Tempus Fugit & My Moleskine®

It’s been a while and some of you and one of my daughters have pleaded with me to update my blog with some more jottings from my journal.

I actually have 47 entries in draft… excerpts from my sabbatical journeying which need editing and sewing together with words in order to make sense to you out there. Some of you have asked why I don’t just write straight into this blog; why do I insist on using pen and ink? To answer that, at least in part, I will refer you initially to my earlier blog entry also entitled Tempus Fugit which you’ll find here.

Truth is, I am rather old fashioned; I like pen and ink, pencil and paper, hand and manuscript. I love scribbling my scatty thoughts, doodling my deliberations, and what’s more I love my Moleskine.

Now for you ignorami out there a Moleskine is a little black note-book. I first started using them when I was a student in Paris in the 1980s. They weren’t called Moleskines then, or at least the ones I used were not. I used to buy mine from Gibert Jeune (still our favourite French papeterie [stationers] always worth a family visit – the five of us can happily while away a whole afternoon in Gibert Jeune near Place St Michel, Paris… OK we know we’re weird, but hey, at least we’re happy!)

I started journalling back in 1978 when I was just 13. I used a diary back then, the big Boot’s Scribbling Diary – another classic stationery objet trouvé – which I inherited a liking to from my grandmother who used them up until her death aged 97 in 1975. I say she “used them” whilst actually towards the end of her life at least she simply possessed these diaries out of habit really, keeping them by her bed; the only entries in the last few years being various family members’ birthdays.

They were a comfort to her nonetheless, and an enigma to a young boy – these large navy blue books kept near her bed. So when she graduated I ended up inheriting the remaining tomes, all virtually unused. I was still at primary school when she died and being very close to her emotionally (she lived with us) to begin with I kept these Scribbling Diaries (1970-75) on a bookshelf in my room as a quasi-shrine to her memory. Then one day I found myself getting one down from the shelf and actually scribbling on one of the pages; then making a to-do list the next day on a subsequent blank page, followed later by writing some thoughts on another. Before long I was using it most days to either record something that happened, note a reminder, work out some sums for Maths at school, sketch some ideas, etc. Soon I was taking it to school, using it as a jotter, and it generally became part of my life.

On reaching teenhood I decided to purchase a fresh new Boots Scribbling Diary of my own and this is how my journalling journey began. The following year I bought a different sized Boots Diary, a bit more up market, smaller (A5 size I think, as opposed to the A4 or foolscap Scribbling Diary version) but thicker and page-a-day which meant there was plenty more room to jot a lot when I had the urge.

I didn’t actually know it was called journalling then, I just enjoyed writing things down when I thought about them. It didn’t really matter that it was a diary (though sometimes the dates had a relevance) since my first jotted journallings were in my Gran’s diaries from previous years (so the days and dates did not match up) I just used the spaces as a simple means to distinguish one entry or thought from the next. When I bought my own diary for that particular year though I tried to follow the days and dates in order.

Sometimes the scribblings of one day required 3 or 4 pages, other times there were no scribblings for a few days. This meant that there was quite often a waste of paper and the diary was heavy and cumbersome to carry around. So when I discovered the moleskine back in the 80s as a student in Paris I immediately forsook purchasing diaries, which now seemed impractical and started using these little black books. This style of notebook had been around in Europe for a century or so and was popular with artists and authors such as Hemingway, Matisse and Van Gogh.

One of Van Gogh's moleskines looking a bit dog-eared

In my student days you could pick them relatively cheaply and loads of my compatriots at the Sorbonne used them. Back then there were several firms which made notebooks in this style. The common features were:

  • a hard waterproof vinyl cover (hence moleskine… I think!) which was normally black
  • an elastic strap-band which held the book closed
  • rounded edges
  • an envelope pocket at the inside back cover useful for storing bits in
  • a ribbon page-marker
  • blank, lined or squared paper (I tended to prefer squared because you could use it effectively and neatly any way up)

Years of journalling in a pile of Moleskines (collective term: hill)

Some of my original moleskine notebooks also had a snazzy decorative internal cover as seen in the picture of Van Gogh’s notebook above, but some were just plain cream coloured like the ones available today. During my time in Paris I would carry a moleskine around with me everywhere and go through one or two of these notebooks a month on average.

