In celebration of old, battered, used notebooks

The beginning of a new notebook is a fabulous thing. I think of it as the start of a new adventure. Even if I end up using it just for shopping lists. There’s only one thing better than the first page of a fresh notebook. And that’s the final page of a well-used one.

I’m not going to publicly admit to the number of unused notebooks I have. Or the ones I’ve started and not finished – there are even more of those. So on those rare occasions when I do get to the final page, I feel a massive sense of achievement. Sometimes it’s tinged with sadness, especially if it’s a really pretty notebook. But on the whole satisfaction wins out. And the notebook becomes precious to me however battered and dog-eared it’s become.

Used > new

It took me quite a while to come to the realisation that old and well-used was better than new and untouched. Don’t get me wrong: the brand new notebook is more aesthetically pleasing, but in terms of those that give me a warm fuzzy feeling it’s the ones that show the journey they’ve been on. I suppose it’s sort of like when artists say they prefer to paint portraits of older models because their faces contain more of a narrative. 

Anyhoo. To celebrate #nationalnotebookday I’m giving props to some of my used notebooks. They don’t usually make it on to Insta, but they are very much treasured. 

The one that’s got chunks of my novel in it

This is a fairly recent acquisition from Paperchase in Covent Garden. They’re actually all from Paperchase I’ve realised, but this one you can still get and it comes in a few different designs. If I remember correctly, the cover is hand-made in India. The paper is quite fragile and is disintegrating around the sewn spine and edges. But it’s got a wonderful feel to it and is fairly resilient to scrunching.

I’ve worked out that I’ve written roughly 5,000 words in this notebook. Admittedly a couple of hundred words of this is me copying out the opening lines of Romeo and Juliet. Wish I could remember why! I always write longhand to start and then switch to my computer once I feel I’ve nailed the tone of the scene. I’ve been working on this particular idea for a while now and it’s finally taking shape. To say that this is thanks to the notebook would be a bit of a stretch. But my enthusiasm to start using it and to use it for something where I was writing lots has definitely played a part. I hope I can keep up this sense of momentum for the next set of chapters.

The one from autumn/winter 2014

This one was in my bag for a few months a couple of years back. It was a handy size – big enough to work up a flow, but not too heavy. The school-style aesthetic still appeals to me and the elastic-band to keep it closed. The edges are in a bad way now, dented and torn, and at some point it’s come into contact with a blue biro with no lid.

The pages are filled with lists. Lists of locations of stuff in Ikea, lists of crafty things to buy from Hobbycraft, lists of ideas for Christmas presents for my family. There are recipes, too, some doodles and a sketch of the layout of my front room.

It takes me back to when I moved into my flat and spent hours in search of things to fill it and make it feel like mine. It’s already a touch nostalgic even though it’s not that old. Note to self: why do all the recipes I’ve written seem to involve peppers. Specifically yellow ones.

The one that’s got a bit of everything

I bought a couple of these, the other one is themed around Paris and is still untouched. The inside pages are lovely. Illustrations of black cabs run along the foot of each and in the top right-hand corner of each spread is a stamp with those lines you get from a franking machine.

I dipped in and out of this notebook over a year or so. At one point I was designing a blanket based on liquorice allsorts I remember, which explains the grouped bands of colours. The blanket never got made, but I might revisit it in the future. It’s got the germ of my current novel in it, but also a previous idea I played around with for a while and can’t quite let go as well as some ideas for a dissertation proposal. Again this didn’t go anywhere. 

My reflection is  that this is a notebook that contains lots of half-formed ideas that are yet to be realised. I think I’ll take it out periodically and look back to check in on them. The world definitely needs a novel with a hero called Cuthbert. And a lurid crochet blanket.

Happy #nationalnotebookday

The Lovely Drawer Workshop Review

Personalised notebooks are the best kind of notebooks – even more so when you personalise them yourself. That’s why I signed up to a brush lettering workshop with The Lovely Drawer’s Teri Muncey last week. Full of plans for creating a whole host of typography-led notebook covers with this newly-learnt skill, I headed down to Tottenham Court Road on Thursday at 6.30pm. As you can tell from the photo, I didn’t unearth any latent talent, but this didn’t stop it from being lots of fun.

Another workshop. Really?

