Saturday, 25 January 2014

They don’t make aerogrammes any more!

Being one of those apparently rare beasts who write letters to friends with proper pens and proper paper and envelopes and all that, I was at the Post Office (PO) today, getting letters to overseas friends weighed and stamped. While I was there, I remembered that I used to use aerogrammes a lot and that I probably only had a couple left and that they would be cheaper than the letters I was sending. I asked at the PO if they sold them there (it’s a small PO so doesn’t always stock everything the main PO does). The lovely lady there told me they would have had them except that Royal Mail have stopped producing and selling them.

What???

Apparently no-one uses them any longer, and I have to confess that I haven’t used one for a couple of years or so. But I loved them! I had a friend in Japan and I have very small writing and I could easily fit a whole month of ‘news’ to him on a single aerogramme.

I wonder if I can effectively make my own using A4 air-mail paper? Mind you, that’s as hard to find as hens’ teeth it would seem.

Anyone else remember aerogrammes? Anyone else sad to hear of their demise?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

What’s working? What’s not working?

Well, here we are, nearly two weeks into the new year. What’s working in my set-up and what isn’t?

Well, the easiest way to assess this is to look at what I’ve achieved and what I haven’t and to reflect on why.

Week 1: I achieved almost everything on my to-do list for the week. There were two things not ticked off – one lot of exercises which I missed on one day but did the next day and the other was to email a reminder to someone to do something but they are in the middle of a family crisis and, in the grand scheme of things, my reminder was irrelevant (and unkind and thoughtless and so on). Why did I get so much done (and manage to feel smug when doing my weekly review)? Because I made sure that I looked at my planner each day and had it open at the side of me, with un-ticked tick-boxes glowering at me. The thought of them remaining un-ticked was too much for me, so I did the item and ticked with glee.

Week 2: more of a disaster. I haven’t managed my running schedule because I’m injured. Also, I haven’t done other things that I could have done, despite being injured, because I didn’t have my planner open and I wasn’t looking at it. So I just bumbled about, doing things that weren’t all that important and certainly didn’t advance achieving my goals. Lesson to learn from this? Open the planner and look at it. Plan the day. Reward myself with ticks. [Amanda, it's not rocket science!]

I know I can be really bad at this kind of thing. I can faff about unproductively and get absolutely sod-all done at times. I have two sand-timers on my desk to help me tackle this: a 30 min one to help me focus and get on and do things and a 60 minute one to make me stop doing things and move and relax my eyes etc. I usually also have a 2 minute one to de-stress, but I have lent it to a student of mine who needs it more than me at the moment.

But, the sand-timers only work if I use them, much like my planner!

Next week, I will go back to time-boxing. I talked about it here, outlining why it does and doesn’t work for me, but I think I need to kick-start things again.

598 days and counting.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Review of Peter Pauper A5 Journal


[click on any picture to enlarge]

I bought this book to use as a writing scrapbook – somewhere I could paste pictures of people I think look a bit like my characters, scribble notes about scenes I can see in my head even if I’m not exactly sure where they will end up, and make general notes about the things swimming around in my head. 90% of all this will probably go nowhere but I do like to trap it all, for the 10% that is useful.

Anyway, the book that I bought was the Persian Splendour Journal by Peter Pauper Press. I bought it from Peter Pauper via Amazon (no affiliation to either, just giving information).

I was a bit disappointed when it arrived as it had obviously been dropped on its corner at some point and bent quite significantly. The packaging was intact so the damage must have happened BEFORE it was sent so it is both disappointing and irritating that they packaged and sent a damaged item.

Other than the damage to the corner, the book looks glorious. The decoration is partially embossed and quite pearlescent in places. The pattern covers the front and spine and back of the book and the book is lined with a matching blue end-paper. There is no ribbon marker however. The size is slightly larger than A5 at 18.4cm x 22.9cm (whole book; page size is 18.2cm x 22.3cm).

After the end-paper, there is a page (inevitably stuck to the end-paper) with ‘Journal’ printed on it and the Peter Pauper Press logo. On the reverse of this is some information about Peter Pauper Press.

