A curiosity cabinet

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Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl – progress to date

Today I am going to write about a miscellany of ideas, connected only in that they spark my interest, thus the title of “Curiosity Cabinet” seemed appropriate.

To kick things off, there is progress on my Crazee Cowl and I am now on the seventh of the planned ten colours. I must admit I am ready for this to be finished and I am reserving the right to call it done without using all ten mini skeins. That being said, the colour I started at the weekend is very much my cup of tea, gorgeous shades of deep purple/blue, teal and turquoise with splashes of verdant green and yellow. This has led me to conclude that when I am using a colourful yarn I like it to be really vibrant and multicoloured. It’s not that I dislike the more muted combinations in middle of the cowl, I just really like the bright ones.

I like to learn from the projects I work on, and if my learning point on this one has been to invest in wild and wonderful colours on my special skeins of yarn then it’s a lesson well worth learning. Thinking about it, this cowl itself has the air of a curiosity cabinet about it, and if I wasn’t so enamoured with the Slade-inspired “Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl” I think I would rename it “Curiosity Cabinet”.

Now we’re into August I’ve been looking at the latest brochures over on Rowan Yarns’ website and, in particular, Martin Storey’s recent offerings which include some lovely, wearable patterns, as I expect from my favourite designer. I particularly like Neat from All Year Round (a very basic v-necked jumper) and Holburn from Easy DK Knits (the round-neck jumper with split and buttoned welt). I think a combination of the two would be particularly interesting. Although I’m not a hoodie girl, I do like the look of Homespun. Finally, I’ve included Tactile, not because of the pattern, but because the first thing I noticed in the picture was the profile of those sliding doors, having spent seven years of my life becoming very closely acquainted with that product line. It’s funny what sticks with you when you are no longer involved with a thing on a daily basis.

Away from the knitting, I’ve been working on my goals for the next three months, as I was pondering in my previous blog post. Over the weekend I worked through a free training module on the American Franklin Planner website and I must say it sparked my enthusiasm to think about my core values much better than either of the books I’ve been reading this year (Getting Things Done by David Allen and The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll). Perhaps it is just the brevity of it that appealed to me, who can tell?

I’ve enjoyed a couple of podcasts over the weekend. On the knitting theme, there was the latest offering from Melissa of Knitting The Stash and I particularly enjoyed the part about receiving vintage knitting magazines for her birthday during which she touched upon the idea that knitting patterns themselves are often quite timeless, it is the styling of the photography which changes and which makes things seem dated. I love a good vintage pattern so I was very interested in this. The other podcast which was audio rather than video, was from NASA and covered commercial ventures in the space programme from whether products can be/should be endorsed, to encouraging commercial space ventures in order to utilise their facilities to reduce the cost of future exploration. All fascinating stuff.

Lastly, here’s a photo I took last week of the military area at Earlham Road Cemetary, with the Spirit of the Army standing sentinel over the soldiers in the summer rain.

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An ode to August

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Ah, August!

July is a funny month in my experience. Although it is tempting to think of August as the height of summer where I live, July is often the month with the highest temperatures. July is hot, sweaty, torpid, and I am unenthusiastic, becalmed. Contrast that with August, when the nights begin to draw in; there is a tiny promise, in the early morning, of autumn waiting just around the corner; in the local streets the gardens are ripe with plums and apples. August brings a breeze to the east of England, to blow away spiritual cobwebs and physical lethargy. At its best, it combines the good things about summer – long days, sunshine, that school’s out feeling – with rather more pleasant temperatures and an anticipation of things to come, new adventures, new terms, perhaps even new people.

So here is a question to ponder – when does the year start?

There are a multitude of possible answers. The calendar year starts on January 1st, of course. Then there is the tax year which, in the UK, starts on April 6th, and in many companies this is the year we have in mind whilst we’re at work. For children, parents and anyone who works in the education sector, the school year is the predominant measure of time which puts September as the year start, in the UK at least. These are three very common examples, I am sure there are many more.

However, the thing I have been thinking about is the personal year: the year as you feel it to be, regardless of what anyone says, and tradition or circumstances dictate. This has been high in my consciousness because a lot of planning systems emphasise a half-year check-in on goals and, presuming you set your goals at the beginning of January, you will be carrying out your half-year check in July. There has been a fair amount written and videos produced throughout the past month on this theme, and yet July feels to me less like a new beginning and more like a slow descent to the finish. In fact, it was almost the end of July when it occurred to me that August is the time when I feel things change and I start to look forward.

