It is the dawning…

Aquarius journal front
… of the Age of Aquarius

Here is another stationery item I have picked up recently. I found it on one of my regular meanders around the stationery aisle of my local TK Maxx. It is labelled as being manufactured in China for Robert Frederick of Bath, with a recommended retail price of £12.95 reduced to £4.99.

The journal has a hard cover with nice, suedette-feel finish, which is embellished on the front with a golden naked man pouring water from an ern and the word Aquarius in a fancy font and on the back cover with the name and address of Robert Frederick simply debossed. The cover is a very attractive rich shade of blue. It has the increasingly usual elastic band closure and gussetted pocket inside the back cover plus one ribbon bookmark. The endpapers are black. There is no information about the weight of the paper or number of pages, either inside the journal or on the plastic bag it was sealed in, however it is pretty average thickness so I’d say 70 to 80gsm, cream-coloured, printed with grey dotted lines 8mm apart. My manual count came up with 96 sheets in the book.

Aquarius journal pen test front
Aquarius journal pen test front

My fountain pen test shows the paper to be pretty average quality. Most of the inks bled through a bit, although there was not much ghosting/showthrough to be seen. Funnily enough, the Diamine Wild Strawberry ink in my Lamy LX behaved best with this paper and I’ve seen it misbehave on papers that the other inks have been fine with. That just goes to show that there’s no exact science to judge which combinations will work; it’s all just trial and error. However, the amount of bleedthrough with the other pens wouldn’t prevent me from using both sides of the paper.

Aquarius Journal pen test back
Aquarius Journal pen test back

I am an Aquarius and I love a good, rich shade of blue, so buying this journal was a done deal as soon as I saw it. I checked and TK Maxx had some others from this series and I saw a couple of colours, but I don’t know whether or not the colours are unique to the horoscope sign.

In conculsion, this is a decent addition to my journal collection and I will probably use it when I finish the thick bound book I bought at Morrisons before Christmas.

 

 

Red shoe days

My whole wardrobe is pointless because I have no red shoes.
(Me)

I’m sure we all have red shoe days, even though each person may call them by a different name.

The red shoe day comes when you’ve had a spell of bad luck, when it seems like everything that can go wrong is going wrong, when everything’s against you and every single moment seems like a struggle. It’s the day when you have to do something, anything, to lift your spirits. For me, it’s the day when I reach for red shoes.

Red shoes are magical. I don’t mean in the Wizard of Oz way – there’s nothing so magical that it can transport me home – but in smaller ways. Of course, red signals danger so they are quite literally a warning that you shouldn’t mess with me, but they are also an assertion: “Look at me – even with all the rubbish I’m still here and I’m rocking it!” Red shoes are undefeatable. With red shoes on, the same things happen, the same annoyances crowd around me but deep in some well-hidden corner of my heart I am silently saying “I’m wearing red shoes, so bollocks to it!”

I also find red shoes inexplicably beautiful and when you’re down in the dumps you need something to remind you of the beauty in the world. On a red shoe day, every time I catch sight of my feet they bring a little smile of happiness and gratitude to my face.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, I have failed to replace my red shoes and I don’t have a pair at the moment, so now my shopping list consists of a navy skirt and a pair of red shoes.

I’d love to know how you combat those you and me against the world days.

An unexpected find

9-ring binder closed
9-ring binder closed

I picked up this item in my local branch of Morrisons’ supermarket this week for the princely sum of £3.00. It isn’t pretending to be a high quality product, but I found it irresisible because of the 9-ring mechanist which looked surprisingly similar to a Filofax Deskfax configuration.

Filofax have made many different sizes of binder over the years and the ever-reliable Steve Morton over at Philofaxy has recorded that the Deskfax size was introduced around about 1992 and only produced for a few years. It uses B5 paper, which lies between A5 and A4. If you’d like to read Steve Morton’s full post, it can be found here.

9-ring binder with Personal paper
9-ring binder – compatible with Personal paper

I have checked and this inexpensive file does seem to have the same ring spacing as the Deskfax which means that the paper inside it would fit a Deskfax and this plastic binder could be used to archive papers from the main Deskfax binder. Of course, that would only be useful if you had a Deskfax binder which I don’t; I bought this purely because it piqued my interest. This ring configuration allows Filofax Personal-sized paper to be inserted, but the rings are not consistent with the punching on their A5 paper.

