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Thursday, 24 December 2020

Merry Christmas



Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Thursday, 17 December 2020

The Quest Continues

 No longer for perfection, but for the one, the fittest.

Not the grandest, the strongest or the like. The one most suited to me, which fits me the best of all.

A bit Darwinian, a process of natural selection?

Who is selecting whom, me or the notebook?

It comes down to sensing thr aura, the Zen of the book

Taking the Zen thing a bit further, it's not how do you feel about the book, how does the book feel about you?

It's the strange feeling, the sensation of losing touch with something.

Pick the book, whatever it is, take it down from the shelf. You sense something, a sympathetic resonance perhaps? You replace the book on the shelf and continue browsing, and ende up where you started with the first book you lifted from the shelf.

You take it to the till, pay the cashier, and away you go. The book arrives home and its not the same, strange but it happens.

I remarked in an earlier post about my first encounter with the Moleskine brand and how I felt it necessary to find the right instrument to make the first mark.

I admit, I fell for the romance of the history described in the pamphlet that comes with each one. I bought the book and the story and it took me a while to get over it.

It was the day my brain clicked into gear and did the arithmetic. I checked the figures. Page for page the three pack of the pocket sized cahiers with the soft cover was equal to a hardcover notebook of the same size, and roughly half the price.

I made the switch and awaited an introduction to the Fauxdori, the traveller's notebook lookalikes.

That introduction stared a whole new journey that brought me to here, now.

An odd side effect has been to bring to mind all the different notebooks I've used over the years, and decades and attempts at homemade notebooks.

Armed with a printer, photographs and a comb binder, assorted papers and a laminator. The research, documents downloaded and printed out would be comb bound for future reference.

Now I'm on the handmade notebooks cut and trimmed to size and bound by a pamphlet stitch. A new expression of life with a ntoebook, springing from a surperbly matched surprise gift. The Fittest gift I've received in a long time.

Christmas is around the corner, and this year there is a sense of anticipation of what it will bring.

Only a few more sleeps and we've notched up snow already this month. The bookies adjusted the odds for a white one.

Let the dreaming begin!


(Image, December 2010)

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Fare Well?


Did you fare well? Put it another way, how was it for you?

I hit the target with a day in hand, and a strange sense of "Yeah, I can do that!"

I knew I could do it, and this year there was more in my favour.

I've been Yo-yo working since July, half furloughed, working sort of alternate days and weekends. It goes with the job.

This year with a lot more time on my hands, i.e. time available for writing, I still booted the computer up in the evening, after dinner, to cram the word count in before midnight.

My perspective shifted, the intensity of previous NaNoWriMo challenges dissipated, I got cocky and nearly blew it.

Halfway through the month, about the 12th, I ground to a halt for three days. The word count hit zero.

Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galazy, et al,)  talked about the sound of dealines as they whooshed by. This one come at me with a headlong rush.

It started well, Day 1, November 1st, I bagged 3,760 words.

Apart from the 12th to the 14 th Nobvember when the word count flatlined at zero, the lowest word count (with actual words to count) was the 21st with 364 words.

I tagged 50,000 on the 29th with a run of 4517. Logged it at 10:11 pm GMT on the 29th November.

I have done a handful of Camp NaNoWriMo over the years. This was my fifth NaNoWriMo, and my fifth win.

The winner's cetificate was duly printed out and filled in, and waved around the house. It is worth cheering, 50,000 words, in 30 days, no excuses.

A block of words to match the Great Gatsby for length, perhaps not in quality. 

As good or bad as any first draft has a right to be, it exists. It is positive, and it gave my self confidence a boost.

I can do it, became, I did it, again - without the Oops!

There was an Oops moment, three days of them.

A good start of 3760 words on day 1, the 1st, and 800 hammered out in the first hour after midnight. I put the computer away until the morning, and ploughed on later in the day.

10,000 words were accounted for by the 6th, and then on  the 12th it flatlined, zero, until the 14th. Kicked off again and toppled 25,000 on the 17th. Slightly behind the target count - the website said I would finish in December - I had 30,000 on the 19th.

11 days and 20k words to write. Time to get my head in gear, I pulled it together and went for the home straight, to finish with a day in hand.

According toi the stats at NaNoWriMo. Iam a night own, usually writing betwen 10:00 and 11:00 pm (really more 8:00 to midnight, but whose checking,) with an average daily word count of 1724.

On reflection, what has my Covid 19 NaNoWriMo helped me to discover?

I can do it, sit down and let the words pour out, don't fight the flow. Don't bully my characters, let them be real and tell the story. They are the players, strutting the stage, or the screen?

That's what happened on the 12th, I had to renegotiate the conditions. The characters were leading and I was reluctant to follow.

I came back to the story and followed where they led. I have the story so far, and will have to wait for the rest.

Allowing the characters to lead brought the answers to the surface. Elements in the other stories have become clearer, the pieces fit the jigsaw.

