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.


 

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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!

01-07-19 One Book July
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.

Not a whimsy

14-06-19 Darrow Wimsey

This week, I’ve been paying my respects to the late Paul Darrow by re-watching the 1973 BBC production of Murder Must Advertise in which he plays an advertising copywriter. It’s a role which grows in complexity as the four-part story unfolds and Darrow is excellent in it, capably portraying the character as ingratiating, bullying, enmeshed in a derailed lover affair, and, through it all, managing to be utterly charming. He wears the sharp 1930s suit and tie very well, and ultimately, he gets a chance at heroism of a sort. It’s a very good performance as part of a very good ensemble cast.

Five years later, Paul Darrow would don the iconic leathers to portray Avon in Blake’s 7 with pretty much the same set of characteristics! Indeed, Vila (Michael Keating) was often to be seen in a similar pose to the above when Avon spoke to him. I see many parallels between the two performances and I salute Mr Darrow for being able to play characters who might, on the surface, not seem worthy of our admiration, and show that they, too, have their good sides as well as their bad.

I do enjoy this particular set of Lord Peter Wimsey adaptations, the ones starring Ian Carmichael. If you can track down Murder Must Advertise it’s well worth a watch, as are all the other stories in the series. (Blake’s 7 is also represented via an appearance in Wimsey’s The Nine Tailors by David Jackson who played Gan in the sci-fi series. That story also provided a part for a young John Duttine who went on to star in the BBC production The Devil’s Crown in 1978, then To Serve Them All My Days and The Day of the Triffids in 1981.)

Actually, mentioning To Serve Them All My Days leads me nicely into the tin shown in this photo:

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I use it to store ink cartridges, but I am unsure of its original use. It belonged to my maternal grandparents and had been used for many, many years to store a lock of hair, although I have no idea whose hair it was.  For some reason, I always think this tin dates to the First World War, thus the connection with To Serve Them All My Days which begins in that era. This is one of those little items that provides a tangible link with people I loved, and it is my joy to be able to put it to a useful purpose and cradle it through another generation. It also reminds me I am going to have to use up those ink cartridges and to do that I am going to have to use up the red ink in my Cross pen. Perhaps when I finish the green ink I’m currently using to write my daily journal I will have a couple of weeks of writing that in red. Sounds like a plan.

Finally, I wanted to just refer back to last Friday’s post where I wrote about trying to use my memory more. Starting with small steps, this week I’ve been doing a memory exercise which I think some people would think is ridiculously simple and others ridiculously hard. Each morning, immediately upon waking up, I tell myself what day of the week it is and what one thing I really need to get done. It’s easy to wake up befuddled and with a firm belief that it is totally the wrong day of the week, and so this is an interesting challenge.

I hope you have had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend. At the moment it looks like we can look forward to rather less rain next week which will be a pleasure.

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.

Call the sock police

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This week I made my second attempt at sock resurrection and I came to the same conclusion as I did on my first attempt, namely, when socks get to the pont where one bit needs mending they are probably telling you that they have come to the end of their life.

I would quite like to be the type of person who mends clothes or re-fashions them so they can go on being useful, but in my heart I feel that life is just too short for such endeavours. I will return to this point later, but first, let’s examine what I learned from my attempt to mend these socks.

I finished this particular pair of socks in September 2015, so I got a good four winters out of them. To provide some context, I have worn my hand-knit socks exclusively – by which I mean no shop-bought socks and no tights or stockings – for at least the past five years. It’s either been hand-knit socks or bare feet, and in England bare feet only happen in a minority of months. There are two reasons for using my hand-knit socks so consistently: firstly, although my feet are unexceptional, I have never found a pair of shop-bought socks that fitted me and, secondly, until this past winter I’ve been dressing in a strict uniform of leggings or trousers paired with tunic tops/short dresses so socks have been my default foot covering. This has changed somewhat over the past nine months as my weight has reduced and I’ve become more confident about wearing skirts or dresses with tights some of the time. Even so, I still wear trousers and socks a lot.

