Friday, January 02, 2009
paths, lead, ring dove
Two diverging paths in the Grove.
One of my favourite retracting pencils is Pental's Twist Erase. The big advantage is that there is an eraser at the top end, which you can extend by twisting the barrel. The lead is extended by pressing the top of the eraser, which temporarily releases a grip mechanism within the barrel, allowing gravity to do the rest, until pressure is removed and the grip holds the lead firm again. I have several of these pencils, which I use for drawing and sometimes for writing.
I am particularly fond of the 0.5 mm lead version, in which I use 2b leads. The lead is soft and very fine. The engineering is neat, but there is one drawback. Loading the thin, soft lead, through the wire-thin cone-shaped guide at the point of the pencil, on its way to the grip mechanism, is hazardous. The lead can break and, if it sticks in the guide, the broken piece is very difficult to dislodge and renders the pencil useless.
My problem is to find something thin enough to push through the guide and thereby poke the lead out. But what to use? A pin or a needle is too thick. It was only when I read Barrett Bonden's recent post about fuse boxes and his reference to the reels of fuse wire, which were needed to mend old porcelain fuses, that I hit on the solution.
A visit too an old fashioned electrical shop produces a reel of 5 amp, 10 amp and 15 amp wire. The 10 amp is too thin and the 15 amp too wide, but, like the porridge in the cottage of the three bears, which Goldilocks found neither to hot nor too cold, the 10 amp wire is just right. It is a slow job to dislodge the redundant lead, but with some black fingers and 10 minutes later I see the wire come through the guide, and I have a working pencil, for my labours.
One of my favourite birds is the ring dove with its neat black collar and mist grey plumage. When we were in Spain last year one settled on the balcony of our hotel room and stayed long enough to allow me to photograph it. This morning, Heidi calls me on to the landing. There, right outside window, perched on the wisteria is another ring dove. It stays only for a moment eyeing us with a worried expression, and flies off before I have time to reach for my camera.