Planning – a new experiment

*For a better view, click on any photo to see the full-size image.

As I mentioned in my wrap-up post from National Stationery Week, I was unlikely to continue using the ring-planner I had set up due to size issues and personal preferences. The more I think about it, the more useful I find that experiment was – it forced me to consider what does and doesn’t work with the planning set-up I have been using this past couple of years.

My very strong preference has always been to use an A5-ish size page which hits the sweet spot of portability and ease of use. For a while now, I have been eyeing the Filofax A5 Notebook which offers minimal ring intrusion coupled with the ability to move pages at will and, with the correct punching, to add your own items. I was loath to try one, though, because of my experience with the paper quality in Filofax’s other notebook system – the Clipbook – which I tried a few years ago. I had a couple of big problems with that design:

  • The cover felt unpleasant, particularly where it bulged around the 6-ring mechanism and I found it awkward in use.
  • The paper was thicker than the standard Filofax used for their traditional ring-planner inserts, but the quality wasn’t up to using fountain pens and inks. There was feathering and bleed-through a-plenty.

Whilst many users had said the paper in the Notebook products was fountain-pen friendly, I wasn’t sure if I should trust that. However, this design did seem to offer the potential to incorporate my diary and notebook in one very portable cover, so yesterday I trotted off to my local department store’s stationery shop* and purchased the Vista Blue notebook. I must say, so far I am very impressed with it and it scores highly on the following points:

  • The paper is really good as the above pen test photos illustrate. The only pen to bleed through was the Pilot CD marker which is not a pen I would ever use on paper anyway. The wet-writing Parker 51 with a medium (?) nib produced the most show-through, but my regular pen and ink combinations were perfect, I certainly wouldn’t have any trouble using both sides of the paper.
  • I like the cover which is a stiffened plastic with a very pleasant feel and lays completely flat when open. When required, the cover folds back on itself allowing you to write easily with it held in one hand. There is an elastic band attached to the back cover to hold the notebook securely closed when you have it in your bag.
  • Because the wire binding is almost completely covered, it is a lot less likely to squash than a standard wire-bound notebook; I think it also gives a very neat look to the book.
  • You get 56 sheets of 6mm ruled paper – I’d prefer it a bit wider ruling, but it’s still practical, plus an additional few sheets of plain and 5mm grid paper to try out. You can buy replacement paper pre-punched from Filofax in various designs.
  • The notebook includes four dividers which seem to be made of a slightly plastic-feeling card – one of these is designed to form a pocket which is useful.
  • The size is just perfect, giving plenty of space to write easily on either side of the paper but in a format that slips easily into a handbag to carry out with me. It’s nice and lightweight, too, which increases the portability.
  • There is a good choice of covers online, but availability locally will be dependent upon the retailer.

I have just a couple of very minor negative points:

  • The plastic ruler/page marker included with the notebook is very flimsy and doesn’t stay securely attached to the rings. I have now covered mine completely with washi tape on both sides and re-cut the holes which seems to make it a bit more secure. I can see good reasons to keep the marker as thin as possible, but having it detaching from some of the rings as I’m turning it is a slight irritation.
  • From watching a few review videos on YouTube (I can recommend the bullet journal one from Goldspot Pens), I could see that it can be difficult to turn the pages if you have the notebook stuffed. I’ve gone for a minimal layout, incorporating three months of week on two pages diary and 25 sheets of lined paper, with three of the dividers.
  • The replacement paper packs are not badly-priced, but they only appear to have 32 sheets of paper which is rather meagre and I envisage I’d be buying more than one pack at a time – a lot of plastic wrap could be saved if there were 50 or more sheets to a pack. The pastel and marble papers Filofax offer appear to have 60 sheets per pack which is better.

Filofax sell a punch to cut holes of the required size and shape to suit the notebooks and I think that would be a useful tool to buy in the fullness of time. The ability to punch different papers and other items to slot into the notebook is one of the primary selling points of these notebooks. Whilst I have the A5 size, they also do this design in a pocket size and an A4 – the hole spacing is uniform across the different sizes and the hole punch will work for any of them. However, you don’t have to have the special punch – it is possible to use a standard hole punch and cut slots into each hole, which is how I have incorporated the pages from my A5 Mark + Fold diary into this cover:

10-05-19 Diary FoFN

I shall be very interested to see how this notebook holds up over time, but my first impressions are positive and I am more likely to use this long-term than the ring-planners I have used before, or than a bound bullet journal style of book.

Hope this has been of a little interest to you. I feel next week it would be nice to get away from the stationery theme and share something different – we shall see. Until then, I hope you all have a good weekend and find some time to enjoy yourselves.


Jarrolds is a department store based in Norwich with a long history of stationery and art products, not to mention a decent book department. They have gone rather up-market over recent years and have recently moved their stationery from the ground floor up to the third floor, but I am trying not to hold that against them.


 

Ring planner experiments – the inserts

National Stationery Week Day 4

02-05-19 Dividers

Welcome to National Stationery Week Day 4 and my second post showing an experimental set-up of a Personal size ring-planner (previous post here). I have been concentrating on the nerdy part – testing various pens and papers to see what might or might not work and some of the results have surprised me.

