applaud you not doing that with your sister’s names…
        Have to tackle a pile of washing up before neighbours arrive for afternoon tea ( lapsang souchong of course), so will answer you comment on my blog later…

        Liked by 1 person

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