This actually makes sense because the July feeling is exactly the way I always feel during the six weeks between Christmas and my birthday – the pause, the wait for a new beginning, as opposed to the time when the new year starts and I am full of enthusiasm for goals I’ve set myself. Perhaps my personal year starts in February, meaning my personal seasons run:
February/March/April
May/June/July
August/September/October
November/December/January.

With this in mind, I am working on my half-year review and planning; trying to work out how to move forward with my goals between now and February; taking advantage of that fresh-start feeling in my heart.

How about you? Do you feel that your personal year runs on a different schedule, or are the standard years – either calendar or academic – the ones that feel right to you? I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment.


With reference to this week’s quote in my diary – I can thoroughly recommend this YouTube video of Alan Rickman’s wonderful performance as Jacques Roux in “Revolutionary Witness”. An oldie but goodie.

 

Fail is a four-letter word

A revolutionary failure
The Liberator from Blakes 7 – a series where the good guys failed to win

In the world of Blakes 7 fandom, there are many hotly debated issues, but the end of the series is particularly divisive. There are many fans who feel let down by the fact that everyone (debatably) died and that the evil Federation ‘won’. Personally, I have always been happy, although obviously also devastated, that it ended in such a strong way; I would have hated for the series to drag on too long and then just fizzle out. I have posed the question before – if it had had a happier ending, would I still be obsessed with it forty years later?

However, this isn’t an essay about Blakes 7; I’ve just used that for illustrative purposes. My real aim is to talk about the nature of failure and to determine whether I should feel more disturbed by my failures (they are many). It seems, even before the rise of social media, that we have been increasingly encouraged to sanitise our failings and the word “fail” itself has been demonised. The mantra nowadays seems to be “praise the successes, gloss over the failings”. I, for one, am beginning to wonder if this is really wise.

This has been on my mind over the weekend because I have been watching YouTube videos by someone who writes, self-publishes, and also has a business advising other writers about planning their work/lives. The channel is Heart Breathings, if you would like to check her out; I’d say she does about 50% good commonsense and advice and 50% hustle, and there are a lot of YouTube channels out there with much more hustle. I will come clean and admit I watch a lot of YouTube videos in search of inspiration about tackling my own lackadaisical approach to planning. You have my permission to question whether watching YouTube videos is a sensible way of dealing with a lack of enthusiasm and determination or whether it is yet more procrastination.

I watched one particular video in which this writer and her buddy had a writing retreat and I found myself wondering about the fact that she didn’t meet the targets she set herself. Now, she is heavily pregnant which would definitely affect her ability to work, and the word count goals she had set at the beginning of the break seemed incredibly high to me. Although the first day was mainly travel, she was already far behind her target at the end of it and I wondered why she didn’t revise her target based on that fact. It is fine and dandy to forgive yourself for not achieving your targets, but you need to be realistic when you decide whether you can catch up over a set amount of time, and if you can’t, you will need to lower your expectations.

One of the most interesting things my weekend’s viewing has me thinking is that I should care more when I fail. If failure doesn’t upset me, then what I was trying to do wasn’t important in the first place. I’ll be honest: I’m getting on, I don’t have time to be doing things that I don’t care about. Failure is a feeling, as are success, love, and hunger. Why would I waste my remaining days ignoring such feelings or, worse, not feeling them at all? To a certain extent, we judge which things we care deeply about not only by how happy we are when we succeed, but also by how we feel when we fail at them. When something is important to us, the stakes are automatically higher. We can shrug off a disparaging comment from a stranger far more easily than the same comment from someone we know and admire.

From the partial reading I have done of The Bullet Journal Method (see my previous One Book July musings), one strong idea I have taken away is that if you continually fail to do a particular thing on your list, you would be wise to examine whether it is actually important to you. I am guilty of carrying certain tasks forward from day to day, often tiny tasks that take no time at all to do, because I don’t feel any sense of guilt that I didn’t do them. I need to look at each of these things and ask if I actually care about it. If I do, then I should feel guilty that I am pushing it endlessly into the future; if I do not then I shouldn’t be trying to do it at all.

