Inside my planner / 1

My planner Page 1
The first page in my planner

I thought I would split my planner setup into a couple of posts and today I want to cover the diary section, or true planner section of the book. Before I start, there’s a bit of technical information to go through. All the pages I’m showing today have been printed onto William Hannah’s plain paper which they provide punched to suit the disc system in their notebooks. I am using the A5 paper because I have an A5 notebook, but the A6 paper could also be added to these rings if desired. I use the Pages software on my MacBook computer to design the pages (I use the term ‘design’ very loosely – I’m not claiming that I have any talent in that direction; if I can do it you most certainly could) and my HP Envy 5030 printer fitted with HP inks supplied using their Instant Ink subscription service. I feed the paper through one sheet at a time because I had a problem with the punching if I put in several sheets together. I don’t print enough pages for it to bother me that I have to take my time. Now, the aesthetics.

As I open the lovely cover of the William Hannah notebook and turn the first cardboard divider, I am greeted by my Word of the Year, Vitality. I like this being at the very beginning because it keeps it to the forefront of my mind. On the reverse of the sheet I have printed a verse of a poem by Louis MacNeice because I like to have poetry or a quote at the front of all my journals and notebooks.

After that page it’s straight into the diary section. I’ve learnt over the past couple of years that I like to keep three months of my diary with me and that will basically work out to be the previous month, current month and next month. When the month turns I will take out a month from the beginning and add a month at the end. Any appointments that I make outside that timescale I add to either a sticky note or to a spare sheet of paper at the end of the diary section so I can fill in the information when I get to the appropriate month. I don’t have significant amounts of forward-planning in my life so I don’t really need to see the whole year ahead, although I do have an idea for a monthly calendar spread over three A5 sheets which I might look into incorporating.

Because I moved into this disc-bound system from a ring-bound planner in the last week of January, I didn’t bother to re-print the sheets for the first three weeks of the year. This means that my planner starts from Thursday 23rd January 2020 which is a little random. However, January 2020 was an unpleasant month for me and I am glad to be able to ignore it and treat it like an unwanted guest who stayed into the new year and who I was glad to see the back of.

Diary + Pens
My diary and pens part-way through the week

My diary pages are based on the column layout that the wonderful folk at Mark and Fold use in their Diary, which I heartily recommend if you’re looking for a bound weekly diary or planner. I loved using mine the past couple of years.

Diary Layout 1
My diary layout as the week begins

My first column is just lined and headed “Focus” so I write in a few themes I want to incorporate at the beginning of the week. These themes are often recurring, but some weeks I need to step back from my general goals and concentrate on something specific. I find it useful to have to think as each week starts what is most appropriate right now.

To the right are seven columns, one for each day of the week, which are ruled and have a slightly thicker edge under each third line, splitting the day up into six sections which I pretty much work through top to bottom. If I have appointments or things to do specific to the day, I note them in there as soon as I know about them. Birthdays go to the top and I’m underlining them in red to make them stand out. Any hugely important items, such as my trip to Helsinki, are noted in the space between the date and the first line. Anything that spans days is written as centrally as I can manage with lines to the edge of the dates it covers. I use the very bottom 3 lines for the day to fill in my exercise details (steps walked and calories burned, plus exercise minutes if I do a specific exercise routine rather than just my regular walking); I fill this in early on the following morning. If there is a TV show I will watch, I tend to note it in the section above where I will write my exercise information.

Finally there is a blank box at the bottom of both pages for more creative stuff. I try to fill in a quote or piece of poetry in the right-hand box at the beginning of the week, then if I find a quote I like during the week I write it in the left-hand box, or I can just decorate it.

I do think of this more as a diary than a planner because there really isn’t that much forward-planning in my life due to a combination of the kind of work I do (tends to be more reactive) and the type of person I am (if I plan to do something I will find a million ways not to do it, if it’s optional then I am much more likely to work on it).

When I first started planning a diary section that I would print myself, I was going to use a different colour for every month, but I have fallen in love with the turquoise blues and I think I will stick with them until I’m fed up, then have a change. The Waterman Inspired Blue ink is really cheering my days in this cloudy, chilly spell we’re having. I am having to force myself not to ink up every pen with it, and to use the pens I’ve got different coloured ink in at least occasionally.

Thank you for dropping by to read about my set-up in the William Hannah notebook. I am very happy with this as my daily companion; it truly is an item that I know to be useful and feel to be beautiful. Keep an eye open in the coming weeks for the third part of the set-up which will be about the notes section and what I choose to keep in there.


