These have seen the light

The Field Notes Snowblind edition really deserves to be unwrapped and used outdoors. The white cover changes to blue when the book is bathed in the UV light of direct sunlight. I have never seen this effect. Placed on my windowsill behind double glazing and still wrapped in cellophane, even in the British midsummer the photochemistry has no chance of happening.

Update: We had some sunny weather so I removed the cellophane. The white covers that had been sealed inside turned blue immediately. It looks like the top cover had been deactivated (and slightly yellowed) by continual exposure.

These have seen the light

The notebook on the right is a Silvine Memo Book (99p). Its front cover is the same colour as the ladybird on the left, but the back is “sunned” as they say in the book trade, with the faint pink shadow of a 50p coin.

The last element here is the Retro 51 Dr. Gray Tornado Rollerball pen which is luminous. It does write very smoothly and actually leaves the same line as a vintage Sheaffer fountain pen I bought recently. There are still some Dr. Grays available at the PenShed at the time of writing. The skeleton image is beautifully printed with a lacquer finish. Henry Gray wrote the book on human anatomy: ‘Anatomy’, published in 1858. Well, yes, there are other books on the subject.

Meanwhile, back at the maisonette

While I’m working on a couple of blog posts, I thought you might like to see what I have bought recently.

As a purple fan, the limited edition Dark Lilac Lamy Safari is a must-buy for me. The other fountain pen in the photo is a Dex by Kingsley from their new “smooth soft” range. The odd name aside, this looks like it could be a classic design that might join the Lamy Safari and Pilot MR (Metropolitan) as a low-cost (£12.00) recommendable fountain pen. The Dex comes in a range of colours, including acid green (ACEEEEED!).

We can’t get the Lamy Dark Lilac ink in bottles in the UK. Such a shame. I got some Lavender Purple MontBlanc ink from The Pen Shop (60 ml, £10.50) and they have sent me the plastic Platinum Card you see here, promising future discounts.

new stuff

The brown notebook is the Taroko Design Regular Notebook 110mm x 210mm – dot grid paper. I got two notebooks from Bureau Direct for a total of £11.90 incl. p&p. Yes, Tomoe River paper in the UK! These notebooks can be used as they come but are intended as inserts for leather folders: the Midori Travelers Notebook. There is also a smaller passport size.

The Taroko notebooks can also be obtained from the Taroko Shop on Etsy, who also stock Coleto refills and Pan-Am stickers…

These items rest upon the new Hawkwind single, remastered and cut at Abbey Road. The first 7 inch vinyl record I’ve bought for a few years! (The B-side ‘Tunnels of Darkness’ is not on their fine new album ‘The Machine Stops‘.)

The book is a collection of writings by Ballard, Sladek, Angela Carter, Beryl Bainbridge etc. from a magazine edited by Emma Tennant. Another fine purchase from Fantastic Literature whose ‘Latest Booklist’ is always worth a look.

Now I have to walk Max again! Max at Oak Hill Park, East Barnet


Rough Books

Top of the pile: W H Smith & Son Big Value Jotter. Price: 10p in 1973.

I used “rough books” in my schooldays. The idea was that children would take notes in their rough work book during a class and then transfer this new knowledge in a more polished form to their subject exercise books later. Of course the rough book would also get filled with doodles, various stains and games like hangman —especially during double physics.IMG_5351Any exercise book or notebook will do the job, but you can still buy Rough Work Exercise Books with 60 gsm paper in the UK for a quid each from The Paper Warehouse. In India there is a huge range with attractive covers at IndiaMart. I stopped using the low-quality exercise books that the school provided and took to spiral-bound reporters’ notebooks from W. H. Smith.

IMG_5356I did a lot more than class work with my rough books. Diaries were tiny in the 1970s and could record little of your life unless you could write as small as Charlotte Bronte. Since I was already putting dates on the school stuff it made sense to write about my complex social life, intricate relationships and teenage depressions in the rough book too. Anything really, including logging music chart shows on the BBC, Radio North Sea International and Luxembourg radio stations. And doodles. Lots and lots of doodles: mostly abstract landscapes, weird lettering and spaceships. I would also record quotes and ideas, although later I would keep these together in a proper commonplace book just so that I could find them again.

