When I was a young school boy I was fascinated by nib pens, ink wells and blotting paper. I loved the smooth rubber grip of a nib pen, and imagined myself using one to create beautiful cursive script. I associated the implements of writing with a world of scholars and business types. I imagined myself being part of that world. Artistic, important, intelligent. and saw myself wearing a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows. For me pens and learning and writing was something I loved the notion of. But for me the dream of creating perfectly formed letters ended as soon as dipped the nib pen into the ink well.
While in my mind the pen flowed effortlessly across the page, the reality was that my shaking hands and the dark blue ink were natural enemies. As soon as I dipped my pen into the ink well I would start to shake. Without fail I’d leave at least one splotch of dark blue ink on the page before I even started. My teacher Mr Finnegan had no patience for my messy offerings and would make me feel like a mustard stain on one of his ties. I reckon that teacher and I both gave up. From memory we had about 45 kids in our class in grade 5 and I guess my needs were unimportant in the scheme of Finnegan’s day.
It wasn’t long before I started to view myself as a bit of a hopeless case. I imagined my classmates and their swift moving nib pens, becoming doctors or teachers, while I’d be in grade five for years wrestling with the nib pen that I so wished I could master. Often at night as I’d lay in bed I’d worry about what would become of me. Secretly I resolved to become a garbage collector . I’d work behind one of those council trucks where a nib pen and blotting paper were next to useless. I began to hate writing. To hate school. To hate being different to my classmates. It seemed the harder I tried the messier my handwriting got and the more I dreaded trying to put words on a page.
Looking back now its hard to imagine that I put such importance on good handwriting. If only I’d known then That just over 40 years later they would invent this machine that’d make cursive script as easy as ticking a box. That a mistaken letter could be fixed by just pushing a button. It’s funny to think how I worried. How at eleven I thought everything was hopeless just because I couldn’t get those words down onto a page.
All these years later I guess it’s a bit ironic that I spend most of my spare time mucking around with words and writing. When I look back I couldn’t wait for the day when I’d pack away books and pens and make my way in the world. I never dreamt that writing my grade five nemeses would become my salvation. That it would be bashing out stories of my past that would help me find my way into the present. And just of late I’ve had a bash at teaching. And I think I’m better at it than old man Finnegan.