44. How to wear your notebook
How do you carry yours? Plus: a further misadventure on the Substack learning curve results in a new definition for 'lost'!
Since I welcomed my Traveler’s Company passport-sized travellers’ notebook – or ‘TN’ – into my life last spring I have carried it with me everywhere: around the house, out on walks, at work, at play. My TN is where I capture my thoughts and ideas for my writing projects, and this tiny book – a leather cover containing a replaceable dot grid1 notebook – has become as much a part of me as my other everyday essentials of my phone, my blood glucose monitor and insulin pump handset.
The TN is tiny: they’re not kidding when they’re telling you that it’s the size of a passport.
Since discovering the wonders of bullet journalling to run my life I’ve used an A5 Leuchtturm notebook, and I’d become accustomed to that much real estate for my note-taking. Initially frustrated by the poky 3½ x 5½ inches offered by each individual page of my TN, I found the size difference between its double-page spread and a single page of A5 to be minimal. Ha! The trick is simply to use the book sideways.
My TN is only little, but I wondered how best to carry this additional piece of gear, given that I already take care of my phone and all that diabetes-management gadgetry.
Around the house I used to schlep an old willow shopping basket from upstairs to downstairs and from room to room: in it would be the above-mentioned items along with the cordless house phone, my bullet journal, latest reading book, anything from downstairs that needed to go upstairs (and vice versa), and maybe a snack or two.
Although it was great for around the house, every time I went out I’d have to transfer everything from my basket to my bag. So, when I was given a fabulous Kånken backpack for my birthday last year, I decided to retire my basket in favour of using the backpack full time.
It took me a while to get used to bagging rather than basketing around the house, though, and the thing that began to annoy me was that whereas with a basket everything is instantly available to grab, storing your need-at-a-moment’s-notice stuff in a backpack can be problematic, given that to reach some of it can be rather a struggle.
So, sick of having to scrabble for it every time a word needed getting out of my head and down onto paper, I started to keep my TN in my back pocket. Regular readers will perhaps remember my gripe in this post about single back pockets in trousers being discriminatory to the left-handed, but guess what I’ve discovered? Pocket storage of a notebook belonging to a left-hander requires the pocket to be on the right, because that is the hand in which I hold my notebook. Oh, happy days!
But no. *Sigh*.
Reader, in fairly short order the back pockets of all my trousers and shorts began to get loose and baggy. Grabbing my TN every time I have an idea to scribble down and then stuffing the book back into my pocket doesn’t make for pristine pocketage. I wouldn’t mind, but as a lady of a certain age I’m already wondering how saggy my bottom looks at the best of times – so accessorising it with a baggy pocket is not doing wonders for my self esteem.
I put my thinking cap on: how better could I carry my TN?
In my student days in Germany my friends and I would spend hours sitting outside bars and cafés on weekends evenings, debating until late into the night the meaning of life, how we’d save the world, and why they call it a ‘night bus’ when it stops running at two. Serving staff would all do their own billing, and would carry a wallet of change along with a pad of bill slips and a pen in a kind of holster.
A holster! I started a search. I loved what I found in the JahnLederwaren shop on Etsy, but feared it might be too big and heavy to wear on my walks.
Looking closer to home, and still focusing on something that I could wear on my belt, I tried two pieces of Jim’s photographic gear that he’s not using right now:
A tiny memory card pouch fit my TN pretty well as long as I didn’t zip it all the way up, but it wasn’t easy to slide the book in, and I was worried that it would fall out.
The neoprene lens pouch Jim offered me instead was much more spacious, but although its size made it easy to stow and remove my TN, the pouch was so large that I felt it got in my way. I tested it all day at work, and out on a walk, and I found it wasn’t the answer, given that I was aware of it constantly bashing against the top of my leg.
No go. I was like the princess and the pea with this thing. Back to the drawing board.
‘I know!’ I announced to Jim. ‘I need a STRAP!’
Reader, not only are wallet holsters a ‘thing’; so, it seems, are book straps. A quick Google search showed me that they’re certainly an elegant way of carrying books to college, back to the library, or anywhere else for that matter.
I spotted all kinds of design configurations: some straps were clearly the result of some pretty clever leather engineering, with formations of crossover straps that wrapped around the books as well as a shoulder strap to carry them – a bit much for a tiny notebook – and some were little more than a belt.
I felt the belt idea was a good one, but not to carry my TN with my hands or on my shoulder. I wanted to wear it on my waistband, but for this the belt around it would need to be tiny.
Where on earth would a find a suitably tiny leather belt? Online children’s stores proved fruitless: children’s belts aren’t leather, they’re all printed with either robots or unicorns, they’ve all got quick-release buckles for safety reasons, and they all cater for a much larger girth than my 13mm x 10mm TN.
Brainwave: what about a puppy – or kitten – collar? Just the ticket, surely? Sadly, no: firstly, they’re all so round – makes sense, right? – and the ones for kittens that I’d found on eBay all had bells on, which was neither the look nor sound that I was going for. What’s more, for kitty comfort they were all pretty smooth, and I was after some ‘tooth’ to the inside of my notebook strap so that it wouldn’t slip on the belt of my trousers.
I found the answer. Scrolling on Amazon (the following is an affiliate link) I stumbled across this pair of leather straps designed to attach a wicker basket to bicycle handlebars.
Like Goldilocks’ porridge, this third option was just right. My TN feels very secure, I feel comfortable wearing it, and it’s a straightforward movement to slide it in and out of its strap whenever I want to write anything down.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a notebook in a basket, a rucksack or a baggy back pocket – even if it does emphasise a saggy bottom. 😉
And actually, you might not even use a notebook to download your thoughts when you’re out and about. But I’d be lost without mine, and now that I’ve found the best way for me to wear it I know that I’ve always got somewhere for my on-the-go words to land.
How do you carry your notebook? Tell me in the comments!
And just on the subject of comments, let me share an amusing cringe.
Thanks to an entire absence of common sense when I wrote my last ‘Dear Reader, I’m lost’ post, I learned something new about Substack this week, namely:
The ‘Leave a comment’ button, when selected from the ‘Buttons’ menu in the post editor, is (unsurprisingly!) tailor-made to link to the comments for that post.
So, when to save time last Saturday I had copied the blurb, complete with buttons, from the bottom of my pre-Christmas post ‘Winning at whelm’ and pasted it at the bottom of ‘Pressing the wrong button’, I was left with a ‘Leave a comment’ button linking to the former rather than the latter.
Pressing the wrong button. Trust me: I get the irony.
It took me until Monday to work out why so many comments which clearly related to one post were landing on another.
Reader, I’ll leave you with an updated definition for my
least favourite word, delivered kindly by Jim in light of this tale of woe:
‘LOST: that space between the chair and the screen in which common sense disappears.’
I think that says it all, don’t you? 🤣
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Replacement notebooks in a variety of styles (plain, ruled, dot grid, grid, etc), are available from a number of sources. I use the Traveler’s Company brand, and always go for dot grid paper because that’s what I’m used to in my bullet journal.
Do be aware that if you’re aiming to use your notebook sideways, as I do, you’ll need to choose dot grid, grid or plain pages. On ruled pages the lines will be running the wrong way! 😉