Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Review of the red pocket Portland

I had a black pocket Portland a while back, but I gave it to hubby in the great ‘convert the uninitiated’ scheme (he’s still using it!) and I had expected my ‘new’ red Portland to be identical to the black Portland in everything except colour.
I’ll get to the difference in a bit.

General walk-through:

It’s a nice red leather. There are a couple of marks but nothing serious and nothing a bit of polish and a quick brush-up won’t remedy. The leather isn’t as ‘grippy’ as the black version (but the black one may have been the one that’s different and all other Portlands are more like this one). This one feels much more like my green personal size version.
Front cover
Back cover
The left-hand interior has a gusseted (great word!) pocket, which is where the difference from the black version is. In the black one the edge of the pocket makes a cover for the zipper, but in my red one, there is a flap to cover the zipper. I wonder when and why they changed? Does anyone know.
The pocket is lined with red material ‘watermarked’ with the filofax f.

Flap covering zipper
The right-hand interior is the same as the black version – four card slots with a full-height pocket behind. The interior is lined with the same red material as the zipped pocket.

Card slots
There is no full-width pocket along the back (unlike in the Cavendish).

The rings are 15mm (I almost weep as I write this because we all know deep down that I will not be able to make this work as a planner and wallet combined). They are quite stiff, but I’m fairly sure the binder hasn’t had a lot of use. All of the rings are perfectly aligned.

It came with just a few things – a week on one page 2014 calendar, a today marker, a set of post-its and two top-opening clear pockets (one crystal clear, the other the softer, slightly opaque plastic).

I have made a week on one page diary for the remains of 2013 for it – I will post about it soon!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Why have I just bought a red pocket Portland?

Do I actually read my own blog? It would seem not as in previous posts, I have said:
I've tried a 15mm pocket and I just can't fit all my stuff in there
I've begun to realise that however close other binders come to being 'as good as a Baroque', they aren't Baroques

So WHY have I just got myself a pocket Portland?
Are the answers: “It’s red” and “It’s a red Portland and they’re not all that common, you know” and “I gave my pocket Portland in black to my hubby and I miss it” good enough?

No, I thought not.

So, why do I think I can get on okay with a 15mm ring pocket now when I never have before? I mean, I have a 15mm pocket Cavendish with a better layout than a Portland in some ways (see the review I did of it comparing it to the Aston and the Portland that hubby now owns, here) and I’ve never used it.

Well, of course, I won’t get on with 15mm rings! Who am I trying to kid?

Whilst it ticks several boxes for me: bright colour, lies flat-as-a-bat, has several card slots... has a highly significant flaw in those 15mm rings.

But I’ll try. I’ll try.

And then the “I want something red, but a bit bigger than this but not as big as a personal filofax” will kick in and I will be back in Red. And then I won’t be able to get all the cards out of the slots easily enough so I will be back in the Baroque.

Plus ça change and all that.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Which notebook to take away with me?

I shall be away for a couple of days, involving two train journeys of about 5 hours. Now, I love travelling by train, but five hours is about my limit for sitting in one seat to be honest (though trains beat aeroplanes by a country mile for travelling as far as I am concerned!). I’m actually quite looking forward to the journeys as it will give me a chance to sit and write. I am about a third of my way through writing the first draft of “book 5” (it will get a proper title some time!) and am in in that exciting “can’t get it out of my head fast enough” phase.
I always do book planning on paper and almost always in fountain pen. My writing is neater and there is that tactile aspect of nice pen on good paper which just adds to the enjoyment. The notebook I keep coming back to for book planning is the Clairefontaine Age Bag in A4 (reviewed here). That will of course be travelling with me, but it isn’t what I want to write scenes in (and I probably won’t want to type into my little tablet-computer for 5 hours either!). What I want, ideally, is a cheap/disposable but good notebook, A5 size or thereabouts, that lies flat and copes with fountain pen. Not much to ask for, is it?

Not being organised enough and also having a stash of notebooks that I really should get on and use, I didn’t buy anything new for the trip, but have rummaged through the “notebook emporium” as my DH describes it, to find something to use.

Of course, the notebook emporium has a zillion A5 notebooks in it, but I managed to discount several of them as they were either too expensive to use for what effectively will be scribbles (Midori Dainel, I mean you), or won’t lie flat enough (Clairefontaine A5+), or fit both of those exclusions! (Quo Vadis Habana; Ciak A5 notebook). The Oxford Activebook would fit all requirements but the page layout isn’t quite right for this kind of writing and I don’t need the holes for filing the pages afterwards (and it’s also a bit expensive for scribbling).

