SPONSOR: Pocket Notebooks

Thank you very much to Pocket Notebooks for sponsoring Pens! Paper! Pencils! again this month. They have an excellent range of notebooks available, many of which aren’t easily found anywhere else in the UK. On top of that, they have monthly subscriptions of varying sizes. They’ve also really gone all-in on the wonderful Hobonichi Techo. Read on for more details!

In the age of smartphones, social media and all-things digital, it’s easy to forget the power of good, old-fashioned pen and paper.

Here at Pocket Notebooks we are passionate about stationery and a romantic for traditional, analog writing supplies, it’s part of our makeup, where others are pushing pixels we are scribing in our Field Notes.

We pride ourselves on being a little different at Pocket Notebooks. Where other stationers are happy to branch out and supply a variety of different products we are quite content focusing solely on Pocket Notebooks. Some may say narrow minded, we say focusing on our passion which are Pocket Notebooks whilst doing one thing fantastic, and making sure we enjoy ourselves along the way!

We have grand plans for our journey and will start by being the only supplier that allows you to mix and match your notebooks from different suppliers and collections as well as our exciting monthly subscription service where you will receive a box delivered to your door containing a collection of Pocket Notebooks that will vary month on month.

So put down your smartphone and pull out a Notebook. Write a note about something you would normally take a picture of. Notice what words you use to describe it. Jot down your thoughts hurriedly or meaningfully. Underline certain words really hard. Doodle something.

Over the past 12 months we have been on a great journey with Pocket Notebooks where we have discovered the world that is Hobonichi. Since selling the Techo we have learnt, first hand, of the demand to have access to some of the finest Hobonichi Accessories.

We created Hobonichi Accessories to not only become the go-to marketplace for all your accessory needs but because we are suckers for Japanese stationery and accessories and aim to use this site to feed our own addiction.

We find our inspiration for our products by involving ourselves and engaging with the Stationery and Hobonichi communities that post on Facebook groups, share their photos on Instagram and craft their products on Etsy. This allows us to be at the forefront of providing the latest trends but more importantly to import them from Japan to make sure you save on both shipping and custom charges.

Painting, Drawing, and Persistence

A couple of years ago I got a little fed up with myself. I’ve always wanted to see if I could paint, to see if there was an artist lurking somewhere inside, but I think I was just afraid to try. It’s very easy to stick with what you know, in my case drawing, but I was even avoiding that. Although I could draw reasonably well, whenever I thought about drawing I thought I should be learning to paint instead and so I did neither.

I made two commitments to myself in an attempt to snap out of this unhelpful loop. This site’s Friday picture was one: a self-imposed schedule to make myself do something. The second commitment was deciding I wasn’t going to learn to paint for a year. This gave me permission to draw without feeling that I ought to be doing something else. This paid off and I absolutely rediscovered a joy for drawing that I hadn’t know for over twenty years.

That was back around Easter 2014 and I pretty much stuck to it until Easter of last year, when I moved on to phase two: spend a year learning to use colour, to paint, and to explore different media.

I’ll say this: it’s been very difficult. I’ve got better as the year’s gone on and I’m better than I thought I would be but I still have an awfully long way to go. It’s been hard to make myself do a poor painting when I could be doing a reasonable drawing. There is so much to learn and watercolour is so loose and unpredictable it couldn’t be more different to what I do with my drawings. Letting go of the need to be exact, embracing this, in fact, has been good for me and good for my drawing too but it’s not been easy.

Now the year is up I’m certainly going to continue to learn to paint. I’ve enjoyed the journey so far and I’m determined to get better. I have realised, though, that what I love the most is pencil drawing. I feel emotionally invested in my drawings to a degree I just don’t get close to with anything else. I’m not sure why this is but whatever the reasons my drawings tend to mean something to me, more than they mean to anyone else, and more than any kind of painting.

Here’s my favourite picture from the last two years. I’m walking with my son and daughter and my daughter’s friend to the train station. We’re off to the seaside and it’s all very exciting. A beautiful day and a wonderful memory that’s captured forever with bits of clay and graphite on pulped wood.

Walking to Catch the Train

Pick up a pencil, start drawing now, and keep going.

Meeting Mr Twiss

Meeting Mr Twiss

Julia and I recently had a few days away in a little village called Wellow, close to the famous Sherwood Forest. It’s a lovely part of the country. Lots of trees, obviously, but also big skies and old towns and cities full of history. What I hadn’t realised, because I had been getting my forests mixed up, was that it’s also home to John Twiss’s workshop. It was only a fortuitous email conversation with my United Inkdom colleague Scribble, a couple of days into the holiday, that led to the realisation that John worked not a 145 miles away in the Forest of Dean but 2 miles away, just around the corner, at the Sherwood Forest Art and Craft Centre.

Quite clearly this was too good an opportunity to miss so I quelled my nervousness, nay, terror, about meeting people and prepared Julia and my credit card for a visit.

John wondering who on earth this strange man is next to him
John wondering who on earth this strange man is next to him

Everyone in the pen world who talks about John Twiss always says the same two things about him: he is a lovely bloke and he makes beautiful pens. I very quickly found both these things to be true. Although I’ve interviewed him by email, reviewed and given away one pen and bought and reviewed another, nothing can compare to seeing the full range of his work in person. He makes quite stunning pens.

