The newest Lamy Fountain Pen, the Lamy Safari Apple Green, has just arrived and is looking very, well, Australian...it's almost the ideal Granny Smith colour and bright enough to help me ignore the slow descent into the colder winter months. In other words, a welcome addition! Every time the Lamy Safari is brought to my mind I like to go back to my own, write a few pages and appreciate how really amazing this pen is. I'm talking here about the Safari Fountain Pen. The Safari Rollerball is really great, an excellent rollerball ink, and i still place the Safari Ballpoint in my top 5 ballpoint push buttons of all times, but the fountain is where this pen struts its most self-assured stride.
Coincidentally, I was reading recently about the Argentine Tango, of all things, and I can't help but see a parallel...well, it might actually be a tangent...between this most famous of dances and my experience with this most reliable of pens. Not the pen itself so much, but how it and I have gotten along over the years.
Unsurprisingly, I guess, there haven't always been Milongas (Argentine Dance Halls) filled with the romance of pairs of dancing lovers. The tango grew up in the harsh suburbs of Buenos Aires around the end of the 19th century and it has a fairly dark story. I'm no expert but it traces its roots back to the indolence of unemployed Argentines (as well as Hungarians, Italians and plenty of other frustrated men) who saw the city as their route to economic independence only to be disappointed upon arrival. To fill their days, I suppose, these men would get into scrapes which quickly became knife fights which then evolved (probably after somebody pointed out how much better a knife fight would be if there were a) no knives and b) no fighting) into the Tango.
It satisfied a lot of needs. The days were filled with something to do, nobody was getting hurt anymore but there was still this intense undercurrent of belligerence between two men fighting (in quadruple time) for supremacy, an alpha-male need for dominance being gratified. For a long time, the dance was only done between men and even after women had been introduced, men still danced on their own for a long time trying to perfect their steps. What i like here is that something that started out as unmitigated hostility was turned into what we now recognise as possibly the West's greatest monument to passion and romance. From something difficult was born this great love affair.
This evolution is a big part of the creative process. One example brought to my mind recently was of Nick Cave writing his books with pen and paper. His reason being that writing with a pen helps, or rather makes, you appreciate the value of words. With word processing, you can delete whole swaths of text in a single stroke, cheapening the meaning of each word therein. If you're writing, the process is often slower and more difficult but the very closeness of what you are doing takes you deeper into the task, each part now subject to more thoughtful scrutiny. From something difficult is born a more profound engagement to the task at hand.
And this evolution is also a nice way to explain my relationship with the Lamy Safari. I'm Australian. I used a ballpoint pen, and only a ballpoint pen, right through school and by the time i first encountered a fountain pen I had over 13 years of ballpoint habits to break. This ballpoint technique of writing, the pen nearly vertical, hard downward pressure as you move the pen over your paper, is a terrible way to approach a fountain pen. Fountain pens have a continuous flow of liquid ink just dying to get out of your pen so you don't need any downward pressure. To make matters worse, positioning the pen vertically is just killing your wrist and hand, those little muscles under constant strain.
And so here is the hostility stage of my fountain pen relationship. I really didn't see the appeal, it was too difficult. Soon enough though, this stage evolved, after somebody pointed out that I should trust the pen's design, into a great love affair. The Safari has these neat little rest points on the grip section (we've done a full Lamy Safari Review you should read for more) and if you just let the pen lead, all of a sudden there's no strain on your hands and the pen is angled beautifully towards your paper. The Lamy nib is also cut to allow optimum flow of ink at this angle...two left feet to a pro, just like that!
After a little practice of writing with 'proper' technique, I found myself really getting into the romance of fountain pen writing. There's something so expressive in a medium-nib line, each character a personality of its own, dark and shaded here, lighter and more nimble there. You can look over the page and get a reflection of the writer, whether it was scribbled in the fervent haste of a creative burst or whether it came more methodically, perhaps with some deeper understanding. You can look over the page and see, rather than a bleak wintery pale-blue, a vibrant green, yellow, pink or blues that recall to mind the sky at sunrise or the wine-dark sea after sunset. As a comparison, I can come back and read what I've typed above here and have absolutely no idea if it took 5 or 50 minutes, if the first paragraph flowed naturally or was revised 10 times. This is really why I love the Lamy Safari fountain pen. It has the potential to take any task at hand, even if as unappealing as something tantamount to a knife fight, and imbue it with the potential for romance, a freedom of expression that lets a stationery fan like myself see any piece of paper as a Milonga Perfecto.