Sunday, 30 September 2012


You can't tell a book by them, apparently. Previous readers will know I'm a pen geek. Well, I'm a notebook geek as well. (All right, I'll come clean. I am a giant stationery geek. My favourite shop is Paperchase. End of.) I have a collection of notebooks, some of which are very old. I realise that there is no such thing as the perfect notebook, although I spent a long time searching for this Holy Grail, convinced that one day I would find it and never have to look again. Then I found out that some people had collection of notebooks on the go, a la Doris Lessing. I embraced this concept wholeheartedly, not least because I realised that it licensed me to have a wide variety.

In 2000 I went to Australia for five months, having escaped from Pensions. Before I went, I read Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines, as a sort of preparation. (If you haven't read it, do so immediately. Go on. I'll still be here when you get back.) In it he describes the French notebooks he uses on his travels. Before his trip, he finds that the manufacturer has stopped making them, but manages to find a supply and Stocks Up. I was made mournful on reading this - I had never seen one of these notebooks but I Wanted One. In Australia, I stayed with friends in Melbourne for two months and then set off around the rest of the country, in the traditional backpacker way, armed with a rucksack and a long-distance bus ticket. I was not a traditional backpacker however, being older and in possession of funds that would allow me to take a plane if I wanted to. Gosh, it's a big country. The low point, travel-wise, was the 21-hour bus journey to Alice Springs (can't for the moment remember where from - could it have been Darwin? And why didn't I take a plane???).  On arrival at each place I made a beeline for the museums and art galleries (after finding a bed for the night, that is). Again, not your typical backpacker. After being amazed by many exhibits in the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, (including a room full of stones suspended by a web of ropes from the ceiling)
My first Moleskine, with black
Pilot Vball 0.7, to show size
I trotted into the shop and there, in front of me was a large display. I nearly passed out. Yes, there were the notebooks whose passing I had mourned in England - the famous Moleskine. With trembling fingers I picked one up and opened it, discovering a pocket in which there was a little leaflet giving their history. An Italian company had taken over the manufacture. In these interweb days, I would have looked them up on reading about them and discovered this beforehand, but such was the slowness of those times that I had to travel to a different hemisphere to find one. Reader, I bought one. And made my travel notes in it . I have not had such a perfect notebook moment since.

Speaking of covers (which I'm not, yet) here's one of my favourites.

this notebook
Now I am venturing into the world of the art journal, I have been enjoying my cache of stationery. I came across this notebook. Goodness knows how long I've had it. The price is still inside - £1.35 - so I bought it after 15th February 1971. I had used it at some stage, as some pages had been removed. It has blank pages of reasonable quality so I thought I would use it as an ideas book. Not with that cover though.  I remembered covering textbooks at school and thought I would just make it a plain brown wrapper but I couldn't find any brown paper. So I rummaged through my Collection of Things and found:

a gift bag
some bias binding
a gift bag (forgot to photograph it before I took it apart) and some bias binding. (I have no idea why I have bias binding. I have not used bias binding since about 1968. It is entirely possible that I bought it because I like the term bias binding.)

And - after only a little cursing - I have this:

To those of an artistic bent, it will not be impressive. But the idea that I would take a notebook and alter it in any way is a new and exciting one to me.

Thanks for reading. See you soon.


  1. For me it's this one....all three versions in the clip:

    My work diaries for ten years looked almost exactly like the pre-alteration version of your notebook, just lacking the central rectangle. Brought back many memories....

  2. Now why didn't that link, link?

  3. I don't think you can link in comments, but I'll copy and paste :-)

  4. Replies
    1. It depended, they changed from year to year but usually either green or maroon. Am taking them to be burned in my woodburner next week or you could see one.....

  5. Oh, well now... art journalling, altering notebooks - it's a slippery slope, and I'd say you're already a long way down it! One of my favourite covers too - one that messes with the original in a productive way. Unlike Cestina, I can't be doing with quavery Irene Dunne - Fred and Ginger perfection, of course - do like the Platters, and Nat King Cole's rather fine, but it's Dinah Washington for me...
    Alison x

  6. This seems an appropriate link on this post:

    (Butterfly says yes one can post clickable links but one has to know the html. So that's a non-starter for me I fear, sorry....)

  7. Or this... as perhaps one of the most catastrophically misjudged production numbers ever to interfere with a great performance...
    Alison x