Fromage to Catalonia

by Scribble Monboddo

No, don't worry, this post is nothing to do with cheese - I've just always wanted to find an excuse to use that title and this almost qualifies. Because, naturally, we're going to talk about Milan.

What?! Milan, as any fule kno, is the capital of Lombardy, famed for producing exotic cars, swish fashion and that sort of malarkey. Now it would hardly be surprising if a world-famous stationery brand hailed from there too, and maybe it does. But this isn't it. Because Milan stationery products are made in, err, Catalonia. Not Lombardy at all, actually.

In all honesty I have no idea if George Orwell got to use one of their pencils, but the brand has been around for long enough that it's just about possible. It wouldn't have been quite like this, though, because it's really rather modern. The barrel is triangular, for starters, which is not completely unique these days but still feels a bit different from the norm.

The other cunningly clever Catalan characteristic is a novel form of pencil construction in which the graphite core is glued to the wood case, rather than just wedged in there by pressure. This apparently reduces the frequency of snapped leads and the wretched inconvenience incident thereupon, which certainly sounds like a good thing, even if I haven't yet dropped one on the floor often enough to test this hypothesis to the full.

So why should you try it? Well, firstly, the price; this really is a steal at a mere 50p a stick. But more importantly the quality of the graphite - for an H this is remarkable stuff. It is hard, which is what the H stands for after all, but still smooth enough to write with quite comfortably, and it takes an age to wear down until it needs re-sharpening. If that doesn't quite appeal, there are B and even 2B versions available too. Try one and be pleasantly surprised... if still just a little geographically bewildered.