I'll be back there soon, I can feel the activity bubbling under the surface, waiting for the next chapter to spill on to the page.

For now, well done, whatever your final word count. Taking the plunge takes nerve.

If you hit the target and bagged the goodies.



Sunday, 15 November 2020

Is it real?

Is there such a thing as the perfect notebook, or is it a quest for the impossible?

The Traveller's Notebook story is infectious. It has got under my skin.

Type, traveller's notebook or Midori into a search engine and see what comes up.

I feel like I've opened the door of the wardrobe, not the one to Narnia. this is a strange land, is it Midoria?

It is a land where the simplest thing, a leather sheet with a handful of holes punched in it and threaded with an elastic band becomes a gravity well.

It draws in the refills and on the paper it collects the thoughts, ideas, tickets, stickers, stamps. Anything you could possibly get to stay between the covers, or with a clip on the edge (hanging on by the metaphorical fingernails,) pen, pencil.

There will be one somewhere, with sketch or watercolour paper, in an insert with a waterbrush tucked into the elastic or snuggled into a clip. It has to be.

I digress, my question was, is there such a thing as a perfect notebook, or are we, like the Grail heroes, chasing the impossible.

The quest, the journey, the search for the imposible, is what matters. When success is in the travelling, not reaching the end. 

What we discover about ourselves on the journey is the quest. The picture is a thought in action.

Without leaving my seat, what notebooks do I have to hand, and you can see the result.

A5, cahier, passport size, moleskine, home made kraft card cover cahiers. Leather Midori style, Wanderings, September leather, and a home made one. 

A motley crew, the current cast of a story that stretches back years, decades.

I've found making notebooks immensely satisfying, and I occasionally wonder if I have too many. Am I feeding a strange obsession? Perhaps, or merely doing something I enjoy and find relaxing.

Go on, admit it Martyn, you're hooked on stationery, when I find myself in that aisle in the supermarket, I am stationary.

There is a strange promise in a pristine notebook. to make the transient solid, capturing the fleeting thought and fix it on the page.

The fresh page, and the book beckons, taunts and challenges in one moment. To reveal a precious thing, not by peeling away, by adding lines of ink or layers of paint.

Who said the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?

Every story begins with a single stroke of a pen on paper, or the sweep of a brush. The step into the unknown, how will the story unfold or the painting ever be finished?

The search goes on.

Will the perfect notebook reveal itself at the moment you close it, after reaching the end of the last page, knowing it becomes a passive companion, retrospective, and not an active player on the journey. 

Am I looking for an individual book, or a type. Closing the last page creates the desire to find a match, another of the type to continue the story.

The degree of perfection dictated by the task it is called to.

I'm drafting this in an A5 notebook with a suede effect cover, writing with the ubiquitous Parker jotter. Picked up for a few pounds at The Range. Off the top of my head I can't recall the brand.

I'm comfortable with it, scribbling the thoughts and drafts for a blog post on the pale cream paper. 

I may be in a mellow mood, for yellow paper, white is too stark, cold, clinical. It has an uncomfortable brightness.

ivory, pale yellow, or a similar colour is warm, more welcoming.

The notebook, let's call it THE notebook, as a type will call for a sense of connection. It will become a nexus from the fleeting world of thought to the outside world. Inviting, not taunting or challenging, welcoming.

Inviting the pen to jot down the idea. we are not doing lines for misbehaving. we're planning brilliant, intimate, inspired, life changing.

To ask so much of a notebook!

The perfect notebook couldn't do what we ask, it has to be as we are, imperfect. 

The cover of the Midori, of the numerous Fauxdori and alternatives is a skin, and the idea of making what you will out of it. The skin holds the parts and the book begins a life of its own, a companionship with its owner, but essentially it carries the bumps and marks of its own existence. 

They show its character, as our bumps and grazes show ours, it changes as we do, as we share the journey.

A friend, a companion, what else could we want?



Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Scary. starry night

Nanowrimo v Hallowe’en

That’s the real battle, not the ghouls and the reindeer squaring up across the aisles in the supermarket from October onwards, we know how that one ends. The ghosties and ghoulies are vanquished by the 1st of November.
That’s when the scary bit starts. Most of the world is waiting for a knock on the door, counting the hours until the stroke of midnight and the annual ghoul fest is over for another year.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

My First Notebook

Not the first notebook I ever had, that is a long forgotten memory. I can hazard a guess it was probably a Silvine brand notebook with lined pages and a stitched spine.

This first notebook is my first attempt at scratch building a Midori style traveller's notebook.

I've touched on this in an earlier post, so I'll try not to digress too much.

Having entered the world of the Traveller's Notebook, I'm struck by the ethos of flexibility it generates amongst user and aficionados. I have become a fan, and will spend time tinkering with the mechanics of compiling, assembling, binding and trimming the components of the refills. Right down to securing the signature spines with a pamphlet stitch. 

