La Petite Mort

Photograph by Kat Philcox Photography

I watched a lot of old movies when I was a kid, and just adored the graphic world of black and white cinematography; when I grew up, I wanted to look like those beautiful, remote, magnificent women. Then when I grew up, I realised that they don’t really exist, that they are a confection of the studio; still, I longed to be portrayed as a femme fatale at least once. My big opportunity was the photo shoot with Kat Philcox, and we worked with a black backdrop much of the time.

While I was putting together the photo book (see previous post), this photo led me to do a little creative writing, limited only by the amount of space on the page. Before I knew it, I had written a film noiresque scene, inspired by such movies as The Big Sleep. I picture “him” as a Private Investigator in the style of Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe.

 

LA PETITE MORT

He surveyed the room: signs of a struggle were evident, from the overturned boudoir chair, to the crooked lampshade, and a shattered vase of Stargazer lilies, strewn across the floor. Then there was the body of a girl, supine on a rug beside the bed.

Sniffing the air, he decoded the smell – a strangely intoxicating blend of Bourbon whiskey, sweat, and lilies, with a faint underlying odour of something bad. He shuddered – he hated the smell of lilies and the memories they brought flooding back.

Apprehensively, he walked towards her body, noting her disheveled clothing. When he saw her stillness, and her glazed eyes, he froze. “Get a grip”, he urged himself, looking away for a moment to refocus. Dropping to his knee, he put his ear close to her mouth, and heard her slow breath. So, not dead. Then…what? A seizure? Pondering this development, he slowly came to the realisation that she was under the spell of ‘the little death’. “Well that’s just swell”, he mumbled cynically, moving away to upright the chair and wait for her full recovery.

 

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Weapons of Choice: choosing and using fountain pens and inks

About a year ago, I bought a vintage fountain pen, a Parker 51, for a friend who loves to write. When it arrived, I had a bit of fun cleaning it and trying it out with some ink to ensure it worked before presenting it to her. I liked it so much that I covetously wanted to keep it for myself – but I didn’t! Instead, I began researching fountain pens, and bought a few economy models online to try.

My first purchase, for around $5, was a “disposable” Platinum Preppy (above front), which came with a replaceable cartridge. One advantage of having a pen with a replaceable cartridge is that the cartridge can actually be carefully refilled with a dropper, which means you can use whatever ink colour you prefer. The nib is marked as “fine”, but being Japanese-made it is actually more like an extra fine. The clear plastic casing has a somewhat brittle feel, but I haven’t broken it yet. The lid, which snaps on, has an airtight seal, making this the most mess-free of my pens, and also the most willing to write immediately. The Preppy comes in a range of colours, and cartridge converters are also available, making refilling even simpler. Its appearance is unremarkable, therefore making it the least likely to be stolen from your desk at work!

My next purchase, after reading many reviews, was a white Lamy Safari (around $30), renowned for its butter-soft nib, which is marked as EF (extra fine), but being German-made is actually more like a fine! It has an attractive, modern casing in quality plastic with a three-sided molded section for a comfortable, natural finger grip, and a sturdy, paper-clip style stainless steel pocket clip. It came with a piston-style cartridge converter, which is easily filled by dipping the opening into your ink, then twisting the end section to draw in the ink. The nibs in the Safaris are replaceable. I like it a lot, and for a while it was my favourite; but I now find that the cap unwinds from the body, causing more leaks which have led to slight staining of the white casing.

My last acquisition was a marbled grey Noodler’s Nib Creaper demonstrator (transparent) pen, valued at around $15, from the helpful and knowledgeable team at Goulet Pens, which was included as a bonus with a large bottle of Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink. I really like this pen, although it smelt odd to begin with – a trait they are known for. It’s an “eyedropper pen”, which means it has a huge reservoir in the body, instead of a separate cartridge, and to refill it you merely unscrew the two halves of the body, and drop in more ink. I have found that I prefer the transparent pens for the practical reason that it’s easy to see how much ink you have left.

I mostly use the bulletproof* Lexington Gray ink in the Preppy and Nib Creaper pens, and a blend of Noodler’s La Reine Mauve and Lexington Gray inks, at a ratio of about 1:3, to create a purplish grey, in the Safari. I keep a small ink bottle (above left) for this purpose.

Researching and collecting fountain pens and inks became a bit of an obsession for a while, but I reined in my urge to buy everything I could, and have a useful collection for now. The act of writing about them here has reignited my interest, and I’d love to acquire a Noodler’s Ahab Flex pen, with a flexible nib. And of course, there are many more inks I’d like to try out, some of which come in exquisite bottles…

 

*Noodler’s use the term “bulletproof” to describe ink that is waterproof, bleach proof, lightfast, and has excellent archival qualities.