Which left me with: a spiral-bound “Europa A5 notemaker” (made by Tollit and Harvey Ltd, King’s Lynn, according to the label; no idea when or where I acquired this...), a spiral-bound notebook with cats on the front (I have a cat; I love stationery. People frequently combine these aspects of my life into one gift, regardless of the quality of the notebook) and a Clairefontaine A5 school book style notebook.

As ever, I needed to do a fountain pen test to see whether the paper would cope or whether I would be forced to scrawl with a biro or pencil. The Europa feathered and bled, but had quite “grabby” paper which made writing with a biro better (somewhat surprisingly!). The cat-notebook had smoother paper and less feathering. The Clairefontaine was Clairefontaine. If you don’t know what that implies, you’re reading the wrong blog. :-)

The results of the fountain pen test

The A5 Europa notemaker:
As mentioned, the paper was quite “grabby” but fountain pen generally feathered and bled like mad. I also tried a whole heap of other pens and to be honest, the best pen for this paper was a bic crystal biro. For shame. Not sure I could write with a bic crystal biro for 5 hours though.
The feathering was bad enough, but the bleed-through was almost acceptable for some of the pens, surprisingly. The calligraphy pen is just unfair for this test, but acts as a bit of a gold standard. The OHTO Tasche is a killer too and unsurprisingly, the paper didn’t hold up against these. Otherwise, the bleed-through was fairly acceptable. The cyclamen pink bled too much but is probably not one I would write screeds in anyway (not without giving myself a headache!).

Front cover: Europa notemaker
Fountain pen test - front
Fountain pen test - reverse

The cat-book:
I can’t remember who gave me this. I can see why it is still pristine in the emporium! Although smoother to write on, the bleed-through with pretty much anything other than biro is unbearable. Will I ever use this book up? Probably not!

Cat notebook - front cover
Fountain pen test - front
Fountain pen - reverse

Clairefontaine A5 school-book:
Cheap as chips really and lies flat despite being stapled, rather than sewn or spiral-bound. I’ve done the fountain pen test in the back as I don’t want to have to tear the page out and I’m getting fed up of opening notebooks and finding a fountain pen test on the first page! Fountain pen writes like a dream on this paper. Biro – the paper is a bit too slippy and (as you can see from the deteriorating handwriting), not to my taste. Bleed-through? A smidgen, but utterly acceptable.

Clairefontaine schoolbook - cover
Fountain pen test - front
Fountain pen test - reverse

The Clairefontaine will be the one I take. Now, who would have predicted that?? :-)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Review of the Pocket Flex by Filofax

Flex in the centre, plus goodies it came with
[warning: long, picture-full post. Click on any picture to enlarge]

I know. I need to do about a zillion stationery reviews. I will try and get to them all soon (though there is always that problem of having bought more stationery before I’ve reviewed the current tranche... oops)

Anyway, today I’m going to review the pocket flex from Filofax. I bought this on eBay – new, with a heap of extras, though I understand it’s a ‘first edition’ and so the new version may have a different layout. This version is still available on the Filofax website (statement correct at time of publication).

The flex is a ‘new’ concept in notebooks (though personally, I doubt that there is anything much new in the world of stationery! It’s paper and bindings and you write on it. What’s new?). The idea is that you can slide the covers of notebooks into the flex cover in a variety of ways and the cover holds them together for you. The flex comes in a variety of sizes: pocket and A5 taking the same size refills as pocket and A5 Filofax paper, and slim which is not the same as a personal Filofax size (it has refills that are 150mm x 85mm c.f. a Filofax personal which is 171mm x 95mm). I bought the pocket because it was small and neat (and because the pages were the same as the Filofax pocket size and therefore potentially useful, even if the flex turned out not to be. A5 was just too big.).

Flex unwrapped

What it came with: 64 page ruled notebook (L),
pen holder (seen in the centre), jot-pad (R)
So what did I get in my package? I think it was a pretty good deal, all in all. I got the standard cover and fill (cover, plus 64 page ruled notebook, plus jot-pad, plus moveable pen holder), then I also got as extras:
a 256 page ruled notebook (£7.50)
another 64 page ruled notebook and a 64 page plain notebook (£3.50 each)
another pen holder (£2.00)
a fold-out 2013 planner (£2.50)
a contacts book (£2.00).
On at the moment, the magenta pocket flex is £11.90. My entire bundle was £12 including p+p, which, considering it would have cost £21.00 just for the extras it came with, was a pretty good bargain! [all prices from the Filofax website and correct at time of publication]

First impressions:
The cover feels very plasticky (it is plastic!) and smelled quite strongly of vinyl/plastic when I first opened it, but the smell has now faded somewhat. The way the cover is organised there are two vertical slots in each cover (one inward-facing; one outward-facing) which you can slot the different things into. Additionally, on the left-hand inside there are four card slots, and on the right-hand inside there are slots for holding the jot-pad. The visible cover is quite a nice bright pink with a texture to the vinyl. The linings of the slots are in a black fabric.