If you’re anything like me, and it’s fairly likely you are if you’ve found your way to this site, creative classes are your ‘thing’.  You rock up to one roughly once a month or so, have a fabulous time learning something new, go out and buy all the kit in a rush of enthusiasm, and then put it away and promptly forget it. For this reason, though you’ve been seduced by brush lettering videos on YouTube and Insta, you’ve hesitated about signing up to a brush lettering workshop.

Good on you. You haven’t dived in, you’ve learnt from the past. But you know in your heart of hearts you’ll end up at a brush lettering workshop anyway. Probably fairly soon. And I’m here to tell you that that’s ok. What’s more I’ve put together a handy self-justification hack to combat the inner voice that says ‘no I couldn’t possibly’ when you spot a tweet saying there’s still space available at Teri’s next class. Hopefully, this will save you some time spent procrastinating.

Reading this post + booking a brush lettering workshop = being productive. Boom.

You’re thinking…

“But I’ve already learnt modern calligraphy…”

…Yes of course you have. I’m guessing at Quill London, like I did! But brush lettering is very different. It’s altogether more playful and less structured. Letter formation is non-prescriptive and of course this means more freedom and more license to develop your own style.

“I really shouldn’t spend any more money in Cass Arts and/or Hobbycraft…”

…This is true, but of all the various crafts you might have taken up, this will probably be one of the cheapest. All you need is ink (we got a 14ml pot to take away at the workshop), a fine tipped brush and printer paper to practice on. For your finished piece, you’ll want a heavier paper stock, but I’m guessing you’ve got a fair few card blanks laying around already.

“But I haven’t finished that felting/embroidery/book-binding kit* I bought…”

…You’ll finish it eventually. You could even finish the kit and then book the workshop in recognition of your achievement. It’s all too easy, but try not to beat yourself up too much for not finishing stuff you started. It’s about the journey not the destination, remember.

*delete as appropriate

“I could probably teach myself by watching YouTube…”

…Maybe so, but you can’t beat a class environment for overcoming any challenges with technique or getting your questions answered. Teri advised on types of brush, ideal paper weight and types of ink and was able to help me rectify an issue with how I was holding my brush.

It was great that the class was relatively small. Only ten of us, which was a bit of a squish around a single table, but meant that we were all able to get individual attention. Teri also does a VIP class with a maximum of six attendees for only a tenner extra. The dates didn’t work for me, but if small groups are more your thing, there’s one coming up at SMUG the first weekend in June.

“I’ll probably never use it…”

…There are so many ways to use brush-lettering. To pimp notebook covers like me, for wedding invitations, to design your own tattoo. The possibilities are endless. Apparently wedding stationery is the most popular. I think this would take a lot of practice though so a word of warning, give yourself lots of time to build up your skills if you’re planning to do something like this.

“It makes it a long day after work…”

I was still fighting lurgy when I went to the class, hence me being lazier than usual, but I needn’t have worried. There was hot water for tea and coffee included in the price of the workshop. I had a lovely cup of chai with lots of milk and two sugars. And forming the letters themselves was actually really relaxing once we got going. There are also alternative times and dates on the weekend.

A final word on the Lovely Drawer

There are lots of different brush lettering workshops out there, especially in and around London, and I’m sure they’re all really good. I personally chose The Lovely Drawer because I liked the things that Teri was posting and she’s got a great energy that comes across on her blog, but whichever class you end up choosing I hope you enjoy it and that this post helps you get there quicker.


List journal – 5 reasons why

I wrote about list journals the other day in the context of lists. But then it struck me, it being Mental Health Awareness Week and all, that they’re the perfect way to get into journalling if you’ve never really done it before. Or if you’re in search of a new journalling practice. Either way, here are five reasons why list journals may be the perfect way to get (re) started. 

ONE: There’s no page set-up required

The layout of a new journal is everything. Check out the various planner tags on Insta or read the gushing reviews of Hobonichi, Passion or Happiness planners and you’ll begin to understand that page set up is something that people who journal take very seriously.

As a journalling newbie, this can be intimidating. You might not be sure why you need a free space for doodles, or a ruler at the right-hand edge of each page. You might not have a preference for weekly over monthly spreads. It’s probably not something you’ve thought about too much.

