Midori Traveler’s Notebook Film Pocket Sticker

I picked up a pack of these while buying another lightweight paper refill at JP Books1. I increasingly stick Instax pictures into my journal, so the idea of something that makes this simpler than carrying around tape interested me.


The pack contains six sheets of three pockets each, with each one being able to hold a credit card sized object—for instance an Instax picture, but also tickets, receipts, any random rubbish really. The pockets are plastic film with glue around the edges and a slit at the top through which you can insert your emphemera. They seem sturdy enough despite being thin.

Two advantages of this over double sided tape or glue are that (a) it protects the item, and (b) said item is also removable should you ever want to take it out or replace it.

A full sheet of these doesn’t quite fit into the TN plastic pocket insert where I keep far too much junk already. However if you cut the sheet into three you can put the individual pockets in without trouble.

I like the direction that Midori are going with accessories like this—they help make the TN into a general purpose physical memory capture device with the benefits of scrapbook and journal, which is precisely what I like about mine. It’s the same mentality as the Instax and I’d be very surprised if they hadn’t thought of it when releasing it.

  1. I recommend this shop just off Piccadilly Circus if you’re in London and want to buy Traveler’s Notebook accessories. Not only do they have pretty much everything, they have very good prices. 

Pencil tentative conclusions

So I have been using a number of the pencils that I have posted about over the past few months, mostly in three contexts:

  1. writing in my work journal (these are actual notebooks I physically write in the office, which really disturbs some people);
  2. writing in my personal journal (currently a Midori Traveler’s Notebook with the ultra-thin paper);
  3. writing in pocket notebooks/pads.

Thoughts along the way:

  • Keeping a wooden pencil in your pocket is just asking for the point to break off. I don’t do this any more. A clicky ballpoint is what you want here.
  • Even keeping a wooden pencil in a bag results in the point breaking off every now and then. You should always carry a sharpener. I use a Kum Long Point sharpener—you can get these from lots of shops and they’re cheap. In the UK, cultpens stocks them; outside the UK, I don’t know, just google. They are good because the length of the resulting point means it goes blunter slower, which makes a lot of difference with soft leads like those on the Blackwing. The sharpener also keeps the shavings inside it so you don’t have to be near a bin.
  • I have found using even cheap pencils more comfortable than using even expensive mechanical pencils. They may be straight lengths of wood with lead in the middle but they feel much better in the hand and I write much more happily. I suspect it’s a combination of the weight, both overall lightness and balance, and the lead quality.
  • On the subject of expensive mechanical pencils—don’t buy them. They don’t write any better and they go wrong. Cheap mechanical pencils go wrong less. The best balance between expense and use I’ve found is the Uni Kuru-Toga, which is noticeably nicer to use than other mechanicals that need rotating a lot, but is still relatively inexpensive. On the other hand I bought an aluminium Super Promecha which stopped working after a couple of weeks.

But anyway, the pencils that I have ended up using the most:

  • Top pencil: the Field Notes No.2. These look simple but are excellent. The lead has a great balance between darkness and hardness; they smell lovely when you sharpen them; they are round, which does mean they roll off tables but also makes them easier to rotate to get precisely the lead angle you like; they have a proper rubber on the end. I write much more when I am using these pencils.
  • Equal top pencil but maybe slightly lower: the Blackwing 602. I bought a box of these because there was a coupon somewhere. I enjoy writing with Blackwings but they are so soft, I mean, aggravatingly soft. The 602 is the hardest one they make and a page of journalling will rub a freshly-sharpened point down to one that is noticeably broad. I end up sharpening them a lot, so I have lots of short Blackwings. The line they make is dark and deep and satisfying, and I love them just after I have sharpened them and wonder why I bother writing with anything else, and then a page later I remember.
  • Pencil that works perfectly well: anything by Staedtler apart from the WOPEX ones. If you haven’t heard of these, WOPEX pencils are made from compressed artificial wood and are horrible. Sharpening them just feels wrong, scraping-fingernails-on-blackboard wrong, and their leads are both too hard and not dark enough. But apart from the WOPEX, the rest are great. I prefer the Tradition because of the nice red and black colours; I’ve never noticed a difference when writing between those and the “premium” Mars line.

The Mitsubishi Hi-Uni and the Tombow Mono 100 that I mentioned in my last pencil post? They’re nice, but on consideration I don’t see enough benefit compared to the others to justify the price.