It reads as if I just spent the whole weekend watching videos, but that is not the case. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday sketching out a version of a planning page that would help me to set goals for the next quarter of the year and break them down into a list of tasks for each month and week. Doing this, I discovered that I don’t actually have a problem with the goal-setting side, and I can see the actions I need to achieve the goal, but I struggle with the concept of assigning particular things to set time periods. Perhaps it is because the projects I am currently working on really consist of doing the same thing repeatedly. Take, for example, searching for a job, which involves checking out particular sites for vacancies each day. I can’t control how many suitable jobs will be advertised in a week, so I can’t plan ahead to put in, say, two job applications every week. All I can do is repeat the process and ensure that when I see a vacancy that I think will suit me I send an application in a timely manner. That doesn’t count as ‘planning’;  it is, by its very nature, reactive. There is a more proactive method which is to send of a set number of ‘cold-call’ letters every week on the off-chance that someone might be thinking about hiring, but that doesn’t appear to be how the job market works nowadays. There is a similar conundrum with writing my novel: I am trying to write a minimum of 500 words a day and the aim of finishing first draft will be achieved when I’ve finished telling the story. In this instance, the proactive course would be to determine at the outset the number of words I want the novel to come in at and set goals of when I want to be at the 25,000 or 50,000 words mark. That is certainly something I want to consider. Funnily enough, knitting is the one thing where I find it very easy to set goals and break down a project into components – when I want to have the back or the sleeves finished by. In fact, if I could approach different types of projects with the same clarity that knitting has, life might be a little easier.

So, here we are, heading into a new week and it might seem negative to start off with the objective of feeling more disappointed and unhappy if I don’t do things well, but being disappointed by my failures is a key component in moving forward. After all, fail is a four-letter word, but if I own my failures and use them as rocks to form the foundation of the life I’m trying to build, it does not have to be a bad word.

 

One book July drop-out!

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Ah, One Book July, it wasn’t you, it was me.

It was always quite a stretch of the imagination to think I’d commit to following something like this for an entire month, and no surprise to me that I decided to drop it. Not that it was in any way a waste of time because it afforded me a pause in which to look at what exactly I feel is lacking in the planning/motivation/time management area of my life.

Ryder Carroll’s “The Bullet Journal Method”

At the beginning of July I was keen to take part in the community read-through of this book because I started it in June but got slightly bogged down. What has been interesting to me is that throughout July I have continued to get bogged down with it and have pretty much ground to a halt at Page 183. The book contains some interesting thoughts, and Ryder Carroll has a very compelling narrative to tell about his own struggles with finding the best way to record and appraise his activities, but I find it impossible to complete the parts where he asks me to work through an exercise to uncover things about myself. It isn’t that I am averse to self-analysis – I do it all the time, so perhaps the problem is that I don’t need to go through more ‘why’ processes; I need to nail down a firm ‘how’ process.

Using the “Method”

I was going to use my Filofax Notebook incorporating the Mark and Fold week-to-view diary because that has been serving me as well as anything does. Then I decided to go whole-heartedly into the Method: use a bound notebook and follow Ryder Carroll’s guidelines by approaching each day one at a time, listing everything you need to do, bringing forward things you haven’t done previously, and making notes on anything you do or think during the day. Ever since I first read about using bullet journals, this was the way it made sense to me, however after a couple of weeks it really wasn’t hitting my sweet spot.

First and foremost, I wasn’t actually achieving anything more than I do with any other method, and it certainly didn’t motivate me to get on with the highest priorities in my life. Then there was the fact that whilst Ryder Carroll advocates what he calls rapid logging with very brief bullet points capturing just the essence of each idea or action point, I found it impossible to set aside my story-teller instincts. In fact, in a free-format notebook I was actually less inclined to be brief than I am using a traditional printed planner with its associated space limitations. One very strong positive thing to come out of the two weeks I spent doing the bound bullet journal was finding that I enjoyed recording more information about my daily exercise and activity than I had previously done in my week-to-view diary.

At the end of the second week, I tried one or two different ideas in my bound notebook to personalise it to my tastes, then returned to the Filofax Notebook/Mark and Fold diary combination for the third week. However, I already know that this is a system which doesn’t push me to do my most important tasks. All of which leaves me pondering…

The way ahead

Now we are in the fourth week of July and I am doing something that I have previously found useful in paid employment – keeping a log of what I am doing as the day progresses so that I can try to identify why I don’t do the things I should be doing, and what I do instead. One thing I’ve taken from Ryder Carroll is that you need to understand why you are avoiding doing particular things. It may be that you’ve chosen totally the wrong path (he gives a very good example of his own experience in the book); it may be that there are certain items that appeal to you, but that in reality you are never going to follow. For me, bullet journaling appeals, but it’s not a system that is going to add anything to my life, at least at the current time.