All hail the Metal Rat

My Metal Rat Talisman

Much to the despair of my grandson (who, for the purposes of this blog, I shall call ET*) I have an abiding love of horoscopes, both Western and Chinese. ET thinks horoscopes are twaddle – well, that’s Leos all over! To be fair to him, I don’t entirely believe in horoscopes in any logical way, it simply seems to me that they are no less plausible than most belief systems and only dangerous when taken to extremes.

My own horoscope consumption goes as far as buying a cheap, mass-market book each year for my star sign, Aquarius, which gives a few daily lines of prediction. I buy mine for £2 from The Works, from which we can deduce that there has not been a lot of scientific research put into the text!

When I look back, I don’t recall my family being particularly influenced by such matters, but then again I have always known the astrological signs of my family and my mum used to read her horoscope if she came across it in a magazine. Indeed, I recall her dismay when, laid in bed with a bad chest infection, she read that she would be having a great time and be the life and soul of the party. I believe she black-listed Russell Grant after that! (Interesting fact – I share my birthday with Mr Grant – day, not year!) Also, the clock that hung on the chimney-breast in our living room had the twelve zodiac signs around its perimeter and my parents must have chosen that from a range as being the one that appealed to them the most.

At some point I started to take an interest in the Chinese astrological system, and familiarised myself with my sign, the Rat. In the Chinese system, each sign gets a year and the zodiac runs on a 12-year cycle. On top of that, each sign cycles through the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal, water – so you only come round to your birth-year combination after 60 years. I was born a Metal Rat and today we’re going into the year of the Metal Rat,  so I reckon it’s something special. I am valiantly ignoring the general opinion that the return of your birth sign is considered to be a bit unlucky in Chinese astrology.

Many years ago I bought the little Metal Rat figure from an extremely dodgy local bric-a-brac shop and I have decided to keep it in a more prominent position through this year to remind me of my heritage and perhaps bring me luck. For the past eleven years I have been promising myself that I would buy the Cross Year of the Rat fountain pen as a 60th birthday treat-to-myself when 2020 finally rolled around. Now it’s been released, the £336 price tag combined with the fact I’ve already got the gorgeous Aquamarine Lamy Studio has made that pretty much 100% less likely to happen. I do love the colour and the decoration and, being metal, it reflects my birth year’s element precisely. With silver-coloured accents instead of gold it would be perfect, but I probably still wouldn’t buy it.

Cross Townsend Year of the Rat

Don’t worry, though, I have a totally different 60th birthday treat-to-myself to reveal next time I write!

* I’m not calling my grandson ET because I think he’s an alien, although I sincerely hope he is. I think I can safely assume he’s from the same spaceship as me and the rest of our family and will be part of the crew when our time on Earth is done and we re-group to travel onwards. I think he will probably turn out to be the captain! I am calling him ET because they are the initials of his first and middle names – I am the proud parent/parent-in-law of an awsome couple of film buffs!


Red shoe days

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

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.

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.

Word of the Year recap

Word of the year 2019

Now December is progressing and 2020 is just off-stage, running through its warming-up exercises, I think the time has come to sum up my feelings about my chosen Word of the Year.

I have kept my word with me throughout the year, with the hand-written sheet shown in my January photo accompanying me across a variety of planners. I have thought a lot about whether this word has been useful, whether it has been a guide, whether I have lived up to it. Recently, I have also been considering the ways in which choosing a Word of the Year differs from setting goals and making resolutions.

All along I wanted this to be a year where I established myself in a firm lifestyle. At the beginning of the year I wanted it to be more of an ‘alternative’ lifestyle, getting an income from a variety of different endeavours, using my creativity, being independent. As the summer ramped up I became more and more aware of how uncomfortable that lifestyle made me feel. I discovered that, for me, independence is easier to achieve by returning to a more structured working life, employed by a company and earning a regular wage.

Although the shape of my aspirations for my working life changed dramatically during the course of the year, I have indeed established a way of working that suits me and I feel it resonates very well with my word of the year.

Moving home was unexpected and unwelcome. On top of the new job it was just too much change, and I spent the autumn feeling like my life was a shipwreck. Yet, here I am, happy in my new home, looking forward to the future, re-linking with the things I love – the writing, the knitting, baking, dreaming. I have found that firm foothold in life that I so longed for.

On the whole I feel Establish was a great Word of the Year for 2019. Although I would not have anticipated how the year would go, I do feel I have spent it establishing new ways of working, settling and fixing things, pursuing opportunities, and definitely getting a firm foothold in my life. If I had sat at the end of last year and set specific goals for the next twelve months, I would not have met them because specific goals don’t have the flexibility I need to keep my soul unencumbered, allowing me to pursue the paths that open up ahead of me.

