Saturday, 9 February 2019


Logo of a black dog with a monocle and the name Nero's Notes

Those of you who've followed me for a while (bless you!) will know that as well having an addiction to stationery, I also write books (you can see the covers in the sidebar here!). Well... I'm now managing to combine both loves as Stuart Lennon has asked me to write for the blog on Nero's Notes.

I first 'met' Stu a couple of years ago. There are quotation marks, because in fact, Stu and I haven't ever met in real life (though I hope we will one day). We were both part of a #writingchat chat on Twitter (where various writers come together via Twitter on a Wednesday night from 8-9 pm UK time, to talk about a range of topics relating to writing) and the topic for the night was writing buddies. Neither Stu nor I had a writing buddy, nor were we in any writing groups. To cut a long story short, Stu and I swapped a small chunk of writing, gave feedback to each other and have ended up good buddies ever since!

Stu is now one of my beta readers - a very select group who read my books when I'm happy enough with them I can bear the thought of someone else seeing them, but with still some work to do on them. He also shares my love of good stationery. In fact, so much so that he bought a pocket notebook company! It was originally called Pocket Notebooks, but under Stu's guidance, has become Nero's Notes. You'll have seen a number of reviews of things from there, over the last wee while (and in case you missed them, I'll pop a list at the end).

Picture of pen, paper, envelopes and ink bottle, for letter writing
Stu is also one of the friends that I write to. Yes, I still write proper letters to people, on proper paper and put them in proper envelopes, add a stamp and post them. In fact, my very first blog post for Stu is on writing letters and it comes out on Wednesday. Please pop over to the blog and check it out? It should be up after 2 pm.

If you're reading this blog, the chances are that you share my love of good stationery, so go and have a rummage through the Nero's Notes site. There are notebooks, pens, pencils, accessories and some excellent subscription boxes to feed your habit. There's some amazing stuff on there, including some things you won't be able to get anywhere else in the UK. Hopefully see you all over there!

Reviews of Nero's Notes (originally Pocket Notebooks) things:
(Each link opens in a new window)
PapioPress A6 Notebooks
Darkstar Collection
Write pocket notebooks
Rhodia Rhodiarama
New Darkstar Collection
Stationery Box (subscription)
Word. notebooks
Inky Fingers Currently Inked (sadly no longer available)
6 for £6
Leuchtturm lined slim softcover
Poach My Lobster notebook

Friday, 14 December 2018

My day to day diary for 2019

In my last post, I said how I was staying in my Field Notes sized TN from Meadowgate Leather as my everyday carry. I only need a month to view calendar while out and about, but I need a larger diary to plan my days, so am finishing up using my standard sized TN diary (that I've used all year) until the end of December.

For 2019, I'm staying in the Field Notes sized TN and using the A5 Everyday Diary from Box Clever Press.

I can spend a ridiculous amount of time choosing a diary (often time I can't really spare, but hey ho). To work well for me, I need a diary that:
  • is about A5 size
  • has a week to a view with the days in vertical columns (so I can time-box)
  • has equal sized columns for Saturday and Sunday (my life isn't less busy, just because it's a weekend!)
  • has the week starting on a Monday (who in their right minds splits the weekend so that it bookends the week? It's a weekend)
  • has space to list tasks for the week
  • preferably also has space to list Most Important Tasks for each day
  • would help me with planning my week/month/year
  • preferably is pretty/attractive because I have neither the time nor talent to do it myself but like the look of them
  • will lie flat on the desk
  • preferably has 2 ribbon markers, but at least one
Not much to ask for, is it?? You can see why I can end up trawling shops and the internet for yonks, trying to find this mythical beast.

Well, this year I have struck gold!! I've got the 2019 A5 Everyday Diary from Box Clever Press.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Short-lived experiment!

Towards the start of October, I was wondering what to use as my diary set-up in 2019. It had been a choice between three TNs (standard, B6 and Field Notes size) or go back to a Filofax. You can see my thoughts about it all here.

I was itching to use my Field Notes size TN, but wasn't sure if I could make it work as wallet, planner and notebook.

Short answer... Nope. Well, not quite as I had thought I would.