The Refills:
It doesn’t come with a diary, which is a real shame and I honestly think that Filofax are missing a trick there. However, the bundle I got has quite a lot to consider.

The notebooks:
My bundle came with two 64 page ruled notebooks, one 64 page plain notebook and one 256 page ruled notebook. The 64 page notebooks are a nice size; the 256 page version might be a bit too thick (it’s 15mm thick).
The page style in the ruled notebooks has a darker top and bottom line creating a header/footer effect, 20 line-spaces (well, 21, but the flex by Filofax logo overlaps with the bottom one). Line-spacing is 5mm. The plain version has the same header/footer lines and the last 8 pages of the plain booklet are in fact squared (~4.2mm squares). The pages are sewn rather than glued (though this still doesn’t quite make them lie flat!). The paper is thicker than Filofax binder paper (it feels like 80 gsm, but I can’t confirm it) and is a light cream colour.

Interior of the plain notebook
The paper is an epic fail! It soaks up ink like blotting paper, so the ink feathers and even a bic biro has significant bleed-through/show on the other side of the paper. How can Filofax get the fundamental aspect of stationery – the paper – so, so wrong, all the time??? I have cheap printer paper that does better than this. I’m so glad my bundle came in at a fraction of the full price. If I had paid £3.50 for a 64 page notebook that fails so abysmally in its primary objective as an object on which to write, I would be fizzing mad!

Epic pen fail: front
Epic pen fail: reverse
The Contacts booklet:
Having met the epic fail with the notebook, I have hesitated to use anything at all as yet in the contacts book as it is the same paper. Line-spacing is the same at 5mm and the there is a 25mm wide shaded section on the left-hand side. The way the letters are divided up is as pairs (AB, CD, EF etc.) until the last six letters, which are done as triplets (UVW, XYZ). There are four sides for each of the paired letters and two sides for each of the triplets. The bonus (at least for me) is that it will fit in the pocket in the back of my Baroque pocket filofax, which would free up ring-space. Should I decide to use my pocket Cavendish, it will also slot very nicely into the slot in the back cover (and with 15mm rings, this could be a useful aspect).

Contacts booklet

The pen-holder:
The one supplied with the flex matched the cover in being pink. It’s basically a piece of pink elastic mounted on a piece of cardboard the same size as the notebook covers. The one that came in the bundle is grey elastic on grey card. It holds a bic crystal loosely, likewise my Sharbo diary pen/pencil combo. A V5 hi-tecpoint fits better diameter-wise, but is too tall. A standard-sized pencil fits only loosely. I don’t appear to possess a pen that fits the slot properly which will also write in the notebook without bleeding like a stuck pig.

The 2013 fold-out planner:
A month a ‘page’, with Saturday and Sunday indicated with dark shading around the day name and date. The line-spacing is about 3.4mm. There are six months on one side of a long fold-out sheet, with the final six months on the other side. It’s probably useful to people who use year planners but I don’t so I can’t imagine using it.

The jot-pad:
The label says 32 pages, but mine has 14 sheets (28 pages). Page size = 60mm x 120mm. Entirely plain paper. The same epic fail paper. Perforated sheets to tear them off. Pointless (as far as I am concerned).

Jot-pad in situ: Does not lie flat!
It needs a strap or fastener of some form. I have seen people using a second pen-holder in the front cover and inserting a pen through both holders to keep the flex fastened (see picture). With the interior filled, this doesn’t really work brilliantly - there is only one notebook in to allow the elastic loops to match up. I would use a simple piece of knotted elastic!

two pen-loops for a closure trick
It is described on the Filofax website as having lie-flat pages, but mine don’t lie flat and nor does the cover, without bending it back on itself first.

It’s interesting and I could imagine using it for a diary and notebook combination. That could satisfy my need to see a week at a time and to be able to see a page of to do/notes in the same view (see picture).

