Diff’rent Strokes

28 08 2021

So these two nuns are walking through the woods, discussing high philosophy and ambling along the leafy path.

Around the corner a young man comes running towards them, wearing nothing but a smile and a pair of running shoes.

One of the nuns has a stroke, but the other is too slow.


So a funny thing happened last December.

Funny weird – not very amusing (a little like that hand-tooled vintage joke I remember from a 1980’s era Rag Mag from my youth).

There I was, painting the living room all wrong, under the studied guidance of Mrs E. when I found myself having to duck and weave to avoid the unseasonably strong sunlight coming in through the bay window getting in my eyes. By and large I was successful in placing the several window frame bars betwixt my eyes and the fiery nuclear holocaust we can “the sun”, and merrily continued painting the wall with undercoat. Mostly, even if I may say so myself, “staying inside the lines”.

Then as I turned to re-load the roller with paint, I was aware that my vision was a little off on the right hand side. That had been the side nearest the window, and I initially put it down to the temporary blind spots we get when we’re incautious and look directly at the sun. As I stood with my back to the window though, I became more alarmed as I realised my blind spot wasn’t clearing up after the few seconds one might expect.

It amazes me now to think back and recall that, being of a scientific bent, my first instinct was to characterise the issue fully. Not panic (I saved that for later), but to move my head around with hands up and test the nature of this phenomenon. In a nutshell, I could still fundamentally see (which was actually quite confusing), but the right half of my vision had gone. “Hard down” you might say. Anything to the right of my nose was invisible, but my brain was doing its best to fake that it knew what was there, so I wasn’t initially aware that that was the issue. (A bit like getting startled by a question in class when you’ve been dozing… No? Never happened to me either. Honest). So this was key, because I’d figured out I had the same issue with both eyes, 50% gone in both eyes, not 100% gone in the right eye.

A quick call to “first born” – now a fully in-harness practicing optometrist – by Mrs E., and the tentative diagnosis was “stroke”. If both eyes are effected, it’s likely the data analysis rather than the image acquisition, which would more likely affect one eye, or both eyes in different ways. The trick here was to call my own optometrist for an official analysis. This results in a referral letter which speeds things up later. By doing a “proper” eye test, including comparing images of your retinas with older photos, they can categorically exclude eye issues, further pointing the finger at “the noggin” and damage therein. (Downside is my insurance only pays for one eye test every 2 years, so I got dinged for this emergency re-test).

The most irritating part of the optometrist visit was the tech moving me from equipment room to equipment room by saying “follow me” – totally ignoring the fact that I could only see half of what was in front of me. This was made all the worse because they’d insisted on dilating me which makes your eyes next to impossible to properly focus if there’s more than a few photons in the room! I ended up shoulder-checking an expensive-looking (I think) wall-mounted TV which was on the right hand side and I hadn’t seen until it leapt out and attacked me. Thankfully it was well secured and didn’t fall down or crack. Probably.

By the time I was officially tested, my vision loss was restricted to the upper-right quadrant in both eyes. First born had tried to reassure me that my sight would return. Probably. Mostly. Though she hedged her bet by saying “there might be some loss of sensitivity”… er, OK, so not really, then?!

Essentially I now had documentary proof from an expensive bit of kit (with a crappy thermal till-roll printer from the ’90s) and a letter from a licenced optometrist that in her opinion I’d likely had a stroke or potentially a tumour and should be admitted to ER.

Vision loss top/right in both eyes

So, as expected, the letter got me straight in to ER with barely time to warm up the chair in reception, despite others having been there long enough to have taken root. One dear lady in the reception area was on the phone to a friend discussing her schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder and how she really knew when she was herself. Given my new introduction to brain damage, I found this accidentally overheard conversation frankly petrifying. What else might have come loose in chez Elephant?

Once into ER proper I had a few holes poked in me, a few vials of blood taken (I asked if I could have it back when they were done with it, which just seemed to confuse the poor phlebotomist who was plainly not used to dealing with Yorkshiremen) and an IV fitted “just in case it’s needed later” (it wasn’t, though it gave me hours of fascination watching the small amount of blood slopping about in the tube), blood pressure taken, ECG, etc.