Reverse (label came off easily)
Info about Peter Pauper Press

The pages are lightly lined and there are 192 of them. The paper is a light ivory colour and acid-free. The ‘front’ side of the page (right-hand side when the book is open) is very smooth to write on but the reverse of the page is slightly rougher. It is described as ‘archival paper [which] takes pen and pencil beautifully’. My fountain pen tests are included below, along with my general comments on the paper.

Book open - lies flat

The line spacing is quite wide – 7.9mm and the lines are very faintly marked (which I like, but others may not). There are 23 lines per page and the lines do not go edge to edge of the paper, but have a 16mm margin (binding edge) or 13mm margin (outer edge). The top margin is 22mm; bottom margin is 18mm.

The pages are sewn and so the book lies flat and with the hardcover, it will be easy to write on it even without a table to lean on.

Fountain pen tests
These were mixed. At first I was horrified and the pictures may well show you why! Any ‘wet’ nib feathered with a peculiar ‘squashed spider’ effect. Most of them did not have major bleed-through to the reverse except the Ohto Tasche (which is the most challenging of my nibs really) and the Sheaffer calligraphy (also very challenging).

Fountain pen tests: front
Fountain pen tests: reverse
Close-up of squashed spider effect
More squashed spiders
And more of them. And no, I apparently can't spell cyclamen!

However, I noticed that a new (and as yet unreviewed) pen Рa very cheap Manuscript brand calligraphy pen Рdid not show through or feather at all, even though almost every other pen did (it's the sample saying "lligraphy - J Herbin" in the 2nd picture of the squashed spiders above). I have since changed the ink in that pen from poussiere de lune to lie de th̩, and have been using it to make notes in the book and there is no feathering and no bleed-through and it has been a delight to write in (phew!). The book is also a good size for sticking pictures in, so all in all it has turned out well.

Friday, 3 January 2014

“But I’m Red... and SHINY!”

There are siren songs emanating from the bottom drawer of the desk. You know – where the party is. Where Red is.

So this has been my day:

Bottom Draw (BD): Yoo hoo!
Me: Go away
BD: Yooooooo hoooooooooo!!!!!!!!
Me: I’m perfectly happy in the turquoise Baroque. Go away!
BD: But I’m Red... and SHINY!!!!
Me: I SAID, go away!
BD: But I’m Red... and SHINY!!!!
Me: I have got a perfectly good size of organiser that is working well for me. Shush
BD: Is it red?
Me: No, but it’s—
BD (interrupting): is it shiny?
Me: No, but it’s—
BD (interrupting): So, it’s not red and it’s not shiny?
Me: No, but I have spent a whole DAY getting set up and writing in stuff—
BD (interrupting... again): but it’s not red and it’s not shiny??????????
Me: NO! It’s turquoise. And if I want a change I have the same thing in pink. Or similar in wine. Or brown. Or black
BD: is it A6?
Me (resigned and rolling eyes): no...
BD: but you SAID you loved A6
Me: I know
BD: you SAID A6 was a better height-width ratio for you
Me (sighing): I know
BD: I’m A6...
Me: I know
BD: and red
Me (more resigned): I know—
BD: and SHINY!!!!
Me: You know that I know all that
BD: so, get me out of here and fill me up and use me
Me: I’m very happy in the Baroque you know. And actually, you’re not really any smaller
BD: but I’m Red—
Me (trying to interrupt): and your card-slots are fiddly
BD: and shiny—
Me (still trying to interrupt): and you don’t have a zippy purse
BD: You know, all I’m hearing is blah, blah, blah...
Me: please be quiet. I’m trying to write
BD: I’ll be quiet if you use me
Me: I’m going to stay in a personal size all year, so you might as well give up trying to persuade me otherwise

[short silence]

BD: ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha

Review of Diamine's "deep dark inks for Cult Pens"


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Back in a Ciak!

Cover with label

At last. I have suffered with the execrable Moleskine diary through the whole of 2013 but AT LAST it is 2014 and I am back in an A5 Ciak. I should never have left.

