I recently had a conversation with a work colleague about the particular kinds of music we create. I talked about some of the incredible concerts I’ve been in as a choral soprano and the buzz of standing there as the audience go wild at the end. Well. As wild as they ever get at the Royal Festival Hall anyway. Then you go home, crawl under the duvet and wake up ten hours later feeling like you’ve been kicked in the diaphragm by a malevolent unicorn. And it is the absolute best.
His face went fuzzy with nostalgia (rather than with spontaneous facial hair growth) as he talked about his love of studio production and all that electronic stuff. I won’t say more than that about it because I don’t know the first thing about electronic music. He talked about long blissed-out hours in the studio. I asked if he did this these days and he said no. It eats too much of your life. Takes too much money and energy and time. I told him he should go for it because life is short and you need to invest your time in the things you care about.
I’m not currently in a choir because high level choral singing eats too much of your life. Takes too much money and energy and time. Well damn. Actually I’m working my way back up to it but I will need to be definitely, indisputably well again before I’ll feel comfortable taking it on.
It has been a long journey for me to figure out how to pursue the things that make my heart sing. For a good portion of my teens I was desperately afraid that everything I loved was wrong, somehow. I picked up choral singing on a whim in my first week at university. I hadn’t made any friends and a housemate was going to choir rehearsal so I tagged along. How hard could it be? Admittedly part of it was a fuck you to Evil Sister who regularly got into my face and shouted “you can’t fucking sing!” when I was growing up. But this may have been the first step in finding my own passions.
I spend a lot of my time in huge full skirt swing dresses with fluffy petticoats underneath. When I started wearing 1950s clothes I thought “I’ve found my style. But it must look authentic. I don’t want to look like I’m wearing a costume.” A couple of years later it’s more “What’s this? A purple swing dress in unicycling wombat print with a twelve inch pink bow on the butt? Thank you. I’ll take four. Just let me get the sparkly eyeliner and the glossy red lipstick on and I’m good to go.”
Arguably I am, at 37, a little old for this. It’s the kind of probably-disastrous style decision I should have made at 17. At 17 I couldn’t. I was locked inside my own fear that everybody else knew things I didn’t. I was simultaneously fiercely arrogant about my oddness and also terrified of it.
I try to be neither arrogant nor terrified now, but I know I’m odd. I get wildly excited or upset about things that don’t seem to affect other people at all. I have never, and probably never will, understood the point of pubs, dinner parties, discussing your mortgage, or let’s be honest – having children. I don’t see attractiveness in other humans in the same way as other people – and this was a source of constant anxiety to me when I was younger. I now realise that this is because I don’t process faces well. Two white men in their twenties with short dark hair? Yeah I’m going to struggle to work out or remember which one is Dave and which one is Jim – never mind instinctively knowing which is the hottie.
Things I love instead include a certain type of car* that makes me feel smiley all over just from looking at them, and illustrations of people/humanoids with tiny heads. Animals with excellent noz (all animals have a Noz Rating from 1-10). Dark hideyholes. Jammies with foots. Items of a comedy oversized or undersized nature. A smooth nib on smooth white paper pulling a line of vivid colour across the page. Not that other people don’t love these things (I mean come on, jammies with foots are just amazing) but they usually don’t have the focus on them or the same intensity of joy.
In the last decade I have made a point of running towards that joy. To be clear, there are parts of autism that can be really hard on the people around you. The balance is in working towards managing those elements and asking “does this odd thing harm other people, or does it just look a little odd to the rest of the world? Just odd? Fuck them I’m going for it.” Casting off convention can often be a convention in itself of course – and there are few people as tedious as the people who desperately want others to believe that they don’t give a damn what other people think. I would suggest examining yourself for that motive but then you get into the kind of tortured conventionception that will make everyone want to hit you with a brick. Just run towards your joy.
So after charging on back to my lovely lovely pens what do I bring to the desk today? When you ask people about cheaper pens the same suspects come up over and over. Lamy Safari (can’t argue with that, obviously, as I’ve just posted about it) and the Pilot Metro/MR (which varies so much in price in the UK I’m never quite sure whether to recommend it or not. Is it worth £12? Sure. £38? No). You’ll get a smattering of Jinhao suggestions and someone will always suggest pens that cost two or three or ten times the stated budget because some people are dicks. A brand that doesn’t come up much but in my not remotely humble opinion should is Ohto.
What’s the connection between Ohto and heart warbling oddness? Just that I love their fountain pens and I haven’t met many other people who do. Why not? Well I have to admit that they’re arguably not pushing them very hard. Ohto have been around since the 1920s as an ink and dye manufacturer but most of their work has been in moving away from fountain pens and towards… The devil’s ink sticks. Alas. They brought the ballpoint pen to Japan in 1949 and people inexplicably bought them. Since then, no doubt chastened and horrified by their sins, they’ve been steadily working on trying to make the aforementioned ink sticks less terrible. They’ve brought out lots of “exciting” stationery-related innovations in the decades since but as they weren’t fountain pen related I don’t actually care.
Ohto is a relatively obscure brand by comparison with Pilot, Platinum and Sailor, but while those three are battling out the NO I AM MORE JAPANESE THAN YOU fight, Ohto has been quietly turning out the little charmers. I do mean little. They don’t only make pocket pens but they are a speciality of Ohto’s and the ones they make are rather fabulous. As previously mentioned, I am a fan of comedy undersized objects.
As is often way with pocket pens they are designed with short barrels and a very long cap which posts smoothly to turn the little cutie into a full size pen. The Tasche and the Rook are both around 3.5″ when capped but rise to the occasion with a very respectable 6″(ish) when posted.
I fell in love with the Tasche a few months back because it’s adorable. In the last few days I’ve opened up the box of pen stuff that Beloved buys me each month (yes he is wonderful. No you can’t have him) and he’d given me both a Dude (not a pocket pen) and a Rook. He got the Dude so that both of us could make endless jokes about “I’ve just found a new Dude for my wife” etc because we’re idiots like that. He got the Rook because obviously I would love it and I do. I love all three of my Ohtos. Group hug!
I have literally just told you in the last post that I’m not keen on shiny metallic pens. And now I’m going to say that I love these three shiny metallic pens. How is that? I DON’T FUCKING KNOW SHEESH LET THE UNIVERSE RETAIN A FEW MYSTERIES WHY DONTCHA? The Dude is also hexagonal in cross-section which is another thing I usually don’t like but apparently I’m being difficult. You’ll need to get some funky standard International cartridges for the lil’ uns because there’s no space in there for anything bigger, although the Dude can take a converter. All three come in a range of vibrant colour schemes, have mediocre, slightly dry but acceptable Schmidt nibs, and cost less than £15 each. What’s not to love?
* I will not state what kind of car this is on this blog because I get genuinely upset when people say nasty things about them and I do not trust the internet.
Totally the cutest. I have witnesses to my supreme cuteness.
Hey there my Dude.
Just three little buddos being buddos.
Size is everything.