“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…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.


 

When one notebook closes…

01-03-19 back page
The very last page of my old notebook – where I doodle intestines apparently!

You know the old saying that goes “When one door closes, another opens”, well I’ve had that experience with my general notebook. Having finished a journal and started a new one earlier in the week, I am finally on the last page of my current Mark and Fold A5 notebook. I’ve been using this for my general notes for the past eleven months and I have already mentioned the possibility of moving into an exercise “rough book” format. Well, good old Mark and Fold have come to my rescue as their quarterly subscription box arrived today and inside was a like-for-like replacement for my existing notebook. Yipee!

I thought you might be interested in a little pictorial ‘unboxing’ so you can see how the subscription looks as I unwrap it. I have always been really pleased with it. As well as the notebook, this quarter I received two Thank You cards and a gift voucher to use in their online shop.

Unfortunately, this marks (not to mention folds!) the end of my subscription and the cash isn’t there to renew it at the present time, but I can honestly say the past two years using their products have been a joy and I wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who loves high-quality stationery with a minimal design.

So, to the unboxing.

Friday is usually my Quote of the Week day and I haven’t got one to hand, so I will just include the snippet I wrote in my notebook on 17th September 2018 and call that a quote:

Me? I think we’re all born with broken hearts, and life itself is just an exercise in damage limitation.

Not the cheeriest bit of creative writing in the universe, but it worked in the context I was thinking of at the time.


I hope your week has been good, or at least is almost over. Have you come to the end of anything and started something fresh? Any doors opening or closing?


 

A song list

15-02-19 Old New Tech
Old tech in the foreground, new tech in the background

As well as a quote this week, I’m going to share a song-list with you.  The quote is hand-written and shown in my photo. The song-list is playing along with it:-

‘Only The Lonely’ sung by Glen Campbell
‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ sung by Judy Collins
‘Crossroads’ written and sung by Don McLean
‘I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now’ sung by Harry Nilsson
‘Until It’s Time For You To Go’ sung by Glen Campbell
‘It’s Over’ sung by Glen Campbell

(For the record, ‘It’s Over’ isn’t the same song which Roy Orbison sang. I love both of them.)


Diary by Mark and Fold
Fountain pen inks by Lamy and Graf von Faber-Castell
Fountain pens:
Waterman Hemisphere (blue)
Lamy Safari (black)
12″ MacBook by Apple
Steel ruler made in Germany – just like me!


 

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.”

 

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.


 

Dreary days, December desks

November desks
Well, really it’s a November desk, but I’ll do anything for alliteration

After a fine run of warm, sunny autumn days, it seems we have turned a corner and yesterday was dark and dank without respite. A day for hunkering down with steaming mugs of tea, for switching on the lamp to provide a pool of light on the desk, for typing and typing (trying to improve my speed) and for relishing the quiet.

Relishing the quiet and the pool of light most of all. Since I abandoned my job this summer, I am missing a regular income intensely, but not missing the bustle and brightness and, lets face it, austerity of modern offices. It seems that the more firmly we wed ourselves to technology, the less appealing, perhaps less human, our offices become. We can’t live without the technology, but I know I am not alone in thinking we need to forge a better connection between the computers and phones and our heritage products, the pens and papers, the files and filing cabinets, the people. One case in point is the ability to track exactly who is involved in a project, and what they are doing, simply by looking at a list on the front of a folder – we’ve lost that and I miss it.

On the other hand, I do not miss the early years in my last job when finding information in a folder would often start with unlocking the next-door warehouse, which was only used for storage and therefore freezing on all but the hottest summer day, climbing the stairs, then climbing the stepladder, then braving the clouds of dust to locate the file in its cardboard box. No, that I do not miss.

All of this is simply to preface a brief update on my home desk. After I reorganised my books at the beginning of last week, I was struck with the need to move my desk yet again. There are really only two places in my flat where the desk can possibly go, yet it yo-yos between these two positions with alarming frequency. I think, possibly, it will end up being a summer position/winter position thing. Now it is in the ‘winter position’ – a dark corner, but rather cosy. In summer it makes sense to have it over by the window to take advantage of breezes and natural light. (Isn’t it funny how quickly the lovely summer breeze becomes the annoying winter draught?) Both positions have equal value and neither position is quite perfect, and so I despair of ever finding any resolution as to the ‘winner’.

The staple items on top of my desk, regardless of the position, are:-

Lamp – Due to the way I had the desk laid out in the summer I didn’t have the lamp and I missed it.