Interim pencil update

I have ordered a load of new pencils.

  • Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB
  • Faber-Castell 9000 HB & B
  • Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB & B
  • Caran d’Ache Technograph HB (these are surprisingly pricey)

and a few literally old-school pencils for comparison – these were the pencils I used at school:

  • Staedtler Noris Pencil HB
  • Staedtler Tradition Pencil HB

I will post about them when I receive them.

My general observation so far is that “standard” pencils leave a lighter line than “posh” ones at the same hardness, but still erode at the same rate. I tried some Staedtler WOPEX HB pencils which were inexpensive but pretty much unusable as HB, unless you just wanted to leave a faint ghost impression on the page, or you pressed really absurdly hard on the paper. They’re not available as anything apart from HB, either. I don’t recommend WOPEX pencils. They don’t smell nice either, not being made of wood.

Out of the posh pencils that I have, the Tombow Mono 100 is proving to be the best so far. I have given up on the standard Blackwing – while I do appreciate being able to just drift a writing implement over paper to produce a line, it quite literally goes blunt before I have finished writing a word. The Blackwing 602 with the silver barrel is slightly harder, but it still seems to need more sharpening than the Mono 100, whilst producing a very similar sort of line in darkness/pressure terms.

The Mono 100 is pretty expensive here though, being a Japanese import, so I would be interested in finding a more local equivalent – that’s why I ordered a few of the Staedtler Mars and the Faber-Castell 9000, which are half the price. I’m interested to see whether there’s any practical difference between those and the consumer-grade Staedtlers, though, at HB, which is the grade that school pencils are designed for.

Random additions: I ordered a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni because I saw it on the Cult Pens website while I was looking at pencils. The same goes for the Caran D’Ache Technograph. I have no idea why the latter are so pricey – they’re £2.60 each including VAT.

Pencils and the Atlantic

I’ve started on pencils.


There is a specific reason why I started buying, and using pencils. Actually there are a few but the primary one is that I find it very difficult to tell the difference between pencils. With fountain pens, tiny details of the ink and the flow and the writing angle and the grip obsess and distract me while I am trying to write. I even have this problem with ballpoints, which were my next attempt to find something I couldn’t spend all my time messing about with – people find it hard to believe, but there is a lot of difference between a bog standard Bic and, say, a Schneider Slider (my favourite biro – I have a big box of them).

The English don’t romanticise pencils in my experience. For some reason, U.S. commentators seem to be more likely to – not only are there many pencil blogs, but compare the comments on pencils on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. I picked the top result searching for “pencil”. There are 11 comments on .uk, mostly vaguely positive one-liners like:

Good quality at a good price, couldn’t resist; decent bulk buy for the school, the kids prefer the rubber tipped ones.

These traditional looking pencils work well, they draw nicely and the rubber is useful and hasn’t fallen off. They sharpen well and are useful. They feel OK in the hand.

whereas on .com there are 147 comments, highly opinionated and often running into multiple paragraphs. Just some of the shorter ones:

These pencils are absolute garbage. You can’t even sharpen then without the wood splitting down the middle. If you are lucky enough to get past that, the lead is very weak and breaks off everytime you try and write with it. This is the WORST PENCIL EVER!

This is the absolutely the greatest pencil you can purchase. It writes smoothly and works like a charm. It is easy to sharpen and erase. This pencil is magical.

Sharpen…start to write…break. Sharpen…writes for 1 minute…break. ETC. ETC. ETC. The WHOLE BOX. These pencils are AWFUL. The teachers in the school recommended these…maybe they used to be good…but not anymore.
Unless there is a public statement from Ticonderoga that they made a mistake and have rectified the problem…stay far away.
I never knew I could get so FRUSTRATED by a simple pencil. Guess I have to write in INK from now on.

though this chap probably qualifies for a UK passport:

So yeah. These are pencils. When it comes to pencils, there are really only two things that come to mind: is the eraser good and does it sharpen easily. Fortunately, these pencils are pretty good. The eraser won’t smear your writing and make it illegible, and the pencil is pretty easy to sharpen. So yeah. Pretty decent box of pencils, I’ll probably buy another sometime.

Pencils just aren’t a thing here. The Staedtler ones I linked to are really standard-issue at schools, either those or the black and red “Tradition” ones, but one really isn’t expected to care in the slightest about pencils after early primary school, unless one is an artist or architect or something (and I am not, so can’t speak for gear obsession there). Basically pencils are what children get until they can be trusted with ink. If anything can stop me getting too obsessed with a stationery item for itself, it is this.

