For generations, particular people – for a variety of reasons – have kept notebooks in which they write and record poems, thoughts, proverbs and sayings, etc. Anything, in fact, that takes their fancy. Some of these collections have been published; others have been used by writers as a source of ideas and recollections. In literary circles, such notebooks go by the technical name of ‘commonplace books’. Bill Gent has kept his own commonplace ‘book’ – beginning as cards and a variety of notebooks, but now digitised (and running at 56,000 words) – since the late 1960s. When asked to write a short, reflective piece, he will sometimes turn to his commonplace book for inspiration. The original of the following piece of writing was first penned on 13 June 2011.