When I was at school, we were encouraged to use rough books – any piece of work would be planned out in this first, before being written up neatly in the correct subject book. Any notes were taken in this book. And it usually became an expression of its owner, whether through carefully designed covers – at one point I used to divide my cover into squares, allowing me to create a different image/pattern in each square – or through sketches and stories written in spare moments, not always following the normal page order.
I recently found a rough book that I used in what was then fifth form – nowadays it would be called year 11; the year students turn 16, the year of external exams. I reproduce a story from it here, word for word. It might show you where my mind was in those days.
Mike gazed into the water, wondering what would happen to him. He thought about Sophie, then hurriedly blinked back the tears that came to his eyes. Big boys don’t cry, he thought.
Children shouted as they ran about on the grass, and his mind wandered back to that day when Sophie…
This was no good. He must forget about her. It would do no good, all this remembering. But as long as he could hear a motorbike roaring– He slowly straightened, and wandered over to where a crowd of boys gathered round a motorbike. He recognised the owner as Paul, and seeing how proud Paul was of his new bike was like looking in a mirror and seeing himself a few months ago, so proud and important, and he saw Sophie’s face; he remembered how reluctant she had been to ride on the bike, and how he’d persuaded her.
As if in a dream he saw Paul slip his arm round his girlfriend’s waist and lead his friends towards the cafe, leaving the bike behind. As he stared at it suddenly fury welled up inside him and jumping on the bike he kicked the stand away. As the engine roared into life he heard shouts behind him, but suddenly he didn’t care. There was a wall in front of him and no room to turn, but he didn’t care about that either. All he could see was Sophie’s face, Sophie laughing, Sophie having a good time, then suddenly he saw her lying on the ground, with the motorbike on top of her. The picture melted and he came to his senses — too late.
With all this focus on loose worksheets and fun activities in the classroom, I mourn the loss of the rough book. I think it’s time I got back to using a creative notebook.