Mock up: notebook on left; other notebook pretending
it could be a diary on the right
Normally, in pocket size, this is unworkable because a week to a page version of the diary (to have week on one side, notes on the other) is too small to use easily. However, I also like to use my planner as a wallet and this, despite the card slots, can’t really function like that – there are not enough slots and there is nowhere to put coins. I could use it for the diary/notes and carry a separate wallet, but then, I could combine those two aspects in a single filofax so there’s no great advantage. I really can see me using the contacts booklet in a pocket filofax though, to free up ring space. It’s a real shame that Filofax are so inept at producing something made of paper, considering they are a paper-based product company. That, more than anything, lets the whole thing down. The Filofax website says, “All the stationery inserts have been printed and bound to an extremely high specification”. It might have been printed and bound to a high specification, but the actual paper could double as blotting paper. And Filofax are having a laugh with those prices! I can get A6 notebooks with more pages and glorious Clairefontaine paper for £1.25. Why on earth would I pay £3.50 for such shocking quality?

Stars out of five?
Design: *** - nice idea, but it needs a strap/fastener. The jot pads or slots aren’t useful (to me)
Execution: * - if you can’t produce a paper product that you can write on properly, it’s a bit poor.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Oh Baroque, how I love thee!

I don't know why I bother switching in and out of different filofaxes. It seems that I always, always end up coming back to one of the three Baroques I have. If life is normal, it's one of the two personal size ones I have - either the pink or the turquoise. Current squeeze is the turquoise one. If life is a bit quieter (ha... when??) I manage to downsize to a Baroque pocket.

So, why do I keep coming back to them?? Here we go. Read the list and weep, all of you poor souls who aren't fortunate enough to have one.
  • They lay flat as a bat. No training, no persuading with heavy books and kitchen weights. Just open and BAM! Flat. As. A. Bat.
  • The personal sized version has six credit-card spaces in the front cover. As I like to use my filofax as a wallet and organiser this is invaluable. There is also a zipped pocket there which I could use for coins, but I don't. Not because it's too fiddly, but because I prefer to use the pencil case hack.
  • The pocket size has five credit card slots (though the zipped pocket is too fiddly for coins). The leather is supple enough to make getting cards in and out easy too. 
  • There are 2 vertical pockets behind the card slots in the pocket and one vertical pocket in the personal size, always useful for paper money etc.
  • The colour. Yeah, they did them in black (and I have one in pocket size) but my favourite is the turquoise. The pink is stupendously good too.
  • Ring size. Okay, the personal size Baroque comes in standard 25mm rings, but the pocket version has 19mm rings. I've tried a 15mm pocket and I just can't fit all my stuff in there.
  • The embossing. The outside is smooth, fine-grained, supple leather. The inside is a riot of embossed leather.
  • Both the pocket and the personal sizes have a notepad slot in the back cover. Not that I have ever used them as that, but it's a really useful pocket for keeping receipts and so on.
I've begun to realise that however close other binders come to being 'as good as a Baroque', they aren't Baroques. And so, I am seriously considering breaking up the massive filofax party that has been going on in the bottom drawer of my desk for years and selling some of them. Most of them actually. Because however close they get, however much I hope they will work for me the way the Baroques do, they just aren't Baroques.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Phew! Life is a TINY bit calmer... and I've changed filofax. Again.

Hello everyone! I am SO sorry that I have been AWOL. We went away on holiday and I decided to take a 'digital-holiday' too - i.e. do nothing digital - no blogs, no Twitter, no email and so on. Anyway, when we came back from holiday, life exploded with busy-ness and I didn't have either time or energy to write any posts.

Anyway, although life is still ridiculously busy, I am going to try and get a couple of blog posts a week written. I have a zillion things to post about - new filofax diary inserts, a filofax flex on its way, more purchases from The Journal Shop and some pen and ink updates!

Right now, as half of you might easily have predicted, I'm back in a Baroque. At times like this, I think I should just sell all the other filofaxes I have because however much they almost work for me, I always, always end up back in one of the Baroques. It's the turquoise one this time. All I did was shift everything, lock, stock and barrel from the wine Holborn to the Baroque, but then, as the Baroque is a bit narrower than many of the personal size filofax binders, the zipped pencil case I use as a cash and vouchers holder stuck out too much. Simple fix, I bought another of the cheap pencil cases (60p from Tescos), sliced the sealed edge off at 10cm width, re-sealed it with washi-tape, punched holes in it and put my cash and vouchers in it. Voilà!

I know you've all seen a zillion pictures of my turquoise Baroque, but here we go - here's another to show you the amended pencil case.

Doctored pencil-case. Works a treat!
I realise that in the picture above it looks like the pencil case, despite being trimmed in its width, is hugely taller than the binder, but it's just the angle I've taken the picture I think. Here's one of the binder closed - the pencil case is invisible.

Baroque closed.

See, no sign of it!

Anyway, my apologies again for being away for so long. Back soon!