Now, as far as the bag goes, I may have made progress! It turns out there is a leather maker in my very city, not 10 minutes away, who's online catalogue does have some bags in similar styles to the Saddleback Leather Briefcase, and considerably cheaper. He also apparently does do custom made bags, whether its just tweaking one of his existing bags or trying to make one to order. You can check out the link here. I've just been down there this afternoon, drove me and my dad and didnt kill either of us, but unfortunately his workshop was closed. Apparently he doesnt work weekends so I'm going to try going back in on Tuesday I think. I've got plenty of print outs and drawings and sketches of what I want, so I'm hoping he can help me out. In terms of price, the SBL bag was about £350 + P&P from America; this guys bags are about £115. Brilliant :)
As for the travel journal and pen, well...I'm very happy :)
Originally I thought the Midori Travel Journal was on the button, but after closer inspection I'm thinking not. It's not the right shape, too tall and while the refill system is very cool, its not what I'm looking for specifically for Australia.
Now some of you might know I'm a fan of the Moleskine notebooks, and have about 5 waiting for me, but again as with the Midori, I dont think they'll be as suited for what I have in mind for Australia. For starters, I'm looking for something softback, and I've already got hardback ones and dont fancy shelling out for a Softback Moleskine when I'm pretty sure its not right. Secondly, from what I've read online, I'm not sure how well it will lie flat.
I've also been looking at the Cartesio but think its a bit too Moleskine-ish for my requirements. Basically I've been reading through the Black Cover notepad review blog for inspiration, so take a look.
Then after much perusing, I discovered the Ciak. The review is promising, and I have found a site that sells them here, even 3 for 2! AND even more excitingly (cough) they actually do a specific travel journal, though its only in the medium size and part of me is leaning more towards the large. But the EXTRA special good news is that I suddenly remembered while reading some comments, that Paperchase at least used to have that very notebook. So after college yesterday I popped in, and they had ONE, single, solitary, lonely Ciak Travel Journal in red! It was perfect! It was the sample they'd had, and while the rest of the travel journals had sold, no one wanted the bashed sample one. I was the opposite! I'd been looking at the red one anyway, so I had to ask how much they'd knock off considering it was the only one left and the sample at that. Originally, the manager said she could give me 10% off... from £10.50. I was hesitant. She then offered me 15% off. And then, out of nowhere, while we were just talking and she was seeing if there were any other notebooks that were suited to what I wanted, she just said "Oh you know what, I'll give it to you for half price. It's been sitting there on its own for ages and no one else wants it, and you do, so I'll give you half price." Brilliant. £5.50 in the end, means I got the medium Ciak Travel Journal for less than they were selling the pocket version! And I couldn't be happier it with it. It's got the standard first page for information, but with more travel-specific details such as Passport Number and Drivers License. Then there's an itinerary page, and a world map, which is perfect for me because I can draw in the flight paths we take :)
As you can see from these pictures, one great thing about it is that the elastic band is horizontal, not vertical like the Moleskine, which is perfect for holding a pen and keeping loose papers and such like inside. Its also slightly bigger than the pocket Moleskines I'm used to, yet still a really nice size to hold. It really does feel nice in my hand :) the soft faut-leather cover is smooth and supple with enough flexibility.
As for the pen, well its there in the pictures. After we went to Paperchase, dad needed to go to the LCE for some new binoculars (£300 but he gets a free pair of compact ones worth £150?!?! Mine!), and then I persuaded him to let us go in Rymans. I spent about 10 minutes trying pens before I found the Uni-Ball Jetstream SX-210 1.0 pen, also known now by me as the perfect pen.
It's gorgeous. The barrel shape is brilliant and the pen feels evenly weighted when you write with it. The only flaws are that the rubber grip is probably not rubbery enough, and there's a plastic ridge right where I hold it, but nothing major. It really is ridiculously comfortable to write with, and this coming from someone who hasnt had to hand write anything much for months, so anytime I do my hand aches after about 2 minutes. But not with this pen. The ink is a very dark black, not like some of these 'black' pens that come out grey, and you dont have to apply much pressure to get an even line. I think its technically a rollerball, but it looks and feels more like a gel ink to write with, its that smooth and flowing. Apparently the ink is meant to me fade resistant and waterproof too.
All in all, after a good days driving today too, despite HTLeather not being open, I'm feeling rather contented today. Some of the things I'm selling are in the paper now and I'm hoping we do get some interest, as I need the money.
So yes, happy. Cold, very very cold, but happy.
And to top it all off, I'm going to see Jon Richardson and Shappi Khorsandi at the Exeter Northcott tonight!!!
EDIT: Another advantage of the Uni Ball SX-210's likeness to a gel ink is that it gives you the smoothness and darkness of a gel ink, with the durability of a biro/ballpoint eg it wont bleed through paper at all!