Saturday, 30 November 2013

Review of the metal-cased J Herbin rollerball

Slowly crawling out of hell... always helped by a parcel containing stationery arriving (and listening to the glorious Julie Fowlis).

So, what have I bought now? Actually, something I have bought before – a J Herbin rollerball from Bureau Direct. I reviewed the others here. This one however, is the metal cased version. The pen takes standard-sized cartridges and costs £18.95 for the pen and two tins of J Herbin cartridges (which come in THE most adorable tins!) or £14.95 for the pen alone. Bureau Direct are doing a ‘12 days of Christmas’ series of offers at the moment and one of the offers was to get the pen but with three tins of cartridges instead of two (the tins are £2.25 each tin to buy on their own).

J Herbin rollerball with metal casing

In my original review (about a year ago) I said that the pens were a bit scratchy to write with. I’m pleased to say that the one I loaded with bleu pervenche ink 11 months ago and have used daily since (it’s slotted into my 5-year diary. That’s how I know I’ve used it all year!) has stopped scratching and squeaking when I write. The one loaded with Lie de Thé is still a bit scratchy, but hasn’t been used anything like as much. The metal-barrelled one doesn’t squeak or scratch at all and is a nice weight in the hand.

All opened up and with Larmes de Cassis cartridge inserted

I asked for three tins of Larmes de Cassis ink with the pen. My favourite coloured ink by J Herbin is Poussière de Lune, but since I have a bottle of that and a syringe and wide-bore needle thing for refilling cartridges, I didn’t see the need to ask for tins of that colour and the Larmes de Cassis looked lovely. I’ve written a bit with it and, like the original pens, the line laid down is fine and the ink is wet enough to be decently dense but not too wet. The colour of the Larmes de Cassis is (unsurprisingly!) a bit like Ribena!

Bureau Direct are brilliant (as ever! No affiliation; just a perpetually happy customer!) and the pen is great. It looks so much smarter than the original versions and I LOVE the ability to use a rollerball but it take nice ink cartridges. 5*

Friday, 29 November 2013

Review of Lamy Joy Calligraphy Fountain Pen

I have had a disappointing experience with Lamy before (see here) but I decided I would give the brand another go and get myself one of their calligraphy pens in the hope that I would get on okay with it and that it would fit in the pen loop of the leather covers (see here for my review of them).



I neither got on with it nor did it fit in the pen loop.

Am I the only person in the universe who hates Lamy pens? They seem to get rave reviews everywhere and people saying they would have a zillion of them, yet I find them designed for a hand that does not match mine.

The Lamy “Joy” (it was no joy for me...) Calligraphy came in a somewhat oversized box, with a blue cartridge. I also ordered the converter that allows you to use bottled ink as I have a lot of lovely ink and a dislike of most blue cartridge ink. Duly excited by a new pen, I loaded it up with some Poussière de Lune by J Herbin and had a go.

Pen and over-sized box
It was horrible. The moulded area near the nib was too far back for where I want to hold the pen and it dug uncomfortably into my fingertips. The weight was okay and the flow to the nib was good, but, the grip... I tried valiantly, writing a couple of sides of A4 with it and then gave up with sore fingers and scrappy-looking writing.

Anyway, for fullness of review, I’ll describe the pen. I ordered the black version, with an aluminium lid. The barrel has a ‘squared’ design, with two of the sides flat and the other two curved and the barrel tapers from tip to nib-holder. There is a firm screw connection between the nib-holder part and the rest of the barrel. There is an ink-viewer window in the barrel. The nib-holder is moulded and it was the end nearest the nib that did for me as the moulding is quite chunky and with quite sharp edges. I ordered the 1.1mm nib. The pictures below are taken from the Bureau Direct site to try and show the moulding.

Here is a comparison of my writing with a variety of nibs (both calligraphy/italic and normal). I vastly prefer my writing with an italic/calligraphy nib but given the choice between uncomfortable italic/calligraphy or comfortable non-italic/non-calligraphy, I would go for comfortable every time.

No stars as I can’t use it. Maybe one star for the look of it, but that’s being generous.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Still in planner hell...

A while back I posted about putting off planning (read the post here). I had reached planning-hell where I had no time to think about what I wanted to do and so my projects to goals system was utterly broken. I didn’t know if I believed in my projects and so I didn’t believe that I should have any goals stemming from them (so didn’t). That then left space in my life to do other ‘stuff’ and then all that other ‘stuff’ filled up my time so much that I didn’t have any left to devote to thinking about my plans and projects.

I had hoped that nearly two months on, that I would have hauled my sorry ass out of that situation, but alas, I haven’t. However, instead of only filling my time with ‘stuff’ I am happy to say that I have (largely) been filling my time with writing. The upshot is that my book is almost written. The downside is that sod-all else is done: Christmas is upon us, letters are due to friends left, right and centre, I have a stack of stationery to review, I have a zillion things relating to writing to do, a squillion things relating to Chimwemwe to do, and still no time to do things because work (aka that hellish place that doesn’t understand the phrase ‘part-time’) has been overloading me like billy-o.

I know that I need to sit down, clear some head-space and have a really good think about things. I also know that I have to stop saying ‘yes’ to things, so that I actually have that space. And yet... the days flutter by and then yet another week has gone by and I’m exhausted from work and my weekly plans say things like ‘make opticians appt’ (which has been on the list for three weeks and is still not done) or ‘make quiches for Rotary ceilidh’ (bought from Tescos in the end). In my non-exhausted, managed-to-escape-from-purgatory-work times, I have been itching to write. And write. And write. And write. Which is good in many ways, don’t get me wrong! I have spent long enough having the space to write but no inspiration (another form of purgatory, believe me), which is why I have been writing as much as I can - I'm terrified the inspiration will dry up. But writing every minute that I have any time is perhaps not all that conducive to clearing other things, and this has left me pleased (as Punch) with the book, but equally annoyed with myself for not having done more.

