The ABC of zero tolerance

Any writing that has to go onto my computer gets there via a pen that has to be filled with ink from a bottle. Chance took me to a little job of work in Munich. During my stay I discovered a marvellous little shop in Hohenzollernstraâe that sold the greatest variety of quality fountain pens that I’ve ever seen. Exceptional among the great array was a black and green striated pen with gold trimmings. For a pen of quality it was not expensive. Gunther Wagner Pelikan pens, for that’s what it was: is the most commonly used fountain pen in Germany and especially the model with green and black striations.
Having arrived back in London, however, I contrived to lose it within a very short space of time in a Soho café. I was, of course, then lost and palely loitering among ball point pens, fibre tipped pens, roller ball pens and the like. Just as I had given up, and was about to resign myself to a Parker or Schaeffer, I found a little shop off The Strand that sold the whole range of Pelikan pens. Keen as I was on the pen I had no idea that what I flattered myself upon as aesthetic appreciation was in reality an obsession, and a dangerous one at that. Looking back I can see how strange, how irrational, it must have seemed to the authorities. Making special inks from oak gall, iron sulphate and gum arabic, because the commercial product dries out too shiny, was only the beginning and quite harmless. Noting that my forgeries were becoming effete I realised that there was trouble ahead. Ornate Gothic and pseudo-medieval objet d’art and other Art nouveau bric-à-brac began to inhabit my studio. Police, investigating the murders, and later psychiatrists, representatives of the tabloid press and talking heads on television made much of all this. Questions were asked in The House: the right honourable member for Basingstoke wanted to know how the government proposed to resolve the dilemma of art schools propagating the evil practices of the fin d’siècle in the name of education. Raymond, they found him, was buried in the herb garden, under the basil, he’d have appreciated the Keatsian gesture. Sean, undiscovered, sleeps beneath the lilies. They’ll find him eventually. Unsolved till now is the reason why. Verificatioin of death by a violent blow to the back of the cranium: “must be part and parcel of all that stuff these people get up to.” Would I be believed if I told them the real reason for their demise? You might believe me now if I tell you that I asked them not to write with my Pelikan Soveran M600: they did and they died. Zero tolerance.


William Smith

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