First, though, I have made some dividers from heavy-weight scrap-booking paper with typed labels. I haven’t laminated the dividers and there are two reasons for that. Whilst I accept that lamination increases durability, it also adds bulk and it covers paper (a material that can be recycled) with plastic (a material that cannot). Previously when I’ve used Filofax and Kikki K systems I have not had any problem with paper dividers. Protection comes in the form of the clear plastic flyleaf from my Filofax Original which sits in front of the first divider and a decorated flyleaf from a Kikki K planner add-on set which lives at the back. I also use a bit of clear sticky tape to cover the label area, but that’s as far as I go.

(Photos of the ink tests are at the foot of this post; click on photos to go to full-size.)

In choosing which paper to print my experimental inserts onto, I have used the paper from Mark and Fold (120gsm, made in Aberdeenshire) as my benchmark. It’s what I have in my current diary and it’s a very hard act to follow with no bleedthrough from any of the pens tested and less showthrough visible to the naked eye than caught on camera.

I also used the following pens:

  • Parker 51 medium nib filled with Lamy Peridot ink – this pen writes much wetter than many of my fountain pens and there was bleedthrough on the majority of papers.
  • Waterman Hemisphere filled with Graf von Faber-Castell Midnight Blue ink – this is the combination I’ve been using extensively in my current diary.
  • Waterman Hemisphere filled with Herbin Poussiere de Lune ink – I find Herbin inks often bleed through paper.
  • Cross Century II  filled with Lamy Ruby ink.
  • Parker 51 fine nib filled with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue ink.
  • Uni Emott pens in pale pink (colour 68), deep pink (colour 67), plum (colour 80), lilac (colour 34) and pale blue-grey (colour 81).

 

I tried these out on a selection of papers with my fountain pens and had the following results:-

  • Some random notepaper from The Works, gsm unknown – no bleedthrough, and less showthrough than many of the others I tested; stood up surprisingly well to the pen test. I just have a few sheets of this paper which I will use in the Notes section
  • Kikki K standard inserts which came with the ring-planner, gsm unknown – bleedthrough with Lamy Peridot ink in the medium-nib Parker 51 which is a gusher, showthrough with all the inks. I have a lot of To Do sheets and note sheets to use up (anyone who has bought a Kikki K planner knows they come with a lot of note sheets)
  • Filofax floral decorated inserts (the 2016 iteration) – some bleedthrough from the Parker/Lamy combination, showthrough minimal as it is disguised by the pattern. I just have a couple of To Do lists to use up
  • Basildon Bond Personal Writing Paper, possibly 90gsm, but not confirmed – no bleedthrough from any of the inks, showthrough was pretty much in line with Kikki K paper
  • Copier paper, 120gsm – just to prove the weight isn’t the only deciding factor, this has significant bleedthrough from the Parker/Lamy combination and a tiny amount from the Herbin Poussiere de Lune in the Waterman Hemisphere and from the Lamy Ruby in the Cross Century II, however there was almost no showthrough.
  • Copier paper, 90gsm – I would say worst performance overall with bleedthrough on Parker/Lamy, Waterman/Herbin and Waterman/Graf von Faber-Castell combinations, showthrough about on a par with the Kikki K inserts.
  • Coloured copier paper, 80gsm – I tried two colours with no bleedthrough on the blue paper and bleedthrough on the cream paper only using the Parker/Lamy combination, showthrough was negligible on the blue, more pronounced on the cream but still at an acceptable level.

 

Initially, I intend to print my diary inserts (week on two pages horizontal format from Philofaxy free printable) onto the cream 80gsm paper simply because I don’t intend to use the sheets long-term. When it comes to preparing for next year I would be tempted to buy an A4 pad of Rhodia paper which is well-behaved with fountain pen inks. I would also probably choose a paid-for printable from one of the many on Etsy over the free printable, just based on the fact that it really irritates me that the format I prefer doesn’t use capital letters for the names of the days and months.

This is a mega-post, but I want to mention one thing before I go – how much easier it is to print out your own inserts if your printer does duplex printing. My new-ish HP Envy printer is a big improvement in this regard.

Thank you if you have stuck with this through to the bitter end. Here is your reward – the dividers in the planner!

02-05-19 KK + Dividers

See you tomorrow when I should have photos of the filled planner.


Ring planner experiments – the basics

National Stationery Week Day 2

Welcome to National Stationery Week Day 2 and the first of four posts in which I will be detailing an experimental set-up of a Personal size ring-planner. Today I have chosen the planner I will use for the experiment – I thought I would use my Filofax Original Fuchsia Patent, but instead I have chosen my Kikki K medium size in the blue colourway from their We Are All Creative range released in 2017. Got to go with what calls to you on the day, right? This is a leather planner with a fabric lining and their standard pocket layout inside. It is a structured binder (as opposed to floppy ones like the Filofax Malden and the offerings from Gillio and Van der Spek), this is just my preference. It is quite lightweight without any inserts, but if you choose you can fit plenty in it on its 30mm rings. The hardware is silver-coloured although it looks rather gold in this photo.