List journals require no set up. They’re usually gorgeously illustrated with clearly defined spaces for you to write in. If procrastinating about layout has been holding you back, the list journal will fix that.

TWO: You don’t have to worry about what to say

Maybe it’s a legacy of that angst ridden diary you kept as a teenager, but something about a standard journal can make you feel as though you need to write something profound. Or at the very least that won’t embarrass you when you look back on it in five years time.

A blank page is full of potential. But it can also be pretty scary. If you’re not sure what to say, the prompted list journal format makes it all feel so much easier.  Responding to a question is much more straight forward than kicking off the conversation.

Better still, you don’t have to be uber disciplined in how you complete it. Journals are usually time bound – your progress against a goal or feelings recorded in an orderly, linear fashion. And the way you think isn’t always like that. List journals offer a little more flexibility as you can complete them in any order you like. Read through the contents page and pick the list that jumps out at you. Or let the list journal fall open at a random page and go from there. You’ll be scribbling away in no time.*

THREE: The only other thing you’ll need is a pen

My BuJo kit includes stamps, stickers, washi tape, coloured pens, highlighters. It feels a bit much even for a self-confessed stationery addict, so if the thought of having to buy lots of things is putting you off, you’ll love the simplicity of the list journal. Just pick up a pen and away you go.

It’s also worth saying that any pen will do. List journals usually have a decent production value so you don’t have to worry about ghosting/show through.

And because of this, you can journal easily on the move – no worrying about switching between different coloured pens.

FOUR: You can choose a list journal that matches your mood

List journals come in all sorts of forms from the bucket list to the customisable. You can read reviews of three of my current favourites here. Whether you’re looking for something more lighthearted or deep, there’ll be a list journal option for you.

FIVE: Many have a sizeable community ready to welcome you

Check out #52lists and you’ll instantly be connected to people all over the world that are list journalling just like you. This can be really motivating for the fledgling journaller and even used as a tool to aid reflection. If you’re struggling with a particular list you can find inspiration from what others have written. Yes, journalling is largely an individual activity but the communities that have built up around the most popular ones, show that it doesn’t have to be lonely.

I’m a big fan of list journals as you can probably tell. All journals if I’m honest. Try one and you might find that you are, too. Happy journalling. 

*I assume you’re writing as I’m personally all about the analogue, but there are list journal apps you can check out, too.

Listing my list journals

Like all stationery addicts I love a good list. When I write stuff down in numbers or bullets or bullets that are formatted as stars or ticks it makes me feel calm and in control. But it wasn’t always like that. A few years back, I was in a list funk that even the prettiest notebooks could not lift me out of. And as a J-type it bothered me.

I still got the initial rush of getting everything down in one place. But the sense of serenity this gave me would soon be shattered when I checked back and realised that the majority of my to dos remained undone. It was disheartening. I needed a way to get my list-writing mojo back. Then I discovered list journals.

The right type of list

Before I started list journalling, I was writing only one type of list. I’d do it in different forms of course, shopping list, life-admin list, but the items were all the same, chores and reminders. Stuff I usually forgot or ignored because I’d rather not do it. Sad little things like take the bins out; book the car in for its MOT; switch energy provider.

I still have these lists of course, I need them to keep me accountable. Plus I’m still paying way too much for my electricity. But now I also have the mindful, happy, positive lists that help to balance them out. Through my list journals, I’m writing the right kinds of lists, the lists that keep me motivated and inspired. I’ve still not ticked everything off, but with lists like these, that’s all part of the fun.

You won’t be surprised that I have lots of list journals. But rather than list them all (see what I did there), I’m going to share three of my favourites.

The 52 lists project

Moorea Seal was inspired to start this project off the back of a blog post she wrote a couple of years back. Since then, it’s grown into a whole community. You might have come across the 52lists hashtag on Insta – check it out if not. The lists were created with self-discovery and self-reflection in mind. They’re categorised as winter, spring, summer, and autumn and each is influenced by the season. List one, winter, is geared towards new year resolutions for example. Each list is assigned two pages. And at the end there is a ‘take action’ box, which helps you make the list work for you in terms of looking forwards as well as back.