I am still mulling over what I should choose as my Word of the Year 2020, but I will share it when I have decided.

Did you choose a Word of the Year? How has it guided you?


A bricks and mortar Christmas

Christmas gift shopping. You can love it, you can hate it; you can buy into it, or you can opt out of it – no matter which way you cut it, you just can’t ignore it. I’m trying to do as much of my shopping as possible offline, from bricks and mortar shops in my home city and this is working well for me. I have had to resort to ordering one gift online, but I’m really hoping that is the limit for this year.

I’ve also found that it is a mistake even to check online to see if local shops have the things I’m thinking of in stock because the result will not necessarily bear any relation to the stock they actually hold. For example, I failed to find one particular item in town yesterday so I looked online and found the local branch of a stationery chainstore claimed to be carrying it. I changed my plans for this morning and walked into town, only to learn in the shop that they didn’t have any stock and the item was discontinued so they were unlikely to have any ever again.

Some you lose.

Despite this setback, since I was in town so I thought I’d just check in the bookshop where I found three different versions of the very thing I was looking for and also several other inspiring items, making significant inroads into my gift shopping.

Some you very much win.

Speaking of local shops, somewhere in the past three months, whilst I’ve been busy with my move, the niche beauty retailers Space NK have opened a branch in my home town which is just perfect for gift shopping. Note that: gift shopping. Not walking in, trying on perfume, then deciding you just can’t leave the shop without buying it for yourself.


As soon as this fragrance hit my wrist, I knew I was lost. It is exactly what I want to smell like right now. It’s not a favourite of yesteryear, it’s not something that reminds me of a particular place or time (although I am getting a slight hit of 1970s bath cubes, which I can’t imagine anyone as sophisticated as Jo Malone was intending). It is right here, right now, au courant, fresh new me. I love it.

How is the approaching holiday season making you feel? Are you full of fresh ideas, enjoying established traditions, or wishing you could hide in a cave? Shopping online, or enjoying searching in local stores? I’m fascinated by how everyone approaches the season with different intentions.


A new dawn

Walk to work

I am slowly regaining my balance after a hectic autumn into which I have crammed enough life experiences to see me through at least a couple of years. I am enjoying my new job, settling into my new home, and just beginning to feel myself unfurling from the inevitable tension all these changes incur.

Since I moved flat, I have been able to walk to and from work (a journey of 2.1 miles each way) which is proving good for my fitness. Whilst I am still technically living within the city, I am in a rather more open area than I was previously, and the photo above is a taste of part of my route. It is good for my soul to have views such as this to enjoy, whilst still having the security of walking by a well-lit and well-used main road; indeed I feel I am enjoying the best of both worlds.

Part of the romance of the flat I am now renting is that it is close enough to the railway tracks to hear the hoot of the trains. I had a pleasant surprise the morning after I moved in when I realised I could see the trains from my kitchen window. When we stayed with my maternal grandparents in York, we loved being able to hear the trains in the distance as we sat in my grandpa’s music room, and I am sure that is why we retain an affection for the railway.

My new home is just slightly larger than my old one, although it is still a one-bedroom flat. The extra space has allowed me to reinstate some items of furniture from my family home that had been stored in my garage for the past fourteen years. These came out in amazing condition, needing just a good clean to be as good as they were the day they left my parents’ house. These include the dining table from my grandparents’ home in York, and the wardrobe that my parents owned and used for many, many years and which I always coveted. It is good to see such old friends again and to know they are back in use.

As part of my re-entry to normal life, I have booked my place at the next meeting of the writers’ group that I was attending before circumstances rudely interrupted my routines. I am starting, too, to think of my next knitting project, although I really must put some effort into finding homes for things around the flat before I go too far down that road.

It is good to reconnect with my blog and to write a bit about my new home. I’m looking forward to slowly picking up where I left off, and to having some new projects to share with you in the coming weeks.

I hope the last few months have been kind to you and that you are approaching the last few weeks of the year with a happy glow. Whilst this season can be chilly, dark and tiring, it is also full of shining lights and happy faces if you look in the right places.

Take care, and I look forward to being back again very soon.


