The good old days

By | 11 May, 2011

A vision of sleekness

Beauty and the obese, plastic beast

Last week I found something in the back of my cupboard that changed my life at the age of 9. Allow me to reminisce…

It’s the late 1980’s. Kylie and Jason have just got married in Neighbours, shellsuits were the nearest to fashionable they’d ever get and Sunday afternoons were spent recording the Top 40 onto cassette from the radio. Amidst all of this, a beautiful apparition showed itself to a young girl with diabetes. She used ugly plastic syringes to stab herself with twice a day and life was ok, but a bit restricted. Then along came…fanfare please…the Novopen! A sleek, elegant piece of marvelousness that allowed her to double the number of times she stabbed herself every day. That’s surely not a good thing I hear you cry? A poor child with twice the number of puncture holes in her body, which monster would advocate such a thing?

This piece of fabulousness meant that the child could eat pretty much what she wanted when she wanted. By injecting 4 times a day (or even more sometimes, shock, horror!) she could adjust her insulin according to what she was doing and what she was eating. And that child had the special knowledge that only the pancreatically-challenged have – injections don’t actually hurt that much – sssh, don’t tell anyone, we’ll lose the sympathy vote. Aged 9, that child had a portion of fish and chips for the first time. Previously there were always too many carbs in it for her to have more than a couple of chips. Now life was good!

That thing of beauty – the Novopen – went with me everywhere. I never left the house without it, because it gave me freedom. If a friend asked me to stay for lunch, I could call home to check and the only question I was asked was “Have you got your pen?”. If I answered yes, I was free! I just needed to be back for my evening injection of long acting via syringe.

My silver, metal Novopen was with me from the age of 9 until I was roughly 22. It survived school, holidays, going away to uni, getting engaged, getting married, starting work, moving house. I discovered the delights of having a partner – if we went out together I could get him to put my pen in his pocket, rather than carrying it myself. Yes, I am easily pleased!

Disaster struck in my early 20’s. It was announced that the slim, slender, elegant, metal Novopen was being replaced by a new generation of obese, plastic siblings. Apparently, my slim little pen didn’t contain enough insulin for the ever growing insulin hungry type 2 market, so it was being replaced by a model that could hold twice as much insulin. From that day on, all pens had extra girth and a certain cheapness about them. To say I was unhappy is like saying I think my pump is just ok. It’s a complete understatement.

Look at the picture, how is replacing the beautiful, stylish, slimline Novopen with an oversized piece of plastic a step forward? Ah, the good old days, when pens were beautiful, remember them?

17 thoughts on “The good old days

  1. katherine cromwell

    I have also kept my Novopen. Easy to use and weighed just right for single handed firing. I also love my pump however, I feel it would be better if it were steel as its colour (blue ok it merges with the jeans) and its plastic-ness bothers me. Yes I know with a Stripy cat cover it could be hidden, but I do rather like metal than plastic. I’m not too bothered by it being shiny, dull or polished but I suppose I feel I would rely on it more than a plastic version. Yes I am weird and no I am not giving up my pump!
    Does anyone else have the same view?

  2. Annette A

    @mustard – I still have my novopen somewhere. I loved it too… My pump – which is the newer version of yours, and so only available in black, is more rubberised than the old blue ones, and hence feels a bit more sturdy. I think I like the rubberised bit more than I would like a metal one, but also I think I’d like a metal one more than the old blue ones. Mine just seems a bit more shockproof than the trial one I had to start with. Actually, thinking about it, I’d like one which is metal bodied with rubber type corners to bounce when I drop it/bang into things…

  3. Cecile

    @alison: You’re not going to tantalize me with that uptight, metallic Twiggy – I prefer the pretty plump ‘un…and even you’ll agree it’s a beauty queen compared to the Autopen 🙂

  4. Alison Post author

    @mustard You’re right about the weight of it, there was something very reassuring about the solidness of it. And I always thought it would be really handy for clonking someone over the head with if the need arose. Those plastic monstrosities wouldn’t even make a mark!

    @ckoei I thought because you have inpeccable taste in blogs you would also have excellent taste when it comes to the beauty of pens. Evidently I was wrong 😉

    1. Cecile

      @alison: I’m interested to know why you forsook your heavy metallesque Novos for Lilly’s Tupperware? When looking at the successors to the Novopen throne (Novopen3 &4*), they seem to be impeccably metallic too…or is it mock-metal?

      *couldn’t find any evidence of a number 2: was it that shitty? 😀

  5. Nig

    Not that I want to be sexist, but is this just a female thing?
    Personally I couldn’t care (much) less! I use Autopens (the only pens I’ve ever used) and to be honest, they work, therefore I am satisfied. I dont really look at them when I’m using them, and if I am not using them they are either in my pocket or in the fridge.