30-04-19 Creative

As to inserts, it is my intention to print these using papers I already have to hand using free printables from Philofaxy or to my own designs. Keep an eye out for more on this subject in my next National Stationery Week post where I will be experimenting with combinations of pens and paper to come up with the best pairing for the experiment.

First, though, I want to quickly address why I am calling this is an experimental set-up. I am pretty sure that I will be happy to keep using my Mark and Fold Diary for the rest of this year, but National Stationery Week seems like an opportunity to play about with a Filofax-style planning set-up and it may give you some ideas, or helpful information. I have to stress that this won’t be a tried-and-trusted planning system, although it will be one I intend to work with for a while, with an eye on next year’s requirements. There is a lot to like about my current diary: the paper quality, plenty of room to write in a quote each week which I do like in my diary, clear minimalist aesthetic. On the downside, some days I don’t have quite enough room, I generally prefer something other than the vertical column design, it’s an A5 bound book and I don’t tend to take it out of the house because I also have to carry a separate notebook. Taking everything into account, the paper quality really is good enough to balance any number of other design elements.

As to the pens I will be using, the set-up needs to accommodate my fountain pens shown below (left to right these are the recently acquired Parker 51 which is a bit of a gusher compared to my other pens; the blue Waterman Hemisphere; the Rose Cuivre Waterman Hemisphere; the blue Cross Century II looking just gorgeous in this photo; and my original Parker 51). Also in the photograph is a set of Uni Emott coloured pens bought specially for Stationery Week so I can show you some colour-coding. These write very well, although the pale pink and pale blue-grey are very pale indeed.

30-04-19 Pens

I hope this has piqued your interest and you will join me later in the week as the set-up progresses.

Tomorrow, though, for my knitting fans, I’ve got a finished object and I am over the moon!


 

“The Way We Were”

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line?

19-04-19 Black 51

Ah, the good old days, the good old days. You will remember them – back at the end of March when I was writing about the black Parker 51 fountain pen pictured above. But time moves inexorably on and now…

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There’s a new kid on the block!

There’s a ‘new’ old Parker 51 fountain pen for me to play with (many thanks to my mate Glen). I am in the process of doing the soaking and flushing routine to get it completely clean then I will see if/how it writes.

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These two pens are remote siblings. The big differences are in age and location. The burgundy pen was made in the USA whereas my black version is marked Made in England. I am pretty sure the burgundy version is the older of the two, but dating is not the easiest thing (I have spent an hour this morning sitting in a dating rabbit-hole of my own making). However, at the end of the day dates are of minor interest only; the important thing is enjoyment and I am certainly enjoying the new addition to the pen family. It may be a temporary resident chez moi – if I get it working well then I will offer it back to its real owner. If it does end up with me long-term then I certainly won’t complain.

I hope your weekend brings some pleasurable finds with it.


 

From the bins of minimalists

Parker 51:b

Disclaimer: Somewhere, not a million miles from where I sit writing, there is a beautiful lady who now knows that her mother is not above delving into other people’s bins, and for that I am truly sorry.

This is a Parker 51 fountain pen. It is old; it has been on adventures; it has, frankly, seen better days, yet it is lovely.

Strictly speaking, it has never belonged to me although I have given it house room on and off over the years. When it has lodged with me it has always sat firmly in the “memorabilia” section of my life because I have never been bitten by the vintage bug in this area of my interests. That is unusual because many fountain pen users are very fond of vintage items, and also because I like vintage clothes and furniture a lot. Over the years I must have read hundreds of reviews of old pens yet remained firmly in the modern camp, and by ‘modern’ I mean pens that are current models when I buy them. Over the course of my life these might well turn into vintage items themselves, but they will always be modern to me.

Despite my lack of interest and my deeply held preferences, I find myself besotted with this Parker 51 and that is for one reason only – it writes like a dream.

Parker 51 Pen Test

The nib is incredibly smooth and it starts perfectly every time I pick it up, despite my worries that the cap may be rather loose and lead to the nib drying out. I did have to put in a fair bit of work to sort out the ink flow initially. I had dipped it in ink to check if the nib was damaged and it didn’t appear to be, but the first time I filled the pen it dried out after a few words. This led me to think the feed must be pretty clogged up and there ensued several bouts of rinsing through and soaking over the course of a couple of weeks, interspersed with filling and emptying of ink. Actually, after the final soak and rinse through, I just put it to one side without bothering to ink it up to test, because I had no intention of using it (on account of not being interested in vintage fountain pens!). Then at the end of last week I decided I would just pop in some ink and test it again which led to an interesting weekend during which I compulsively picked it up to write pages of nothing because it is so pleasant to hold and to write with. I want to fill it with an exciting coloured ink and…. do something.

Something. But what? I aready struggle to use all the fountain pens I have. I love each and every one, and I find it incredibly difficult to leave any of them resting ‘out of rotation’. I miss each one so much if it is not inked up and ready to use. I’m going to have to find a way to hand-write even more!

And yes, thank you, I know that one paragraph sums up why people become minimalists. It would be much simpler just to have one fountain pen. But who said life had to be simple?

