Virginia Barton

22 September 2013: My notebook habit


22 September 2013

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People have the weirdest habits. Here’s just one of mine.

There is a type of shop I can’t pass by without popping in to take a look, which almost always means buying something. Maybe just a box of paper-clips or sticky labels? You’ve guessed it, the irresistible stationer’s. Sheer magic. All those neat stacks of many-hue’d paper in assorted sizes with matching envelopes. Tubes of pencils, biros, felt pens by the dozens – and rubbers! (those are erasers, to my American friends)


But there’s something else I’m after. Notebooks. I don’t want ‘Kitty’ or even my beloved ‘Snoopy’; plain ones are best, spiral bound. A good stationer will have plenty of choice and I often buy half a dozen at a time. And no, I don’t always fill them completely, but no spare paper is wasted I assure you; little heaps of it sit by the telephone for messages, along with the pencil stubs, and BH has a pile by his chair for his own hieroglyphs…


A recent rough survey of my notebooks revealed a large A4 entitled “Ginny Barton, Beloved Snail”. It looks pretentious – it is. Inside is a long quote from St Paul to the Ephesians marked: “For my book, when I get round to writing it.” The rest, predictably, is empty; obviously I am still waiting to get round.

To hide its shame, on top of it rests a serious black A3 spiral bound, 140 pages. It has much spidery writing with notes for CP’s, refs., book titles, the odd bit of a poem viz. What is the end of fame… (Byron) and the definition of simony. Then I see I have two, sized A6, one blue for bank balances, and one purple for all the passwords necessary for my pc. Both these are allegedly under lock and key, ha ha.


On my desk itself we find a journo jotter for, well, jottings. This fills quickly and is replaced frequently. Beside it a smaller version for travel purposes – in the handbag or coat pocket.

The bottom kitchen drawer holds notebooks just for lists; shopping of course, a cheapo tear off one. Then one for garden notes (“scattered aquilegia seed near the hellebore, do not rake or dig”), and an old Dinner Party book which hasn’t been used for ages. I keep it to remind me of our palmy days when not only Dinner but Lunches and Breakfasts too, were very often festive occasions – oh halcyon days! It was a hectic decade!

In the sitting-room is the Journey Notebook, started too late in life to be of huge interest, but one or two epics are recorded. Then there is a beautiful notebook, so grand it is never sullied with mere biro – it merits a fountain pen. But sometimes I stroke it, misty-eyed. I doubt I’ll ever write in it, or in the pretentious A4 come to that. Little ones are less intimidating aren’t they?

And did I mention I’ve been keeping a diary for years?


Words words words, far too many. Does one really have that much to say? I blame Charles Dickens actually, and Swift. They both advise the writing down of stuff – hence this Commonplace.

(Does anybody else share my notebook habit, please?)





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