Hot, isn't it? On what was officially the third warmest day on record here in Blighty, I was exploring the remains of a monastic headquarters, which I challenge you to identify, by the way; the founder was accused of helping Thomas Becket to escape the King's wrath (not especially successfully, obvs), met St. Bernard of Clairvaux and lived for more than a century before being canonised himself, and a few centuries later the vicar popped off to Massachusetts Bay with half his congregation; he became the first Minister of the church in Salem (yes, that one), and one of his flock became the first published poetess of the colonies. Oh, and the daughter of the last actually-Welsh prince from/of Wales spent her whole adult life on the campus as a 'guest' of the convent, so there's more Gymraeg on the signage than one would usually expect this side of the island. As is so often the case with a European abbey, there was a holy well in the vicinity too, because pagans got there first, but in this summer's suddenly oven-like conditions it had dwindled to a mere brackish trickle when what we really, really wanted was a bounteous clear fountain.OK, you can see where this one's going now - it's another ornate historical diversion selected to culminate in a desperately laboured stationery pun. Thank you for your patience... and now let's talk about Clairefontaine.
It sounds like a dream result from a branding workshop, and for some time I'm afraid I rather assumed that's just what it was. Pierre, we want zee papier to be clear, pure, like a fountain, oui? But, err, no - it turns out that Étival-Clairefontaine is a real place, with its own abbey as it happens, and a proper river rather than a desiccated dribble too, which is just as well, as you can actually see the wood-pulp yard from space and that stuff takes a bit of water to make. Legend has it they named the town after the paper-mill, but as is so often the case legend is quite clearly talking through its hat.
So, onto the paper, which is what this is really about, or at least ought to be. Us Neronians can get plenty heap gooey-eyed about obscure small-batch linen paper stock, archaic sub-post-quarto sizing and impossible Japanese surfaces coated in unobtainium, but sometimes one simply requires a good-looking notebook, with paper which can handle just about every writing implement going and, crucially, is actually on sale when called-for. That's when you should consider making friends with Clairefontaine (also know as Rhodia - it's the same stuff), because it's awesome.
Sadly a massive brand can draw a bit of snobbery, and if you have found yourself entertaining such elitist thoughts then I demand that you cease and desist herewith. I use the stuff all the time, actually. My ink blogs, like the never-ending tribulation of atramental mauvitude that is Too Many Purples, are all made using Clairefontaine's uber-dependable A5 Triomphe writing notepaper, for starters - and it never feathers. For bringing a spot of class to the office, though, their sewn notebooks are pretty much fail-proof; the current run of art-deco covers are particularly gorgeous. They look terrific, the surface takes fountain pen ink beautifully, they are reasonably straightforward to acquire and, astonishingly, don't cost a packet either. Try one!
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