One final thought occurred to me when I was playing with the Palm PDA earlier in the week and that is how much easier it is to dispose of pens and ink and paper.  When our electronic items get broken, stop working, or simply become obsolete, we must jump through hoops to dispose of them, taking them to special collection centres, or sending them away to be dismantled responsibly. Fountain pens have proven to be pretty durable, but if one breaks, you have no more than a slight pang about putting it in a bin. You can recycle your paper, and your ink bottles so long as they are glass. So, if having rather too many fountain pens is complicating my life, it is nothing compared to the complications my electronic devices bring.


 

InCoWriMo 2019

Today is the sixth day of the International Correspondence Writing Month 2019 and I am pleased with my progress to date.

Whilst the aim is to write a letter – or, indeed, any hand-written missive which can be a note, postcard, post-it, so long as it’s written by hand – every day through February, many people taking part will inevitably be fans of pens and papers and so the letters can be quite decorative, or include little gifts. I like to write in my letters about which pen and ink I am using because I love to read this information in the letters I receive. I have some decorative notepaper, quite a bit of it from Kikki K, so I don’t decorate the letters themselves, but I do like to add some fripperies on the envelopes.

Speaking of envelopes, I am addressing the letters this year with my lovely little typewriter. One year I hand-wrote the addresses with fountain pen and ink and then overlaid them with sellotape to provide a waterproof layer; the other year I hand-wrote the envelopes with ballpoint pen. Of the three, the typewriter is the nicest – it still seems like a hand-crafted solution, whilst being neat, legible, and waterproof.

For letters that I am sending abroad, I have a pack of postcards from Norwich Castle Museum. These feature images from the Norwich School of painters, mostly local scenes or still-lives. Many of these hang in the Castle Museum itself as it houses a good art gallery as well as the historical and natural displays.

The little bone-handle pen-knife in my picture above is an item I use for opening letters. To the best of my knowledge, it belonged to my grandparents when they lived in their lovely house in York, and passed along via my mum to me. It is a delicate item, very much for the genteel lady. My dad always carried a pen-knife which my sister now owns. It was mainly used for peeling apples, sharpening pencils, and for tamping down the tobacco in his pipe. I find it sad that the pen-knife is now seen as a weapon rather than a utility item, and is therefore (understandably) frowned-upon.

In other news, yesterday was my birthday and it was very book-orientated. 2019 is definitely going to be a year where I read a lot. I have already determined that I am going to get back into the habit of just browsing in bookshops. It seems to me that I stopped reading a lot at around the time when I stopped browsing in bookshops a lot; I am not sure which one led to the other. However, it does seem to me that when I take the time to simply wander around and look at books, I see all manner of items which catch my eye and I am certain that this can only be of help to me in my desire to read more. My favourite bookshop to browse in was a small independent book store in Norwich called Gliddons which was around until the 1980s. I remember buying my first copies of books by John Fowles, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and F Scott Fitzgerald there, as well as many a sci-fi book from the bookshelves in the basement. Second to that, the big Borders store which opened in Chapelfield in 2005 and sadly departed in 2009, was a favourite. This was a huge book shop for Norwich and I can remember buying many a ‘business’ book there, as well as the first paperbacks I owned of Haruki Murakami novels. The best shops for browsing the books in Norwich now are The Book Hut (independent), Jarrolds (independent, part of local department store) and Waterstones (chain).

Right, I am heading off to clean out a fountain pen then tomorrow I can refill it with a new colour ink, ready for some more letters.


Are you taking part in InCoWriMo this year? Have you done it in previous years? Would you do it in future years? What do you think?


 

Early 2019 inky matters

02-01-19 2019 Initially Inked

Welcome to the first blog post of 2019, how lovely to have you join me for some inky-matter chatter.

To start, these are the pens I’ve got inked and the colours they are sporting. Somehow in the fun and games before Christmas, I lost track of which inks I was using and so I am not 100% sure what is in the Cross Century and the Lamy LX. C’est la vie. Once the current ink is used up, I will be sure to fill them and actually make a note.

The three pens I am sure of are the three that I am carrying in the lovely 3-pen case that I received as a Christmas gift; these are two Waterman Hemispheres and a Lamy Safari. The Safari has been out of rotation for quite a while. I used it extensively as my work pen up to the middle of 2018 and it lived in my desk drawer at the office. Since that part of my life is in hibernation, I haven’t been using it. This isn’t a slur on the Safari, it is a very good workaday pen; it’s just that I have others I prefer to use. However, I think it has found its calling as a full-time “red ink pen” since I decided to try out the Ruby Lamy Crystal ink in it. In the past couple of days I have recalled just how much I enjoy using red ink for underlining titles and drawing attention to important notes.

If you have read my New Year’s Eve post, you will know that I received two bottles of ink for Christmas, both from the new Lamy Crystal range. I am very happy with both these inks and I thought I would do a swatch sheet to compare with a couple of comparable inks from my meagre collection. Please note the writing on the swatch sheets is done by dipping a pen, whereas the sample in my ink log above is from a filled pen. The large colour swatch on each sheet is done using a cotton bud dipped in the ink which results in lower saturation than writing using a nib. The prices I have quoted below are the price at time of writing on the web shop of The Writing Desk. Prices from other suppliers may vary.

