Today we are going to sit down and decide, once and for all, which pens are brilliant and which are shit. I’m doing you this service, an enormous cost to myself, so you can decide which pen to write your masterpiece with.

I was going to rank these pens in order, but have decided not to, for two reasons:

1: There are too many different kinds of pens on this list.

2: I can’t be bothered.

With that in mind, let’s crack on…

4 colour biro

4 colour

Do you remember 1928, when we all went around with four separate biros stuffed in our front pockets? And, because it was 1928, they weren’t stuffed in our front pockets, but in our aprons and top hats. I assume.

Then someone invented a way to spend less time carrying separate biros around, so we had more time to concentrate on having scurvy and the plague.

“Cor blimey!” said Mrs Danvers at number 27. “I used to fret about carrying me biros and me washboard! Now I can carry ’em all! God save the King!”

They were certainly on the right track with the 4 colour biro, but time, as always, makes fools of us all. It wouldn’t be until 1980 and the invention of the 10 colour biro that the formula would be perfected, but more on that later.

Berol felt tips


Universally supplied at primary school, for the purpose of colouring in doilies, which you will then stick onto some card and give to your mum for Mother’s Day. These lose points for never being used anywhere else, ever. Like poster paint.

Always kept in a big communal tub, so it’s easy to see which colour is which. However, three things. 1: Small children are stupid, and put the pens back upside down. 2: even if they did put the pens pack correctly, they have forgotten to put the lids back on. 3: there is never a red, because the other kids have used it up/stolen it/exchanged it for cigarettes.

Berol handwriting pens

berol handwriting

Apart from the words I just said against Berol, I will not hear a word said against Berol, because their handwriting pens are the Rolls Royce of pens. Naturally, this is what we used as kids to practise our handwriting with.

Incidentally, if you watched Look and Read, do you remember the ‘Magic Pencil’ bit? Where it said “Round, over, down and FLICK”?

When I was a kid I became obsessed with the ‘flick’ part, resulting in my handwriting looking like something from a Medieval French scroll:


Imagine that but done by a 6 year old.

Anyway, back to Berol. I still use Berol handwriting pens at 35 years of age. I wrote most of my book with them.

You know why these pens are so good? They are indestructible. Fire a nuke at one of these and the ink will still run perfectly. Bite the end off one in a fit of strong-teethed writer’s block and it will still be there for when you decide to stop pissing about and start writing again. They do, however, allow me to write stuff in the pub, which explains most of this blog. Shame on you Berol.

Crayola felt tips


I’d class these as the Ant ‘n’ Dec of felt tips. Everyone knows them, everyone likes them, but there’s a small group of obsessed individuals going “Yeah but they’re not TREV ‘n’ SIMON! Or ZIG ‘n’ ZAG!

Why I think this will become clear. For now, it’s enough to say that Crayola is a good, sturdy felt tip, in an admirable range of colours. Bonus points for the ones that smell of bonfires, cherries and etc.

However, I’m not extending this courtesy to the Crayola Minis range, because those things are not designed for adult hands. They hurt your fingers, and you go over the lines when you’re trying to colour in with them, When you’re 35. This isn’t really Crayola’s fault is it.

Molin felt tips


The absolute granddaddy of felt tips, and the reason I can never be truly in love with Crayola, but sadly no longer available. The great thing about Molins was that they came in packs of 5000, each a different colour (picture not representative of Molin’s ‘every colour in the fucking universe’ pack). Seriously, you were nothing in my circle of friends if you didn’t own a beige felt tip.

Every woman of a certain age will, at some point, have received a Molin megapack for Christmas. I’m not sure why – surely boys needed pens as well? But no, boys got things to hit people with instead. We had the last laugh though, as we were able to colour in beige things.

You were glad of your Molins when you got a Velvet Art that came with three pens.

Fountain pens

fountain pen cartridge

At my school, you were nothing without a fountain pen. Nothing. This was for two reasons. Firstly, it marked you out as serious grown up, one that could be trusted with ink, instead of those plebs and divs who still had to use the communal pencils. Secondly, it meant you got to buy ink cartridges:


Ink cartridges, as talked about in this post, were used as currency, bragging rights, and bullets (if you were a smelly boy, which I wasn’t).

Plus, fountain pens came in all sorts of rad colours and designs. So not only could you let your peers know that you were responsible enough to own a fountain pen, you could also let them know that you really liked horses. Because that mattered a lot.

Magic colour change pens

magic pen

These were no such fucking thing. If they really were magic they would have made me good at drawing instead of being shit at everything, including drawing.