I think in all the time I’ve been wearing hand-knit socks, I have had one pair which sprang a hole in the heel and one pair that wore through on the ball of the foot; apart from that the point where all my socks wear out is at the toe. This year, with make do and mend becoming ever more popular, I started to think that I could just re-knit the toe of socks when it starts to wear and I made an attempt at repairing one pair, only to find the wool was so felted together that it was impossible to unpick the original toe and knit a new one. “Life is too short,” I thought.

Yesterday I was packing away some of my socks until the autumn, and I put several pairs to one side which are getting perilously worn on the toe. I picked the pair shown above and cut off the toes then proceeded to pick back to a suitable point to knit a new toe. Once again, the wool was felted, but I managed to get the first one done with a new grey toe and it went quite well. However, when I turned to the second sock, I realised that I would have to get rid of almost all of the foot area and re-knit it because there were several patches where the fabric was wearing thin. And so it struck me all over again that these socks probably aren’t worth the trouble of repairing – they have served me well and now they are ready to retire. “Nothing,” my mum would say, “lasts for ever.”

In a situation where we have no alternative but to eke out our clothing for as long as we possibly can, such endeavours are well worth doing. Ecologically, wearing old is many times better than producing new. Yet we have to balance this out with how we can best use all of our resources and that includes our time. I do not feel my time is well-used repairing socks, or re-fashioning clothes that are too large for me so that they fit again. I would rather knit a new pair of socks from scratch, which keeps manufacturers in business and employing people who need jobs. I’d rather donate the over-sized clothes to charity and replace them with more appropriately sized clothes that someone else didn’t want. I am not championing profligate shopping, and I have never been one to wear clothes once, or even for one season – the clothing industry has never got rich from my shopping tendencies. However, I think I will continue with my long-held system of wearing it until it threatens to fall apart then accepting the inevitable. To salve my conscience, I am going to investigate the textile banks which take items too worn to donate so they can be recycled into something else of use.

I’ll just finish up with a quick photo of the pens I am currently using. One YouTube channel I enjoy is Waski the Squirrel who does a weekly video series called “Pens In Use”. My own pen habit is much less extreme, but every so often things have moved on sufficiently to make an update worthwhile. So here is my current set:

24-05-19 this week's pens

I’ve got one more cartridge of the Graf von Faber-Castell Midnight Blue ink, then I will be using my bottle of their Cobalt Blue as my main blue ink. The rather old bottle of MontBlanc blue/black or Midnight Blue (I can’t recall which they called it) still has plenty of fills in it. I’m not sure about this ink in the gushy Parker 51, but basically I am going to try this pen with all the inks I can lay my hands on until I find a combination that I think works really well. My second Waterman Hemisphere is uninked at the moment, as are my Lamy Safari and Lamy LX. The Safari may sit on the bench for some time, but I think the other two will be back in action fairly soon.

I will finish up by wishing you all a lovely weekend, and sending commiserations if you have to work. See you again on Monday.


 

Word of the Week – Noctuary

06-01-19 Hygge
Just the night for a noctuary

 

Noctuary  (noun)

A record of the events, or one’s thoughts, during the night.

(From the Latin “nox, noctis” meaning night; on the analogy of “diary”)

Here’s a word for anyone to use if they wake in the night and have to write down something that has just struck them. For anyone who writes down their dreams. For those of you who keep a notebook on the bedside table.

Me? When I’m in bed, I’m in bed; my dreams can come and go as they please, if they are important I will remember them; if I forget them, clearly they were not important. Almost any night, the only thing that will get me out of bed once I’m settled is a trip to the loo.

Except, that is, on Saturday night when I thought something just after I got into bed and had to put the light on, pad out into my living room, sit at my desk and write down the single sentence that a fictional character had uttered in my head, then pad back and settle down. It momentarily crossed my mind that I should have writing equipment by my bed for just such a chance; I didn’t know that I needed a noctuary.

Do you have a noctuary? Did you know that was what it was called?


 

I’m doing this…

17-05-19 I'm doing this

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.