I’m doing my logging electronically and have stepped away from the whole notebook and diary system until I’ve sorted out my thinking.

The things I do anyway

This is not to say that I have abandoned my notebooks and pens, even briefly. Whatever happens, my morning routine includes writing my journal in a notebook with a fountain pen. It’s where I record the things I’ve done, write about what I enjoyed and what I didn’t enjoy, and make my plans for the future. It is probably the reason why the analytical side of The Bullet Journal Method book failed to gel with me.

Another thing I do every morning is read my horoscope. I don’t believe in horoscopes, per se, but it is no more and no less useful than reading a motivational quote every morning, or reciting affirmations. I don’t need it to do anything more than remind me that no two days are alike and that life ebbs and flows according to principles that cannot be altered by mere mortals.


Disclaimer: after I wrote the title of this post I had to nip onto YouTube and watch “Beauty School Drop-out” from “Grease”. Feel free to follow suit.


 

Unanticipated Cake

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Looks scrummy and it is! You might think you don’t have a recipe for Unanticipated Cake, but I’ll bet you do because there are just so many recipes for it. Unanticipated Cake is the cake you make when you forget a key ingredient in the cake you anticipated making. So, for instance, this example of a Coffee and Walnut Cake where the walnuts remained safely contained in their plastic box whilst the coffee cake went into the oven. It’s a lovely example of a coffee cake, and I could call it Coffee Cake and pretend that is what I meant to make, but that would be a lie: it was my intention to make Coffee and Walnut Cake, so this can only be an Unanticipated Cake.

I generally find if I’m making a cake with “and” in the title, it is likely to end up as an Unanticipated Cake. It seems my mind can only hold onto the idea of one flavour. Chocolate and Orange? Yeah, gonna be chocolate or orange really, isn’t it? In fact, I should just substitue “and” with “or” in all recipes and be done with it!

One Book July Week 1

At the end of the first week of One Book July I thought I’d do a brief update on how I am finding it. At the start of the second day, I was reading in The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll about how valuable it is to re-write tasks as you progress through the days in your journal because it automatically gives you the incentive to examine the items you haven’t done and ask yourself why you haven’t done them. You will, at some point, become fed up with carrying forward an item and you will either knuckle down and do it or else decide that it is something that doesn’t need to be done and drop it completely. That stuck me as so sensible that I had to question why I was so keen to be able to move pages around in my notebook and prevent myself having to re-write things. I was so taken with this that I decided to change my plan for the month and move into a bound notebook, following Ryder Carroll’s methodology much more closely than I originally anticipated.

It turns out there are things I like about the bullet journal and things I am not so keen on. At heart, I know that there is nothing that will get me working on the things I need to work on apart from my own willpower; no system can kick-start that.

One of the things that I am resolutely refusing to do is replace my usual daily longhand journal with bullet journal. Whilst I can see the value of rapid logging of things that happen during the day but leaving them to be processed later, my daily journal is the ‘later’ – it is a quiet, reflective period where I can stand back and assess the things that happened the day before and record them.

However, for the on-the-go logging, recording of events, tracking of tasks, and general information about where I am and what I’m trying to achieve, the bullet journal is an interesting experiment to make.

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One book July? I’m in!

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You’ve seen it all before, but here it is today

Since 2014, some enterprising ladies on the internet have been running a challenge called One Book July. If you’re not part of the “planning” community everything I am going to write from here on in will seem a little odd, or totally crazy, to you, but you may enjoy it all the same.

What is One Book July? Why One Book July? Well, there are an awful lot of different planning systems out there in the universe nowadays, and if you find you have even a slight interest in time management/planning/personal productivity, in a very short time you are probably going to fall down a massive rabbit hole and find you go from owning one little week per view diary that fits in your pocket to one of every type of diary/ring-bound planner/Travelers’ Notebook/Erin Condren Spiral Bound planner/Cocoa Daisy insert….. you get my drift.