9-ring binder pen test front
9-ring binder pen test front

The binder comes with 96 sheets of 80gsm, ruled, cream-coloured notepaper. This seems similar quality notepaper to the journal which I bought just before Christmas – not the greatest, but actually pretty good considering the price these items are being sold at. The test page using my fountain pens shows the minimum of bleedthrough and a tolerable level of ghosting/showthrough. I could very happily write on both sides of this paper. Each page has a block at the top left with the initials of each day of the week and then an area to write the date at the top right. The line ruling is quite strong and black, with the lines being a generous 9mm apart, giving 24 lines in the writing area.  The additional bold lines at the top under the date area and at the bottom include little vertical notches which help if you want to draw vertical lines to divide up the page; these are approximately 7mm apart.

9-ring binder pen test back
9-ring binder pen test back

The closure system for the binder is a simple, black elastic treasury tag which slips into notches on the cover, and there is a single plastic flyleaf which, like the cover itself, is slightly frosted. On a couple of the holes in the flyleaf, the punching hasn’t quite removed the centre circle, I think that’s understandable in this level of product.

Does this paper size have a place in my life? Would I, perhaps, think of buying a Deskfax-sized organiser if I found one? Not really. At heart, I am happiest with A5 paper and I increasingly find that an A5 exercise book is just about perfect for portability and ease of writing. However, the B-series paper sizes are gaining in popularity with the planner community, providing a larger writing space then the A-series sizes without feeling like too much of a leap. Many fans enjoy the B6-size planners because they retain the portability of the A6 or Filofax Personal planners but give a bit more writing space. The main advantage to the A-series paper sizes is that they exactly double in size as you go through the scale; so if you divide an A4 sheet in half, you get two A5 sheets and if you divide the A5 sheet in half, you get two A6 sheets. This makes them very adaptable, especially in countries where the A-series paper predominates. If you divide a B5 sheet of paper in half, you do not get two B6 size sheets* (Edited to correct: the lovely Amanda of paperpensink has corrected me – B5 halved does give you two B6 sheets. Thanks, Amanda!)

In conclusion, I think this is an excellent product considering the pricing and the type of shop in which it was sold. Top marks to Morrisons.


Interesting fact – whilst I was writing this, there a plane was flying over leaving a trail in the blue sky and for a good while the clouds it was heading towards were moving at the same speed as the plane.


 

2020 Reading Journal

Book journal cover
Book journal, stickers, pens

This year I am determined to improve my reading game because if I’m aspiring to write more then I really need to match it with reading more. It’s not entirely a New Year’s Resolution because I started at the beginning of my Christmas break from work.

My new reading journal was part of my Christmas gift from my daughter and her family. It’s a Leuchtturm 1917 Jottbook Master notebook and when I unwrapped it and saw the black cover I immediately wanted to decorate it with printed photos of the cover of each book I read. So far I’m happy with the concept but strangely incapable of putting any sticker down straight. Never mind; it’s not like it’s some artwork for an exam upon which the rest of my life depends – it’s just a book for my own enjoyment.

How do I like the Jottbook? I do love a good exercise book because it always seems like the slim profile is easy to write in. As with all Leuchtturm products, I find the paper is a little on the thin side – it takes fountain pen ink well, but there is more shadowing on the reverse of the page than I personally like, and a touch of bleedthrough here and there. So far, I am just writing on the right-hand pages and when I’m through to the end I may turn it upside-down and work back through on the reverse pages. We shall see.

How am I enjoying the reading? Very much indeed. Of the three books I’ve read so far, one was a re-read and still a series that I am a big fan of; one was something I wanted to read just to see whether my gut-instinct is right and it is: I don’t want to read any more of this author; the other was just something I have never read even though I know the story by heart. Now I’ve read it I never have to read it again!

I don’t have any set books that I intend to read this year, I’m going to play it by ear, but I think I’d like to re-read This Side of Paradise by F Scott Fitzgerald because it was his first published novel and it would be cool to read it in its centenary year. I have had a sheet of paper with me for years reminding me I ought to read some more Christopher Isherwood. Also, I’d really like to find some novels that are published this year that I might like to read. I don’t read a lot of current fiction because it can be very formulaic and it’s not easy to find something that grabs me, so the majority of reads will hopefully be new to me but older to the world.

Here is the basic layout I am doing for each book I read:

Reading journal inside
A typical reading journal layout

That reminds me – I ought to add the original publication date for each book.

So that’s my reading journal. Tonight I will start a slim volume of short stories which sound interesting and will be a little light refreshment before I head into another longer novel.

Do you keep a list or review of books you read, or are you content with the reading without any need to record anything about it?

Back to the future

Aran jumper back
Aran jumper back completed

Hmm, I think “Back to the Future” would be a great name for this project, given how I leapt back several decades to grab the pattern. Didn’t have to use a DeLorean, though, and I don’t think I have caused any major changes to history in my travels.