The journal itself is beautifully designed and illustrated. The pages are thick, no need to worry about show through. And there’s a shiny ribbon marker that perfectly complements the gold foil accent on the front cover. It almost feels too good to write in. If writing direct into pretty notebooks is something you struggle with, you might want to read my previous post ‘Once more with pen’ for a nostalgic solution. I’d encourage you to take the plunge and just go for it, though. It’s all part of the self exploration process. Over to Moorea who explained that the production value is intentional. “Your words are meaningful, and I hope you feel that every time you pick up your 52 lists project” she posted on Insta back in January.

Orderly lists

The sub-heading for the journal is ‘a year of weekly journalling inspiration’ but though the lists are numbered you can dip in and out. And there is a contents section at the front so you can choose which you’re most in the mood for and go straight to it. Because I’m a rule follower – there’s that pesky J preference again! – I started in the first week of the year and am due to complete list 20 on Sunday: List the things that make your spirit feel free. I’m looking forward to seeing what others in the community share.

There’s also a 52 Lists for Happiness Journal, now, too. I’ll be kicking off 2018 with this and have heard lots of good things about it.

My Future Listography

This was a Christmas present and there’s a whole range of them for books and films and things. And an app and a game that I hadn’t even realised existed before I started this post. Exciting! It feels more workbook than journal, bucket list rather than self-exploration tool, but this means it’s nice to keep adding to over time. And fun to look back on. Don’t forget to date the entries if you’re interested in seeing how you’re responses change and progress.

There’s a really nice introduction that talks about wish fulfilment. This preempts some of the vision board type thinking that is everywhere right now.

Again, the paper is lovely and thick – it lends itself particularly well to fountain pen. There is one page for each list apart from the final one – ‘list the things you’d like to experience before you die’ which has three pages. And at the back there are a few lined pages with no heading if you want to come up with your own list ideas.

Of all the list journals this is the one I feel most free to open at random as there is no sense of order or categorisation. This means I’m less disciplined in terms of filling it in regularly, but it’s also one that I’d take off the shelves and chat through when friends are over, which is why it’s one of my favourites.

Breathe Special List Journal

This is my latest list journal, a special from the makers of Breathe magazine. It’s split into five sections, Escape, Living, Mindfulness, Creativity and Wellbeing – just like the magazine itself. There’s no contents page like there is with the other two. I quite like this as it means each page turn holds a discovery and it encourages you to interact with it more. You can’t just scan through and think ‘yes, I’ll do that list later’ you have to actually get involved straight away, which can only be a good thing.

And while we’re on the subject of good things, the pastel palette is calming and the illustrated pages are pretty enough to use for card making. Another point of differentiation (and justification for me having three on the go at once!) is that this list journal is all about customisation. The opening pages encourage you to paste in pictures or ticket stubs, to draw and to doodle. And some of the pages are blank especially for this purpose.

As with the Listography journal there is no restriction on when and where to start. So if you fall off the list writing wagon for a week or two it doesn’t matter you can plunge right back in and no accusataory gaps. The space allocated for each prompt differs and to be honest, some, like people I admire, are worth their own page. But this is a minor quibble. And on the plus side means that you probably don’t need to set aside heaps of time to complete a single entry as I’d naturally do with the others.

If you’re looking for a list journal that also functions as a sort of scrapbook, then this is the one I’d recommend.

So many lists, so many journals…

I know what’s next for Bullet Journal!

Something’s afoot at Bullet Journal’s Headquarters. The May newsletter arrived earlier this afternoon, the first item up – a plea to ‘Help Us Make Bullet Journal Better!’ The survey that followed was pretty short. Eight questions in all. But it provides more than a few clues as to what Ryder Carroll and team have on their development roadmap.

Back in March, the Bullet Journal Companion app was released. The key feature: timed reflection reminders. Feedback via the App Store has been lukewarm at best. Lots of complaints that the majority of the content it serves can be accessed for free via the Bullet Journal website. ‘Scam’ and ‘not worth the money’  was the general consensus. Ouch. My personal feeling is that there’s lots of potential for the app, especially in the reflection space, but anyhoo.

Based on the questions in the May research piece though, there are lots of things for BuJo Junkies to look forward to…

BuJo School

Some of the best memories I have of my school days revolve around stationery. Specifically, a notebook with a plastic cover that had water and glitter in it. And Filling notebooks practising signatures in preparation for a proposal from my latest crush. So no surprise that I’d be happy to enrol in a school that was all about stationery. Well Bullet Journals, so close enough. It would most likely be paid and based around ‘in-depth video journals’. Would I be interested? Yes, yes I would.