Trouble was, on returning to live in London, I couldn’t find a moleskine anywhere! I later discovered that they’d ceased production. It is only in recent years that an Italian company (calling itself Moleskine) with French connections has happily revived them. So for a while I confess that I transferred my allegiance to Filofax, and at other times I just used any old notebook I could find. Times were hard.

Now I can happily say that I am re-united with Moleskine in its latest incarnation. It’s a tad on the expensive side, but bearing in mind that the design is classic and is therefore not copyright there are a few cheaper manifestations coming on the market. I saw one called the Picadilly when I was in the USA recently, half the price of the Moleskine. When my current batch runs out I may well look to try out the Picadilly variety!

Returning to the gap in blog updates I could also perhaps say I’ve been too busy to give the time to do this. Truth is, since arriving back from sabbatical very often I haven’t really had the motivation most days because of a sad and sudden surprise which greeted us on our return back in Guernsey (more of this later). Thanks to the grace of God we’re virtually through the shock of this now but it has taken longer than we thought. Praise God for the fact he knew about all this, He works all things together for good, and He was active in preparing both Judith and me whilst we were away travelling.

Will (Papa) Le Tocq

However I need to say that additionally in recent weeks my dear old Dad, Wilfred Thomas Le Tocq, now aged 97, who resides with us, has needed a lot of extra care and nursing; indeed he was convinced he was going to die on Christmas eve! There’s been several close misses since too. Generally he’s a happy bunny though, just very weak physically; he’s never had to stay a night in hospital in all his life, so we’re endeavouring to keep up that tradition as the thought of ending his life there fills him with dread. He is such a blessing and is not frightened of dying at all. Just frightened of hospitals! But throughout these last days (and nights), although we’re needing to give him more attention and help, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be with him more, converse in Guernésiais, hear stories I’d forgotten or perhaps never even heard, cry and laugh together. Dad has good days and bad days, and like nursing Mum, which we did for four years before she died in 2007, the blessings of the burden far outweigh any pains; in fact the Spirit of the Lord beautifully and expertly mixes things together so that we come out of it emotionally and spiritually richer and closer to God.

Now back to that Ticallog

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5 responses to “Tempus Fugit & My Moleskine®

  1. Nothing wrong with losing an afternoon in a stationers, Jon. I would rather spend time in that kind of a shop that a clothes shop (yes, I know, very odd for a woman!). Like you, I have been keeping a diary since I was 12/13. I gave it up for a few years and also went through a culling process every so often. Something that I now regret. Needless to say, the power of journalling has me in its grip again.

    Looking forward to your future posts

  2. Paul Le Page

    I’ve never been the journalling type myself, and I doubt I will ever write as much as you, however I finally gave in and recently bought myself a small journal to note thoughts and inspirations. It was in part a response to my good wife who finally got fed up with my outbursts that “God never speaks to me” during my moments of melancholy. I must confess that I haven’t written in it yet – my various thoughts, Bible verses etc. remain on various post-it notes on my study desk!

  3. Hi, I write a blog all about notebooks and I would love to contact you about your journals– do you still have any of your original 1980s moleskines? Would you be willing to share some photos of them? I couldn’t find any email for you so hope you are still reading these comments! Thanks!

  4. Pingback: Notebook Stories: A Blog About Notebooks, Journals, Moleskines, Blank Books, Sketchbooks, Diaries and More

  5. What a lovely post! I too am a notebook/journal user, and I agree with you, they keep us grounded in what is really important. In the past 15 years I’ve kept 23 journals and it’s interesting to me to see how I’ve changed over the years, not only in my personal growth but in what I think is important to write about.

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