After about 5 hours or so of sitting in a chair in ER while COVID patients were shuttled into “warm rooms”, I was taken for a CT scan, and about an hour after that a doctor told me I’d probably had a minor stroke. OK, so 6 hours to be told what I knew when I came in. Still, the experience proves the old adage that time heals all things. Over the space of those 6 hours my eyes had un-dilated (I’m sure there’s a more fancy word for it) and my eyesight had slowly returned. The only actual treatment I’d had was to be left quietly sat in a chair – don’t underestimate it!

At about 9:30pm, having successfully avoided any further painting and decorating for the day, I was prescribed some blood thinners and sent on my way with a promise I’d get a call from a cardiologist and the stroke clinic in due course.

So – no mention of whether I should be driving, when it’d be safe to go back to work (I’d taken a couple of days off because I was finding it hard to look at a screen for very long), or whether this was the start of something major.

Thank goodness the Internet is so full of (mis)information! Otherwise I’d have been short of possibilities to scare myself with…

Happy to say that several months on and nothing else has fallen out of the wheelhouse. Normal service seems to have been resumed.

Scary, but I was lucky, it was actually a transient ischemic attack (TIA) .

Take the symptoms seriously:

FAST Stroke Recognition
Experts use the acronym FAST to remind people how to recognize the signs of a stroke and what to do. FAST stands for:

Face. Tell the person to smile. Watch to see if their face droops.
Arms. Have the person raise both their arms. Watch to see if one is weak or sags.
Speech. Ask the person to say a simple phrase. Listen for slurred or strange-sounding words.
Time. Every minute counts. Call 911 (or your local equivalent) right away.

If you or someone with you shows any signs of stroke, don’t wait. Quick treatment is crucial to survival and recovery.

Call for emergency services. If the symptoms pass quickly, you might have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a brief blockage of blood flow to your brain that often comes before a stroke. Don’t ignore this warning sign.





Even later to the celebration of Ms Earley

28 06 2021

Five years ago, I wrote a small appreciation of the indomitable Mary Two-Axe Earley. Today google caught up. No matter – she’d just be pleased the cause was still being discussed.

Canada’s History: Mary Two-Axe Earley





Of Blood, Dutch Bulbs and Market Gardening

11 04 2021

Funny old day. More co-incidences (which a little like with Vinyl Café‘s Stuart McLean, is really just an excuse for stringing scenes into a loosely coherent whole).

A couple of days ago I got an email from 23 and Me, which is often an amusing read. As their data volume increases and the statistical treatment and research gets more refined, the statements made about my DNA make-up slightly change over the years. Of course, it’s all massively skewed by the fact that most of their customers are from the US, though they do include other databases of DNA traits, and continually sponsor and include other analysis and research.

Over the years that they’ve had my spit to analyse, the percentage of my DNA has gradually become less British and more “French/German”. I think I’m up to 15% or so non-British now, and drilling down, they’re confident enough to say it’s a specifically French 15%, though they’re reluctant to specify it closer to one wine region or another.

I actually enjoy the thought that by sitting at home enjoying well-priced French varietals grown in our own Okanagan region my blood is gradually becoming more French. I’m sure my good friends from France, Olive’s parents, would be horrified to think one might become more French so easily. About the same as my dear departed pater would be that one could lose one’s Britishness so easily. (Though he’d possibly argue that Britishness is already a loss of Englishness).

Of course, nothing in my DNA has really changed (plus or minus damage from cosmic waves), but the data relating to its make-up and the origin of the various bits of it (technical term) has gradually become more refined. One of the things reported on is when those non-British elements might have entered the ancestral, er, bedroom.

According to the company then, my genetic heredity looks something like this…

Source: 23 and Me – Mixing of Cultures and Bodily Fluids

Neither of my parents have had their DNA tested, so I can’t speak with much certainty about how French, and even more surprisingly, Levantine genes entered my hitherto apparently parochial Yorkshire bloodline. Indeed, I thought my dear departed Nana was exotic when I discovered she was from Lancashire!

To be fair though, my mum’s maiden name is French-sounding, so I suspected the solution to at least the French question might lie in that direction.