Noticing the growing tendency for people to become overwhelmed by the choice available, and by the number of planners they personally own, a group of ladies suggested that for the month of July 2014, interested members of the community should pick one planner and one pen and use them exclusively. Some people managed it, some people found out a lot about themselves but didn’t complete the challenge. Each year since then, the challenge has been issued, but each year it has a new twist and members of the community can choose from a number of options that have built up over the years.

As a person who has stood on the edge of the rabbit hole, but not disappeared down it, I haven’t previously been enticed by the One Book July challenge, although I’ve often watched videos about it. This year, however, I’m going to break with tradition and take part. That’s because this year the group are putting their focus on The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll and I am still reading this so I think there is a lot of value to taking part in a group reading of it.

My planner/bullet journal set-up is going to be the one I’ve been using the past couple of months – my Filofax Notebook with the Mark and Fold weekly diary pages at the front and lined notepaper behind them. This is a departure from the standard Bullet Journal set-up, particularly in that the optimal paper suggested is always dot grid. I love lined paper and hate any kind of grid so I’m following my own heart on that particular point. I find the pre-formatted diary pages work well for my future logging and as a repository for upcoming events but I hope to put into practice a better way of processing information on the collections and longer-term lists side of the equation, and learn a lot about the goal-setting and reviewing area which I am poor at, to say the least.

Just a word, before I depart, about the one pen part of the original challenge. Really? One pen? No way! One book, all the pens – that’s the way to do a challenge!

For the expert information about this year’s One Book July challenge, check out Dispatches From The Frat House https://www.carieharling.com/one-book-july-2019-introduction/ or search for One Book July on YouTube for a plethora of videos.

Imagining my brain is exactly the right size

“Come on, Frank, an officer files things in his head. He doesn’t remember them until they pop up, you know that: a face, a street, a name, a number, zabba-dabba-doo, like that…”

Lieutenant Theo Kojak/1976


Listen to – Gladys Knight and the Pips “So Sad The Song” (I know that we both talked it over, said it’s best to forget)
Read or watch – Ray Bradbury “Fahrenheit 451” (people memorising stories because the books are being burned)


My avid consumption of books and videos about various methods of time management/planning has led me to an interesting juncture; a conundrum which is summed up by two equal and opposing concepts:-

  • “Use it or lose it”
  • “Your brain is not for storage, it is for creativity”

Most planning systems are based on the second of these two ideas and posit that you cannot trust your brain to store and organise all of the information about your life. You therefore need a trusted system to capture all your memories, all your thoughts, all your ideas, everything you need to do and everywhere you need to be so that your brain can be clear.

There is a barely disguised suggestion in this that life is so complex and so fast that your brain is not big enough for it.

However, there is an increasing amount of media coverage about the first of the concepts, advising us on how we need to exercise our brains and do crosswords, or Sudoku puzzles, or memorise poetry if we are to avoid our brains atrophying.

Oh, you are not memorising poetry yet? I have several large passages committed to memory and am currently working on “Meeting Point” by Louis MacNeice: I know all the verses, but struggle to keep them in the right order.

The idea of being able to trust my brain appeals to me, perhaps because I have never really been a list-maker and regardless of how many hand-written or device-orientated “to do” lists I have, I tend to do what is uppermost in my mind. Conversely, I find the idea of not being able to trust my brain very upsetting because I want to be in control of my direction; I don’t want to cede that control to a leather-bound planner or a whizzy device, however much I enjoy owning and playing with such items.

My brain, when I choose to use it, is actually pretty good at recalling things, and at prioritising what needs to be done. When I begin to lose track it is usually because I have become over-burdened, either with tasks that need doing or with more insidious “input”. It is not that I have forgotten what is most important at the time, more that I have successfully over-written it with fluff. In fact, I feel that often failure to accomplish something because “I forgot” is inaccurate and I should instead say “I chose not to remember”.

Of course, I am not espousing the rejection of all written or recorded material in favour of brain-power alone, just a more organic and more thoughtful use of both. And now I have to refer back to Kojak to illustrate a way of working that could be relevant now, either between managers and their team members, or just within your own personal task-setting.

