Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Creating a pen and ink

There is a shortage of news this week, and nobody to blame but the Mills of Justice - they grind exceeding slow, as the Bible would put it. Consequently I have to think of something else to write about. It's very odd, but I seem able to sit down at my sophisticated machine, invented in the 19th century by someone who couldn't write very clearly, and simply produce a lot of waffle at the drop of an aitch. Perhaps it is the Irish in me, the gift of the gab, so to speak.

This leads me quite conveniently to something which I feel needs commenting on - writing. I use a fountain pen as my preferred weapon of mass production and the preference stems from my callow youth when, as a schoolboy, I had a gift of a fountain pen from an aunt who thought it might encourage me to write her a letter every Christmas. I don't recall if I did but I think it improved my handwriting because, for some reason, the use of a fountain pen has that effect - it encourages care.

So, I use a fountain pen, and of course this means that I have to keep it filled with writing ink - bottled or cartridge, either will suffice. Have you ever tried buying writing ink? It's not as easy as it would seem, not in Long Lartin anyway. We are allowed to buy it, no doubt about that, it is listed on the document of items prisoners can purchase and have. There it is, bold as brass - ink for fountain pens.

Try to buy some.

I applied weeks ago to buy ink and the answer I got back was that they would need the name of the pen and any other information I had to enable them to get the right ink. I duly informed them that the pen is a Messenger and either cartridges or bottled ink would be fine - blue or black, either would do.

They wrote back that they did not have a supplier and had I tried the prison shop/canteen.

Of course I had! They said that they do not sell ink.

The answer to that was, did I have the name and address of a supplier?

Of course I have - CPL Computer and Office Supplies of Blandford in Dorset.

The answer came back - sorry, you can't order from there, they are not an approved supplier. Why don't you ask the governor if you can have it sent in from outside?

So, that is the position at the minute - I can have ink but I am most definitely NOT ALLOWED to have it. I can order it but not from anyone they deal with and certainly not from a perfectly legitimate supplier - because they are not approved!

What do I do next?

This is the sort of obstacle put before prisoners all the time. I don't want to seem unkind, but I don't see how anyone can consider my problem as anything but the most simple and easy to resolve, yet the difficulty created is astounding.

If they cannot sort out a small problem like ink for a pen, what chance is there of them getting something complex and difficult right? Not much.

Lord Salisbury said:
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe.
and I would like to add:
If you believe the prison service, you need counselling.
The Voice in the Wilderness

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