A notebook. Creamy pages blank with promise, bound with dusty green fabric and tied with a grosgrain bow.
Few people understand this obsession. I have probably around thirty blank notebooks, most of which I will never write in because they are ‘too good’. I don’t buy them to write in, I buy them to imagine what COULD be born onto those pages. It’s the optimistic and anticipatory feeling of a fresh start, and I don’t like to sully that with my messy writing. I see myself more as a discerning collector. The kind that sniffs the binding glue, guages the caliper, observes the grace of the page lines.
So they stay blank and perfect and pile up in my wardrobe, alongside my hundreds of filled notebooks. When I was young I was so poor that I’d write in anything. I used to buy school excercise books in packs of five from the 99p store, and cramp my writing in real small. I still have them, ‘School Notes’ one to twelve, as if that would stop my predatory siblings from looking…
My first collection of poems is written in an old accounts book that belonged to my grandfather. At the time I just grabbed it as a source of precious paper, but now I’m so glad I have something of his. It’s destroyed, filled with words, with pages falling out and letters stuck in, but it’s me; who I was and who I thought I’d be now. Ha. How misguided I was as a child.
It’s so bizarre to look back at almost 13 years of my words. It is easier to look at the child I was at 9 – distant and alien – than it is to look at the girl of 18, throwing herself violently at life and thinking that was it, grown up, done. I want to shake her, tell her to work hard, drink less, be nice to her parents. I know all that bollocks about ‘I wouldn’t be who I am if…’ and I agree, my mistakes have made me who I am. But I wish, I WISH I could take some back, or erase them from my notebooks and my mind.
But I can’t. I couldn’t force myself to destroy those tentative and naive steps into adulthood. The girl in the pages is a stranger, but I want to keep her safe. I fear forgetting her, forgetting the people, the things that happened. It’s like a story that I don’t like, but I know means enough to be saved from the flames.
This famous bookcase of mine will be home to all these thousands of words. I think all my diaries, books of poems and blank notebooks will probably take up a whole five foot shelf, and it will mean so much to me. After so many years of cramming myself between their covers and carting them around from home to home, they’re finally finding their resting place. The final home where they can be…not CELEBRATED, but honoured for what they have meant to me.