The small workshop is full of finished pens, half made pens, nibs, sticks of acrylic, wood and acrylic shavings, tools and machines. John himself is full of knowledge and enthusiasm.


There was no way I was going to escape without a substantial hit to my wallet. We discussed a bog oak pen and there will definitely be one in my future. (I’d been thinking about ordering one for some time but seeing one in person made up my mind for me.) I tried to offset an expensive purchase by buying a ruthenium nib for my Marmalade pen. It didn’t work though but what I actually bought was something totally unexpected. We were talking about pen shows: I’ve never been to one but intend to go to the London show in October. I’d planned to look for a Parker Vacumatic there but John happened to mention he had a few for sale. They are more stunning in real life than any picture can ever show and so, really, by only buying one I saved myself a fortune.

This pen is about 80 years old and I’m honoured to be its current custodian.

Parker Vacumatic

If you are ever near Sherwood Forest then popping in to see John Twiss is essential. If you’re not lucky enough to get there in person, I can’t recommend his work highly enough.

Pelikan M120 clip and cap

Pelikan M120 Fountain Pen Review

Pelikan M120 review

The original M120 was released in 1955 as a school pen. This reissue keeps the same design but includes a modern piston filling mechanism and has a nib that is etched with a pattern from 1889.

Thank you to Pure Pens for lending me this pen in exchange for a fair and honest review.

If you’d like to know a bit more about the heritage of this model then have a look over on the wonderful Pelikan’s Perch website. This is a fantastic resource for all things Pelikan.

Pelikan M120 resting

Price: £120 (UK)
Nib options: extra-fine, fine, medium, broad
Barrel options: green and black resin with gold-plated trim
Filling system: piston
Size: 13cm long
Weight: 14g

The M120 is a small light pen. I have big hands but found this to be comfortable even unposted. However it posts securely if you prefer.

The piston filling mechanism is smooth and enables the pen to hold a good amount of ink. The transparent green window above the section gives you an easy view of the amount of ink you have left.

Pelikan M120 ink window

The metal clip is quite strong and has the classic Pelikan’s beak design. The cap is different to modern Pelikan designs, which tend to have a flat end with the Pelikan logo on it.

Pelikan M120 clip and cap

The overall effect of the design is just what, in fact, it is: a classy looking pen from a bygone age. I think it looks great: very Mad Men, which is a good thing, although of course I don’t suppose that lot would have used a pen with a steel nib.

Pelikan M120 nib

The nib: it’s gold-plated steel and according to Pelikan features “an engraving on the nib that re-interprets a curlicue which we found in a Pelikan price-list of 1889”. I’ve had problems with it. My day-to-day notebook of choice is a Midori MD notebook. This has smooth paper that is very well behaved with fountain pens. I first inked up the M120 with Pelikan Edelstein Amber and it skipped so much in the MD I had to give up completely. Edelstein Amber is a very dry ink so after checking with Scribble, who had tried this same pen before sending it on to me, that he hadn’t had any problems, I put Noodler’s Midway Blue into it. It was better but still not great in the MD. I tried on other paper but as you can see in the handwritten review it’s still not quite as it should be.

Pelikan M120 uncapped

I’ve found this before: I sometimes seem to have problems with pens that other people have found perfectly okay. (After I’d finished with my review I sent it on to Ruth of The Pen and Inkwell, who also had no problems with it. So it’s something about me.) But nevertheless I would suggest that if you like the look of this pen, you should make sure you buy it from somewhere that will look after you if you don’t quite get on with it. (Pure Pens, who sent me this one, is a good example of a retailer who will make sure everything is good for you.)

I like the design of this pen but it’s not useable for me as it is.

Pelikan M120 with flowers


Excellent design
Good piston filling mechanism


Nib doesn’t work for me

Pelikan M120 handwritten review

Bookblock Original Personalised Notebook Giveaway

Bookblock giveaway

Bookblock Original are a British company that takes Monsieur Notebooks and prints whatever you want onto the cover. You supply the artwork – a photo, drawing, abstract design, whatever you like – and Bookblock Original will make the notebook for you. You can even pick the colour of the ribbon and the colour of the elastic.

I ran out of time to put some artwork together myself so Bookblock Original designed something for me. The quality of the cover printing really is outstanding. Too often with customised items the finish seems half-baked but that’s not the case here.

Bookblock notebook

The notebook itself is well made, A5 in size, with a choice of either dot grid, plain or ruled 90gsm ivory paper or plain 140gsm white cartridge paper (for sketching). The 90gsm paper in mine isn’t especially fountain pen-friendly but is fine with everything else.

To celebrate National Stationery Week Bookblock Original have very kindly offered to give five personalised notebooks away to readers of Pens! Paper! Pencils! To have a chance of winning, you need to follow both Bookblock Original (@bookblock_o) and myself (@ian_hedley) on Twitter and tweet something appropriate with the hashtag #bookblockoriginal between now and 29th April. Bookblock Original will pick five winners at random on the 29th.

This is a great opportunity to win a notebook that really is your very own. Good luck!