Lamy Crysal “Ruby” and J. Herbin “Rouge Caroubier”

These are two scrumptious red inks and I find them to be relatively ‘warm’ shades without veering off into the orange end of the red spectrum. I enjoy them very much even though I usually lean towards the cooler rather than warmer shades (although I did try out the Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki – Winter Persimmon – shade a couple of years ago and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it).

These are both admirable ink shades and appear well-behaved on the page, although please bear in mind that I do use papers that are known to be receptive to fountain pen ink. It is not my intention to provide an in-depth review using varying paper qualities with feathering and bleed-through tests, although I am sure it won’t be long until those well-qualified in reviewing inks start posting reviews of the Lamy Crystal line.

The Lamy Crystal ink comes in a 30ml bottle for £9.50. The J. Herbin ink comes in either a 30ml bottle for £5.99 or standard international cartridges in a tin of 6 for £2.60.

Lamy Crystal “Peridot” and Graf von Faber-Castell “Deep Sea Green”

The Lamy Crystal Peridot is another lovely shade, leaning towards the bluer/teal side of green, but still recognisably green. It has a spruce feel to it; a hint of winter woodlands. This tendency is even more pronounced in the Graf von Faber-Castell Deep Sea Green which is definitely heading off in the deep turquoise direction. I admit that of the Graf von Faber-Castell offerings, I prefer Moss Green over Deep Sea Green and this is reflected in the fact that I have used up what I had and so can’t provide a swatch. I can safely say that I like the Peridot colour so much that I won’t be yearning for the Moss Green for a while.

Again, I have nothing but good things to say about both these inks so far as how they behave on fountain-pen friendly paper. Both dry in good time, which is important to me as I hate waiting around for the ink to dry. Yes, I am that impatient woman!

The Lamy Crystal ink comes in a 30ml bottle for £9.50. The Graf von Faber-Castell ink comes in a 75ml bottle for £24.99 and standard international cartridges at £2.50 for a cardboard pack of 6 or £8.49 for a super gift-box of 20.

Packaging

02-01-19 Lamy packaging

I will wrap up by saying a little about the packaging of the Lamy Crystal inks. Lamy are renowned for having a nice, minimalist aesthetic in their packaging, and most items come in packets that can be easily recycled. The Crystal ink range sports a clean white cardboard box, highlighted with details in the appropriate ink colour. The ink name is clearly visible, which I believe makes it a lot easier for people new to buying fountain pen inks (or buying as gifts) to locate the appropriate colours. The glass bottles are functional, having wide tops to make filling pens easy and an interesting, rounded tricorn shape to the bottle. The base of the bottle is good and solid and I don’t imagine the bottles having any tendency to tip whilst you have them uncapped. I am happy to report that the design of the packaging demonstrates a level of thought that I would expect from this brand.

I hope this inky-fingered post has provided some food for thought and look forward to seeing you again later in the week for another little meander through my mind.


Have you tried out the Lamy Crystal inks, or are you familiar with their main range?


 

2018 in 9 chapters

Prologue

2018 is singing a triumphant closing number and 2019 is poised to make its entrance so what better to do today than reflect on some key themes from the year? You might want to make yourself a cuppa before you head into this – it’s going to feel like you’ve been reading for a whole year before you get to the end!

Chapter 1 – the ignominy of scriptwriters

I’m going to start with Kojak, but I promise I will bang on a lot less about this subject in the New Year (maybe!). Today I want to talk about how cruel script-writers can be. Since July, I have sat through four series of this excellent show from the 1970s and in almost every episode, Detective Bobby Crocker has crossed a busy New York road. Every time he crosses a road, he does it perfectly – he looks in both directions before he crosses, he carries on looking both ways as he crosses, if a car approaches, he calmly and politely alerts the driver by holding up his hand, if a car stops he generously raises a hand in acknowledgement and thanks. I am not kidding, every time I cross a road now, I think about Bobby Crocker and his road-crossing technique!

I therefore consider it a betrayal that, in Series 5, the scriptwriters decided that he should get knocked over by a car whilst crossing the road! This scene could have been done with any other detective in Manhattan South and been utterly understandable. But no, they had to choose Crocker!

(It’s okay, he only banged up his elbow and lived to fight another day, but that’s not the point.)

Chapter 2 – knitting

So, on to the serious stuff. At the end of 2017, when my knitting spirit was slightly under par, I decided to set myself the goal of knitting one garment and three pairs of socks for each of the four seasons, with the year divided at December 21st 2017; March 20th 2018; June 21st 2018; September 23rd 2018 and ending on December 20th 2018. I actually knitted three garments (the chunky sweater, sleeveless top, and maroon superwash sweater) plus two pairs of socks (both in Mr B Yarns – “Where the Wild Things Are” and “An Inspector Calls” colourways). I am not downhearted because that’s an improvement on the previous couple of years. Also, I am only counting my personal knitting – it would be a lot more impressive if I added in stock I’ve knitted for my Etsy shop, and the Christmas gift jumper.

The most important thing is that I love and wear the items I’ve knitted this year, so I consider it good, solid progress. What I am taking forward into the new year is a renewed commitment to work on the project/s I have on the needles every day, rather than to revert to my normal ‘boom or bust’ nature. A tiny bit of progress every day is the best way to go, and I find if I pick up something intending to only knit a couple of rows I will probably still be there at the end of an hour thinking ‘just one more row’. This is especially true of the Gaudi caridgan I am currently working on.

