Thursday, 22 August 2013


The passing of a pocket notebook and the beginning of another is a ceremonial occasion. The old book is laid gently in the bottom drawer with its predecessors. A slight tear is allowable before turning to its successor.

But what successor? Choosing a notebook is not a simple matter. It has to be slim, small enough for the pocket but not so small that it can’t be used to write complete lines. Or lost. It needs to be hard backed, there’s nothing worse in a notebook than creases on a page. It needs another requirement which will be touched upon later.

I have a basket full of notebooks untouched. Bought in a surge of excitement in a bookshop or stationers and which on return home prove to be totally, or frustratingly almost, unusable for any variety of reasons.

Over the years I have come to treat with disdain some of those offered in even well known stores. What, on earth, is the point of those pocket notebooks with spiral metal hoops that are guaranteed to get tangled with normal stuff found in your pocket and dragged out to fall over the floor just as you need to jot something down.

The colour of the notebook is totally irrelevant to whether they are fit for purpose. I’ve had blue, green, black. If it glowed in the dark, I wouldn’t care.

The best notebook I’ve ever had was from a shop in Windermere. A small second hand bookshop whose owner’s mother made them as a sideline. Just that one notebook. I’ve ordered another since but it wasn’t the same.

Obviously, I have Moleskin that goes in the rucksack. The one with the blank pages, elastic band and opens front ways not side. But, surprisingly, it is just too big to fit in a pocket. And for all its virtues that too has one major design fault, one that it shares with every other notebook I have bought or considered buying.

And this is the other requirement mentioned above. Consider what you need a notebook for. It’s not for looking at or for tearing its pages out for bookmarks. You need it for making notes. But no notebook has a slot for a pencil or pen. It’s absurd. The one from Windermere had a space between the spine and the pages into which I could slip a small pen, but that was by accident.

As an aside – the best small pen I’ve found is by Zebra. It’s telescopic and slim. When the case is pushed into itself it is perfect for positioning into the makeshift holder I’ve made on the spine of a notebook. I got it from the bookshop in Carnforth.

The makeshift spine looks awful but it works. Glue a suitable material across the spine of your notebook and it becomes part of the book rather than sticking out.

Joy of joys. I’ve just found a Moleskin that’s small enough. No place for pen. Yet.