It being a slow Sunday morning then, I called the UK to have a chat with the mater and see how things were faring back in God’s Own County. Snow, it seems. Somewhat ironic as I spoke to her from a sun-bathed, warm BC in “the great white North”! I was quite surprised that she knew next to nothing of her own family history or grandparents, let alone further back. She believed her dad was originally from London, but that was about it. (I vaguely remembered a conversation where he mentioned Leatherhead actually, but to most Yorkshire folk that’s just London as it’s south of Watford Gap and maps get vague there. “There be dragons”, etc…).

More coincidence/irony – Leatherhead’s as close to Guildford as I am to BC’s own Guildford in our own Surrey. (Colonists are rarely very imaginative with place naming).

With that line of investigation brought to a screaming halt, the conversation wandered around the usual filial subjects, including COVID, vaccinations, Brexit (actually – no, not this time), how I manage to spend so much money on cameras and pens, and gardening.

As I was chatting on FaceTime, I gazed out of the French window (coincidence?) and noted to mum that one of the tulips the local squirrels had spared this season looked to be only a few days away from blooming. We seem to get fewer every year, and I’m sure the little buggers chow down on them when I’m not looking. Sadly, Spiketta the Devil Dog has recently gone to the great kennel in the sky, so now they don’t even have her pedestrian chasing to contend with.

Spiketta – sadly no longer with us, along with the Canadian pennies on the bench

The mater related how on a trip to The Netherlands the parental units had bought lots of fancy tulip bulbs, but many of them had reverted to boring red after their first showing. Personally, I’m always grateful when my very basic horticultural ministrations result in an actual flower, no matter the colour!

Suitably reassured that mum was in as fine a fettle as usual, I briefly sat in on the conversation Mrs. E had been simultaneously having with Middle Offspring – currently studying in Den Haag. Since her grandma was about to celebrate her 80th circuit around the sun, I suggested perhaps some fancy tulip bulbs might be suitable, since Second Born had herself mentioned a desire to visit the tulip fields this Spring anyway. Nothing more socially distanced than standing in a field I’d have thought, but I suppose it gets popular this time of year. (Not a lot to see, the rest of the time!)

All this talk of tulips had reminded me of the hardships the Dutch had faced under occupation, late in the war – to the extent that they’d been forced to eat tulip bulbs. There had been a post D-Day plan to bring the war to a quick end by the Allies launching the largest airborne assault in history, in an attempt to capture the bridges over the Rhine in The Netherlands and liberate it.

The bridges in and around Arnhem were the target, and Operation Market Garden turned out to be one of the most ill planned operations of the war, with vast numbers of allied airborne troops being slaughtered and cut off due to poor support and intelligence. My grandfather was a survivor of the operation, and this was one of the points in history that helped us do a little genealogical sleuthing. Via Wikipedia, I discovered that his unit – 11th Parachute Regiment, 1st Division was actually formed in 1943 in Egypt, and I remember him telling me about his time in Alexandria, so that fit too.

I once had a business trip to Sicily and remarked to him of the bullet-holes I’d seen in the Palermo courthouse and my assumption it was from the Mafia. He divulged that he had actually fought in Palermo during the war and with a glint in his eye that perhaps the holes were even of his own doing. He didn’t voluntarily speak of his wartime experiences, but small remarks like this hinted at quite the trove of stories he might have told, were he inclined to do so. I was previously unaware he’d ever been to Italy, though have since learnt that airborne troops had extensive involvement though mixed success in the early assaults on Italy.

And so we came full circle. I found hints that his own father may have been in the army too. That he was probably born in Norfolk rather than London. We discovered things on my father’s side too, and Mrs. E’s – including a dark and terrifying Lancastrian connection! No hint of Asterix or indeed any other Gallic connection though, let alone a connection with the Levant.

Oh well – the Internet, like 23 and Me, is continually increasing the access to historical and research records. Who knows, one day I may even discover I’m related to the Syrian refugee family I helped a few years ago!





A Modicum of Success

6 03 2021

When I was a kid, I distinctly remember my mum having an old Be-Ro baking book in the kitchen drawer. The contents of the drawer were simply not always available. This was years before I began reading Terry Pratchett and had no idea about Anoia, Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers. I just accepted that the knowledge held within its honoured pages would not always be available to us mere mortals. Incidentally, I can report that Anoia relocated to our current kitchen drawers when we emigrated from the UK.