Big ones, small ones

Don’t be surprised to see a baby BuJo in the not-too-distant future. Bullet Journal is questioning the appetite for different versions of their notebook. Pocket, larger and soft-cover are all offered as options. I voted for pocket-size. But though given the choice to endorse the current format as an alternative, I doubt it would be an either/or proposition.

More, more, more

Looks like the content on the Bullet Journal site is going to be spruced up. The offer is more interviews, more show and tells, more articles or more tutorials. They’re all about the abundance it seems, which is great news. I love the show and tells the best. What’s on Insta can be a bit intimidating, but the greater emphasis on function rather than form means that to me at least, they’re ultimately more accessible and therefore inspiring.


Ryder is being offered up for a recurring Q&A. Based on his TED Talk ‘How to Lead An Intentional Life’ I’d be well up for this. They’re also seeking specific questions so this one will more than likely happen soonish, though not sure on frequency. I can think of lots of things I’d like to ask, first up, when can we have more colours?!

And finally my favourite idea of them all…

Top of the class

This isn’t a million miles away from the school suggestion so maybe the question the Bullet Journal team is debating is whether this works best online or in person. Having attended a couple of workshops at Kikki K for their Goals and Habits journals (post coming soon), I’d say the workshop is much the better of these two school-type ideas. And the BuJo community is so strong, why not provide a space for real world interactions and buddying.


I honestly have no clue on when or even if all of these ideas will make it past the research stage. My predictions are solely based on the questions they’re asking in this months newsletter. But it’s clear that Ryder Carroll is looking beyond the BuJo itself and that there are ambitious growth plans in the pipeline. Interesting that there was no comparative element though between the various ideas so maybe it’s more about how they’ll happen. When I first found Bullet Journal, I remember the emphasis on evolution. Whatever comes to fruition I’ve no doubt that BuJo will continue to grow. And I’m super excited about it!

Time to dust off my BuJo kit and plan my first spread I think. But before you go, be interested to hear which of these gets your pulse rate pounding:

What do you want Bullet Journal to do first?

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Notebook and lyrics – no no notorious

So I’m feeling pretty damn proud of myself for getting my hands on one of these bad boys. The pink cloth binding. The gold foil accent. And who doesn’t love a notebook cover inspired by the lyrics of mid-noughties gangster rap?!

DESIGNWORKS INK – please can we have a whole range of these? Hope you don’t mind me sharing some suggestions…

Biggie ideas

Cover quote: Sicka than yo’ average
Artist: Biggie Smalls AKA Notorious BIG
Proposed format: cloth-bound in m
int green with gold foil accent, dot grid

I’d use this for recording stuff that goes well. For keeping a list of wins or achievements, if you will. I do win lists at work all the time. People laugh when I tell them, but when there’s lots going on it’s great to keep everything you’ve already achieved front of mind. And Yes, BTW, I am also one of those people that writes stuff I’ve already done on my to-do list just so I can check it off! 

Payday partay

Cover quote: 1st of tha month
Artist: Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
Proposed format: Leather-bound, with silver foil accent, lined accountancy-style

This would be for budgeting.The inside spreads would be designed for logging money in and money out. And could there be a ‘splurge and save’ section to note items you’ve splashed out on and where you’ve enconomised. Maybe the save section could have a little star by it as a reward. 

Write for this love

Cover quote: Do for love
Artist: Tupac
Proposed format: Cloth-bound in black with red foil accent, unlined

This would be a relationship journal of course! Maybe the inside cover could have space for two names under the ‘This journal belongs to’ heading and there’d be space to write up the dates you’d been on, where you went, what you did. And maybe a space to keep track of nice things or compliments given. It would come with heart confetti, red washi tape and picture corners so you could paste stuff in. 

In the mood for some old mixtapes now!

Novels in letters or should that be letters in novels?

A love of notebooks goes hand-in-hand with a love of lists – what else would you be filling all those pages with otherwise. I have several notebooks dedicated to the listing of things. So many in fact that they’re probably worth their own post. So today, I will focus on one in particular: the one especially for all the books I want to read.

