Listened to the FutureProofing podcast broadcast on BBC Radio 4 earlier, and currently available for download here. It prompted some interesting thoughts about forms of memory, and the joys of tangibility that come with real notebooks (the filling and burning of which has been discussed in various Mortal Bath posts).

In a related moment of getting distracted by reading stuff online, I found myself wading through an article in The Atlantic about Freewrite, the pricey new toy for writers who want to disconnect from it all, a bit, to let them “just write”. I have managed to forget most of the article already, proving many points from the FutureProofing podcast.



*Disconnects brain*

Just broke up for half term, so enjoying a bit of mind freedom from the planning/teaching/marking cycle.
This is mostly manifesting as catching up on reading, playing some records, and digging through my current notebook stash (the unburned ones) to see what’s worth polishing up or off.
Tonight’s digging soundtrack: A Duck in a Tree podcast.
Dig it…

Looking for something to write about for today’s post, I thought I’d mix the noting and music themes…

In keeping with the new year resolutions to organise and document more effectively, I started keeping a new notebook to record ideas from the jam sessions mentioned earlier this year (that spawned the consumer splurge resulting in new pedals, etc).

It’s an old new notebook, and those of you that Keep Notebooks will ken fine what I mean by that, I am sure.

The glories of the notebook. Many of my dearests keep a notebook of some sort, from Oma Jojo and her pocket book of quotations, to Julia over at Ten Minutes Hate blog with her hacked notebooks, and these foxy items of note, to my mate Dave who uses Tumblr for electronic notebook purposes. I enjoy both electronic and actual noting, but this is the first time in a long time that I have not been carrying a paper book round with me every day. Not sure how it came about, really. It tends to be something I do when I have the luxury of time, such as when travelling, or on a late night when I’m in denial about having to be up early.

Anyway, writing up this week’s rock notes in THAT notebook, pressed into action, I started thinking about The Notebook itself, and that reminded me of an piece on notebooks I wanted to link to previously. So here’s this BBC article on writers’ notebooks (as distinct, presumably, from those of artists, engineers, teachers, cooks or any of the other people who regularly jot down ideas, inspirations, itineraries).

Lawrence Norfolk notes:

A writer’s notebook is a junkyard; a junkyard of the mind. In this repository of failed attempts, different inks speak of widely-spaced times and places, the diverse scrawls of varying levels of calligraphic awkwardness, lack of firm writing-surfaces, different modes of transportation.

All the places a good idea might blossom into something bigger and better.

Nice that, eh? Those images rang several moleskine-bound bells for me, as I’m sure they might for others. Speaking of good ideas blossoming, I was quite taken by his German station names game:

Turning to the back, I write the word Letter.

I am travelling on a German train between Hannover and Osnabruck. Letter is the name of the station through which I have just passed.

The next is Haste. I write that too. What, I wonder, if the name of every station on the line turns out to be cognate with English words? What if the stations form a sentence? A paragraph?

Unfortunately, the next station is Gummer.

What larks! In the digital dumping ground notebook where I originally recorded this extract, I jotted down possible disavowals of such insalubrious associations for ‘Gummer’ [you have to imagine Humphrey Lyttelton’s voice reading this bit]:

“Why, surely it’s just about hurriedly sealing envelopes! I myself am a most rapid licker of flaps.”

Finally, the post was ready.

Today, setting a fire, dead wood things from the garage, I was taken with a very strong urge to burn all my notebooks. The shoeboxesful in the cupboard. The A6s, the 9x7s, the Moleskines, the fauxlskines, the ring-bound reporter’s pads. All of them.

“It’s either that or carry this shite around for the rest of our lives. Anyway,” (I imagined the scene vividly, talking to J in my head, throwing another handful into the garden incinerator,) “there was nothing of note before now.” (I saw her eyes roll, and her swift comeback. Well, a nice idea, I thought, and started writing it down…)

…she arrived mid-note. The family slept inside. I relayed the scenario. A micro-beat.

‘So… have you burned them?’

I had not. But, the actual factual act of doing so was sealed. It was a done deal, the spark in my head, the slightest of prods all that was needed to stoke the blaze. I scampered upstairs, and down again, clutching a fairly heavy wine box… more volumes than I thought.

20 years of notebooks consigned to the memory hole with glee. Tedious lists of train names… lost in-jokes, forgotten transcendence, unrecoverable glories, confusion, bitterness and drunken scribbles, all gone to a series of blazes. A bright-eyed lightening of the load, a fiery shedding of the shite, a bonfire of the bollocks. Arson is addictive, I alliterated happily to myself, toasting the flames with Grolsch and Glenlivet.

The smell, the temperature, every good feeling I remember from festivals, from camping trips, from other times I’ve enjoyed a ritual purge. All marked with sincere libations to the heavenly hosts, to all our patrons and matrons.

Lighter, reader. Lighter.

Today I was surprised with a marvellous surprise present. A “Music Journal”, made by the ever-desirable book object people, Moleskine, from the ever-desirable affection object person, J.

Music Journal

The marvellous artefact has pockets and stickers and tabs – oh my! – and space to write music, do playlists, “music maps” for non-listy moments and, oh, all sorts. New notebook excitement! I actually did a little dance when presented with it.

Of course, I am not in the slightest bit getting paid by Moleskine for this gush, although if they want to send any freebies my way I will happily witter all day about their erotically fine acid-free paper products. However, I was quite tickled by the supporting bumph on their website, so here – gratis, Sr. Moleskine, note ye well – is a Moleskine ad jingle:

Yeah, but can it cook? I mean, just to sound a note of realism – HA! SOUND A NOTE – and grateful excitement at the ace pressie aside for a sec, I remain unconvinced by the bland marketoid assertions about ‘contemporary nomads’ in the packaging, particularly with how connected to a digital lifestyle these delovely pre-hacked notebooks are. Compatible, yes… yet there are no USB ports, you can’t actually play a CD in it… and this is all kind of the point. I’ve said it before, I dig the internets, but increasingly as part of one’s complete experience of whatever we’re calling reality at whatever we’re calling this time. It’s nice to not be joined up/switched on so much.

Why, I feel a lashing-rain-forecast, weekend-fast-approaching, brand-new-book-to-baptise playlist coming on. I shall compose one and get back to you directly.