Laptop – My trusty MacBook is little and lightweight and I love it. I don’t for a moment regret moving to this from my desktop iMac. There is a lot to love about a desktop computer, but in a small flat it can be overwhelming.

iPad Pro – Music centre, and handy extra screen when I want to reference something without taking too much focus off what I’m doing on the MacBook. I have the Apple Pencil and use it occasionally, but nowhere near as much as I expected I would when I bought the iPad Pro.

Diary, Notebook, Pen – In the summer these were pretty much permanently perched on the back of my settee and only taken to my desk as and when needed. Now the desk is back near the settee they have gravitated towards living on the desk.

Bamboo magazine tidy x 2 – One holds various notebooks and stickers together with my journal; the other houses printed copies of my CV, some other random paperwork, and an A5 Filofax which I have set up to prepare for next February’s International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo).

Mouth and Foot Painting Artists‘ Calendar 2018 – This is a charity which my mum supported and I have carried on. A couple of times a year, they send out a bundle of cards featuring artworks by people who are unable to use their hands, yet are supported and encouraged to find other ways to express their creativity. As someone who can’t ‘draw’, ‘paint’, or otherwise express creativity in a visual format, I am in awe of them. The pack with Christmas cards always includes this A5 format calendar and for several years it has been the calendar I have displayed near my desk.

Blakes 7 etched coaster – Because it’s my desk and of course there is going to be something on the Blakes 7 theme.

Having done what passed for some work at my desk, the afternoon drew to a close, what little light there had been in the day departed, and my knitting began singing its siren song to me. As I age, I am becoming reconciled to the bright summer nights, but in my heart I have always loved best the long, dark evenings of autumn and winter.


Long, dark evenings, or the summery stretches of balmy half-light in the garden – what’s your preference?


 

Quote of the week – Christina Georgina Rossetti number 2

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One for the spinsters today – “Somewhere or other” by Christina Georgina Rossetti:

Somewhere or other there must surely be
The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet – never yet, ah me!
Made answer to my word.

Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star
That tracks her night by night.

Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
With just a wall, a hedge, between;
With just the last leaves of the dying year
Fallen on a turf grown green.


 

Stationery – Five things

Tomorrow, Friday 2nd November 2018, is Fountain Pen Day and in its honour I thought I would give you another glimpse into my psyche by telling you about five stationery items that exert their influence in my life.

5 things stationery
Mark + Fold exercise book and 2018 diary; Cross Apogee fountain pen; Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue ink

A favourite paper brand

I’ve said it before; I will say it again – Mark + Fold do some spectacular paper products. They use a fair amount of UK-produced paper in their line-up and that fits well with my desire to “shop local” where it is practical to do so without having to compromise too far on quality. They sell individual items on their website, but I currently have a subscription to their stationery box which arrives four times a year and is completely drool-worthy. I am already deeply regretting that I won’t be able to renew the subscription next February, but on the whole having my sanity is slightly more important to me and that means earning a much lower income than I would ideally like to. The unfortunate downside to these products is that they are really high-end when it comes to price. Are they worth it? Oh, yes, but only if you actually have the money to spend on them.

I use the diary every day and I love it to bits and it has been the single most-used item I have received, although remember that Graphite Writing Stick? Well, I am using that a ton too! As to the exercise book, well I am a big fan of exercise books in general because they are so portable and practical and I am still in love with the practice of having a “rough book” like we had at school to take random notes. Oh, dear – now I am overwhelmed by an urge to scrawl the names of the people I hero-worship over the cover. I must resist….

A fountain pen I own and love

Apogee 4
Cross Apogee Frosty Steel finish

Ah, the Cross Apogee. It is so pretty. It is quite large and quite heavy, at least compared to my other fountain pens. I love it so. If only I could find the magic way to get the ink flowing well again. I had this same problem with my other Cross fountain pen, and it resolved itself after many months of trial and error and sitting in the naughty corner. I still don’t know exactly what made it start working properly again,

I treated myself to the Apogee when I got a permanent full-time job; I had been admiring it in person and online for many months prior to actually buying it. It’s the only fountain pen I own with a gold nib and I must say I really like how it writes. Mainly, though, it’s the lacquer finish on the pen that has me hooked; the colour and the patterning are reminiscent of a man’s silk tie, subtle and resplendent by turns. Perhaps I need to buy some pen flush….