I'd bought a fairly cheap diary to fit in it (the teNeues one... see here for the blog post on it), which had a vertical layout. It fitted in okay, though the TN ended up a bit of a chunky monkey with that, a wallet insert and a home-made credit card insert. The teNeues diary started in December, so I thought I would trial it, and see how it went (while I still also had my standard size, vertical layout, Midori TN diary to hand). I could have made it less chunky by removing the cover of the diary, but it wasn't really the chunkiness that made it not work, it was the fact the small diary wasn't big enough for me to plan my days and weeks in.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

teNeues Cool Diary 2019 Weekly diary review

I've been umming and awwing about what to use in 2019 (see here for latest witterings) and bought myself a small diary to use in a Field Notes size Traveller's Notebook. The one I bought is a 9 x 14 cm TeNeues Cool Diary weekly diary (that is how the capital letters go in the label...). I got mine in blue, but it comes in a variety of colours.

It arrived the other day, so here's my review.

The cover is a hard cover with nothing more than 2019 in silver on the blue on the front and the teNeues logo on the reverse. The cover is soft-touch synthetic. I'm not a huge lover of that, because I'm trying to reduce my plastic/non-recyclable purchases, but it's understated and fairly classic. That said, I'm in two minds over just removing it altogether, because it takes up thickness in the binder and the pages of the diary don't need protecting if it's in the TN cover.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

What diary to use in 2019?

I know... it's barely October! And I don't normally have things planned hugely in advance, but we have just booked our summer holidays for 2019 and I'm feeling a bit twitchy that other than scribbling them down on the 'forward planner' bit I've created on the inside cover of my current diary, I have nowhere to put them down! I don't even have a wall calendar for 2019 and I'm sure magazines (like Country Living etc) have included them with the magazines by now.

Anyway, it's got me thinking about what to use for 2019. I currently have three options, though I may throw in a fourth just for shits and giggles.

1. Keep going with my standard-size Traveller's Notebook
2. Move to my B6 Traveller's Notebook
3. Move to a Field Notes size TN
4. Go back to using a Filofax

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Poach My Lobster Notebook Review

Many thanks to Stu from Nero's Notes for sending me this notebook to try out. This is my honest review of the notebook.

Recently, I've been shifting away from the A sizes of notebooks (A4, A5, A6 etc.) and turning more often to the B sizes (B5, B6 etc.). B5 (176 x 250 mm or 6.9 x 9.8") is an excellent size for me for writing/planning books and B6 (125 x 176 mm or 4.9 x 6.9") is a great size for a handbag-notebook. The notebook by Poach My Lobster is 128 x 202 mm, or pretty much exactly 5 x 8". Although not a true B6 size, it's a pretty good size for my bag.

The corners are rounded and the paper is glued in (making the flattability score for me pretty low).

The label on the back said the following:
128 pages of Fedrigoni Arcoprint Edizioni Avorio 1.5 100gsm
Cover printed on G. F. Smith's Colorplan Claret 270gsm with buckram embossing
Books Good Enough To Eat™: designed in London, printed in Italy, made by Poach My Lobster.
The pages are blank throughout.

The Cover:
I really like the cover. There are a variety of covers available (see the full listing on Nero's Notes here). I was sent the one with the quote about wine. The colour is a dark red (my crime-writer-brain is saying the colour of dried blood, but I realise that might not be a selling point for everyone 😄). It's a sturdy enough cover that the pages are protected, but not solid or heavy. And, it doesn't appear to contain plastic (though the notebook did come shrink-wrapped in single-use plastic that I almost opened an artery trying to remove). The logo of a lobster on the back is the only branding on it.

The Paper:
The paper is lovely to write on, both with fountain pen and also pencil. It's quite toothy, so calligraphy nibs may catch a little, and the paper is matte and so there isn't much sheen to fountain pen ink (though there is shading). I quite like the fact that the paper is blank as it means I can write in it and also sketch in it (yes, I do sketch occasionally - hence the wide array of pencil tests to come!). As this is more likely to be an 'out and about' notebook (as opposed to one used for planning, or for writing books), this makes for a good combination as I can scribble down thoughts and ideas, but I can also do sketches and drawings. If you prefer lined books because your writing stays neater, rest assured that a line-card shows through pretty well, to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Pen/Pencil Tests:
As you all know, these can make or break it for a notebook with me. The pens I currently have inked would present quite a test to the paper (and many a notebook would have failed abysmally!).
This paper sailed through. No sign of any feathering, absolutely no bleed-through and absolutely no show-through, either. 'Pen Tests' was written with my Pilot Parallel pen with 1.5 mm nib - almost everything fails with this, even Clairefontaine at times! This paper - absolutely fine. No feathing or even a hint of show-through, despite the fact it's a wet pen! The paper was a little too 'grabby' for my Rosetta Mosaic, and for the Parker Italic (though almost anything except Clairefontaine is too grabby for that little pen!). Beautifully smooth with my bamboo pen (bought as cheap as chips from eBay and one of my absolute favourite pens - always writes beautifully and is so easy to rinse out!).

