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Sunday 27 September 2020

Making the mark

I found the time, and the place, to break the surface of the Wanderings Notebook. The brand of the "Midori-style" notebook I had been given. It was either birthday or wedding anniversry, I can't rememebr which, the look of satisfaction on the giver's face I do remember. 

"I've found something you'l like," 

They were on the mark. 

Last year, I acquired a pair of cats, and that is definitely another story! 

Back in the patch of changeable weather that calls itself Summer on the Yorkshire coast. A procession of sunshine, pleasant, warm, and now and again hot. Rain, running the range from drizzle - walking through a low cloud leaving you feeling wet and uncomfortable - it gets into all the nooks and crannies - to torrential. Saturated in seconds, not as discomforting as drizzle.

The fog, an East coast sea fret, drifts in after warm weather and dense enough to wake the foghorn. Quite a mixture to stir into  a few nights away from home. 

Travel, excitement and activity, good food and then collapse into a cloud of crisp white Egyptian cotton after the sun drops behind the North Yorkshire Moors, and the fog slips ashore. It gets a bit Stephen King, A strange house, a strange bed and the deep sonorous note of mournful resignation from the harbour. A baritone sigh from the belly of the sea, tapping into the light sleep, at one minute intervals until the fog clears about 4.00 a.m.

You wake to brilliant sunlight all around. Fog, what fog, you must have been dreaming!

In the esoteric wrapping of the holiday was the moment I pulled aside the retaining loop and opened the book with intent to write, a review of a Fish and Chip restaurant. Yes, a fish and chip shop. Look, it's Scarborough on the Yorkshire Coast, and they do damn good fish and chips, and Black Sheep Ale. Enough said!

A few scribbled notes, and I forgot to grab the significant point - the Amercian singer who inspired the name "Winking Willy." (Any suggestions, drop me a line.)

No clues line the walls, the decor is strictly nautical, and locally flavoured. The  local maritime bric-a-brac, an occasional tip to the wider world,  with a whisp of baudy seaside humour.
The owner plays on the name, Willy, euphemistically male organs - Do I have to spell it out? The serious business of combating the Covid 19 virus gets a lighter touch. The hygiene drill begins with the hand gel, dispensed from the Willy Sanitiser, and Willy Distancing encourages social separation.The largest dish they serve is "Willy's whopper," a real belly buster. 

Social distancing tables reduced the number of seats available, but for the diner, the distance made the evening more intimate. There is no sense of being cheek by jowl with the next table. The staff had more time to jnteract with the customers.

It did the trick, the smooth clear paper had been marked and I could now easily scribble away, and the book has a clip for the Jotter ballpoint. The knock on effect is curious, a reticence to jot things ad hoc has gone and the scribbles, jottings and doodles on the pages are often only connected by their physical recording between the covers . 

The odd thing is, the feel for this style of notebook is so comfortable, like it's been it's around for ever.  A few weeks before lockdown I had no inkling of the potential.  The past few months have opened my eyes to the freedom and flexibility found among the users.

It has the potential to become obsessive.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


Monday 7 September 2020

The Write Stuff

Tradition, an explanation of how and why things are done in a certain way, and always appear to have been done. It can be a way of drawing a conversation to a fairly abrupt end.

Don't ask, don't question, it's tradition. It was a familiar word as I grew up, I often saw it tucked behind my Dad's ear, embossed in gold lettering on the barrel of a pencil.

A Joiner by trade. Not a carpenter, he once emphasised the difference,  a Joiner, and his tradition was a pencil. The red and black striped Staedler. 

I watched him with it, marking out a job, scribbling a sketch or a note. I never saw him use any other. He liked the way it kept its point and the mark it made against the wood.

The tradition I gained was to look for the right qualities in the tools for the job. My search for the perfect, or the best available notebook, the one that suits me. is joined with finding a writing instrument to match.

Burdened by the urge to scribble things down quickly, my hand writing resulted in an erratic scrawl described as a cross between Michaelangelo and a spider on acid. It was funny, true, and not entirely a compliment.

School began with pencils, the Staedler came later, and  progressed to ballpoint. A strange plastic Platignum design that looked like an old fashioned dip pen. (Ironic, given the school desks had the wells for ink pots in the top right hand corner). The ballpoint encouraged the scrawl until I came to the fountain pen.

With incessantly inky fingers from squeezing the rubber bladder inside the barrel. It required more control, and the  slower writing speed helped smooth out the scribble. 

Heavy handedness wasn't good for the nib,  a working compromise was achieved.The ink would flow freely if I eased off on the pressure. The general idea, write on the paper rather than engrave the words into it.

I digress, the Tradition pencil revealed an overlooked aspect of tradition. It is about what is passed on. Dad used that particular pencil, his tradition, and drawn from that I learned the value of the right tools. 

The Red and Black striped barrel became a benchmark for a pencil. The default pencil in the pot on my desk is the yellow and black version. 

The Staedler's made in Germany have a tighter grain and a different texture in the graphite than the British made ones. (I'll use a point cover, to keep the point in my pocket, and an extender when necessary, so I can work with the shorter stumps,)

The Tradition is wood, but the mark on the paper moved me towards technical solutions. 

I often had the pencil, but not the sharpener, or the blade was dull, and the fine line became a broad stroke. 

Enter, mechanisation. The propelling pencil. Compared with today's sub-millimetre standard lead, the chunky Platignum pencil that came with a matching fountain pen laid a wide stripe across the page.

It was a consistent stripe, not a variable thickness, broadening as it worked towards a visit to the pencil sharpener. The smooth touch of the graphite on paper has a strong attraction for me, and frequently the first steps on any project are done in pencil. 

The mechanical, propelling, piston, or clutch, gave me a reliable line and steered me back to pen and ink.

Pencil, Ballpoint, Rollerball, Fountain, with a love of the written word and means of recording them.

I like a fountain pen, a good one. Not always the expensive models. The connection lies with the sharp end, the nib, or the point.

The Rollerball is a compromise, a useful intermediary.

In any choice, the key is how they suit my hand. Weight, balance, ink quality, reservoir size, are all factors.

Eventually, the fall back, the default choice was arrived at, and the draft of this was put down with one. 

The ubiquitous Parker Jotter. The style, weight, balance, ink flow, refill capacity, (and availability,) and the solid click of the action. All work for me.

The ballpoint is simple, has an elegance to its line, especially the all metal bodied version and is robust, all make it my go to pen.

The Jotter fountain pen as the same personally favourable qualities. 

For a while I've used Waterman "Havanna" ink. A Dark red-brown that appears like dry blood on the paper. An old friend used to write cheques with it, (especially to the Inland Revenue).

My choice has a tradition,  to make the mark clearly on the page. To pass something on.

An aide memoire, among many other things, no doubt.

The scrawl still needs attention.