Here is the scene – Kojak is sitting in his office and he yells “Crocker!” Detective Crocker appears and Kojak barks one concise instruction at him. Crocker doesn’t need to write it down, he has a single, well-defined task to do and he shoots off and does it. If it involves finding some information, he comes back, maybe with a brief written note, and tells Kojak the answer and that progresses the investigation. (I accept that sometimes even Kojak is a little blurry – like the episode that contained the line “Crocker – do it all.” On the whole he’s pretty good with his instructions.)

You will note that they didn’t have to book a meeting room and work through a long list of items of varying importance which they could only recall because they’d written them on a @Kojak/@Crocker list. I think in the modern workplace we can get bogged down in detail and lose immediacy. If we were giving our brains the leading role in our work, we might focus more on the really important and the really urgent and leave behind some of the purely bureaucratic and petty tasks that we consider so important in our current endeavours.

It is useful to write down times and dates in a diary, to remind ourselves of things that we need to attend to at a given moment and sometimes it is necessary to write a list of everything you need to do because you lack focus on that day, or in that hour. I just don’t want to delegate everything to some other system when using my brain could be a better way all-round.

So, this week I am trying to think hard about what I need to do next to make progress on the important things in my life and I am treating pen and paper, and my electronic devices, as aides-memoire instead of using my brain to assist the all-important List. I hope I will feel more human this way, because no-one wants to be just an organic limb carrying out the demands of a non-sentient catalogue of tasks.

Yes, I have no doubt there will be a lot of things that I forget, but I think that is how we sieve out that good ideas from the not so good ones. I wonder if, somewhere along the line, I might find that my brain is exactly the right size for my life.

I’m doing this…

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Here’s a snapshot of what is going on around here these days. This is what was piled on my settee when I started to tidy up last night prior to heading off to bed (before I took the photo I did move them into a more pleasing arrangement than the ‘old heap of stuff’ that they had naturally formed!).

The new Avon brochure commences today, so I had been busy setting them up and getting a .pdf version of the brochure up on my beauty blog  – feel free to head over there, or visit my webshop where you can browse through the products and, so long as you are in the United Kingdom, order online for delivery direct to you from Avon’s warehouse. I’m trying out the Vitamin C Serum that’s launching this month. I like a nice serum and, truth be told, I’d rather use one cream day and night but add in a serum in the evening than have separate day and night moisturisers.

Then, of course, there has been knitting. The photo shows how far I have got with the first sleeve of my cardigan. I have been resting my hand but still doing a few rows each day just to make sure the cardigan continues to grow. I am enjoying working with this yarn and the pattern is really simple but effective.

The book, The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, was an impulse purchase this week. I have been following the buzz about this method of planning/tracking over the past few years, but ultimately have always felt that a lot of it is not for me. Then again, the basic concept of keeping all your incoming information in one distinct place is very much to my taste. I find having things scattered all over the place makes them easier to ignore. In one of the best jobs I have had, it was common practice to keep a hardback notebook in which you noted whatever needed to be done – in my secretarial role this meant I had lots of notes every day on responses I needed to send to e-mails on behalf of my manager. I found it a very workable system and the Bullet Journal is not dissimilar to that. I am enjoying reading it so far, although I may not adopt the method in its entirety. I decided to buy it after watching a video online that was originally shown at the European Planner Conference; this runs to just over 30 minutes, but I think it’s well worth watching because Mr Carroll comes across as such a genuinely lovely chap. Earlier in the year I read about nine-tenths of Getting Things Done by David Allen, but it didn’t entirely gel with me. It felt to me like it was devised by, and addressing the needs of, business owners and top-level managers, whereas Ryder Carroll seems to be coming from, and addressing, a much broader base of both workers and creative professionals. Have to see if I make it to the end of this one!

I am consistently referring to the diary pages in my Filofax notebook, and also using it for broader list-making and note-taking. I am still very pleased with this set-up and I can foresee it serving me for some time to come. I chose a verse by Dorothy Parker for the creative area this week and I used my fine-nibbed Parker 51 filled with the Lamy Peridot ink. When I am writing in the diary I mainly use the Waterman Hemisphere in the blue finish which you can see in the photo, and that is filled at the moment with Graf von Faber-Castell ink in Midnight Blue. Underlining is done using my Cross Century II filled with the Lamy Ruby ink (speaking of which, I am in love with all the red inks Michael Jecks has been testing recently on his Writerly Witterings YouTube channel – you can check out Ink Comparison: Red and/or Ink Comparison: Red Second stage if you’re interested). I use my other Waterman Hemisphere – the Rose Cuivre finish – to write in my journal every morning. That one is currently filled with J Herbin Poussiere de Lune which is a purple-to-brown ink. In this way I am getting to play with a lot of the pens and the inks in my small collection. I feel a return to a brighter purple ink is imminent when one of the pens runs dry.