The pencil tests were great - there is enough tooth in the paper to make sketching fun (no slippy-slidey shiny stuff!). I'm actually really looking forward to drawing in this wee book.

Pen tests (apologies for low exposure - it's Scotland!)
Reverse of the page - no show-through or bleed through
Pencil tests

I am very impressed. The paper is fabulous, the cover great (and quirky) and the size just right. The only thing I'm slightly less happy about is the low flattability. Maybe I'll just have to be a bit more brutal with it, but it currently does not lie flat.

Thanks again to Stu for sending me this. As I say, all views are my own and reflect my honest opinion of the book.

You can get these notebooks from Nero's Notes - click HERE to go to the full range.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Leuchtturm lined slim softcover notebook

My good friend Stu, from Nero's Notes sent me a couple of notebooks recently. One was this little number; the other was from Poach My Lobster, and a review of that will be coming soon. Although these were a gift, these are my honest views on the notebook.

Stu knows my penchant for slightly differently sized books (see all my recent posts on B5 and B6 stuff). I find that A5 can be a little bit big for a handbag, but A6 is a bit too small for me. I've slowly been shifting towards B-sizes, using B5 for writing notebooks (see hereherehere and here), and looking at using B6 for a Traveller's Notebook (see here). So both of these notebooks were a brilliant size for me.

The Leuchtturm softcover slim notebook measures 125 mm x 190 mm (making it almost B6 size:125 mm * 176 mm). It would fit in my B6 TN cover, but it would be as tall as the cover (probably making the stringing a bit tight - I don't know, I've not tried it). But, I don't want this for my TN, I want it as a satellite notebook to keep in my handbag! The one I was sent is lined, but they are also available in dot grid or plain.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

B6 Traveller's Notebook

If you've read my blog much recently, you'll know that I've become a recent convert to the B5 size, having a) converted an old Filofax Deskfax to a B5 Traveller's Notebook and b) found that B5 is a great size for book planning notebooks (see my reviews of a Zhi Jin notebook here, a B5 Leuchtturm dot matrix book here, and a set of Rosaliny Green World B5 notebooks here).

Before my conversion to B5, I had already been exploring B6 as a size. Now, don't get me wrong, I do love my Traveller's Notebooks (original size), but sometimes they are a bit big. This is probably because they are wallet, diary and notebook, all in one, but sometimes I think I want something a bit smaller.

Way back in January (!), I decided to dip my toe in the B6 water and bought (secondhand) a B6 TN via a Facebook group. I don't know why I haven't blogged about it before now... perhaps because I'm not using it yet.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

6 for £6 from Nero's Notes

Loving the new logo!
(Another book as well as the 6 for £6 is in this wrapped selection)
6 for £6 (or, as it appears on the website, "six 4 six") does what it says on the tin! For £6 you get a random selection of 6 notebooks. As Stu describes it on the site:
Discount Sales are few and far between at Nero's Notes. We do our best to keep prices fair all the time. This is our lucky dip box. As the name suggests, there will be at least six books for six pounds. That might be two three packs, or it might be six singles or any other combination.

Great value for money, perfect as a stocking filler or just for a little treat. Who knows what extras Nero might throw in...
Despite having more small notebooks than I will possibly ever use in a lifetime, I decided to check this out. After all, I'm not sure that any of the books on the site are only a pound to buy!

As ever, the parcel arrived with everything beautifully wrapped. I love the logo for Nero's Notes on the stickers. In the picture above, there's also a Nero's Notes leather notebook which I'll be reviewing soon.

So, what were the six books that were in the "six 4 six"? Well, either Stu can't count, or Nero sneaked in an extra, because I had seven books! There are no pen tests for any of the notebooks - partly because I haven't had time to do them and partly because the post is more to show you the kind of contents you might get.

The seven books were:
[tl;dr An absolutely brilliant bargain. Now read all of the post!]

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Rosaliny Green World 4 Assorted Softcover B5 Composition Notebooks

I've been on a bit of notebook-buying spree. After renovating an old Filofax Deskfax to create a B5 sized Traveller's Notebook, I (naturally) needed to buy lots of B5 notebooks!

