Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Notebook

It seems many people who need to use, or want to use, notebooks - I mean the paper kind not the computers - is not really satisfied with the one they have got, and are therefore always in search of one which is better suited to what they want. I am no different. I wrote a few months ago about the notebooks I need to use - of all the notebooks listed the most important notebook I use on a daily basis is the one for my PhD research.
My requirements are: A5, casebound in a hardback cover, good quality paper which takes fountain pen ink and pencil well, I need lined pages, the notebook must lie flat when opened, and for bizarre reasons know only to myself and my archiving needs, the notebook must have a red cover.
I have tried making my notes directly onto my laptop but this just does not work for me - I need the feeling of pen or pencil on paper to process my thoughts - so I use the notebooks. I am currently using a WH Smith own brand notebook, which is ok, but the paper is not as good as I would like - some inks feather and bleed on it - but it does its job in most cases, but I'm still on the search for a better notebook, and I'm not that keen on the shade of red.
Over the last few weeks I've been writing the third chapter of my PhD, and I expect this notebook will be used up in the next few days as I struggle - and this chapter really has been a struggle - to finish the first draft. This academic year has been difficult for so many reasons and this chapter should have been completed some months ago. This time last year I was on target, now I feel horribly behind. I am having to write huge stretches of the chapter longhand before typing them up because I cannot seem to be able to work out what I want to write on the screen. This is both time and notebook consuming.
After I finish this notebook I will use up the few remaining pages in my Seawhite of Brighton notebook, which I stopped using when I realised how much I need lines. It is actually a sketch book because Seawhite of Brighton are an art supply company; it is a great notebook, I like the cover, and I like the thick pages, but I really do need lines. So I need to find something else.
I know all the paper aficianados out there are shouting 'Clairefontaine', but have you seen the price? I go through these notebooks too quickly to justify spending over £7 per notebook, and although I agree the paper is great for fountain pens, I do find the ink takes a bit too long to dry on this paper - and if my thoughts are flowing I need to get them down and keep going, not wait while the page dries before turning it.
Yesterday I discovered I did once have the perfect notebook. Searching through a pile of Poliakoff plays I found one of my old notebooks from my MA. It seems I filled this book up with terrifying speed in the British Library whilst doing some research on Irish writers broadcasting on the Third Programme in the late 1940s and early 1950s: it is full of pencil scribbles about dates and times and content of broadcasts made by Irish writers, copied from piles and piles of archive copies of the Radio Times. I flicked through the notebook and realised what a good book it was - the paper was smooth but not slick, it had lines, the cover was a nice shade of red and had a smooth texture, it opened flat. I'd only written in it in pencil (pens are banned in the BL) so I needed to find out if the paper was up to the worst behaving inks I own. I found a page  with a small amount of space took it to my desk and tried the inks.
It was perfect. But where on earth did I buy it? There is no brand or identifying marks on the cover. Are they still made? The search begins...

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