“My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.”
My first encounter with a journal started as a young boy around Christmas time. The children of our family would give my Grandfather a diary every year without fail. The crisp, densely stacked pages, black pebbled leather cover, and gold embossed lettering waiting and ready for a years worth of ruminations and scribblings. After he passed away we would retire to the cramped back hallway where he kept his things. His desk jammed against a plaster wall overflowed with journals. Swollen with time and ink stained, his diaries would entertain us for hours as we sat in air that still smelled of pipe tobacco and pencil shavings. Page after page we would leaf. Each book a glimpse into a jam packed life. Train timetables, tickets to football matches played long a go, a shopping list for the butcher, birthdays of the grand children, results of boxing matches, and scrawl after scrawl of “notes to self” consumed the yellowing pages.
I think It’s with these “notes to self” that the process of keeping a journal begins. I don’t think that there is ever an epiphany where pencils are sharpened, new notebooks are ordered and the mandate is given to self that “From this point on I will write everything down”. It all smells too much of self help or at the very least a language course at university- Students scrambling to fit a months worth of remedial Spanish sentences in before the end of term (he estado tomado medicamentos!). No, it must be a gradual thing. It starts with a climbing route written on the flip side of a receipt, directions to a restaurant scrawled over a Thai Airways ticket, an incredible bottle of Rioja on the back of a matchbook, a ferry schedule on a hotel pad. Pockets become full of such ephemera and soon a small notebook comes into play. Perfect for dashing off an address to hand to a driver, some quick notes after a meeting, or a brief yet searing love letter.
Good travelers are good listeners. The best travelers are shameless eavesdroppers. Overheard snippets of conversation (a greeting of old friends in a cafe, a lovers quarrel by the quayside, a discussion about the new regime) all find their way between the pages. The passing countryside out the train window, the shamble of a Central American border crossing, campesinos out for an evening stroll are noted and written down. Put the camera phones away, engage with your surroundings and move from behind the lens and the world will open up to you. At the end of the day, with a Belikin in hand take some time to reflect, the words will come pouring out of you. Your future self will thank you. No low res photos run through a dodgy filter to be lost forever on some hard drive. You’ll be left with something real, a part of who you were at that moment. A part of your surroundings.
We are inspired by our surroundings to no end. Our journals have grown in size and now provide an ongoing chronicle of Imperial Black. Fabric swatches sit next to plane tickets, a brief sketch of an interesting lapel crowds a snapper recipe. The perfect button size straddles the margins of the latest shirting breakdown. A Nicaraguan colloquialism scratched hastily on a back cover yields inspiration for a shirt fabric months later. We are always evolving as are our journals. A repository for the future us to remind where we came from and the circuitous path we took to get where we are.
There is a meditative quality to writing your thoughts down. A cathartic release that happens when pen is put to page. Once you begin to do so you’ll find it quite hard to stop. Your travels will become all the richer for it. We promise……