As you can see, the back is finished and I am really happy with it. The Novita 7 Brothers yarn is pleasant to work with and it is certainly giving good stitch definition. I am totally happy with the colour I chose as well. Sometimes a yarn colour can seem perfect until I start knitting it, then I find it bores me a little. This is good. I can see it becoming a staple item in my wardrobe, teamed with navy trousers or a navy skirt. (Ah, a navy skirt – at the moment I am obsessed by the idea of a really great navy skirt.)

The pattern is a delight to follow and I had it off by heart by the end of the first pattern repeat. There have been a few instances where I’ve crossed a cable incorrectly and had to backtrack a row or two, but no major hiccups. The only slightly difficult row is the one where you purl 5 together to form the bobble, but that is just once in each pattern repeat, so I wouldn’t say it was offputting.

I am currently a quarter of the way up the front and I have plans to be halfway to the beginning of the armhole shaping by the end of today. I also have plans to work on it a bit each evening. We shall have to see whether all these plans come to anything.

It feels wonderful to be back in the knitting routine after the hiatus through the tail end of last year. It is such a lovely hobby, allowing oodles of time to dream about how great life will be when you are wearing this garment that you’re working on and to generate wild ideas about navy blue skirts.

I hope your knitting, sewing, or other hobbies are bringing you pleasure through these early days of 2020.

How I choose

Work it out
Choosing a word of the year

2020 will be my fifth year of choosing a Word of the Year and it’s a practice that I find more soothing than setting goals and resolutions (although these also play a part in my preparation).

But how do I choose my Word of the Year and when do I settle on it? The process is quite gradual and this year I haven’t really applied myself to the specifics until today. However, since I consider the time between New Year’s Day and my birthday in February to be the period where I really set my intentions for the year, I don’t consider I’ve been leaving it too late.

As we move into winter, I generally have an inkling of the sort of area that I want the word to encompass, the things I want it to remind me about. For example, I knew I wanted this coming year to be about renewing my committment to things, re-trenching, getting things back how I want them to be, settling in, but not getting too comfortable. When I am ready to actually decide on my word, I gather the most important things about me: a pen, some paper, a dictionary and thesaurus.

First, I write the general outline that I’ve been thinking of and when a particular single word pops into my mind I open the dictionary and the thesaurus and really get to work. Starting with that word, I read the description, consider the positive and negative connotations, and then I start skipping through the alternatives in the thesaurus. This is the intuitive part of the process: there will be certain words that seem better to me than others and the chain will lead me in directions that pure logic wouldn’t approach.

Today I was drawn to destiny as I liked the idea of things which I feel destined to include in my life, but as I explored the definition I wasn’t keen on the links with doom and fate. Next, I considered resume which covers the idea of re-committing to things and that led to me revive which I have marked as “promising”, before leaping on to rekindle which I felt was even better, although it didn’t quite light the spark of my imagination.

In my experience, following this process – the daisy-chain of words entwined around the central theme – will lead you to one word which feels just right; which says what you meant, even though what you meant was only vaguely clear to you when you set out. This certainly happened to me today and I settled on my Word of the Year 2020. But to find out what it is, dear reader, you will have to come back tomorrow.

Once upon a Christmas eve…

Christmas Eve 2019
Peaceful and bright

Christmas Eve is here and, in the spirit of sharing, here is a snapshot of my life today.

Knitting

My Aran jumper is progressing. I have completed two full repeats of the pattern and haven’t needed to resort to checking the printed version for several rows. It’s so easy to see where I am from a combination of memory and reading my knitting (for those unfamiliar with that phrase, it’s where you can look back at the rows you have completed and be able to see what you should be doing on the row you are on). I am already looking forward to wearing this jumper, even though it is barely started.

Reading

I borrowed the first Elly Griffiths novel, The Crossing Places, from my friend at the weekend and galloped through it. My verdict was that the story was gripping, but there was something a little unsatisfying about the novel and I found her relentless use of the present tense wearying. I also found I didn’t care much about the central character, and, in fact, it was the character of the captive girl – barely glimpsed – which held much more promise.

Since finishing that book, I have started my re-read of the second book in the Well World series by Jack L Chalker, Exiles At The Well Of Souls. I love this series from the 1970s and it’s more than time I caught up with it again.

Smelling

On me:
Jo Malone – Jo Loves White Rose and Lemon Leaves

In my home:
Yankee Candle – After Sledding

Eating

Apart from vast quantities of chocolate, my Christmas plans are a simple bacon, eggs and chips meal today, then a lovely joint of pork for tomorrow’s meal followed by Christmas Pudding and Rum Sauce (what Christmas is made of if you ask me).

