The ink blotter

As a young child I loved my pen but hated my handwriting. My letters were neither neat nor tidy; they danced a wild tarantella across the pages of my exercise book. I had learnt to write with an old ebonite fountain pen that belonged to my mother. The pen had an elegant green and black pattern and made me feel quite grown up. But fountain pens are faithful creatures, and they won’t accommodate another person’s hand. The nib of a pen is bent toward the shape of a writer’s hand.

Try as I might, my letters were either scratchy or overflowing. Many a night I sat crying over words that spilled on the page or smudged as I closed my exercise book. Yet I loved the smell of the blue-black Pelikan ink that ebbed and flowed from the bottle on my desk. My fingers were constantly spattered with ink which left adults frowning.

Later, when my letters had been beaten into shape, I enjoyed writing letters to a friend left behind at another school or to my grandmother who lived in a country we would never visit. And then, there was the old woman who lived in a villa on the way to school, who reminded me of grandma. She had fine lines around her twinkling eyes which appeared when she smiled. When she invited me in, I was ushered into a large room with floor to ceiling bookcases and a stately oak desk upon which I spotted an ink blotter. At first, I had no idea what this contraption could be. Her ancient husband sat at the desk composing letters and when he finished a page, he reached for the blotter and in a see-saw motion, he dried the ink.

I found this simple device endlessly fascinating. I could watch for an eternity, waiting for him to finish a page and reach for the wooden artifact with a piece of blotting paper covering its convex base. There was something alluring in the simplicity of its design. I inched closer to watch him write. He used a carbon copy book for his correspondence, a habit I later adopted myself.

‘May I dry the page for you?’ I finally had the courage to ask. He lifted me onto his lap and guided my hand over the ink blotter. I felt entrusted with an important task as my hand rocked back and forth drying the ink. He then folded the letter, slipped it into an envelope, and I licked the gum to seal it.

I adored this old couple in the villa with its overgrown garden. I visited often and we talked about the books I had read and poems I liked to write. Entering their library, I was transported to a magical world of books and writing. The old ink blotter remains a tangible expression of that magic.

22 thoughts on “The ink blotter”

    1. The photo of the ink blotter is actually one that I picked up in a second hand shop in Millthorpe. The moment I saw it, I had to have it even tough I rarely use it. I do write with a fountain pen so I probably should use it more often that I do.


  1. A lovely heart warming story which was really enjoyable to read as pictures came into my mind. You are so lucky that your early path to reading and writing was punctuated along the way with such special memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am incredibly lucky. We must always remember that even small acts of kindness can have a lasting impact on someone’s life.


  2. Another beautiful story Viki. Your letters danced the tarantella what imaginative language. As someone who was shamed in grade 5 for poor handwriting I understand.
    The craft that went into all the implements of writing seems impossible to believe. I am glad you have the blotter or the photo of the blotter. They are the artefacts of another time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marvellous Viktoria, a pleasure to read. I am so glad that you had such solace from old folks in your childhood and that you can share them with your readers. It’s an effortless read, which I found both interesting and emotional.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t realise that such a contraption existed. Your writing took me down memory lane, recalling the red plastic dip pens that we learnt to write with. I was left handed so made great use of blotting paper. Where did your story take place Viki? Peter tells me the public system or Chipping Norton Public School was backward because he is two years older than me and used a very modern utensil called a ballpoint pen. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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