When I saw The Sound of Music as a child, I took a strong and lasting disliking to the lovely song ‘My Favorite Things’. My Pavlovian abreaction was triggered by the first line.
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
‘Whiskers on kittens’? This was an outrage to my eleven-year-self. A lazy, unconvincing effort to find something to fit with ‘warm woolen mittens’. I was happy with kittens (though would not be on my list, I am no cat person). But not their whiskers. Ridiculous.
In an early showing of a proclivity for data gathering, I asked my school friends for their opinion. They looked at me strangely – for not the first or last time. The numbers are too small to be meaningful and I did not adhere to the code of scientific objectivity in framing my question, but everyone agreed ‘whiskers on kittens’ should not be on the list.
What are your favourite things?
Every now and again, when I’m feeling mischievous or desperate, I will ask my childhood question at a small-talk-requiring event. It’s a good yardstick. Most people find ways to excuse themselves, saving me the trouble, but some will engage with enthusiasm, and the conversation turns to the things that would be on our lists. An interesting, illuminating ice-breaker.
My own list changes regularly. It is a mixture of things that would alleviate current irritations and eternal joys. All are simple pleasures that can be enjoyed by anyone – a bright sun on a crisp, cold day. I like this list to be guilt-free.
A pen that writes
A pen that writes has become a staple of my favourite things list, serving both eternal pleasure and alleviation of irritation. Why are so many pens bad at writing? It’s the only thing a pen has to do.
I want a pen that delivers ink from the first touch to paper, that glides smoothly over the page, that produces words that don’t bleed, or smudge, and that you can’t still see when you turn the page. Is this too much to ask for? The heap of disappointing pens in my home suggests it is.
In 2019 I decided things had to change. I would stop my hopeful but hopeless attempts to bump into my dream pen. I would be proactive. I’d put myself out there, find the pen of my dreams. I went to my local store and speed-dated every pen. I quickly narrowed the field to three, but the winner was obvious from the first touch.
I was content.
Curveball for my uni-ball
A year later I needed to restock and found my local store no longer had my dream pen. Tragically, I hadn’t kept any of mine and neither had I noted down its details. I combed other stores, but I couldn’t find it. I had to settle for another pen, it was ok but it wasn’t my pen. My heart was broken.
A few months later I was looking for the TV remote and found one of my pens in the sofa! The extent of my delight is almost embarrassing to share. My one-and-only was the Uni-Ball SXH-210 Jetstream RT Retractable Rollerball.
I don’t have an affiliate link (though I would happily be an ambassador if Uni-Ball asked me), but I do share this in self-interest – I want Uni-Ball to never stop making this pen! Though maybe I’ll just order a lifetime’s supply now……..
I was wrong (again!)
Over time I have come to love the song My Favorite Things. It is so much more than its implausible first line. Coltrane recorded an extraordinary 14 minute version for his 1961 album of the same name, and it has become a jazz standard. If you have never heard it, you must. You will thank me.
But today I want to share with you the beautiful version by the under-rated, under-valued harpist Dorothy Ashby. In life, she suffered scepticism and prejudice, as a black female jazz artist, as a jazz harpist, and could mostly find work only as a session musician. Our loss. In death, she is reaching new audiences through samples used by diverse artists. But it is when she was allowed to solo that the angels truly sing.
Her My Favorite Things is one of my favourite things.
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