Notebooks are a bit of an obsession here. It is not that there is any actual intention to collect them, but they are difficult to resist. If they are there, beckoning, beautiful but inexpensive, on the shelf of a charity shop, or in the stationery aisle in Poundland, or reduced in one of the supermarkets, then it is good for the soul to indulge occasionally, to acquire one more, and to add to the clutter.
This notebook here, in blue, hard-backed, nice and solid, very tappable (currently with a BiC MatiC mechanical pencil), ruled, a Banner affair, from the old Oxfam shop just before it closed down, is currently being used for scribbling down quotes, stray sentences, pithy passages, things read in books, words that capture the imagination or seem particularly moving. It is an old, old habit, and not one that it would ever be easy to break.
Of late, the notebook seems to have been rather taken over by Ali Smith and her words, with numerous lines from her books filling pages in quite awful scrawl. That is a little surprising, for Ali’s name and words had not featured in this, or any other, notebook here previously.
This all started really, well, it would have been on Remembrance Sunday, when there were references on social media to Ali picking Orange Juice’s ‘Falling and Laughing’ as one of her choices on Desert Island Discs. There was not really any clue as to whether she specifically asked for the first release on Postcard Records version, or the opening track on the OJs’ debut LP You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever. For Ali, it seems the song serves as a reminder of the sound of her young Scotland, when she was away at university in Aberdeen, not far from where she grew up in Inverness.
Picking the magnificent ‘Falling and Laughing’ suddenly made Ali Smith seem like an attractive prospect which is ironic as there was no real compulsion to take any notice before. How facile is that? Suddenly becoming interested in a writer just because she has chosen a particular favourite song to take with her to a desert island! Honestly, whatever next. How shallow. Yes, facile is the word that springs to mind. How facile can you get? Funnily enough, fácil, as in easy, came up in the online Spanish lessons that have been so wonderfully time-consuming (and a protest of sorts!), which prompted thoughts about how facile is used now.
In the old Concise Oxford Dictionary here (a pound, also from the old Oxfam shop before it disappeared, and also very tappable), which dates back to 1960 (there is still someone’s banking slip inside from 21 October 1961, a receipt for £75 and 10 shillings paid into Barclays in Brixton) facile is defined as something “easily done, won; working easily, ready, fluent”, which sounds pretty good. But, now, looking up facile on the Internet, the first thing to be found is the definition: “appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial”. That is pretty dismissive.
In the way one thing leads to another, thinking about the word ‘facile’ and its variations mutated today into repeated singing of the word ‘facility’ to the tune of Orange Juice’s ‘Felicity’ (“I guess so”), prompting a muddled memory of the words to that song being printed in the 1981 Postcard brochure along with the words of the group’s ‘Wan Light’, accompanied by a Swallows and Amazons-style Arthur Ransome illustration of a figure on an improvised raft heading for what looks like a desert(ed) island, appropriately: “There is a place where no one has seen / Where it’s still possible to dream / An unchartered world which will be unfurled ...”