I might as well just quickly run down what I thought of these pencils.

  • Tombow Mono 100 – good quality, light in the hand, for an HB delivers a nice dark line whilst still being hard enough not to need sharpening every word. It looks very ordinary but I can sort of see why people like these.

  • Palomino Blackwing (black) – lovely smooth lead, needs very little pressure, needs sharpening every word, or in fact halfway through long words. If you don’t mind rotating the pencil constantly, or you don’t mind thick lines a lot of the time, this a great pencil. I’m getting annoyed with it though.

  • Palomino Blackwing 602 – noticeably harder lead than the standard Blackwing, which was why I bought one after reading American pencil blogs. Actually it still needs sharpening quite a bit but not nearly as much as the Blackwing does. One can actually write a whole sentence.

  • Field Notes pencil – for some reason I have a pack of these. I don’t know why. I must have got them as a free gift at some point because there is no way I would have bought them. This is my favourite pencil here though because (a) it smells really nice – proper cedar scent (b) it looks really nice – plain wood with simple black printing on it, straight silver ferrule, green eraser, no messing about – and (c) it also writes well – smooth point, dark line but not too soft.

  • Kimberley 525 – this really quite soft, which is more my fault for buying a 2B. It feels, you know, kind of like a pencil, but the lead is a bit soft for writing. I can’t blame the pencil for this – it’s not like the Blackwing, which says “hey I am a writing pencil look at all my faux-historical references”. I should really get an HB one if I’m going to properly compare and contrast.

Reading back, I’m doomed, aren’t I?

Safari colour for 2012 – apple green

I’m calling it “apple green” because, officially, it just seems to be called “green”, which is boring. Actually, no real apple looks like that. It is more like an apple sweet. So, Haribo Apple Green Safari.

The new one is, funnily enough, the green one – I include the others for comparison. The blue there is last year’s Aquamarine, which I rather liked. I’m not entirely sure about this. For the moment it doesn’t seem a very distinctive sort of green. Perhaps it will grow on me.

Bought from The Writing Desk with a free convertor included – it came in a nicer box than usual too, not the usual card sleeve but a proper sliding one with a parallelogrammatical cross-section.

Recording photo details with an Olympus VN-510

I have problems with film cameras. For a start, I don’t know when I’ve taken each picture, and I have to guess in order to set the date properly after I scan them, which works sometimes if there is a short gap between taking and scanning and my memory holds up, but often one or other of these isn’t the case.

I also don’t know where I’ve taken them, which isn’t as much of a problem, since you can see things in pictures and work it out that way. But just some random church or gas meter or generic shopping street or bridge, how am I meant to tell? And I often don’t remember.

Finally, I can’t tell what I set the aperture and exposure to, and that is perhaps most important, because without it, it is hard to learn from my mistakes. I am slowly learning how these things work but if, when I am later looking at the scans, I think “this one is a bit overexposed” or “I like how the depth of field worked there”, it makes the learning process so much simpler if I can say “ah yes that was at f55 with a 1/33 exposure”. Also, if I try some sort of trick, I need to remember what trick I’ve tried between trickery and trick results. All this will get much worse when I start using filters, too.

I do try to write details down in my pocket pad (a Rhodia No. 12, incidentally – pen varies) but I end up not doing so because it’s a pain.

  1. Fumble in pocket or bag for pad and pen. Realise that I am looking in the wrong pocket or bag. Look in other pockets and bags until pad and pen are found.
  2. (optional) Swear at pen because cap has come off it. Locate cap. Get ink on hands.
  3. Realise that I will have to put camera down or away somehow, as I will need two hands. Wonder where lens cap is.
  4. Awkwardly scribble a few illegible words and numbers in pad.
  5. Fumble to cap pen and put pad and pen away in pocket or bag – usually in a different and more “logical”/”convenient” place.
  6. Take camera out again and wonder where lens cap has gone.

I like pens and paper but they aren’t great everywhere. I could theoretically take notes directly into the database that I use to store details of each film roll on my iPhone, but the process for that would similar to the above with added “unlock phone” and “wait for app to launch” elements.