What they claim to do: turn one colour into another colour by going over it with the ‘magic’ white pen, to create stunning works of art:

magic pens 2

What they actually do: Turn the original colour a bit lighter, then you can’t use the magic white pen ever again because it has blue ink on it. You could try sniffing it, that might pass some time. Actually, that might be enough to convince you they’re magic.

Parker pens

parker pen

I’m not sure how I ended up with a Parker pen when I was a kid, since they cost a million pounds. Possibly my mum stole it from the bingo. I’m not sure why they’d have Parker pens at her bingo.

Anyway, what can you say about Parker pens? Made from solid gold, with ink that guarantees immortality (not like those stupid lying magic pens), and crafted atop a lonely mountain somewhere on the moon. Executives called Alan had these in their top pockets. They used them to write important memos like “The boss of ICI smells IDST”.

Gel pens

gel pens

You see how these pens are almost full of ink? They lie. What you actually get is one inch of ink, and even that has agoraphobia and refuses to come out. They try to get round you by having every colour known to man, and glittery versions, but what good is that if you can’t even write a swear on the back of a bus ticket? Now no one will see my foul but sparkly language.

Highlighter pens


Obviously, these were only ever made by Stabilo Boss. Owning these meant you were the boss of stabilos. I think a stabilo is a kind of horse.

Usually sold in packs of 4, but you had to buy multiple packets if you wanted to collect the whole set. Everyone had the yellow one, a few more adventurous types owned a pink or green one. Blue was almost unheard of, and as for the rest of them – mint green, lilac and pastel pink – you might as well be collecting ghosts.

Mainly used for highlighting rude words in your dictionary, such as ‘testes’ and ‘wimple’.

10 colour biro

12 colour

Here we are – THE BEST PEN. Finally, little girls everywhere are able to write every letter of a word in a different colour, and then get told off because their work “isn’t neat”.

Important: having 10 colours and therefore being the new king of pens; the ink that smells vaguely of synthetic strawberry.

Not important: being unable to use any of the colours because the one you choose immediately clicks back down into the pen.

If you disagree with any of the above choices, tell someone else because I am right. Although if you want to buy me a 10 colour biro, you can.

There’s extra stuff on my Patreon if you’d like to help support this shite.

13 thoughts on “World of Crap presents Battle of the Pens

  1. We used to have a grand old time taking a mate’s fountain pen when they left their desk, then furiously shaking it with the still lid on. So once they returned and took the lid off – ink everywhere! Hilarious.

    Although once, the lid fell off mid shake, spraying ink all over Lorna, the Scottish girl, sitting in front. Ruining a perfectly pleasant white cardie in the process. Oops.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My partner, who works in teaching, told me that pupils and teachers still use four-colour biros TO THIS VERY DAY. They don’t have blackboards though, they’ve got “interactive whiteboards”, which I think is like that thing Tom Cruise uses in Minority Report.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. That’s not a fountain pen. That’s a cartridge pen, used by inferior sorts, or so I was led to believe by my parents. Real fountain pens were refilled courtesy of a bottle of Quink, naturally.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Re: the Molin 5000-packs.

    In my day (cue Dvorak) they were Platignum, and the black ALWAYS ALWAYS went first.

    And Berol Handwriting Pens? I got the first one in the junior school (after a year and a half of revolting fountain pen nonsense) and the nib ended up flat in two bloody weeks. So yes to Rolls Royce analogy, but Austin Maxi in their longevity.

    Great book, by the way. First time I’ve laughed out loud in public for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Round here there are villages that still have graven effigies of the magic pencil.

    But 10-colour biro? Now you’re talking. Had one myself. Took all day to do one page in a colouring-in book but that didn’t matter – the inconvenience was trumped by TEN COLOURS IN ONE PEN.


  6. I went to an allegedly posh school where you were forced to use fucking fountain pens at all times. I had never used the things before and never have since, for the same reason that I drive a car, not a horse and carriage, and watch porn on my phone rather than silver plate engravings of a saucy ladies’ ankle; to wit, I do not live in the fucking 1930s.

    Like most things associated with my school it was stupid, stuck up and needed a wire brush shoved up its arse.

    This comment is brought to you by courtesy of insomnia.


  7. There was a kid in my class who used to drink ink cartridges. The massive freak.

    Brilliantly, my primary school gave us all Parker pens when we left—with our names engraved on them! I’m unsure whether the kid I mentioned above drank his, but given the size of Parker ink cartridges it probably would have killed him.


  8. The magic white markers also served as a cheap ‘ink-killer’ pen if you made a mistake with your cartridge pen. They always had a weird smell of fish and watered-down Copydex.



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