As ever, I bought the diary with a red ‘leather’ (bonded leather) cover. I don’t think there are many differences in the diary since I last reviewed it, early in 2012. It is a true A5 size (not a pretend A5 like the Moleskine).
[click on any picture to enlarge]

Front cover
Back cover (the label peels off easily)

The first page has a few lines as a title page, though I rarely fill these in. Following this is a page that is blank apart from “2014 daily diary . agenda giornaliera” across the top followed by a page for personal information (in Italian and English). There then follow some calendar pages which any regular reader will know that I don’t either use or value: 2014 on one side and 2015 on the other as small monthly day/date things, then a month per page for 2014, with Saturday and Sunday sharing the same space as a weekday. These squares also have the holidays written in so some of them end up a little cramped but nowhere near as bad as they were in 2012! Since I don’t use them and this is entirely a reflective journal and not used for planning, these pages will stay blank anyway.

Title page
Personal information page
Calendar pages: 2014 (l) and 2015 (r)
First double spread of monthly pages

After the month per page section, there is a map of the world showing time zones, followed by a double page spread of International dialling codes  (no, Malawi still doesn’t make it into the list. It’s +265 in case anyone was wondering...).

Time zones
Dialling codes

After this are weights and measures which are SO pointless even for the English speakers of the world, never mind the Italian speakers of the world... (WHO measures anything in rods??? Come on... WHO??? Why would you need to know that 1 rod = 220 yards = 201.2m??? And let’s not start on short tons versus long tons for weight (which as anyone with a smattering of physics knows is mass not weight anyway. Oh, don’t get me started...!)).
Rant over... moving on...

Weights and measures
There is then a page of international clothes sizes and (perhaps the most useful of all) a page indicating world temperatures across the year (though sadly, Malawi still doesn’t make it into that list either).

Clothing sizes (l); world temperatures (r)

Lastly, before the diary itself starts, there is a page indicating holidays for countries around the world.


The diary itself is fairly plain. It is in five languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Italian) with the days of the week in each language across the top of every page. The month is indicated in three languages per page: English, French and Italian on left-hand pages and German, Spanish and Italian on the right-hand pages. There are time slots indicated down the left of each page, starting at 9am and finishing at 6pm. Holidays and phases of the moon are indicated on the top of the page by the date/day/month. Starting at the 9am line, there are 22 lines per day with a line spacing of 7.6mm. I ignore the time slots and just write a reflective diary about my day.

January 1

The pages are sewn and glued and the diary doesn’t lay flat without a bit of persuasion (as evidenced by the paperweights in the pictures). There is a ribbon marker in black to match the elastic closure – no clashing not-quite-the-same-red as the horrid Moleskine had – and it’s a decent length one too, though it does need a knot tying in it to stop it fraying. The horizontal elastic closure is strong and holds a pen firmly against the page edges.

After all the diary pages there are 6 pages of squared paper (2.5mm x 2.5mm squares) then 10 pages for notes (4 more than there were in 2012) then pages with “a . b . c . d” “e . f . g . h” “i . j . k . l” “m . n . o” “p . q . r . s” “t . u . v . w” “x . y . z”. I use these as more notes pages and have put correction tape over the letters. The last page(s) will be used for recording the books I read in 2014; the other pages will be to do a reflection of the year – highs/lows/significant incidents etc. The (hateful) Moleskine had four unlined notes pages, two of which I used for recording the books read in 2013. I haven’t been able to do a reflection of the year in the diary this year but I may do one and tape the pages in/attach them somehow.

Squared paper
Notes pages
Address pages (which I will use for more notes)

The paper seems to be the same paper that was in the diaries in 2012 which was NOT fountain pen friendly. I have tried a tiny bit of fountain pen in this one and think it won’t be an option for daily writing after all (I drew a small cloud and raindrop underneath on today’s page to indicate the weather and it shows through on the reverse quite significantly). The paper is described as recycled, acid-free, pH neutral and chlorine free. The blurb on the label says ‘acid free paper suitable even for fountain pens’ but it lies. It’s a light ivory in colour.

I love these diaries, faults and all. The cover is sturdy and quite tactile, the elastic closure is brilliant, the notes pages are really useful for a yearly reflection and the line spacing is just right. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be back in the Ciak, even if fountain pen isn’t an option in it.