Of course, all this being-exhausted-yet-still-thinking-you-should-have-achieved-more is just fantastic for keeping The Black Dog at bay.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A5 Original Filofax in green - Review

Original A5 Filofax

Oh, I succumbed. I had decided (quite sensibly!) that I neither needed nor wanted any more Filofaxes and that, if anything, I should thin the stocks back to ones I was actually likely to use.

And then I bought an A5 Original Filofax in green.


Oh, because it was green. And about half price. And because I have this fond belief that when I give up working for others and start working for myself, that I will have an A5 planner on my desk and use a pocket as a satellite, with WO2P in the A5 and just money and notepaper and the briefest of diaries in the pocket.

A pipe dream. I know.

Anyway, I saw the A5 Original on sale on eBay for less than £42 delivered and I decided that this was too good an offer to miss. I could pay almost the same amount for an A5 Domino after all. And of all my Filofaxes, the A5 ones are used the most. Once I do start working for myself, I think the A5 will be the best size to keep track of everything and so the beautiful green Original will not be wasted.

First impressions:
Well, my first impressions are that Filofax are shooting themselves in the foot by taking what is a luxury, high-end product and wrapping it in plastic to make it look bargain-basement. Yes, I know I bought mine at about half-price, but had I bought it full price, I know that it would not have come in a box or wrapped in tissue paper. What is the mind-set of Filofax over this move to plastic wrapping? Why no protective box? Why make something beautiful (and expensive) look cheap? Companies like Liz Earle have got it right – tissue wrap everything and throw in freebies with each order and it feels like you’re unwrapping presents when the products come and that you got a great deal. Compare with Filofax – spend more, get no freebies and when it comes, it feels cheaper (and therefore less special). Wake up Filofax. That’s not a great model.

Horrible plastic cover making an expensive item look cheap and nasty

The Filofax:
1. The Cover
The cover and the majority of the interior are thick leather. The green is beautiful – solid, intense but still classical. The button on the strap says “Filofax The Original est. 1921”. The two layers of leather making the cover are stitched together with contrast-thread stitching. I feel pretty ‘meh’ about contrast stitching but it’s bearable on this. Maybe that’s because the % of cover that is contrast-stitching is minimal with the A5 size. On a personal size I would be hunting for some green leather polish and toning it down.

Front cover
Back cover
2. The Inside
Unlike most Filofaxes, the Original is in many ways stripped down and will therefore appeal more to some and less to others. If you were wanting to combine wallet and planner, for example, look elsewhere. There are two not all that helpful card slots in the front cover and no zipped pockets anywhere.  The back of the cover leather is black.

The inside front cover has a full-height pocket behind the two card slots. In essence, it is a piece of leather with two slots cut in it, sewn around the edge to the front cover. As I say – stripped down. There is also an elasticated pen-holder which is part of a strip of elastic attached to the inner leather part. The far left of it makes a pen loop. Then there is a broad slot (which I think is supposed to hold a phone), then another narrow slot where you could put another pen. The pen loop would possibly not clash with the dividers. I’ll know better when I start using it. At the moment it looks slightly like having a pen in the pen loop would bend the dividers.

Inside front cover
The back cover is again, a single piece of leather that is stitched to the outer cover to produce a full-height pocket. Again, there are slots cut in this piece of leather, but this time they are to hold a jot-pad. Until I use it, I’m not sure how useful it will be and I can tell you for free, that it will only get adopted if I can find an alternative, sensibly priced set of jot-pads that will fit the slots as the only ones I can see on the (very-irritating-let’s-not-show-you-all-the-items-at-once-but-make-you-wait-and-load-some-more-for-you-as-you-scroll-down) Filofax website are £6 for 3 (and each pad only has 14 pages!). Are they having a laugh?
[Actually, a very brief search online found a pack of 8 x 30 sheet jotters for £0.70 that would easily fit the slot. That’s more sensible! They are here]

Inside back cover with jot pad

3. Flattability
5 stars. Flat as a bat from the start.

4. Contents
  • Cover sheet
  • 6 dividers, numbered 1-6 in blue and green alternately
  • 4x To Do sheets
  • 8x lined paper sheets
  • 4x squared paper sheets (squares = 7.5mm x 6mm (wxh))
  • 8x plain paper
  • 8x contacts sheets
  • 8x air-force blue coloured sheets
  • 8x green sheets
  • 8x pink sheets
  • 2014 vertical week-on-two-pages diary (font looks more like the cotton-cream font than the regular diary font. Timed entries from 8am to 8pm; Saturday and Sunday share a column)
  • White frosted ‘today’ marker (though it doesn’t actually say ‘today’ on it)
  • A zipped plastic pocket
  • The jot-pad in the back slot

Cover sheet with dividers behind
Contacts pages
Diary pages
Plastic pocket with 'today' marker and back cover behind
Overall Impressions?
It’s solid and well made (though, of course, one of the rings doesn’t match perfectly). The leather is a lovely colour and the contents are pared down but functional (I have more A-Z dividers than I know what to do with! I’m quite glad not to get any more). It looks very professional. The jot pad is a nice idea (as long as you replace it with cheaper versions when you’ve used it all).

The plastic wrapper is horrible and made the binder look cheap and nasty. The pen loop may clash with the dividers and bend them and the front card-slots seem a bit useless (at least to me).

In summary, I think it’s a nice binder and it will be a pleasure to use. I just wish Filofax would think again about the plastic wrapper (and the price of their jot pads...).