Then I saw a post by somebody on the Filmwasters forum where they mentioned using a voice recorder, and thought “that’s an excellent idea, why don’t I try that?” I considered using the voice memo app on my phone, but realised that that would be almost as annoying as typing on it, so I looked for a cheap voice recorder that I could easily talk into and operate easily with one hand.

The above, the Olympus VN-510, is the cheapest one that Argos have in stock, at £30. It takes 2xAAA batteries, and has a recording memory of over 53 hours – I suspect that will be enough. It’s about the size of one of those remote controls you use to advance Powerpoint slides, and very light, and extremely quick and simple to use. It doesn’t have voice activation (the latter despite what Argos claim) or sync with a computer – I considered getting a more expensive one which did do the latter, but realised that I wasn’t going to use this to make audio recordings that I wanted to keep, and if for some reason I ever did I could just plug it into the mic socket on my machine, set it playing and record directly, as I’ve done with Minidiscs in the past. I could get ten rolls of film for the extra price of the syncing ones.

There’s a little slider on the left side to lock and unlock it, and once it’s unlocked, all you do to take a note is press REC, talk into the top, press REC again to pause it, and when you’re done press STOP, and it’s saved as a new file. Importantly, it timestamps the recordings, so no looking at a watch required. (No GPS though. That would be unlikely for £30.) You can then move between the individual files, listen to them – at slow, normal or fast speed – and delete them when you’re done. I’m not sure how many individual files it will store, but given that there are only two digits on the file number indicator, I’d guess 99. As with the 53 hour recording time, I doubt I’ll ever need anywhere close to that.

I haven’t used it extensively, but taking a walk around the area with a camera this evening, I found it very convenient for not only taking notes of where I was and what I was thinking when taking shots, but also for just taking notes of random things that were happening (odd statements made by drunk man at cashpoint, processions of young drunk people in Guinness hats and so on). You can’t easily stop in the street and write this stuff down.

So now I have another “inbox” in the GTD sense, to fill up with crap that I have to transcribe and turn into actions and so on. Great. But it does fill a gap that I had, and hopefully it will accelerate the learning process and pay for itself from less wasted film and better results.

Eyedropper update, and a little about my journalling habits

I posted last year about the Airmail 69L eyedropper – a simple, well made, large capacity pen – and I thought I would write a little follow-up.

Since then my journalling and writing practices have become a bit more regular. There are three pens that I need at any one time to be fully efficient:

  1. A writing pen – this can be almost anything depending on my tastes at the time, as long as it is loaded with some reasonable ink that isn’t red, and I have it with me.

  2. A red editing pen. When I am “processing” my journal I read over previous entries and add tasks based on them, or copy them up. When I do this I write what I have done next to the entry with the date that I did it (e.g. “16/2/2012 tasked”) and, when everything on a page is dealt with, I cross the page number out. I do all this in red. Sometimes I write little comments on the page as well. These are often sarcastic.

  3. A highlighter, optionally, to emphasise things while I am writing them, as immediate editing.

For #3 I use the Pelikan Duo highlighter. That one is a easy choice. There isn’t a lot else that the Duo is actually for.

For #2, I played with a few solutions, but ended up buying another Airmail with a red cap that I fill with Noodler’s Empire Red, slightly diluted. An editing pen needs to have a fine nib, since you may have to fit notes into limited space, and it needs to reliably work regardless of how long it was since you last picked it up, since I edit quite unpredictably. The Airmail works very well for both of these. It doesn’t dry up easily and if it does, it’s very easy to re-prime – just unscrew it a bit, point it downwards, screw it up until a drop of ink appears on the nib, then turn it to point upwards and finish tightening it.

For #1 I use whatever pen I have at hand, but generally I carry a spare in my bag, and that has ended up being the original Airmail most of the time, for similar reasons – it writes reliably whenever I need it, and it’s better to have a spare with a fine nib to cover more possible uses (a pen can be too broad for a purpose, say drawing diagrams, but it’s much rarer that it is too fine).

Increasingly frequently, I think “you know what, I can’t be bothered with another pen, I’m just going to use the Airmail”. I still load it exclusively with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, which I rarely put in anything else. I have a large bottle of HoD which has an eyedropper built into the cap – this makes it ideal for filling eyedropper pens, but awkward to fill other pens from. (The eyedropper arrangement comes out of the bottle covered with ink, so has to be wiped down or put somewhere impermeable if one is going to fill a pen straight from the bottle, and this always means getting ink all over my fingers.) HoD is an excellent black that suits almost all occasions, being fast drying, dense and permanent. The pen itself has proved to have just as good a nib as I thought initially – fine but smooth, really quite amazing for a sub £10 pen – and the shape and balance make it very easy to write with. It’s really only when I have a fancy to use a new ink in a broad nib as part of some pretentious writerly mood that I use something else.

