A very small penknife with a pearl handle belonging to my grandfather caused
my life long ambivalence towards penknives. I was four years old and my
grandfather, a technical man, was sharpening a match to use as a dental stick.
We sat on a rough wooden bench in the gardens of a pub. I asked grandfather if I
could look closer at the fascinating little object with which he was shaving the
tiny piece of wood. He handed the knife to me which seemed, then, to endow me
with possibilities of power and I longed to use this tool.
''Be careful, lad,''said grandfather, as I attempted to see if the knife
would make an impression by sticking it into the wooden bench. My first
experience of woodworking also became a lesson in metalwork as I pulled the
knife from the wood. Grandfather's warning came too late, and the tip of the
blade snapped off with a resounding ''click''.
''Dont worry, boy. Never mind,'' did little to prevent an overwhelming sense
of stupidity creeping over me. I had broken grandfather's pen knife and would
have to live with this guilt, forever.
I have owned several excellent penknives over the years but none was as
precious to me as grandfather's which he never again showed to me.
John - Photographist - London - UK