I do like the idea of dividing the year into the four seasons and I will continue with that for the coming year, just in a more organic, less goal-driven way.

Chapter 3 – reading

I haven’t read as much in 2018 as I intended to, although I have read more than I did in the previous few years so, again, there’s been a bit of progress.

The reads I have recorded were:-
Frenchman’s Creek” Daphne du Maurier – re-reading of an old favourite
Eight Girls Taking Pictures” Whitney Otta – gift from my daughter and a thoroughly fascinating book
Hypothermia” Arnaldur Indridason – Skandi-noir crime-thriller passed on to me by my daughter
The Great Gatsby” F Scott Fitzgerald – another re-read; another old favourite

For Christmas this year I received four books as gifts, so these will be my initial reads going forward:-
Little Miss Christmas” Roger Hargreaves – read this as soon as I unwrapped it on Christmas morning
Iceling” Sasha Stephenson – science fiction, really keen to read this as soon as I’ve finished the Murakami
Killing Commendatore” Haruki Murakami – new book; my favourite author; lovely dustcover, but simply stunning covers underneath it; started reading this on Christmas Day
Uncommon Type” Tom Hanks – I’ve seen so many snippets about this since it was published and I’ve been thinking about getting it, so great to receive it as a gift, and keen to read after I’ve read the others

As with the knitting, I am finding with reading that if I do a little each day I achieve more than if I think I will spend a big block of time reading something.

Chapter 4 – creative writing

Back in the early part of summer I put in a lot of work on my creative writing and I hit 10,000 words on the first draft of what I like to refer to as my novel. Then I stopped. I had good reasons for stopping, not to do with lack of enthusiasm for the project, just that my attention was needed elsewhere. Towards the end of the year I’ve been thinking seriously about short fiction pieces, and looking at Medium as a platform to get some of my writing past the draft stage on into an arena where it stands a chance of being read. I intend to write more about this in the next couple of weeks as I firm up my plans.

Chapter 5 – weight and health

I think in 2018 the most beneficial thing I have done is change my diet, lose weight, and become more active. It took a big change in my lifestyle to prompt me to do this; I had been unhappy with my weight and generally feeling lumpy and unfit for a long while, but I was stuck in a rut of spending too much time on work I didn’t particularly enjoy and not enough time on creative things that I would enjoy, then compensating myself by over-eating.

Now I am two stone lighter than I was; I have eaten well, though not to excess, over Christmas without either gaining or losing any weight; and I feel a hundred times better about myself than I have for a long while. The trick (for me, at least) is to recognise what your particular downfall is and then just apply yourself to correcting it. For me, it’s snacking – I never have been one for eating huge meals, but will happily graze on sweetery until the cows come home. Forcing myself into a routine of eating three meals a day and not snacking in between has been the key as far as eating goes, and I think if I maintain this then I have a good chance of establishing a weight that I am happy with and can maintain.

That is one side of the equation. The second, equally important thing for weight loss is EXERCISE. I don’t think you can lose weight just by changing your eating (input); you also have to address your exercise (output). I initially committed to doing at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and quite quickly upped this to an hour a day. About 50% of the exercise I do is walking because it’s the thing I enjoy and I can easily do and I find it beats cycling into a cocked hat for general fitness.

The other 50% is down to that blue plastic step! No, it isn’t pretty; no, it isn’t exciting; but, boy, does it work! I don’t use it for fancy workouts; I don’t follow some wonderful programme – I literally just step on and off it for 30 minutes. Sometimes I listen to music whilst I’m doing it (Dusty Springfield is great!); sometimes I watch TV (The Professionals; Alias Smith & Jones); I just make sure I do at least one session a day – two if it’s rubbish weather or there’s some other reason I don’t want to go out for a walk.

The third element in my fitness triumvirate is the Apple Activity App (and it’s only the Apple Exercise App because I choose to live within the Apple ecosystem as opposed to the alternatives). I use this to keep me accountable for exercise and general movement. It tracks three things:-
Move – I keep this target purposely low; it’s currently set to making sure I burn 360 calories per day and most days I will double this, every so often I will triple it. ‘Move’ is hard to define as I notice I get a higher ‘score’ if I sit and knit than I do if I actually go out and walk, but you take it as it comes, really. The app also tots up your Move streak and at the moment I have met my Move target for 110 consecutive days.
Exercise – I have this set to 30 minutes per day; again, I usually achieve more than this. Both timed workout sessions and general exercise count in this one, although you have to go for a brisk walk rather than a general amble for it to be deemed exercise.
Stand – This is always set to a minimum of 12 hours ‘standing’ per day – which means that you have got off your chair and moved around for a minimum of a minute in each of those 12 hours. It’s a good one because it is surprisingly easy to remain relatively motionless for huge stretches of time, and on this one sitting knitting doesn’t count as ‘standing’ – you do actually have to get up and walk about.

Using this app has shown me that I am very motivated by achieving targets, no matter if they are completely arbitrary and even if I don’t really understand what constitutes a particular achievement. Give me a big, shiny, virtual medal and I’ll obey you!