Perhaps this means I am getting boring, but the Airmail has certainly ended up high on my favourite pen list. I gave it a positive review when I first got it, and a year later I’m glad to see I was right. So, buy one. Or more. I may get some in different colours.

Two broad nibs – Platinum #3776 music, Lamy 2000 B

Platinum #3776 with music nib

One of the few types of nib that I don’t – or didn’t – own and might actually want to use is a music nib. I can’t even read music, let alone write it, but to summarise, a music nib is a type of stub designed to have a particularly regular flow and be usable at odd angles to the paper. Given that these are three qualities I that I am very fond of in nibs, I thought that it was worth buying myself one for my birthday, or at least excusable.

There are a few different companies that make music nibs – looking around at reviews I judged that the Platinum #3776 received the best marks for nib quality, which was after all why I was buying it, so I ordered one from Andy’s Pens.

It is a medium-sized cartridge/convertor pen, traditionally decorated – black with gold trim, pleasant-looking but not particularly unusual when capped. The nib, though, is different enough to surprise even a casual onlooker, mostly because it has three tines. Or two slits. Or in fact both. I have no idea whether this actually makes any real difference over one, well-tuned slit (two tines etc) but it’s certainly good when used at all sorts of angles to the page. I tend to hold pens at a very high angle, and often, italic-ish ones will complain about this and refuse to respond properly unless aligned very carefully with the paper – I’ve had none of this sort of insubordination from the Platinum. It’s also extremely smooth, the ink flow is regular and it’s not too wet. I should try it with some of my “dryer” inks, like the iron galls.

It’s certainly a noticeable stub – there is a writing sample at the end of the above photoset. I’d say that it was around 1.25mm on the downstroke, and, oh, 0.4mm on the side? Something like that anyway; I don’t have the tools to measure this exactly. My main problem in using it is that, while I’ve improved my handwriting recently, I haven’t trained myself with italics, and the broader nibs can be hard to write with in the first place if you’re used to finer pens (which I am). This means that everything I write looks clumsy and irregular. Oh well.

Lamy 2000, broad nib

Seeing as I’m writing about one pen with a broad nib, why not another one? I went through a phase of wanting every type of Lamy 2000 around – now I come to think about it, pretty much exactly a year previous to my buying the Platinum, perhaps it’s some sort of reaction to winter that I have – and one of the models I ended up with was the 2000 with a broad nib.

When I first tried this pen I was stunned, and really quite upset, by how vast the line was. It doesn’t look like a particularly huge nib to the eye but it really is – the line is about as broad as the Platinum on the downstroke but almost the same size horizontally, too. I wondered whether it had been given some sort of freak triple-broad nib by mistake, and considered sending it back as I would obviously be unable to use it for anything at all.

I kept using it though, and found that:

  • It is extremely smooth and responsive, and the nib has pleasant flex (this is generally true of Lamy 2000s);
  • The 2000 design is very nice in the hand for long periods of writing, though this is a matter of preference and there are people who disagree with me;
  • The amount of ink that comes out of the broad nib lubricates it against the paper making it even smoother;
  • Lamy 2000s hold a lot of ink, which is useful when they also put down a lot of ink;
  • Colourful, shading ink always looks nicer coming out of a broad nib – you can see the variations and even lighter colours are readable. This is as opposed to fine nibs, where you really have to use dark colours or black, or you’ll just find it hard to read what you wrote later on.

These things combined make it a terrific pen for writing, as long as you’re not limited by space or amount of paper. When I wrote my NaNoWriMo last year I used this pen at least 75% of the time; you don’t get as many words per page but it encourages you to keep going longer.

It is also good for the sort of scribbles and notes where you’re not limited by space and you’re mostly writing to sort out ideas in your own head. Particularly on A4 – I like using this pen with black ink on an A4 Rhodia pad. Not such a great pen for jotting things in a pocket notebook.

I can’t remember where I got it, now, but I think it was from The Writing Desk.

