Whence derives one’s gusto and impetus? What gets us out of bed in the morning and allows us to sleep at night? What is the source from which to evince one’s expression or pleasure (our give and take)? Wherein lies our reward, our meaning, our calculated depth or purpose? How do we step onto the stage that is life? Do we think of ourselves only? What constitutes a worthy ambition? Do we search for improvement? Or is it safe without the existential nod merely to digest and ruminate (admittedly with discretion and application) upon what is at hand, before our eyes, without all the kerfuffle, rigour and complication? Are we no more or less than Alfred J. Prufrock, wondering, “Do I dare to eat a peach?” Shall we remain adamantine, hard as steel, inflexible, the way nature made us, strenghtened by the philosophic lethargy that is instinct?
It’s that kind of day. The river’s dark glassy surface is now almost completely frozen, partially covered by exquisitely painted and white blankets of snow. There remains but a curvaceous avenue of seemingly motionless water, dark shaded water, traced upon the ice and snow like an artist’s rendering.
At my drawingroom desk, within direct sight of the expansive fam lands and portraited river beyond, I reach for and grasp the now ornamental embossing seal which my mother gave me many, many years ago, the pewter owl with the brass base upon which is inscribed in flourishing detail the initials of my full name. Is it any wonder I have to this day preserved that audacious identity which speaks to my uncle, my grandfather, my father in that order, the reverse of which (duly abbreviated) I have adopted for my personal noun of address except on formal occasions when I lapse into the German heritage of William not King Billy as my richly buttered and crumpeted British ancestors were wont to do? I recall mother had the stamp made at Nordiska Kompaniet, the luxury department store which she so regularly frequented in the black American automobile driven by our chauffeur in Stockholm, Sweden. She had the stamp shipped to me at boarding school in Canada. It was to me the most highly agreeable gift. Otherwise it was preposterous. Additionally I have retained from my dear mother a stick of sturdy red sealing wax (the likes of which I have never seen elsewhere again or before). My embossing skills no doubt require refreshment. I cannot recall when last I performed the ceremony. Nor – of greater bearing – when last I wrote anything requiring an envelope (much less a wax embossed seal). My engraved letterhead and envelopes are gone too.
The metaphor however is not dead. To this day I have sought to carve, mold or stamp my identity through the exceedingly welcome writing technology of Apple. Meanwhile I have secreted within the top drawer of my desk what looks to be (through my dim eyes and manipulated magnifying glass and lens illuminated by the bold Stiffel lamp à côté) two Shaeffer fountain pens (585) in traditional hard plastic capsules with 14K gold nibs, a Parker fountain pen (585) in sterling silver capsule with 14K gold nib, a Mont Blanc Meisterstück Diplomat fountain pen in traditional black plastic capsule with 18K gold nib (and an iconic bottle of Mystery Black ink made in Austria), a Cross ballpoint pen of gold plate and a Birks ballpoint pen with combination sterling silver and black plastic capsule (for which I have Recife replacement cartridges of green ink from 26 rue de Pavé des Gardens, Chavillle, France). The final addition to this collection of writing equipment is a heavy crystal pen holder (for two) and a number of pencils with a small metal pencil sharpener.
Montblanc Meisterstück 149 Gold-coated collection is a design that writes history. Introduced in 1924, a word meaning “Masterpiece,” the Meisterstück has become one of the symbols for high quality luxury. The cap and barrel are crafted in black precious resin featuring the iconic white Montblanc emblem inlaid in the cap top. The fountain pen is crowned with the innovative curved nib, hand-crafted in Au750 / 18K solid gold and garnished with three delicate parallel lines; a symbol inspired by calligraphy movements. The curved nib allows a variety of writing styles and line widths, depending on the angle and the orientation at which the writing instrument is held.
This historic collection of pens and related instruments reminds me too that I have successively abandoned my collection of watches and clocks (Ponchelon et frères, Rolex, Cartier, Brietling, TAG Heuer, Tiffany, Bulova and Sleigh) for the replacement Apple Watch (which I must similarly acknowledge is another assent to advancement and progress). Indulge me now while I put on my Bose® headphones and listen to Apple Music which parenthetically we’ve lately discovered can be ordered by any description, specific or general, in the car or at my desk merely by speaking to the onboard computer, iPhone or MacBook Pro laptop computer.
These transitions are likely emblematic of less persuasive evaporations that await upon the horizon. For the moment however I relish each of them as I would the final course of an excellent meal. My erstwhile passion for mechanical watches and handwriting instruments has to my mind been adequately replaced by technology. More hesitatingly (though no less convincingly) I add to this list the abstract disappearance of the pianoforte and its replacement with the indisputable dynamism of recorded music available at will. And don’t get me started on what Apple has done for amateur photography and my dusty Nikon camera!