hg: The Notebook Saga

What is life but a series of pointless sagas? There was The Great Boot Saga of 2012 when I tried to emulate Ryan Gosling by wearing the same brand of boots, but I could never find a pair that fit comfortably and was forced to give up. Next came The Smartphone Saga, which saw me drop an iPhone in the toilet, agonise over a replacement, and then decide to ditch smartphones altogether.

It’s chilling to think of the time I wasted on such trivial decisions. Should I buy this? Should I sell that? Will I look like Ryan in these? And what’s worse, a whole new dilemma recently emerged in my life. One that’s possibly even more inane than the last. Allow me to introduce The Notebook Saga.

Aaah, notebooks. Such wonderful things. The promise of those blank pages, like virgin snow, ready to absorb the whims of my ink and slowly curate my innermost thoughts. But we must also remember that they are just things. And like any other product they must be bought with money and stored on a shelf.

Herein lies the central contradiction of The Notebook Saga. I have many uses for notebooks and find them endlessly attractive, especially when neatly archived on a bookshelf, but I’m also an enthusiastic minimalist. I don’t like clutter and want to own as few things as possible. It’s a classic case of utility versus simplicity.

How many uses can one man have of notebooks? I hear you asking. Well, quite a few as it turns out. There are the basics, like journalling, drafting blog posts, noting down random thoughts during the day. And if one is averse to digital counterparts, a paper calendar is required, as are to do lists, reading lists, shopping lists. All of the lists. I like to keep a record of new habits and often note down striking quotes. It really does add up. So the question becomes: How does one fit all these nuggets of information onto paper in a pleasing manner, without having twenty-seven notebooks on the go? Not easily, I can tell you.

I’ve tried the so-called Bullet Journal system, which involves cramming everything into one notebook and indexing it meticulously. This proved to be a pain in the arse and made me more anxious than usual, so I tried having lots of small notebooks instead and dividing up my paperly tasks between them. As stated, no-one wants to supervise that many notebooks.

It really has been a nightmare. Just ask Naomi. She’s sat through enough of my tedious monologues on the subject. Patience of a saint. Or perhaps just an uncanny ability to control her facial expressions and say, “Ooo yeah, I can see why that’s a dilemma for you,” at just the right moment. “Yes it is,” I agree, nodding gravely, before ploughing ahead with my speech.

It will therefore come as a great relief to everyone, but most of all Naomi, to learn that this particular nightmare has come to an end. The Notebook Saga is officially over. I have finally boiled everything down into three perfect notebooks. Behold!

Notebooks

Imagine, if you will, that you’re sat in a plush restaurant. Hushed conversation and clinking glasses mingle with the melodies of a jazz pianist. A dashing waiter in waistcoat and tie is describing the cheeseboard to you in a soft French accent:

On the right, madam, we have the pocket notebook. A Moleskine, of course, with perforated pages and telescopic pen clipped to the front cover. Always at hand and perfect for noting down little ideas and useful lists and for keeping a calendar at the back. It has a certain je ne sais quoi, don’t you think? In the middle, madam, we have… madam, please pay attention! Ahem. In the middle we have the journal. Another Moleskine, hard cover, ruled pages, A6 size. Perfect for reflecting on the day over a glass of vin rouge and keeping a list of the books one has read. And finally, madam, on the left we have a shitty, cheap notebook from Paperchase. Pish! It’s A5 size and has a soft cover, ruled pages, and a heinous teal colouring. Nevertheless, it is used explicitly for penning the next Booker Prize winner and blog posts about garlic mayonnaise.

“What’s that on the right?” you ask.

That, madam, is a tomato. For the purpose of scale.

“Right…”

Well, there you have it. My notebook collection. It’s been quite a journey getting to this point. Many notebooks have been purchased and regrettably left half-finished and I even spent a weekend copying pages from one notebook into another when the system was changed last year. Totally worth it, I’m sure you’ll agree.

All that remains now, dear readers, is to concoct a new saga that can occupy my mind in the coming weeks. Any ideas? Come to think of it, I saw an intriguing display of cordless vacuum cleaners the other day and was reminded of my desire to upgrade. Perhaps the time has come to investigate.