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Monday, 31 August 2020

The Perfect notebook

Is there such a thing, a combination so tuned to you, the author, that words flow unhindered on to the page? The Notebook, the one, a soulmate whose signature beckons you between crisp white sheets, or perhaps, soft ivory?

The search continues.

 I've done it, I am not alone.

Have you ever?

Tried every notebook, on a shelf of identical mass produced copies, searching for the one with the right Zen, the essence of notebookness that touches you deeply?

Sniffed the 'new' paper smell, standing in the aisle of the staionary department, again, seeking the Zen of the book?

Reached the point where you have given up on finding the right one?

Bought one on the off chance and found it has enough Zen to be condusive to what you are doing to make the book useful. Perhaps a prepacked one, took the chance and it paid off - sort of?

Rejected a notebook one day, to grab it off the shelf on the next visit to the store and rush to the till before you have chance to change your mind?

Have you found what you think is the right one, with the right stuff about it,  and then hesitated to use it, needing the proper writing instrument to make the first mark?

Failed to find anything like what you wanted and then received one as a gift that becomes a key to a new journey?

It's said many times, by a creative who comes up with a solution to seize the imagination of the public, "I couldn't find what I wanted, I knew exactly what it was, so I made it myself."

The first step on a journey, begins alone, but you encounter many sharing a similar path, and what you now have is that thing you were looking for.

I enjoy Moleskine notebooks, the cahiers usually plain paper ones. I have a habit of ignoring the lines on pages. My handwriting can be big and scrawly, and indecipherable, and the  lines get in the way. 

My first encounter with the Moleskine
was a long time ago, but I remember the hesitation after unwrapping it.

I'll put my hand up, the story in the little leaflet tucked into the pocket at the back referencing, Picasso, et al, and almost total loss of the brand was part of the reason I bought it, and inspired the hesitation. A book, albeit a workaday notebook handled by such illustrious creatives commended respect. . 
 
I gravitated, in time, to the pocket cahiers. The small soft back notebooks, usually in packs of three, rather than the similar sized hardbacks. 

The three smaller books had the same number of pages as the hardback, and are more affordable. 

Back to my first time with a moleskine, and the hesitation. I felt it needed a little extra, that the first mark warranted a certain, I don't know what! The French  have a way of saying it!

It's looking at a  patch of freshly fallen snow. The footprint will be made, the call is irresistible, you know what I mean. Blundering is not an option. It has to be good. 

The first mark in a new notebook is a point of no return, once made, even with a pencil, (cheating by rubbing it out and starting again doesn't count,) it can't be unmade.

I wanted a writing instrument that felt it should make the mark. So, the Moleskine went into my bag, or my pocket, but remained untouched, unmarked, for weeks.

Poking around the local market, (Wednesday is Bric a brac,) and rummaging through the clutter on a house clearance stall I stumbled on a box of mechanical pencils. A worn individual caught my eye and closer inspection saw Yard-O-Led on the clip.

I asked the stall holder what he wanted for it, he said £3, I paid him, quickly, and moved on.

The casing is scuffed, the rhodium plating is chipped in places but stripping it down revealed the slender pockets where the 3 inch sections of pencil lead fitted. It does hold a Yard of Lead.

The styling was 1940s, possibly 50s, but old enough to be a contender for the first mark. (A conversation not long after with a Rep for Filo-Fax, who owned Yard-O-Led at the time suggested I insure it for a lot more than £3.)

Not the reason for allowing it be the first marker, but the notebook and pencil shared sufficient history to be logical companions.

The search isn't over, I am settled on the Cahiers, with the choice of paper. plain, lined, dot or grid.

Not sure about the Dots, but plain, and grid, or squared, definitely, depending the job in hand. Now a mutliple number of books being moved and handled, another element is required and the answer came from an author friend.

The Traveller's notebook, the Midori, an outer cover with room for multiple notebooks inside. This was new to me.

My first was Passport sized, joined by a larger version to accept the cahiers. A genuinely refillable cover! Neither are true Traveller's. The passport is a Wanderings and the larger from September Leather

Then the fun began, as I took it apart to load additional notebooks, (it had an extra band to add to the lonely book tucked inside the leather cover,) the thought occurred I could make one.

The original gift has the pristine paper/first mark conundrum. Awaiting the right moment, and instrument.
 
The Moleskine compatible was loaded with already started notebooks, so lacked the pristine challenge.

The task was to source the material. Leather, elastic and trinkets, beads etc. Once gathered, I had a go, with reasonable results.

I had a few cahiers in hand. They were duly installed and an excuse to visit local stationery departments magically appeared. Now the Lockdown effect touched base. Stocks of Moleskines appeared depleted, especially on the pocket cahier department. None could be found, even in the local Mall.

Plan A shifts to Plan F!

Ok, I had made an outside, what about the guts of the beast? A short spell of Internet searching and picking a friend's brain  provided useful information. Card and paper stocks were mustered, with sharp knives and cutting mats. A few foul ups followed, obviously.

Three completed, hand stitched, signatures later, the in'nards were in place.
It looked good. 

The indefinable thing, the unexpected bit, was the 'Zen.' The smell of the leather, the feel of it, everything it is - right, and piling into it with any old pen or pencil is easy. No hesitation, the clean page is an open invitation, a cheery 'come in' the paper is lovely!

The search for the perfect notebook will never end, it's an ideal. To make a new acquaintance along the way who immediately feels like an old friend has got to be something special.

Martyn









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