Plaid in full

by Scribble Monboddo

The Waverley tartan notebooks are terrific, and since Amanda will be telling you much more than I know about the purpose of the 'commonplace book', then I'll harp on instead about the textile for a moment, if I may.

The term tartan has a contested etymology but may conceivably come from a French term denoting a Tartar origin, which is perhaps not as a crazy as it sounds; there have long been theories that the Keltoi originated somewhere fierily mitteleuropan before settling on these windswept islands and subsequently being nudged to the 'Celtic fringe' by successive waves of savage Saxons, vicious Vikings and naughty Normans. Whatever the origin, the idea of denoting your tribe or party by an identifiable combination of warp and weft has had currency for a long old while - it's even been found wrapping mummies unearthed in Chinese deserts after lying undisturbed for three or four millennia. Now that's what I call a serious meme.

Of course, these days this sort of textile is inescapably associated with Scotland, but other neighbouring Celts have theirs too; I've seen an O'Sullivan tartan with my own eyes, for example, and our North American cousins still often refer to tartan as plaid - a word used to this day in Wales to denote one side in a battle (or a political party, at least). Thank the Hanoverians - no, really. They may have over-reacted and banned it after Culloden, but once the Prince of Wales discovered whisky and Walter Scott wrote some brilliant sales collateral, the whole thistle-and-shortbread shebang was in vogue, and has been ever since.

This particular notebook is covered in tartan designed for the Hanoverians who these days get to call Holyrood Palace their pied-a-terre when popping into Edinburgh, and for the purposes of illustration I've laid it on a bed of my own tartan, which isn't so easy to obtain - actual ID has to be presented to claim some! Yes, these days even hairy highlanders have a database, and the Scottish Register of Tartans will brook no bobbins. I don't actually wear mine, to be honest - it's not my colour and I really don't have the legs to carry off a glorified skirt - but I'm pleased to claim a tartan as my birthright nevertheless.

So, what about these notebooks, then? I've tried out the 90 x 140mm size, my favoured 'pocket' format, and I'm somewhat smitten. If I were to nit-pick I'd prefer the rulings slightly less tight, and the paper may feather a bit under the onslaught of a very wet fountain pen, but it can cope with any other writing device perfectly well and it's going with me on my next trip to the homeland. How many other pocket notebooks does everyone want to reach out and stroke, after all? Stick it in yer sporran!