Chapter 6 – stationery

My love of stationery has continued to thrive in 2018 and I have been lucky enough to be able to use my fountain pens and lovely notebooks even more as I have gone through the year. In February I took part in InCoWriMo for the second year and totally sucked at it! I will do it again in 2019 and I’m determined to succeed in sending out 28 letters this time. I’ve corresponded with some lovely and interesting people doing this challenge and it is well worth it.

I didn’t increase my store of fountain pens during the year, and I don’t have any intention of doing so in 2019. I did receive two lovely new bottles of ink as Christmas gifts. These are from Lamy’s new Crystal ink range and they are both simply gorgeous. I feel rather ho-hum about Lamy’s standard inks so wasn’t sure if this higher-end range would inspire me, but I am very impressed with the initial try-out. Although they aren’t huge bottles (30ml compared to 75ml in a bottle from Graf von Faber-Castell), this keeps the price at a point where you can comfortably put it on a gift list. (I am a normal person some of the time and I can completely understand that people who don’t use fountain pens might baulk at shelling out £23-£29 for a bottle of ink from lines like Graf von Faber-Castell and Pilot Iroshizuku.)

I am still a sucker for a pretty, or simple but incredibly well-made, notebook. In fact, I choose my handbags based on how easily I can fit an A5 notebook and pen into it. On that front, I received a further very thoughtful gift at Christmas, a leather case to carry three pens which is proving to be such a good item to take in and out of your bag.

Chapter 7 – being a fan

A huge part of this year for me has been about being a fan, primarily of Blake’s 7, but also of Dr. Who, Kojak, Alias Smith and Jones, and the hundred other little flames I keep burning across the years. Being a fan brings me so much pleasure and it is a joy that I share with my grandson which is even better than experiencing it alone.

This year was a happy one as we went about celebrating 40 years since the first showing of Blake’s 7, and we pushed the boat out with a weekend convention where I met loads of lovely people: fans, crew and cast members. I am still smiling with pleasure every time I think about it. It was sad, too, as the inimitable Jacqueline “Servalan” Pearce passed away; a tiny, but larger than life lady who leaves behind the most marvellous memories with all who met her, however fleetingly.

I know it has also been a tough year for Ian Kubiak who organises the Cygnus Alpha conventions and I just want to ackowledge how much poorer my life would be if I had not stumbled upon his web page in 2016 and reignited my love of Blake’s 7. Ian, his family and all who help out at the conventions have earned a very special place in my affections.

Chapter 8 – word of the year

I am not keen on New Year’s Resolutions, but for a few years now I have chosen a ‘word of the year’ to give me something to focus on. These have been “Return” (2016); “Flexibility (2017); “Home” (2018). Whilst I didn’t really manage to be terribly flexible in any way at all during 2017, I think keeping home in mind through 2018 helped me a lot and it was very successful. I have always been very much a homebody – it is where I feel happy and free to be creative. For me, there is nothing better than shutting the door and knowing that nothing needs to intrude unless I will it. Except, of course, for those lovely people I don’t actually know who like to spread joy by phoning me from foreign climes to suggest that my broadband will be disconnected unless I give them control of my computer.

For 2019 I have chosen “Establish” as my word of the year and this is to help me focus on getting things onto a firm footing through 2019 whilst trying to be more the person I want to be and less the person that convention suggests I should be. I am looking forward to seeing how this works through the upcoming year.

Chapter 9 – visitors on WordPress

I have loved writing my blog this past few months, but I think even more than the writing, I enjoy seeing all the countries where visitors have logged in to view my posts. In 2018 these have been (from lowest number of visits to highest number):

Switzerland – Thailand – Philippines – Netherlands – Austria – Japan – United Arab Emirates – New Zealand – Ukraine – France – Portugal – Egypt – Russia – Croatia – Indonesia – Sweden – Hong Kong – Finland – China – South Africa – Australia – Romania – India – Ireland – Germany – Canada – United States – United Kingdom.

So, if you are the person who visited from Switzerland today and read my Quote of the Week from Bob Dylan, thank you, I hope you enjoyed your trip. And, of course, my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has come to look at my tiny plot on the internet and has enjoyed what they have read here.

Epilogue

Whew, this is a mammoth blog entry. I would like to end it by wishing everyone all the best for the coming year.

Propser 2019
“Live long and prosper.”

 

Get ready, get set, go!

 

To begin, just a brief update following Monday’s post – I am back on track with the Christmas knitting. The problem that had discouraged me responded well to a quick fix and so, with a huge sigh of relief, I have continued on my merry way. Having a day or two away from it was definitely the best way to go.

So, on with today’s post. You may recall that last week I was in limbo as far as my planning/organising/diary keeping for 2019 goes; now all is resolved. I am the happy (ecstatic) recipient of the 2019 bound diary from Mark + Fold as part of my subscription to their quarterly stationery box service. I will be so sad when this expires, but I’ve got a good stock of items I have received from them so it isn’t as if I will suddenly be doing cold turkey on the posh stationery front.