I’ve actually got a few of these, including a fancy Moleskine passions one that’s got space for reviews and things. But this one is my favourite I think, mainly because I got it first and also I love the library card-style cover, complete with date stamps.

And why have I picked this notebook to talk about today? Warning, you’ll need to bear with me on this. Because it’s #WriteALetter day; because a lot of the books on my ‘to read’ list are epistolary; and because I was keen to fit in one more #natstatweek post. Tenuous? A bit, but the blogging bug has bitten me!

Creative correspondance

Epistolary novels, those written in the form of letters (though diaries and other documents also count) are my absolute favourite. I think it’s because of the intimacy you develop with the lead character, the sense that you’re privy to thoughts they’d share only with one or two other readers.

Of all the epistolary novels, the ones I know best are Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Clarissa – there, who said studying English Lit would never come in useful! These would be considered the classics of the genre, but those who like their fiction to have been published in the last 100 years or so will be pleased to know that it’s a form of writing that’s alive and kicking. Since the 90s, and not in date order, just what I’ve read and enjoyed, Bridget Jones Diary, Ella Minnow Pea, Who Moved My BlackberryThe Historian, Super Sad True Love Story, and We Need to Talk About Kevin. 

But back to my ‘to read’ list. Next up is The Guernsey Literary Peel and Potato Society. Yes, I know it came out forever ago, but I was saving it because everyone said how good it was and then I got distracted with lots of other lovely books. Now there’s a sense of urgency though because the film adaptation has just started shooting in Bristol. It will star Lily James from Downtown and is due out next year, so technically lots of time as the book is fairly thin, but while it’s front of mind, I’ll dig out the copy I bought.

Can’t wait to strike through this one on my list. Such a satisfying feeling especially as it’s been on there a while.

Happy #WriteALetterDay.


Signatures and school-girl crushes

If you’ve got a crush on someone it’s important to know if it’s worth pursuing. My 14-year-old self’s approach to this revolved around three key indicators:

The FLAMES test

This test was mandatory to understanding the longevity of any future relationship you might have with your crush. ‘F’ stood for friends, ‘L’ for lovers, ‘A’ for always, ‘M’ for Marriage, E for enemies, and S for, well, I’ll leave you to work that one out. It was essential that FLAMES was written out in capital letters. I didn’t know why then, I don’t know why now. The FLAMES method varied from school to school, but at mine it went like this:

  1. Write out your name, the word FLAMES, and the name of your crush
  2. Add up the number of letters that both of your names have in common
  3. Count each letter of the word FLAMES up to the total you reached in step 2, striking out the one you land on until there is only one letter left
  4. Reevaluate your crush based on this highly scientific insight into whether your love will last.

The loves test

We considered this test much more valid as it was number-based and therefore less open to interpretation:

  1. Write out your name, the word ‘loves’ (case optional), and the name of your crush
  2. Add up the number of times the letters of the word ‘loves’ appear in your name and the name of your crush
  3. Add the letters in pairs writing the total on a separate line until only two numbers remain
  4. This number is your percentage chance of have a successful relationship.

Anything over 80% meant that you were destined for eternal happiness. If the number was below 50% you could invert it to give the ‘true’ reading. Or not, depending on how much you wanted it to work out.

Finally the biggie…

The signature test

Practising potential signatures of my married name filled many of my notebooks when I was at school. Well if it was good enough for my heroine Catherine Earnshaw…


Even if the other tests had good outcomes, a poor signature could ruin everything. It had to have a good flow, longer surnames were better for this purpose of course. And done in fountain pen for the requisite flourish obviously!

I hear that school kids are using Tinder now. Ewww. I think the days of the FLAMES and loves tests were a much simpler time, though that could be the nostalgia talking. Either way, I bet there’s still a fair bit of signature practice going on. Heck, I’ve even had a go myself with my current crushes in celebration of #SignatureSaturday


A random thought. Maybe Cathy knew about the loves test and that’s why she chose Edgar rather than the whole ‘Heathcliff would degrade me’ business.  The numbers never lie!

Happy #SignatureSaturday



Notebook pilgrim?

One of my dreams is to download a copy of the amazing map Tessa at All Things Stationery created and travel the world visiting all the stationery shops it mentions. I’d buy a notebook at each one of course, and log all my travels in an adventure journal. The new Kikki K one would do nicely. 