Lady in waiting


As I write this, it is eight o’clock on a Sunday evening and I am waiting for a delivery from a famous online retailer. I am pretty sure this delivery is not going to arrive and, if it does, I am not going to be able to do anything productive with it because the weekend is over. I already have an incredibly low opinion of this retailer as they have on many occasions proved themselves to be useless as a purveryors of goods. I always have bad experiences when I shop with them and I try fairly hard to avoid using them. Yet every so often I cave in, always on occasions like this when the product I need is too unwieldy to carry home from the town and the firms I actually trust cannot deliver it in the timeframe I desire. This particular online store convinces me that they offer next-day delivery seven days a week. The crazy thing is, this company’s next-day delivery turns out in real life to be exactly the same as everyone else’s after-the-weekend delivery.

To be fair to them, I knew what to expect; I knew even as I was placing the order that it wasn’t going to be delivered when they promised it. Yet I fooled myself into believing this would be the one time they actually come through and deliver. I am exactly that kind of a fool.

I understand that huge numbers of people use this firm and have really good experiences with them, but that doesn’t help much when I’ve stayed in all day waiting for something that hasn’t arrived. In fact, the only way I can see it could possibly be delivered today would be if I gave up now and went and sat in a lovely warm bath, because I believe they have some sophisticated tracker that knows when you are stark naked and covered in bubbles.

Well, all I can say is this is absolutely the last time. It is even more the last time than the last time I went through this. I would not order from them again, even if they were the last retailers on the planet, which I believe is their corporate goal.

Right, I am going to do some washing up as it involves bubbles and might fool them into thinking I’m in the bath.




Looking out

Dark berries
Keeping my eyes open

In my youth I was rubbish at taking photos and I do like the fact that the digital age has revolutionised photography. I think the most important thing I’ve learned about taking photos is the importance of keeping my eyes open, seeing the details. Although we can capture a wide vista in a photo, often it will include elements that would preferably not be there; the lens tends to record a lot of things that our eyes simply edit out. I like a nice close-up shot like the berries in this photo, but this is not a good photo because for some reason the soft-focus areas have pixellated. I could crop them out, to be sure, but then I would end up with an oddly-shaped photo. Either way, it would not be perfect, and that’s the point – does it need to be?

I think keeping your eyes open, getting a clear view of both the vistas and the details, is an important life skill. I think the more we get used to how things look in real life, the better we will become at judging our own efforts fairly.  Let’s not edit out the less than perfect things in our photos and let’s not edit out the less than perfect things in our lives. Let’s live it as it comes.

Here are two examples of today’s efforts:

Chutney labels
Those labels
Treacle tarts
These tarts

The chutney labels aren’t perfectly applied; the filling escaped from the tarts and the pastry crumbled on a couple of them. Instagram would not approve. My tummy, on the other hand, has absolutely no issues with either of these efforts, and my tummy is far more important than Instagram. It has also been around longer, so I guess it knows more about real life than Instagram does.

Considering those tarts I have to conclude that they will look a whole lot better when I cover them with custard at luncthime. Maybe many things that don’t look so good on their own would look better with custard? It’s just a thought.


Last sprinkles
The last sprinkles in this home

Continuing with the theme of moving home, I find myself evaluating many of the things I use, deciding if they are things that I want to pay to move across the town I live in. Some things are so ingrained in my life that there is no need to query at all, which is the case with most of my furniture, although there are a couple of pieces I don’t love and I may use the move as an excuse to unburden myself of them.

It is the little pieces that I think about, the books and magazines and, most keenly, bits and pieces in my kitchen. I have more tea caddies than I need, for example, and once I’ve made this year’s chutney I will be able to thin out the empty jam jars.

I can tell you one thing I shall be glad to leave behind when I move out of this flat and that is the bath. I have disliked the bath here since the first time I got in it. I haven’t disliked it enough to take up showering instead, but it is a terrifically uncomfortable bath to lie in. I have started viewing possible flats to move to and I am eyeing up the baths and dreaming of lying there in comfort.

I also catch myself thinking along the lines of “the last time” I will do something in this home. Whilst I am a fair way off actually doing things for the last time, I am aware that time is approaching and thinking how strange it will be. Of course, when the time comes to, for example, make the last cup of tea in this home I will be so busy that I won’t really mark it until later.

Speaking of the last cup of tea, am I the only one who occasionally broods on the fact that one day I will drink my last cup of tea? I probably won’t know it is my last one, but it is sitting there, at some point in my future, like the bullet with my name engraved upon it. It’s a concept that fascinates me.

I don’t think the buns in my photo will be the last buns I bake in this home, but those are definitely the last sprinkles I will apply here. That’s hundreds, or even thousands, of things I will not have to take with me when I move!