Receiving this parcel means, naturally, that the planner binders I unearthed last week will return to their repose. I will doubtless get them out again this time next year. They are not dissimilar to one of Dickens’ ghosts – come Christmas, they remind me of what may happen in the future, and then they disappear whilst I lean from my window bestowing bonhomie upon confused neighbours. I don’t do the whole trying to buy the biggest turkey in London thing because, frankly, I am not that keen on turkey.

I have said before on the blog how much I have enjoyed using the bound diary this year. The way in which I have used the relatively simple page layout has varied during the year, but over the past few weeks I have really got into my stride with how it can best work for me. I think this is something that will/does change as one’s life changes, so it might not stay the same for the entirety of next year, but it’s working at present. The thing I particularly like about this diary is that you can change up how you lay things out in it quite easily – a useful attribute when you’re inclined to get bored as soon as you’ve done things in a particular way for a short while.

Paired with the diary will be the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists’ 2019 Calendar to keep dates front and centre, but mainly to provide a picture to look at.

It is also time to move from one journal to another as I finished the last page in my current book on Saturday morning. This changeover is like-for-like, but I shall have to see how it goes when I have filled this Rhodiarama notebook. The first entry on the completed one was on 2nd October 2018 and I have been very consistent, only missing two days between then and now. I am not going to depress myself by going back to check how many of those entries mention Kojak – I’m afraid it might be every single one! In fact, every entry might just be a synopsis of the plot of the previous day’s episode, not very cleverly disguised as a journal entry. I need make no excuses; I am a highly focused individual – a trait I share with my beloved grandson – and at the moment Fortnite and Kojak happen to be the things that we are focused on.

I had to undertake a bit of a seek and locate mission over the weekend to find some paper I wanted to use with one of the Christmas cards I am writing. In the process, I happened upon a box of old photos so I seized the opportunity to dig out some that I either want to scan or want to show to relatives as I see them in the coming weeks. I am particularly keen for my grandson to see one of his mum at about the age he is now and she will get a kick out of it as it features a toy she has very fond memories of. Some of the photos have sneaked into the picture with my new journal.

In the dying light of Sunday afternoon I got out my fountain pens and had a session filling them with a selection of colours in preparation for writing letters and Christmas cards this week. I plumped for purple, brown and green inks. Yesterday, at last, I had the chance to visit The Writing Desk shop in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. What a charming shop! The service was great – unobtrusive, but friendly, and advice proffered just to make sure I was buying appropriate items. I hope to have the chance to visit again in the coming months.

I hope you are all having a good week. It has been fun looking back and looking fowards.


 

One advantage of pen and paper

Never break down

There are numerous articles on the internet written by fans of pen and paper (see below for some of my favourite blogs/sites) and almost all will at some point make a comparison between the analogue and digital platforms. This will inevitably include a trope which goes along the lines of “… Unlike your mobile device, pens and paper never run out of battery.”  I am always a little annoyed by this – a device usually runs out of battery because the owner is either not recharging it regularly (perhaps they are stuck in the 1990s and think the battery has to be run down completely before recharging) or they are not in command of their usage (if they know they are a heavy user, they can carry a mobile battery charger, for example). It also ignores the fact that you can just as easily run out of ink, or come to the end of your notebook if you are the type of person who doesn’t plan ahead.

However, I have an observation of my own to make, and it goes like this:

I have never yet received a phone call from a scammer alleging that they are telephoning me from Parker Pens and they have “information” that my pen is not working properly and to avoid untold terrible things happening, I should hand over my pen to them immediately.

In this one way, the old pen and paper does indeed trump the new technology, to the extent that I think I will tell the next scammer who calls that previous phone conversations have convinced me that computers are deeply unsafe and I have therefore sold mine and replaced it with a typewriter. Actually, this is not as far-fetched as it sounds – our local charity shop has three typewriters currently for sale and I am having to sit on my hands to prevent me spending money I don’t have on one then trying to find space I don’t have to put it in!


Some of my favourite paper-centric sites are:-

Stationery Wednesday – the blog from Bureau Direct, online stationery shop based in the UK

Endpaper – the blog from Paperblanks, manufacturers of very decorative journals and diaries.

Filofax – blog from Filofax, almost everyone knows Filofax, right?

Goulet Pens – an American online fountain pen and paper retailer, Brian Goulet is a prolific producer of quality information about this niche arena.

Philofaxy – the daddy of all the paper planner blogs, chock-full of information going back to pre-history when planners were all-but dead and buried.

The Writing Desk – okay, they don’t have a blog, but they do have an online shop plus a bricks and mortar store in Bury St Edmunds, UK. Mainly, though, they are my ‘local’ fountain pen specialist and for that reason alone they get to be mentioned here.

William Hannah Daily – William Hannah is a small UK business manufacturing and selling very desirable leather disc-system notebooks and refills. David Round has been posting a daily photo on Instagram for many months, each featuring a brief hand-written entry and featuring a variety of the leather products of his company. Now these are also being featured in their own section on the company website, and you can even subscribe to receive them in your inbox if you choose. There is a blog on the same site, but it has been dormant for a little while.

Wonderpens – this blog, written by the lady who runs a couple of stationery shops in California, is just delightful.

Fountain Pen Follies – another great blog specifically about fountain pens. If you only read one thing, read her recent “Happy December” post because it is lovely and amusing.