Back in March, when Boris Johnson announced that we should work from home if we could, I packed up my belongings along with the rest of my colleagues. Most of the stuff littering my desk went in the recycling pile: old magazines, newly useless invitations, and proof copies of books I would never read. I found a box and packed everything else into it: my laptop, a charger, some notebooks, a bottle of perfume and — at the last minute — a pen in a sleek metal case that had been sitting on my desk since I joined the company six months previously. An Uber collected me on the corner and the next day, I started collaborating with my colleagues via Microsoft Teams.
As my husband and I acclimated to working alongside each other, I noticed he had become attached to the oddly luxurious pen. He’s a theatre director and playwright who spends a lot of time marking up books and scripts, so he has always been more particular about stationery than me. He even keeps his preferred writing tools (Staedtler pencils, for making notes) in a pencil case. As I said, I have no idea where this pen originally came from (it is possible that this pen had actually belonged to a colleague and I had stolen it). Now, though, it seemed to belong to my husband. “It’s a brilliant pen,” he told me seriously.
When it became obvious that we couldn’t Zoom in the same room at the same time, he started taking calls in the other room and I began to use the pen myself — when he does Zoom calls, he takes notes on his laptop, whereas I still use a notebook. That’s when I realised that the pen was, indeed, brilliant. The Caran d’Ache 849 is the only ballpoint pen I have ever owned that I don’t consider to be interchangeable with all the other pens floating around in my general possession. I do not not usually care about pens, but I would buy a pencil case for this pen alone: I want to know its whereabouts at all times.
To start with, it is the perfect weight – not so light that it feels flimsy, but not cumbersome, either. Meanwhile, the hexagonal barrel means it fits in your grip just so. Even the “click” that brings the pen to life is designed to feel inherently satisfying. (It also serves as a kind of stress-reducer; I often find myself clicking and un-clicking throughout a particularly boring video call or when I am working on something complicated.) It is a ballpoint pen, so there is no risk of the ink blotting on softer paper — you can annotate a book of the flimsiest pages with it and it’s perfect for the crossword. It glides along the page, never snagging. Writing is neat and legible, if not beautiful — it’s still a ballpoint, so you’re never going to use it to write your wedding invitations.
Once I started using it, I realised it was the only pen that would do. My husband was forced to buy himself one for his own use. The pen I had brought home from work was actually a collaboration with Paul Smith, whereas he opted for the original model, which cost him £15. Mine is striped and with blue ink while his is yellow with black ink — refills are available, but we haven’t needed them yet. We are now (proudly) a two–Caran D’Ache 849 household.
My husband’s Caran d’Ache.
And a pencil case, should you wish to store your pen for safe keeping.
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