A reasonable achievement for me, my track record with a needle and thread lies with lashing things together, rather than sewing.

The relatively simple matter of lining up the holes for the stitching and the spine of the outer cover caused a bit of headscratching. A basic card template helped. Unfolding the papers and laying them flat after the initial fold usually meant one or more holes were misaligned. 

I needed a cradle. A simple V shape to drop the pages and the template in together with as little distortion or displacement as possible.

The inspiration lay with Wallace and Gromit, erstwhile heroes of "A Grand Day Out," "Wrong Trousers." "The Curse of the WereRabbit," etc,

An old biscuit tin on top of he bookcase stamped with an impression of the characters holding electrical bits contains pieces of Meccano. An engineering construction toy from way back. 

Working - playing - with Meccano is a noisy job, especially when the bits are in a biscuit tin. Digging through the metal parts looking for the right one.

I spent a while nosing around the Internet, especially Pinterest, picking up ideas and wound up with a vague idea of what I wanted, and how I might do it, nothing planned, a sort of picture in my head and little else to do for a couple of hours. 

The Meccano built the base, the cradle, and the bed where the paper would lie came next.

A while ago, I had a need for a six inch rule (don't ask, it was an idea stuck in my head moment and only a six inch rule would do,) and ended up with a packet of ten or more from a supplier on the Internet. Two of these rules became the sides of the bed, held by a couple of rubber bands to stop them slippping and the job was good to go.

The test piece was a handful of folded pages torn from an old reporters notebook, and they proved the cradle worked. It was strong enough for the job. The jeweller's awl was too big. The holes were far larger than required.

The solution came with a return to my original home made awl, a needle thrust into the cork from an Islay whisky. It punched beautifully and the holes were closer to the size of the needle I use for stitching. I was happy with the result.

The moment of truth beckoned! A new refill, as I had done with all the others, I clipped the leaves and the template together, dropped them into the cradle and punched.

Two out of three ain't bad, according to Meatloaf. 

I want three out of three.

What happened?

The cradle gave as I pressed down. The rubber bands around the six inch rules flexed slightly, allowing the leaves and the template to drop with the bottom of the cradle, into the V.

Because I had clipped one side of the booklet to hold the leaves together it flexed awkwardly and couldn't follow. The spine was thrown out of line at one end and the needle missed the mark. 

Next time, without the clip, I folded the leaves and the cover together, slipped the punching template into the middle, tapped them straight and dropped them in.

I punched the centre station first, and the flexing cradle sorted the alignment. Three out of three, spot on! 

The job is a good one.

I am pleased with the result. It has the over engineered qualities of Wallace and Gromit, or Heath Robinson, (Rube Goldberg has a similar reputation in the United States,) in the spirit of cobbling it together, hey, it works.

Only one thing left to say. 

"That'll do!"


Sunday, 11 October 2020

Under the skin

No pun intended, but the idea of the Midori, Traveller's notebook or whatever brand name your variant may, or may not have, it strikes me that is what this item does. It gets under your skin.

I've found the concept and the way so many users employ it to facilitate their own personalities, fascinating. 

The number of pins dotted around Pinterest offering downloadable formats for the inserts, and the production lines feeding the internet stores and Etsy will easily pass an hour while the tea goes cold in the mug.

It creates a discussion inside my head.

The old habit of carrying multiple notebooks is hard to break, and the reality of multiple books inside one cover is equally hard to establish.

Not one book, books with paper layouts specific to a role, or task.
Plain, lined(ruled), grid, dots, storyboards, musical staves, the list is bounded by the imagination.

Sketchpad, story board, planner, diary, bullet journal - the list is comprehensive. If you are inclined to make your own, incompetech.com has a variety of downloadable formats to . 

The result is a pleasantly tactile, versatile tool.

A tug of war ensues, the notebook on the desk says, pick me up, write, you know you want to, and it's true, even when the idea isn't there. 

An endless notebook, a literary suitcase, when the pages are full, at journey's end?
The inserts are unpacked, and fresh ones are stowed for the next stage of the jounrey. 

The previous inserts are tucked away, not sent to the laundry - hopefully!

A reversal of the previous reticence to plunge into a new volume. A pamphlet stitched signature drawing you under the covers. 

The package exerts an intimacy, the individuality of each one, shunning the regimented uniformity of staples. The way the elastic cords, the bands, hold the notebook inserts into the cover, and each, other is quirky. Not precise, they snuggle together under the covers.

This quiet intimacy creates the connection, and is self reinforcing. The more contact you have, the stronger the hold and the pull becomes.

It has gravity,  The evidence of its experience is on the cover, as we wear the traces of our own, and reveals the character of the notebook itself. You wouldn't be surprised to see Indiana Jones draw one from his pocket, and all eyes are on the book.

Who wouldn't like that notebook?