Have you ever pushed the door of a store, driven by the nearly magnetic attraction of a name or visual on the front window? I have, many times, often to be disappointed by what I discovered once inside.
There was this one time though were I entered a small narrow shop called Serendipity in a sleepy village in Cornwall where I had rented a B&B. I was vacationing in Cornwall for the first time, after watching Poldark riding overlooking sunny beaches with transparent seas and looking at poetic villages names on a Google map...The weather had been miserable for the entire week. The sea was grey and freezing, even with a wet suit. I had caught a bad cold and was eager to get back to my London life. This was my last day before the long train journey back to the city.
The shop was deserted, selling a bric a brac of vintage books, old china, as well as a the most incredible collection of old fountain pens. Some were carved in silver and ebony, with golden shapes. Others where long and shinny. Some had transparent, amber, Bakelite bodies. A selection were displayed in beautiful leather boxes with ink stains and many had lost their caps. A few had initials carving in gold and silver with lacy letters.
One of those fountain pens attracted my attention. It was dark navy blue with delicate nacre birds carved all around. I took it in my writing hand. It was heavy, searching for a white page to land and draw words. Holding that fountain pen, my urge to write became almost physical, painful, as if words inside me, like birds trapped in a cage, had found a route to escape. I opened the cap. Under the cap I found another nacre bird. The nacre was a little whiter, protected from the light. One of the wings of the bird was open, wrapping around the top of the pen, pointing to small gold letters which read BB. The fountain pain was now warm and felt alive in my hand.
-"Do you want to try it" asked an old man who was sitting in the dark at the back of the shop?
I nodded in silence. He came slowly to the table where all the fountain pens were displayed. Opened a drawer. Pulled a bottle of dark ink and a sheet of white paper. I handed him the fountain pen. He expertly filled it wit, wiped the nib.
-"It is a 18 carat gold nib" he said, handing me the fountain pen.
The fountain pen was caressing the page, supple and resolute. The old man explained softly that it was a unique piece, built on order by a small French artisan at the beginning of the XIXth century. It was one of the first versions to substitute an internal filling mechanism to the commonly used eye droppers.
-"Do you know who the fountain pen belonged to?"
-"No, I bought it from the estate of a fountain pen collector...very difficult to trace back to an owner...all I know is that it was probably a woman, French, who was of writing age around 1900, and her initials are BB'.
BB are my initials. I bought the fountain pen. It is finicky and leaky but it is the start of most of my writing journeys, words taking flight , dark shapes and subtle scent of fresh ink on the pages.