I was talking about this idea at work, perhaps unadvisedly as I’d need to take off at least two years to get everywhere, and wasn’t sure how to describe it. Holiday didn’t feel right somehow, likewise trip didn’t quite convey the epic-ness of it all. Enter The Simple Things.  Apparently this sort of undertaking could be called a modern pilgrimage. Who knew.

Magazine fangirl

Now, The Simple Things is my favourite magazine. I buy it every month on the first day it comes out and on those occasions when I get to read it cover to cover with a cup of tea, I genuinely feel like I’m winning. But back to the April issue and Clare Gogerty’s article ‘The New Seekers’.


What I’ve taken away from it, is that a simple walk or journey can be classed as a modern pilgrimage if your destination means something to you and/or you are engaged in some sort of search. If I undertook my journey I’d be searching for notebooks, and no doubt getting lost in various backstreets, but though it might sound trivial, I still think it qualifies because of what notebooks and stationers represent to me.

Stationers are a place of calm for me. I can lose hours browsing in Paperchase. And this is not hyperbole. I spent a whole morning in the Tottenham Court Road one once – but admittedly I got coffee as well as stationery! I like the thought that when I come out laden with new notebooks, I’ll be in some way different. More organised because I bought a new planner. Or more creative because I bought a notebook to capture my latest idea for a novel.

Every notebook an adventure

I see every notebook as an adventure in and of itself. A chance to connect and commit to thoughts, feelings, ideas and impressions. This is especially true of journals designed for the purpose, but also applies to notebooks used for creative writing, or budgeting, supermarket shopping lists even, if you look back in years to come.  Try and dig an old one out and you’ll see what I mean. Food fads, crazy diets – they’re like tattoos in that they capture the you of that specific moment in time. Though a lot less drastic obviously.

The act of writing in a notebook is special too. I took a calligraphy class last year and found forming letters with nib and ink as mindful as ten minutes on Headspace. Thanks to Lucy at Quill London for teaching me. But even scribbling something in biro can be profound.


Maybe what I’d be searching for if I took that holiday trip modern pilgrimage is what would fill the notebooks, as much as the notebooks themselves. The people I’d meet, lots of fellow stationery addicts obviously, the things I’d see, the cultures I’d experience.

In the meantime, National Stationery Week has put together some ideas for a Stationery Crawl through London’s West End. Much closer and therefore achievable if not quite pilgrimage worthy.

By the way, the May issue of The Simple Things is themed Flourish – they always have a named theme. Back issues still available I think. Hurrah!

Once more with pen

When I was in primary school I insisted on writing in my notebooks in pencil in case I made a mistake. I didn’t want to spoil the pages with crossings out. And these notebooks were by no means exclamation-worthy stationery. This meant that sometimes I had to write out everything twice – the first time in pencil and then the second time, I’d trace over the pencilled words in ink. 

Lead and liberty

When I use pencil now it makes me feel nostalgic. The distinctive whispery scrape of lead on paper is as evocative of my school days as the smell of brand-new rubber plimsolls or the taste of pink custard. And knowing I can erase if I want to gives me the courage to be more creative. There’s a sense of freedom I just don’t get when I write with a pen.

Today I have some notebooks that are so fancy that even using pencil seems dicey. The thought of a misspelled word or an incorrectly placed heading is paralysing and so the pages remain pristine. 

I’ve got tens of notebooks that I haven’t written in yet for precisely this reason. Even a Wreck this Journal, whose sole raison d’etre is to be defiled and defaced with random scribble.


To get my National Stationery Week celebrations off a good start, I decided to christen one of my unused notebooks. And in honour of #PenAndPencilDay, I wrote out one of my favourite poems just as I would have done back in school – in pencil first with pen over the top. It took a lot of the pressure off.

The notebook I chose was a leaving gift from former workmates. It’s A5ish, and a gorgeous rich burgundy colour. The lined pages are gilt-edged. And the smell of the leather cover makes me think of old books. It’s even got a ribbon marker. 


I admit to feeling a pang when I wrote the first lines, but ultimately it’s satisfying to know that this particular notebook has finally begun to fulfil its destiny. Best of all, I feel fully justified in buying a replacement. The role of spare leather-bound notebook in my notebook collection is once again vacant.

Happy #PenAndPencilDay.