Listening to

Christmas playlist:
Chris Rea – Winter Song
Michael Ball – As Long As There’s Christmas and Happy New Year
Roy Wood/Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and Rock’n’Roll Winter
David Essex – Only A Winter’s Tale

In my head:
Michael Jackson – One Day In Your Life

Well, that’s it, apart from a heartfelt hope that every one of you has a chance to pause in the chaos of this life and mark the season with a moment of warmth and light and love.

The gentle art of time travel

2019 – 2009 – 1972

You will recall the last time I spoke of my current knitting project it was the not-pink jumper: a lovely slouchy knit in plain stocking-stitch to ease me back into the knitting habit after my brief hiatus. I think we all know that was going to bore me after ten minutes.

I was already stepping back in time with the pattern I was following; back to 2009 and the Rowan/Martin Storey pattern book “Classic Heartland”, which is a lovely book. Every time I flicked through it to the plain pattern I was using, I would pause at the page with a lovely cabled knit and promise myself I’d do that sometime soon. Very soon, as it turned out, because I quickly unpicked the plain knitting I was doing and cast on for the cabled jumper.

2019 - 2009
A small step back in time

And there I was, still in 2009, studiously following the pattern chart and going along with things, grumbling quietly to myself about hating knitting charts and generally finding the knitting slightly loosey-goosey for my liking. I worked a bit more than you see in the photo, then realised I’d crossed a cable the wrong way and decided to unpick to the point of the mistake and take up from there. And so it sat in my knitting bag for a week whilst I went off to my work and made an effort during the evenings to completely ignore it, coming to the conclusion that I would only be happy once I’d written out the main cable pattern in longhand.

Then yesterday dawned. I had a lovely day, went to see my friends, bought the final gift for Christmas, watched some You Tube videos. In the evening I forced myself to finish translating the pattern chart, yet during that process it occurred to me that it would make much more sense to use a pattern that has the instructions written in accordance with my preferences. My mum’s knitting pattern collection came to my rescue and I abandoned Martin Storey in favour of a Wendy pattern from the early 1970s. I have stabbed at 1972, but that’s just a guess based on the fact that the price is in decimal currency so published in 1971 or after, and the pattern is for adults and children so pre-dates 1976.

2019 - 1972
A giant leap back in time

This is a very simple Aran pattern and I’m loving it. It’s so easy to follow, it is logical enough that I’ve already committed parts of it to memory, and the gauge seems to suit the wool much better than the more recent pattern did. It is so enjoyable to work that there is a danger I will not do much else over my Christmas break. Is that a problem? I’ll leave you to answer that!

The weather this morning is uninspiring and it isn’t helping me in my effort to plan what I shall do today and what I shall leave until tomorrow. My needs are relatively simple: I have to buy a new journal and my groceries, and I would like to do some baking. Oh, actually, I would like to bake some cheese scones. I could do that now, and whilst they are baking I could decide about the shopping. Then I could ignore everything I’ve just decided and choose instead to sit and eat warm cheese scones and drink tea and work on my knitting. Perhaps the weather is just a little bit inspiring after all.

 

Ready, set….

All set
Here comes 2020

Looks like I still haven’t done with ringing the changes, because for 2020 I am downsizing my planning into these two slim A6 books. I have chosen A6 because it’s the easiest to carry on a daily basis, but I’ll admit to a touch of trepidation over whether it will work out after a couple of years with A5 size planners. Then again, it’s two little books – hardly a lifetime committment.

My dairy is by Waterstones bookshop. It’s a horizontal layout which is another departure from the recent years. The pages are a pleasant shade of ivory which I know isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I rather like it. The paper is a decent weight; my initial try-out with fountain pens is acceptable, with slight bleedthrough with a couple of inks, but none with the basic cobalt Graf von Faber Castell. I will have fun finding my favourite ink to use with this paper. One of the things I particularly like about this diary is that it includes birth dates of famous authors. I want to read more next year so this should provide a little daily inspiration.

2020 Diary
Author birth dates

Regardless of whether the layout of the diary is horizontal or vertical and more important than the size, I have two requirements which any diary must comply with. Firstly, Saturday and Sunday have to be allocated the same amount of space as the weekdays. Some designers make us squeeze the two weekend days into one day’s space which doesn’t seem fair. My other must-have is a notes space so I can write in a quote for each week. Happily, this diary meets my expectations on both fronts.

I am pairing this diary with the little navy and rose gold notebook from WH Smith. The paper is white, relatively lightweight, and pretty mediocre quality, with a fair amount of bleedthrough with the inks I’ve tried. On the plus side, it is lined which is very much my preference with notebooks. This one is intended for quick jottings so it doesn’t need to be great quality paper, does it? Well, like I said before, it is a small notebook, easy to change if I want to. After all, if 2019 has taught me anything it’s that the most important thing is to remain flexible.