Finding myself in Lothian Road in Edinburgh the other day I did what I always do when I'm there.
I popped into Paper Tiger. I had an excuse. An upcoming birthday requiring a card. But most of the time I was in there my eyes kept drifting off towards the notebooks.
I have, I should say up front, a bit of a thing about notebooks. Lined, gridded, hardbacked, softcovered, any kind really. I'm drawn to them all. Paper Tiger is relatively safe for an addict like me. Most of its stock tends towards the quirky, or even fey. So I can keep my desire under control. As long as I stay away from the Moleskine stand.
What's terrible is I am useless with notebooks. I fill them full of my crabby, ugly writing that often – always; who am I kidding? –descends into illegibility.
Probably just as well because it's not as if my apercus are worth deciphering. My current notebook (plain red) is mostly a collection of addresses, DVD titles I've jotted down from Sight & Sound, and notes about the Damien Hirst exhibition I saw last month. Stuff that amounts to very little in the end. I'm not sure it even amounts to what Joan Didion said most notebooks contain, "bits of the mind's string too short to use".
I suspect that that's why I keep buying new ones. In the hope, delusional I know, that the next one will be the one to bring out the best in me.
That's the appeal of new notebooks. They haven't been spoiled yet.
Maybe the answer is to let someone else take the strain. A few years ago I gave Jackie Kay a notebook as a gift. Since then I've been imagining that the poet has been filling it with beautiful words. She probably uses it for her grocery lists.
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