Years later, I grew up (sort of) and remembered that my mum used to make really good scones. Not the cotton-wool “biscuits” found over here in the colonies, but propper, stodgy – dare I say “claggy”? – scones fit for showcasing butter, jam and yes – even clotted cream if the occasion demands it. (Though best of luck trying to find Devon clotted cream this side of well… Devon.)

Being pretty confident that the sum of human knowledge is available somewhere on the Internet I set to, and discovered you can buy the current edition of the Be-Ro recipe book here for a mere £2.99. But it only seems to be available for UK addresses which is a little, er, “Brexit-minded” if I might say so! They do offer a few basic pastry recipes and some tips and tricks in a PDF, but not the elusive scone recipe. There was a Cornish pasty recipe though… so the PDF does have some merit!

So – off I set again, and discovered an online 1923 version at FlashBak.com of the rich scone recipe.

6
Source: Flashbak.com 1923 Be-Ro Rich Scone recipe

So while this may very well have been the recipe I grew up with, I’m not entirely sure I’m as comfortable with eating lard as maybe I once was. A little more digging and I found a more up-to-date version. It was even in colour, though whoever scanned it had annotated it with a comment about the egg being too “strong”?! Interesting that the recipe was now half the quantities and that the editors had felt the need to make several changes to the instruction emphasis, though it remains essentially the same.

Source: Pintrest UK: Be-Ro Rich Scone recipe

The only slight issue was that in Canada there is no such thing as “self-raising flour”. No problem: a teaspoon of baking powder to go along with the “general purpose” flour we get here, and we were off to the races…

Being a representative of the male of the species I felt it necessary to use every utensil in the kitchen as part of the process. We’d acquired them for just such a purpose, surely!

The only other tweak I made was to bake the experiment for only 8 minutes. Theory being I could always add more time in the incinerator oven if necessary, but not wind back the clock. It turned out that 8 minutes was just right for my own preference. The result was given approval from Mrs E and even son-o-mine. Result!

Can’t say I was too disappointed on the whole. So… tonight I went all in, and doubled up the numbers and went for it…

Though I do say so myself… I think I’ll be fine when the zombie apocalypse comes! 🙂





Even More of His Nibs

3 03 2021

Exactly a month ago I ordered a few different dip pen nibs from John Neal Books in the States. I’ve used them before, and though they’re a little quirky (like taking your money, including cost of shipping, then a few days later contacting you to ask how you’d like your order shipping), I’ve found them pretty well priced and offering a reasonably wide range of products from Brause, Mitchell, Leonardt and Gillott as well as Speedball and Hunt from this side of the pond. They send your nibs or whatever very well packaged and in little jewellery boxes to protect them in the post. A month seems like quite a while from North Carolina to BC, but it’s COVID times – all bets are off at present!

Today they turned up and I had a set of 10 new dip nibs to play with. All but one were new to me, and I looked forward to playing with them.

So what did Canada Post drop today, exactly? Well – quite the selection… from the top, going clockwise:

Hiro Tape 0.5mm. With an integral reservoir, this range is described as “more flexible than Brause nibs but stiffer than Mitchell”. This turned out to be irrelevant though, as we’ll see later. I bought it as an alternative to my Mitchell range of straight-edged nibs. I’ve already homed in on preferring the #5-#6 range of sizes and this, at 0.5mm promised to be in that range and like a fine stub, if such a thing exists.

Brause 180 0.5mm. Nominally another alternative to the previous one, and anticipated to be a little stiffer. I found it suited my heavy handed writing quite well. The reservoir gives a nice long writing time and with such a fine nib, it help stretch it further. I could see myself using this as a playful alternative to a fountain pen for letter writing.

Leonardt Principal EF. One for the flex/copperplate attempts I sometimes amuse myself with. I had to use a very light touch with it, but it was a lot less scratchy than my Hunt 101

Speedball B6. This is a good, solid, uninteresting writer. It puts down a lovely consistent line similar to my Moonman T1’s steel nibbed fountain pen. I was using Robert Oster’s Australian Syrah which seemed to be a little wet on the paper I was using. It would be a ready alternative to a fountain pen for long sessions of “normal” writing, and the reservoir coupled with the relatively fine line lasts quite a while on a single dip. Speedball define the tip as 0.381mm. This puts it in the EF range for a fountain pen, but with the RO ink, it was a generout F, I’d say.