Two very dark Diamine inks – Eclipse and Denim

Two months between posts is really not acceptable. It is not as if I have a shortage of un-remarked-on pieces of stationery. On the other hand it is a huge cliché of infrequent bloggers that they pop up to say how awful they are for not having made an entry, and then don’t make any entries for the next year, so I’d best not do that. Whoops!

…anyway, I got some ink recently. (“What ink did you get?”) I got four inks from Diamine, out of their new range. Diamine is a terrific company, by the way. They don’t make inks with extreme chemical qualities that allow them to stop bullets and raise the dead; they do, however, make nice inks in a huge range of delightful colours that behave well in any pen at reasonable prices, and they release new ones as well rather than sitting around with a traditional range. (They also make Diamine Registrars’ Ink, which is one of the best iron gall inks one can buy.)

Here are two of the inks. The other two were Graphite – a greyish green – and Wild Strawberry – yet another red. I have no idea why I keep buying red inks, but I think that I have more of them than I have blues, which is another colour that I pretty much never use.

I have made these scans at 300 DPI, but note that, on the page, in anything less than intense direct sunlight, the inks seem much darker than they do here. One of the frustrations of writing about ink, rather than with ink, is that photographs and scans just never properly demonstrate what the ink looks like. Photographs are mostly too dark, except in the best of light, and it is quite late here at the moment. Scans are always too bright. It’s a tragic injustice if you ask me.



This is an extremely dark and muted violet. Regular readers may be aware that I am fond of purple inks, and am keen on the J Herbin “Poussiere De Lune”. If you liked that but thought “you know, it isn’t all that dark really, and perhaps it could be a little wetter because it feels very dry to the page” then you should immediately buy some Eclipse. It is a very nice writer, with excellent flow yet not being too wet, and works well on even fairly rubbish paper. This would, I think, be a good ink if one were in a professional situation but wished to show a little bit of individuality, though really, just using a fountain pen at all marks you out as “fascinatingly artistic and eccentric” and/or “bit bloody odd, quite frankly, do they ever talk to customers? have you run a CRB check?”



This is another dark ink, though not quite as dark as the Eclipse, and also blue instead of purple. It is not amazingly muted but is not a bright blue, and perhaps leans towards the indigo end. Again, like the Eclipse it is very well-behaved and a lovely practical writing ink. I used both of these inks in this years aborted NaNoWriMo and produced thousands of words with both without having any smearing or flow issues.

With blue inks I either like them to be quite dark and low colour saturation (J Herbin Bleu Nuit, R&K Salix) or absurdly bright (Bay State Blue, Waterman South Seas Blue). Denim falls into the former category. I think that it behaves better than the Bleu Nuit and is also a better colour, slightly darker – I would do you a colour comparison but unfortunately my bottle of Bleu Nuit fell to the dread plague of SITB1, and I am unwilling to load up a pen with Quorn.

A return to form

As a note, I have been a bit annoyed with some of Diamine’s “New Century” highly-saturated2 inks which take forever to dry and don’t even have the justification of some of the Noodler’s inks that they can survive in volcanoes. If you, too, have been annoyed by this, you will be happy with both the Eclipse and the Denim, which are both proper shading inks with distinctive colour that actually dry in less than a minute.

They are not waterproof, but then, you could always not spill water on your writing. I have increased respect for water-soluble inks after knocking over a bottle of Herbin Eclat De Saphir on Sunday which splashed all over the carpet of my rented flat. Not that it has disappeared, but it is gradually disappearing, with the application of water, paper towels and swear-words.

Where can I buy these wonderful inks?

Well, I am glad you asked me that. You can order them directly from Diamine in either little 30ml plastic bottles (which I prefer to test things) or big Art Deco 80ml glass ones by going to the Diamine inks site. It is not the nicest-looking site in the world, but it works. For foreign types, I believe that some other sites do distribute Diamine inks and may charge you less in postage.

  1. Stuff In The Bottle – a mysterious fungal infection that means that clumps of rubbery crud grow around and within ink. Not something that one really wants to get within a pen. Since the Nanny State banned certain biocidal chemicals from use in ink for pathetic reasons like “they give factory workers cancer”, the risk of this has increased from “effectively none” to “basically none”. However, it can happen to small manufacturers. 

  2. Saturated in writing terms, relating to colour shading and variation, rather than HSB-type colour saturation, though the two often go together. 