The final item I had to clear away was a tube of hand cream because my hands have been very dry recently. This particular hand cream is from one of Avon’s fragranced bath ranges and it is a lovely consistency, but there are more subtle fragrances around. I happen to like this one, but I don’t imagine it would be for everybody – but then, what is?

After a few nice sunny days, we’ve got a fine drizzle this afternoon although it held off until I was back from my regular Friday-morning swim so that was good. Our electricity went off for a few minutes at lunch-time, and all the alarms in the neighbourhood started ringing so it was an exciting few minutes.

Now we are heading towards another weekend which I hope will provide plenty of opportunities to knit, read, and ponder the meaning of life.


 

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.


 

Take-away from a stationery week

07-05-19 planners
The planner lineup, 7th May 2019 (it’s a dull and chilly day in Norfolk and this selection reflects that)

I promised a wrap-up at the end of stationery week. I have been pondering for a couple of days now what I am taking away from it and I think I have it straight in my head.

An excuse to shop

I think this type of week/day is most successful as a marketing drive and if I wasn’t on a strictly limited budget I would have used the opportunity to buy something special. On the other hand, there is a lot of fun to be had from looking at what is available even if you know you can’t buy it and I enjoyed my virtual window-shopping a lot. I limited it to just two purchases for Stationery Week – the set of colour co-ordinated fineliners because I thought I might like to colour-code, and a roll of washi tape which was just a general re-stock because I’ve almost run out. Use of the fineliners after my initial testing was minimal (although it outstripped use of the washi tape) but I can report that they are very nice pens and if you like colour-coding I would recommend trying to track some down. I won’t be using them myself, but I have plans for them.

Other people’s posts

Perhaps the best thing about National Stationery Week was seeing other people’s blogs and Instagram posts on the theme. I saw some things that were new to me through photos posted on social media and that’s exciting. There is a surprising amount going on in the stationery world nowadays and most of it is pretty, not to mention relatively affordable. I must admit if I look back ten or twenty years, I wouldn’t have foreseen that.

Setting up the Kikki K ring-planner

This was a very enjoyable exercise and it got my creative muscles moving a bit, but ultimately it frustrated me more than it inspired me. I found I was even less productive last week than I usually am, and that is saying a lot. However, it was beneficial because shining a light on the details of a planner set-up has given me the opportunity to think about what I feel comfortable with and where I might go from here.

Likes and dislikes in a planner system

  • The paper needs to play nicely with my fountain pen inks
  • I greatly prefer the week-to-view column layout of my Mark + Fold diaries
  • I love having a marker for the current week which the Mark + Fold diaries don’t have
  • I like to have both my tasks and my appointments for the day in the same place
  • I like to track my goals (like creative writing word count and step count) on my main diary page rather than a separate tracker
  • I don’t necessarily need a whole year of dated pages available all the time
  • I like underlining things and drawing in separators with red ink
  • I don’t colour-code
  • The Personal/Medium size ring-planner is both too small and too bulky for my taste
  • I like having a pen loop
  • I adore having notepaper in the binder and being able to flip to it from the diary section without having to worry about a separate notebook
  • I really like the touch of prettiness in the dividers I made

Alternative formats

As I have said previously,  I will continue to plan 2019 in my Mark + Fold diary because it works very well. The thing that hasn’t gelled for me this year is setting up a notebook to accompany it and I intend to pay some attention to that over the next few days.

Heading towards 2020* I want to combine planning and notes in one book. That means looking at some options that are outside my usual sphere – the bullet journals, notebooks with removable pages, or custom-build spiral-bound planners. Plenty there to keep me interested for the rest of this year, then.

Pens

Yep, it is still fountain pens for me, every day, all the way. Fountain pens and inks. Nothing beats the feeling of writing with a fountain pen on decent paper.


*2020 – When I left school, this was always in my mind as the year I would retire. How times change! Then again, I would not have foreseen the lovely family that came my way, and all the things I would do and I would certainly not have thought of myself being still so young at heart this far down the line. Giving up on the retirement idea is a small price to pay.