To say the Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter is a notebook cover is like saying Stonehenge is a load of big stones. It’s true but rather misses the point. I first reviewed my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter back in May 2015 and at the time was still perhaps a little shellshocked by how much I’d spent on it (€109). It isn’t cheap but, three years later, I have to say it’s been a good investment.
Back in 2015 I was the head of a pupil referral unit, a small school for young people who are too unwell to go to mainstream school or whose behaviour has led to them being excluded. It was a complicated setting and I had a lot to think about and organise. I also had a lot of meetings to attend. I took a lot of notes, partly to help me keep focused in meetings and partly because I could never remember anything so it was important I had systems in place to compensate for that. (I’d be going from one thing to another all day long and I had to have comprehensive notes to refer back to.) I had a notebook (usually a Rhodia Webnotebook or similar) for notes that I was going to keep to myself and a notepad (usually Rhodia) slotted into the back cover for notes that I was either going to share or that were confidential and needed to be stored securely. I’d often keep an iPad mini slotted into the front cover, too. It meant I had a mobile office all in one place: notebook, business cards, notepad, ruler, pen (in the pen loop), and iPad. It’s all I needed to take with me when I went to a meeting.
For the last year, though, I’ve been running a guest house by the sea. It couldn’t be more different. I have more time to and for myself and I’ve perhaps been to two meetings all year. (And I took no notes at those meetings!) Before, what I wrote was utilitarian and used for working with other people; now, what I write is for myself. And I use my Taschenbegleiter as much as I ever did.
Here is what I have in it today, from front to back.
Inside the front cover I have business cards for the guest house and for my pet drawing business. I have literally never taken a card from here and given it to anyone but I like to have them with me. Not sure why.
Also in the front is a pocket notebook in which I record my Three Plus One Good Things. Currently that’s a Darkstar notebook. (Review coming soon but (spoiler alert) it’s great.)
Next there’s my diary (journal in American). This is where I reflect, organise myself, and plan. I write about what I’m hoping to do, what I’ve done, and the difference between the two. Right now it’s a Personalised Stationery A5 notebook but I was given a Rhodia Webnotebook by my lovely step-children for my birthday so I’ll be using that soon. It’ll make the Taschenbegleiter a little plump but it won’t be the first time and it copes admirably.
Next up, another Personalised Stationery A5 notebook, this time used as a ‘Record of Past Events’, after Austin Kleon. I record the weather (because I’m English), what I’ve eaten, what I did, who I saw, where I went, and a few other things. It’s the same stuff every day. I’m not sure how useful it is but it’s another excuse to use my pens and I enjoy it.
After that there’s a third Personalised Stationery A5 notebook. This one is for playing with pens. It’s where I try out pens and inks, where I write random nonsense just because I want to write, and where I sometimes sketch out blog posts.
I also have a plastic wallet with a ruler and protractor set. It’s virtually never used but it’s there just in case.
Finally, in the back cover I have two more pocket notebooks. One is for Secret Projects. I could tell you what’s in there but then I’d have to kill you. The other is for recording which pens I’ve inked up (and which ink I’ve used). Both these notebooks are, currently, Calepino.
(I don’t have sketchbooks in here. I’m either drawing at my desk or I’m out about and using either sketchbooks or pocket notebooks.)
It should be clear by now that a Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter will hold several tons of stuff. You can shove notebooks of different sizes and thicknesses in there, with hard or soft covers, as well as a phone or small tablet. While the metal clips, which give you all this flexibility, sometimes get in the way of your writing, it’s easy to just lift a clip up out of the way until you’ve finished and then snap it back after. It’s trivially easy to take a notebook out of the cover if you need to.
It’s aged exceptionally well despite being thrown about at home, office and in and out of my car. The cover looks gorgeous and the felt inside is in excellent condition.
Yes it’s expensive. But I’ve used it almost daily for over three years, in wildly different circumstances, and despite having tried many other covers that are in their own way also fantastic, I can’t see myself ever using anything else.