B5 is just about the perfect size for me, I think. I find A5 a little on the small side, but A4 a bit too large sometimes. B5 sits between those two sizes at 176mm x 250mm (c.f. A5 at 148mm x 210mm and A4 at 210mm x 297mm). And of course, it's the perfect size for my renovated Deskfax.

I use my Deskfax as a writing TN - if I'm travelling, it has enough cards and pockets and so on, that I don't really need to have anything else in my bag, and the covers are sturdy enough to lean on if there isn't a table. (You can see what features the writing TN has here.)

In the early stages of writing a book, I use small, slim notebooks to bounce ideas around. Some (most!) of these ideas may never make it to a full book, but I like to keep them anyway. Once I think an idea has enough legs to make it to being a full novel, I need a thicker book (like the Zhi Jin notebook, reviewed here). I quite like the slim books made by Penco or Stalogy but saw some slightly more attractive slim notebooks on Amazon, while I was looking at the Zhi Jin.

The Rosaliny Green World notebooks were £8.99 from Amazon with free delivery and looked like a nice set of notebooks, so I ordered a pack. They took forever to arrive, not helped by the first order getting lost. Once the seller sent a new set, they took about 10 days to get here and there were some very sweet post-it notes in the parcel too (which I forgot to take pictures of and have now given away).

The notebooks have a reasonably sturdy card cover with quite sweet designs of trees/leaves and cats.

Inside, there are 38 pages (76 sides) and they are sewn rather than stapled. 37 (74) of these are lined; the first/last sheet is plain.

On the lined pages, there is space at the top to note the date and also the day of the week. The very top and bottom lines also have small marks on them to facilitate drawing in columns, should you so desire. The spacing of the small marks is a slightly random 10.8mm (which doesn't seem to relate to a sensible fraction of an inch either). Line spacing is 8mm, with a top margin of 15.5mm and a bottom margin of 14.5mm. There are 28 lines (if you're happy enough to use the bottom line; it would be fine - the small marks are unobtrusive).

How well did they stand up to fountain pen? The paper is described as "100gsm acid-free high quality recyclable ivory paper". I'm not sure if they mean "recyclable" (which surely, all paper is?) or "recycled". The paper does feel as if it is 100gsm and is very smooth.

Amazingly, I don't have a zillion fountain pens inked up at the moment, but I tested the paper with what I had, and with a few other pens I had to hand. I used one of the plain pages at the back of the book to test the pages. I don't imagine the lined paper will perform differently.

The results are a bit mixed...
I tried a 1.1mm stub nib and wet ink combo (usually a bit of a killer in pen tests), plus another italic nib, a standard m nib and then some Pilot Hi-tecpoints and a ballpoint.

The good news...
There's no feathering of the fountain pen ink at all and the paper is smooth to write on.
There's no bleed-through of the stub nib or the italic.

The bad news...
There is bleed-through with almost all the other pens except the ballpoint. The Tombow Object nib was the worst; the Hi-tecpoints were a bit better.
There is show-through for everything. Depending on how much that bugs you, this might be the deal-breaker. For me, the pens I use the most are 1.1mm stub nibs, so the fact these worked so well and show-through isn't too dire, means that I'm happy enough to use them, but might not buy them again to be honest.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Pen tests
reverse, showing bleed- and show-through
zoom in on the reverse
These are sweet little books which will definitely get used for initial notes on books or ideas. As for value for money, compared to the Penco notebooks, you get more pages (74 lined in this c.f. 60 in the Penco) for less money (£2.25 per book here, c.f. The Journal Shop selling Penco at £3.99). But... paper quality is significantly lower than the Penco.

As for comparing to Stalogy, the only UK seller I can find is Tokyo Bike (the listing for the Stalogy is here). They have 68 pages and are £5.50 (I originally got mine from somewhere else and they were £2.50. I wish now I'd bought more!). Again, paper quality on the Stalogy is better, but they are a lot more money per notebook. If you're US based, I think there are more options for purchasing them.

The covers are attractive and sturdy and I like that the pages are sewn rather than stapled. Paper quality lets them down, but at £2.25 each, I shouldn't really complain (I mean, Moleskine get away with charging a lot more money for notebooks and the paper is much worse!). I like the headers with the space for the date (and day), plus the marks to facilitate drawing columns. Line spacing suits me, though those with small writing or a penchant for fine nibs may find it a bit wide.

Overall, I quite like them!