This weekend, with Covid restrictions having eased in the UK of late, I enjoyed an excursion into London’s West End for the first time in many months and visited a few of my favourite haunts.
Beginning at Choosing Keeping, a wonderful store for stationery, I found that they have an exciting range of fountain pen inks, including Pilot Iroshizuku, Sailor, and Rohrer & Klingner, a refreshing change from the usual chain store selection. I was able to handle a Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Blue Dwarf limited edition pen, of which they have plenty in stock with a range of nibs. This is a great shop for attractive journals and for boxes of Japanese pencils too.
I visited some guitar shops in Denmark Street. Rose Morris has a good range of Taylor acoustic guitars on display. Another shop across the road sells Martin guitars. For mandolins and a huge variety of other stringed instruments, Hobgoblin Music in Rathbone Place is a gem and it was good to have a browse. I discovered and bought my baritone Ukulele there a few years ago.
Also in Rathbone Place, is Park Cameras, where I tried some Nikon Monarch binoculars and compared them with the Zeiss Terra ED, 10×42, of similar price. Either would be an upgrade from my current Nikon Prostaff 10×30 binos although I am very happy with them and they are excellent value.
Walking along London’s Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon, weaving through the crowds of shoppers, it was good to find things getting back to normal. A lot of American Candy stores have appeared in Oxford Street, which I do not remember seeing before. At John Lewis, I had a look at the stationery department on the lower ground floor. The island of fountain pen display cases seemed to have shrunk a bit from days of old, but the usual suspects (Cross, Sheaffer, Waterman and Parker) were all there.
Finally I reached Selfridges. The Fine Writing department is also on their lower ground floor although it had moved position sometime before the pandemic. Montblanc has its own area. A short glide down on the escalator and you enter a world of Montegrappas, Graf, Caran d’Ache and other exotica.
There is also a stationery corner for more ordinary items and it was here that I found a row of Platinum Plaisir fountain pens, hanging on a rack in a selection of colours, with matching coloured packaging. It was the first time I had seen them in a bricks and mortar shop. My usual source for such items would be Cult Pens.
Not having tried the Plaisir before, and given that they were only £13.00, it was simply a question of choosing between black, dark blue, red, orange, citrus yellow, light frosty blue or silver. All had the same Medium (0.5) nib. I went with red.
The Platinum Plaisir is an aluminium pen, making for a more attractive and durable body than Platinum’s entry level plastic demonstrator Preppy, but with the same nib and a feed which is visible through the transparent grip section. You get a strong metal pocket clip, a shiny chrome cap band and a barrel which is not covered with text and bar code.
The cap pulls off, needing a very determined effort, made more difficult by the hard-to-grip finish of the barrel and cap. The cap features the Platinum “slip and seal” sprung inner cap which supposedly allows the pen to be left inked for up to a year without drying out.
The pen came with one Platinum black cartridge but no converter. Cult Pens sell Platinum converters separately in either silver or gold coloured finish but with a notice that whilst they will fit inside a Preppy or Plaisir, ink will only be drawn into the feed and not the converter and so you may need to fill the converter separately, outside the pen. Another filling option is to purchase an adaptor to enable use of standard international cartridges.
Size and weight.
The Plaisir is a good medium size, at 142mm long capped, or 122mm uncapped. The cap posts well bringing the length up to around 151mm whilst still remaining very light. Capped or posted, it weighs about 17.5g with a cartridge, or uncapped 9.5g and 8g for the cap alone.
The nib and writing experience.
The steel nib is of the wrap-around variety, like a Lamy Safari nib. It has no breather hole. The nib set-up looked promising under the loupe, with nice symmetrical tipping and a visible but minimal gap between the tines right down to the tip. I pushed in the supplied black cartridge. It popped in decisively and ink immediately splattered onto the feed. I put pen to paper and it started to write almost straightaway. Ink flow to the nib was consistent and ample, even for lefty-overwriting but without being too wet.
The medium nib with rounded tipping provided a very smooth writing experience. It has a little bit of give but no “tooth” to give feedback. Like a Preppy nib, it works well. On the Leuchtturm and Rymans notebook papers I have tried so far, it did not skip but might struggle with very shiny papers. It did not have the same “Wow” factor as the medium nib on my Platinum Curidas which seemed more crisp and stubby, but as a general purpose writing tool at this price it provides a very adequate service.
Likes and dislikes.
Before being critical, it is worth remembering that this is a £13.00 pen which is probably about as good as it can be at that price.
At first I was a bit disappointed by the cap being so hard to pull off. However this is probably necessary to help create an air tight seal around the nib in conjunction with the slip and seal inner cap. It does shut firmly with no wobble. Also, I have a knack for this, to minimise the effort and avoid mess: grip pen firmly with thumb tips side by side and parallel to the barrel; then push two forefingers against each other in a controlled pull, and stop as soon as the cap clicks (not ripping the pen and cap apart and sending ink splashing on clothing and surroundings etc).
The proprietory ink cartridges are a bit limiting but there are other options as mentioned above. Also the nib, whilst smooth and reliable, is rather bland and basic.
On the plus side, you get a good sized pen, competitively priced, well made in Japan, with durable metal body, in a wide choice of colours, a grip section which is not marred by facets or a sharp step, which writes reliably, with the admirable slip and seal capping feature, all making for a pen that is robust and ready to be carried around as an EDC or chucked in a bag without worry. It is a good rival to the Lamy Al-star, for those opposed to faceted grips.
Before getting the tube home, I walked over to see the new Marble Arch Mound, a green hill that has been created in a corner of Hyde Park, next to Marble Arch. It has been in the news this week as the project costs ran to double its initial budget, finishing up at £6 million and the minister in charge at Wesminster City Council resigned. It is not, as I first thought, a huge mound of earth but a hollow structure made from scaffolding poles and then with an outer shell and covered with turf and real grass. An external metal staircase allows visitors to climb up to a viewing platform at the top. It is well worth the climb to gain a new viewpoint over the London skyline. It is a temporary installation and currently free to visit although tickets are booked online.
I do not doubt that it must have taken a lot of work to design and create this empty hill. I am glad that I was able to go up it without pre-booking (it was late afternoon) and that it was free. Also, it made the new Platinum Plaisir in my bag seem even better value for money.