Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

More about notebooks

with 3 comments

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown I have been keeping a journal. Not another blog but the old fashioned kind that you put on paper in a book with a pen.

The idea came from someone I knew from WordCamp or some similar blogging conference years ago. On Facebook she was encouraging people to write about their experiences, because she is an archivist and she is concerned about what will happen in the future. It is unlikely that the technology we now use to store blogs and pictures will be readable indefinitely. She suggested twenty years – but that seems a bit pessimistic to me. After all I know many people who still use film in their cameras and vinyl discs on their stereos and both are long superseded technologies. Even so I quite liked idea, since I have been writing in notebooks for a while. Most of my early blog posts started off as notes taken at meetings. I could scribble far faster than I could type, so I was able to make good contemporaneous notes – a skill I had developed at work back in the days before laptops or tablets. Before PalmPilots even, remember them?

So the first entries in what I called The Plague Diaries were written in a Moleskine notebook that I had lying around.

That is what now appears at the top of this document. In the original version a scan I had made with my phone using a Google app appeared here – with a complaint about Canon software. That has now been updated and I can once again use Image Capture to operate my scanner. But I am blowed if WP block editor will actually allow me to put the new scan into this space which is where I wanted it. So I have got rid of one problem just to find two more.


And it turns out that I was wrong. I could have bought a refill for the fountain pen I was using. It was just that the shop I went to did not know that.

The Moleskine I had was bought in 2005, when journalling was recommended by whoever it was I was sent to deal with depression. Well it didn’t help then but the Moleskine did get used for a variety of purposes, and I thought that it would last. It did not seem likely that I would need much more than a replacement pen. And anyway there are notebooks lying around unused. My partner seems to get one free whenever she does some professional development course or other. Trouble is they are nothing like as good as a Moleskine. Well, I did get something free myself from The Guardian, as thanks for my subscription. That became Volume 2 (14 March to 29 April) and Volume 3 is from an unknown source but the paper was highly absorbent, bled through (i.e. making it hard to be legible when written on both sides) and was actually falling apart and had to be repaired with duct tape.

There are some of the healthcare pro freebies but all have lined paper.

I went to Granville Island thinking that I could buy a new Moleskine – just like Volume 1 – at Paper~Ya. Somewhat to my surprise the sales lady said that I could do better for cheaper. After all, you are paying quite a lot for the brand name alone. Midori paper is much better than that used by Moleskine, and the notebook is considerably cheaper. The lack of a hard cover is not an issue since I won’t be carrying it around with me and it is anyway too large for my pockets at A5 (European standard).

Midori notebook made in Japan

It was also in  Paper-Ya that I found these pens – for very little money.

Japanese notebook and pens

This is the inside first page. The black pen is a Pentel Plastic Fountain Pen. Made in Japan. The nib is 24 carat plastic. Refillable! I wish I had known that sooner as I recently threw an empty one away! The blue one is a Platinum Preppy F 0.3 which comes without the cartridge being inserted for use, but loose inside the pen. Also Made in Japan.

I am now ending Volume 3 and will start on Volume 4 tomorrow, but I can say categorically that writing in the Midori is a great pleasure – even though I am still using the cheap Chinese pen I bought on line when the previous Pentel Plastic ran out. By the way, beware of online ads. The Jinhao X450 I bought from for nearly $20 is available elsewhere for $5! It has also had to be repaired twice (Gorilla Glue) as the pencap and its plastic liner kept parting company. It works well enough and you might even be able to find cartridges for it but I bought a bottle of Quink – something I haven’t done for many years.

The one thing I have not done is try to go back to italic writing something I taught myself to do from a book my brother bought. He had a very legible hand. Mine looked much worse – and was not really much better with a proper calligraphic pen. It was also far too slow for note taking – but pretty useful for slowing down creative writing since it needed more care and thought.

I have no intention of publishing The Plague Diaries.  Anymore than I have of turning this blog into a book. You will have to outlive me as my heirs will be instructed to delay any circulation of them until there is a general wave on interest into how ordinary people coped with the pandemic of 2020. Though I fear there will be more pandemics before then.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 31, 2020 at 2:58 pm

Posted in blogging, Pandemic

Tagged with , , , , ,

3 Responses

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  1. I did the same, Stephen. I also did in cursive writing. Actually whenever I write longhand, I did in cursive writing. My notebook journal experience is great. I find it relaxing to write just for myself. I use color Sharpe Pens and sometimes write different things in different colors.

    Miriam Hurdle

    August 31, 2020 at 3:04 pm

  2. If you are going to keep journals that you intend will survive, make sure you are using archival paper, non-acidic. Kraft pulp paper goes yellow and starts to crumble after about 70 years….

    Richard Smiley

    August 31, 2020 at 3:27 pm

  3. You can find out more about Midori paper at

    It does not use the term “archival” or “non-acidic” so far as I can see

    Stephen Rees

    August 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm

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