IMG_5360Once, before a holiday with school chums in Paris, I painted illustrations in the book in advance of going. They will never let me forget that when I wrote it up later, I mixed-up the events of the last two evenings, probably because some lower-6th form girls got me to drink at least two bottles of red wine on the last night.

IMG_5354I hope you get the idea: it’s for a long-form diary or journal, thoughts, early versions, anything on your mind that you want to get down and stop thinking about, or anything you want to record before you forget it, from shopping lists to ideas for blog posts, articles or recipes. You can be as discursive/tangential as you like and often new ideas come this way. Capsule reviews of film or TV — you’ll thank yourself twenty years later! Doodles, sketches. The neighbours’ doings. Stuff that won’t get captured by these new-fangled devices we carry these days, or any thoughts you don’t want to be read by the NSA or GCHQ. If you do keep a diary, then a rough first version at the time can allow you to write a concise account later and be certain whether you shampooed the dog on Tuesday or Wednesday.

IMG_5357As I said in my last blog post, I’m writing this in response to Myke Hurley on the Pen Addict podcast no. 190 who felt like a fraud for not using his accumulation of notebooks and being a collector more than a user. I hope I’ve given you all some ideas you can adopt and adapt. A rough book gives the freedom to write anything until you doze off or an external force intervenes. You can write at any length. Is all this freedom scary? No, it’s only a rough book!


Tiny notebook, October 1973
Tiny WHS notebook. Listening to the radio, discovering music, in October 1973

Stationery for Beginners

I’ve noticed a few introductory articles recently: here are some that helped me.


Top 7 Beginner Fountain Pens under $25 NB the Pilot Metropolitan is called the MR in the UK.

Recommended Products & Retailers in the UK. Top 5 lists of pens, paper, pencils and inks.

Guide to Nibs and Nib Holders Dip pens, not new-fangled fountain pens.

Resource: The Pen Chalet Infographics Pens and ink – the basics


Different Types of Paper – Information on paper and inspirational art.

Paper Notebooks Explained


Leigh Reyes. My life as a verb.

Gourmet Pens – Colourful penmanship, particularly the Ink Shots.

80 calligraphers and hand lettering artists to follow on Instagram

Lettering and Illustration by Matthew Morse, who deserves to be in the Instagram list above.

I hope you liked those links! A great resource to find and search fountain pen blogs is Pennaquod. (Two of the links on this page are via On Fountain Pens, the rest are from my Feedly. The Well-Appointed Desk blog found three of the same links this week!)


The Fountain Pen Tool Kit – other bits and bobs you might need.

Ogami notebook with stone RePap paper substitute

It’s a bit like writing on a balloon. The Quotes “Writer” notebooks are made from a synthetic paper derived from limestone called RePap. The paper colour is ivory, not white, and it feels smooth like plastic. What is it good for? Absolutely — little, speaking as a fountain pen user.
Ogami Quote notebooks
You can pretty much forget about using a fountain pen on this paper. Yes, you can see below that I had some success with the turquoise V-Pen, but this is an old model and the ink flow is restricted. It was not pleasant as the nib kept catching on the surface and I expected breaks in the lettering. The ink did not smear, unless I let it pool or used a lot of pressure.
Ogami limestone paper 01
With a normal fountain pen, such as my Senator 47, which has a good wet flow: disaster! The saving grace is that the ink does not bleed through to the other side of the paper. As for flex: the tines just sink into the surface instead of spreading.

Fibre tips, pigment liners, needlepoints and gel pens were more successful, although they could also catch on the rubbery surface. Biros/ballpoints (looks down nose) such as the Schneider Slider also work.

The Lamy 1.1 and the Zebra Z7 worked reasonably well, but the ink took hours to dry. The orange J. Herbin ink eventually soaked in, bleeding and feathering. Ogami limestone paper 02

The Pilot G-TEC or Pentel Energel type of pen would be my favourite implement for this stony substrate: something with quick-drying ink and a smooth metal tip that will not catch on or otherwise break through the paper.

The cover is a reasonably stiff—although thin—board and the binding is stitched beautifully. I ordered mine from, two for £8.00 + £2.90 p&p.