  6. Cecile

    @nigho: Poppycock (&hen, to make it unisex)! They don’t work: you can’t dial back a wrong dose and you can keep on dialling, even if the cartridge is empty. So you haven’t been transferred to the ClikSTAR yet? I thought the NHS were switching over to them? And does Hypurin (along with Sanofi’s) cartridges fit into the same misbegotten, Mumfordian mound of plastic molecules, or is it a special swine-specific Autopen?

  7. Nig

    @ckoei – To quote the Prime Minister; “Calm down, dear!” 😀

    They work. They may not be perfect; I have not yet found any technology that has achieved that, let alone a technology aimed at a tiny minority such as us diabetics, but they work. If I overdial a dose it is pretty simple to correct it. A pain, yes, but simple to resolve.

    I have no idea what what a “ClikSTAR” is but Wikipedia tells me that it is “a broadband movie distribution company founded by actor Morgan Freeman and film producer Lori McCreary” 🙂

    Mumfordian? Really? Don’t you mean “anti-Mumfordian”?

    As far as I’m aware, the Autopen is the only pen that works (or is “approved for use”) with Hypurin cartridges. As if I care! 😀

  8. Nig

    Ah, ok, I’ve just refined my research and discovered that a “ClikSTAR” is “a new reusable insulin pen, for administration of the 24-hour insulin analog Lantus® (insulin glargine [rDNA] injection) or/and the rapid acting insulin analog Apidra® (insulin glulisine [rDNA origin] injection)”.

    Given my previous experience with Lantus (it nearly killed me!) you will understand that I will not be first in the queue to get one of these!

    Chacon a son gout 😉

  9. Alison Post author

    @ckoei I appear to have hated the fat, plastic Novopen 2 so much I have irradicated it from my life and can’t find it anywhere. In terms of girth and cheapness, it was very much along the lines of the inappropriately named Humalog Luxura thing you see in the photos.

    @nigho Once they were all plastic, I had no interest whatsover in which pen I used. But the change from sleek quality to something that looked and felt worse, took up twice as much space in my pocket and came with no real additional benefit was irritating!

    Plus, I have to at least pretend to care, otherwise there’d be nothing to blog about 😉

  10. Tim

    I care! Something you use every day shouldn’t be ugly, it should be well designed and beautiful, ‘n’ stuff.

  11. Nig

    @alison – yes, I can see that your perspective is different from mine since you were forced to change from something you liked to something of poorer quality, whereas I have only experienced the one design (thinking about it, I do seem to remember a weird brown coloured one but maybe it was just a differnt colour autopen?)

    @tim – yes, I sort of agree with you; its just that even on a “diabetes-control-from-hell” day when I underestimate the carbs in everything and have to take multiple correction doses I would only have a pen in my hand for two, maybe three minutes in a 24hour period. Add in a couple of minutes per cartridge change and lets say the above “diabetes-control-from-hell” means that I’ve got through them extraordinarily quickly and changed both cartridges in a week. That would add up to about 25 minutes of contact time in a (very intesive) week; its probably actually less than 15 minutes per week on average. During that time I probably spend less than 50% of it actually looking at them.
    So, I just can’t get excited about having a slightly prettier pen in my pocket; I wouldn’t notice (much).

  12. Cecile

    @nigho: Couldn’t you use @alison‘s buxom beast? (’cause the Autopen Classic takes both Lilly’s and Wockhardt’s cartridges, which to me would mean you can plonk your Hypurin into a Humapen?)

  13. Nig

    @ckoei – I don’t know.

    If that’s a Humapen, and if Lilly make Humapens then I can’t fault your reasoning. But…why would I want to? What would I gain, other than a brown and silver pen in exchange for a greeny-blue and white one? ❓

  14. Cecile

    @nigho: As far as insulin goes, you’re pro-choice, so you should insist on plurality when it comes to pens, too…though with bird-of-paradise pump on the horizon, any new pen should currently have the allure of a sparrow 🙂

  15. Nig

    @ckoei – absolutely agree on choice, I’m just not sufficiently bothered about what a pen looks like to exercise a choice!

    Sorry, @ckoei, your ornithological references are far too poetic to make any sense to me. I think maybe you’ve been overdoing the limericks 🙂

  16. Alice

    I came in late with the Novopen 3. Actually rather later than would have been ideal as I was diagnosed a couple of months before its launch and the DSN didn’t see the point in giving me a 1.5ml pen when I’d want a 3ml one so soon. When I eventually got it I insisted that I be given two silver ones (one for short-acting, one for long) even though I always had to take the top off to see what I was about to inject and inevitably picked up the wrong one first. I refused to use anything other pen on grounds of aesthetics (although I made an exception for Lantus) and was still using the original two pens 14 years later when I got my pump. I also refused to keep them in the grey plastic cases they came in, again on grounds of aesthetics, and just put them loose in my bag. They still work perfectly well after all that which is, I think, a tribute to their design.


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