The Allan’s Journal – pocket notebook par excellence

Allan's Journal closed I recently finished using a small Allan’s Journal as a daily journal. In the end I decided not to buy another one to replace it, but that wasn’t because it was bad, just simply a few aspects of it weren’t quite what I was after.

The Allan’s Journal looks rather like a Bible in construction, as you can see from the pictures, with a tough, flexible, leather cover, a ribbon, red under gold edges to the very thin pages, and even what it is embossed on the cover. (Fewer pages, but still a lot for a notebook.) They are in fact made by an old Scottish company that usually specialises in making Bibles. When considering an order, I theorised that there are certain characteristics of a portable Bible or other religious text that are desirable for a notebook – they need to be tough, long-lasting, compact, easy to carry and be able to store a lot of information – so I was interested to see how well this theory held up.


Allan's journal open First of all, this journal costs £22. You should be aware of this at the start. However, given that it lasted me for slightly over three months, and I write a lot in my journals, this works out to be pretty good value as far as I’m concerned. Worldwide delivery is free, too.

The larger, A5-ish version costs £25, and that would last for even longer.

According to the website, several colour and size combinations are out of stock as of time of writing, and are due to be reprinted in late 2011.

Size and construction

The pocket Allan’s is around the same height and thickness as most A6-ish pocket notebooks, but noticeably wider. You can get it into a large pocket, but not a small one. In practice I only occasionally pocketed it, mostly keeping it in my bag, but it’s fine for jackets and combat trousers. It has 256 pages, because the paper is so thin – see below regarding the paper.

The (real) leather cover is flexible, though not floppy, and thick enough to be tough. You’d have to be very unlucky to damage it beyond a scratch or two. It is “semi yapp”, which means that the edges of the cover extend a little way beyond the edges of the pages, to protect them on the sides as well as the faces. I never experienced the slightest hint of it coming apart.

I found the binding very secure as well, but the book also opens and lies very flat, without needing any force at all. Opening flat (or not doing so) is one thing that always annoys me about notebooks; I found that the Allan’s was the best I’ve seen so far.


Allan's journal with writing samples There are two things you would immediately notice on opening an Allan’s journal – how thin the paper is, and how narrow the lines are. It’s almost airmail/onionskin paper thickness, and the paper has a light 4mm rule, the thinnest I’ve yet seen.

What you would not immediately notice was how amazingly good this paper is. It isn’t shiny and impermeable as you might suppose – it has a normal level of absorbency, and inks dry quickly on it and look pleasant. On the other hand there was no bleeding or feathering from any fountain pen or normal ink that I tried, from fine to broad. (Sharpies do bleed through the paper, but that’s not unexpected.) Despite this the paper is tough and won’t easily tear. It is absolutely the best thin paper I have yet come across, even including the Midori Traveller’s Notebook ultra-thin paper that I’ve mentioned before, which is not by any means bad, just a bit shinier and easier to smear on.

Due simply to how physically thin the pages are, you can sometimes see writing through from the other side, but because the ink isn’t bleeding through this isn’t a problem – I rarely even noticed it. On the other hand, the 4mm ruling did get on my nerves on occasion. When I was in the mood to write with a fine nib it was, well, fine. It’s very difficult to write tidily with a medium or larger nib with that ruling, though, and I like to do that at times.

This sounds great – why aren’t you getting another one?

This was a useful purchase because it has convinced me that I really don’t like pocket journals any more. It’s basically the perfect pocket journal, apart from the height of the lines and maybe that it’s not hardbacked, but I could get used to both of that. Given that, after using the Allan’s for three months, I was still thinking “yes this is great but I wish the pages were larger, I can’t fit all my thoughts in”, I can safely be sure now that I should not be using pocket notebooks as my main journals, and that I should stick to A5-ish for my journal and Rhodia pads and little pocket cahiers in my pockets, for small notes and ideas and shopping and to-do lists or whatever, not to record the happenings of the world for posterity.

A lot of people do prefer pocket journals, though, and if you are one of them, unless you

(a) absolutely demand a hard cover – and as mentioned, this is not all that floppy, overly floppy covers annoy me as well; (b) refuse to write with anything smaller than a medium nib, or don’t like lined paper in the first place; (c) have very small pockets; (d) really love thick paper; and/or (e) are a huge cheapskate

you should definitely have a think about getting an Allan’s journal.

For the moment I have moved onto an A5 Leuchtturm notebook, but I look forward to trying out the larger Allan’s that I bought at some later date.