A fountain pen I would buy in a trice

Waterman Exception
Waterman Exception Slim fountain pen, blue with chrome trim

Oh, hello, lovely – wanna come home with me?

This is the pen I have been promising myself I will buy the next time I am really flush and have something special to celebrate. I was thinking of treating myself to it for my 60th birthday in 2020, but that idea is receding. 65th? 70th? How long will they keep making this beauty?

If I could only have fountain pens of one colour, it would be this blue, the blue of the sky crossing from day to night, and always matched with a chrome finish to emulate the stars. (My Cross Century II and my blue Waterman Exception are similar to this shade.) I particularly love the design of this pen; the square profile, the slight taper to the barrel. It is sleek and futuristic but in a classic way, never veering towards pastiche. Plus, I love the Waterman pens I currently own and they are really my most-used so another model from this brand is high on my wish-list.

A fountain pen I would never buy

Visconti Pentagon
Visconti Pentagon Blue fountain pen

By rights I should love this fountain pen. It is a lovely shade of deep, dark blue and see that marbling? You get that on fountain pens that are made with resin and it always looks spectacular. The chrome trim is spot-on and that design is interesting with its faceted shaping which carries through onto the cap. Visconti is a great brand, too, with a proud history of pen-making and this design is one of the more affordable in their range.

So what makes this in particular a pen I would never buy? It is the fact that, for me, it just misses the mark in every way. I own a Visconti pen and I so want to like it; I so want to admire the way the marbling highlights the resin of the body; to be entranced by the magnetic cap which clicks so satisfyingly closed. In some ways I do love it; but there is one big way in which it frustrates me and that is how it behaves with ink. It is what the pen afficionados term “a gusher” and I like my nibs to be dry, dry and hard, fit the pen with a nail if need be. Wet nibs are a feature of Visconti pens and a lot of fountain pen users adore them, but wet nibs and me, we don’t get along together. I find it too hard to find a pairing of pen and ink that actually works for me. Almost every ink I ever put in my Visconti has led to smearing of work when I’ve closed a book long after the ink “should” be dry. It has made me paranoid. I put the same ink in my Watermans, my Lamys, my Crosses, none of them smudge; the Visconti? Every single time unless I am writing on highly absorbent paper in which case the ink will feather or bleed through.

So the Visconti Pentagon is a pen that a younger me might have lusted over, but the current me will happily leave for someone else.

An ink I love

GvFC Cobalt Blue
Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, watched over by Avon

Okay, ready to chorus with me? “Graf von Faber-Castell”. This brand of ink suits me so well. I understand from people who really know their inks that this is quite a dry ink and I can certainly see that when comparing it to, for example, the Diamine inks which I always want to like (they have an awesome range of colours), but somehow don’t get along with. Also, just what compares to the Graf von Faber-Castell ink bottle? Classy, that’s what it is. That’s the ink bottle Jay Gatsby would have. (Daisy would have Pilot Iroshizuku in the deep pink Yama-Budo, but really we aren’t here to fantasise about inks for fictional characters are we?).

My personal favourite colours from the Graf von Faber-Castell range are this classic Cobalt Blue; Hazelnut Brown; Moss Green and Violet Blue. I have also tried the Garnet Red (too close to Hazelnut); Deep Sea Green (nice, but Moss Green is nicer); and Midnight Blue (ho-hum). I haven’t tried Olive Green; Turquoise (I never like turquoise inks for some reason); Burned Orange (I am not in any way an orange person); Electric Pink (I would be up for a try-out of this one); Cognac (I am so happy with Hazelnut for my choice of brown); Carbon Black (I’m a blue or blue-black girl, although it’s useful to have one black ink tucked away for a rainy day so never say never); Royal Blue (well, it’s not Cobalt is it?). For the life of me I can’t remember whether I have tried the Stone Grey. I feel that I have and that it was okay, but it might have been a grey from a totally different brand.

When I am trying out an ink, I always opt for cartridges (if the ink comes in a standard International cartridge it will fit my Waterman pens), or a sample phial if the ink comes in a proprietary cartridge that won’t fit my current pen collection. If I like it enough to use all the cartridges, then I will look at getting a bottle, but I prefer to limit the number of bottles of ink I have.


Well, that was a marathon session, hope you didn’t fall asleep before you got to the end. Happy Fountain Pen Day – if you have a fountain pen, please use it. If you are out and about and can encourage anyone else to try a fountain pen, please do. If you have never tried a fountain and are intrigued, see if you can find someone who owns a fountain pen and can let you try it out.