Speedball B5½. This is the only nib I already had a copy of. I liked it so much I bought this as a spare. Slightly wider than the #6, at 0.8636mm. Go on – I dare you to measure that last decimal place on a cold day… Today’s ink/paper had it at a similar line width to the #6 and only slightly broader. Certainly not the x2 the manufacturer would imply.

Speedball B5. Specified at 1.372mm this puts down a thirsty line and needed frequent dips to keep it writing. It’s smooth though, and not a wet line per se – just very broad, like a marker pen almost. I’m looking forward to trying some shimmering inks with this one!

Leonardt Round: #5. This is a straight edged version of my Mitchell #5 which is specifically a left-handed oblique. I found it blotted quite easily and I think I need to condition it a little to be better behaved. Toothpaste, probably, to help with the surface tension. Stiffer than Mitchell and easier to write with given my heavy hand. Noticeably less scratchy.

Leonardt Round: #6. Similar story – a straight edged, stiffer version of my Mitchell #6 left oblique, and easier to master because of that. Didn’t suffer the blotchiness of the #5 and puts down a lovely variable line with normal handwriting. Though I’ve not tried yet, I’m hoping the Mitchell slip-on reservoirs will work with these nibs too.

Gillott 404. This is the easiest pointed nib I’ve tried to date. Coated black and similar to the Hunt 101 or Leonardt Principal in general design. Needs a lighter touch and much practice still, but this seems to be a good gateway nib to learn flex writing styles.

Brause 513. This is a smaller nib, not to be confused with the bowl-designed Hunt 513EF discussed elsewhere in these pages. It can produce very fine lines, and with patience I got it to write quite well. More suited to drawing though, I think.

OK – so what of the Hiro Tape? Well… when I came to use it I noticed a pretty major manufacturing flaw…

The tines were not cut evenly, and the nib slit was so off-centre it barely makes it to the end of the nib. I gave it a go anyway, but the nib was very finicky and not usable in practice. A shame though, because it promised to have been an even writer – slightly broader than the Brause despite nominally the same nib width (possibly due to the manufacturing flaw) – and a very pleasant line weight. I’ll try contacting John Neal, but since the nib is only US$1.06… I don’t expect much recourse*.

The Nib Nest is starting to look full and I’ve got another few nibs en route from Northern Ireland yet…


*Update: I let John Neal Books know about the defective nib so they could check it was a one-off and wasn’t a whole defective batch. They got back to me immediately and offered a refund or a credit. It was only a dollar or so, so this was impressive as the processing fees to them to recredit a Visa card would likely be more than the value of the nib. I thanked them for their excellent customer service and opted for a credit – nothing more guaranteed to make me return and spend more than great service and a company that values its customers.





Almost an Anniversary Funeral Poem

28 02 2021

So 29 years ago, give or take a day, we got married.

Being the unorthodox folk we are, we chose 29th February 1992 as our day to tie the knot. In European* date format that was 29.2.92 which struck us as particularly neat and symmetrical. More to the point, it was a Saturday and the Registry Office had a free booking available.

The downside is that three of every four anniversaries don’t quite happen. Almost, but not quite. Whoever decided to make the Earth spin at a rate of 365¼ times the period of a trip round the sun is to blame – I suspect Dr Brian Cox had a hand in it actually (“It’s not just beautiful… it’s physics!”). It definitely smacks of a devious Mancunian plot. Leap years are a reasonably good compromise all being told, but it has its issues.

So anyway, we had a rather pleasant kerbside pickup dinner from The Keg as part of the Dine Out Vancouver festival. We could celebrate with a “fancy” meal (I had surf’n’turf) and safely keep our social distance. (To my utter horror the restaurant dine-in was expecting 400 people on the night! People – there’s a pandemic! Haven’t you been watching the news?!)

After a pleasant bottle of wine that had been cached for some time at the back of the fridge, and ploughing with some success through the unreasonably large dessert portions provided by The Keg, we settled in to watch Four Weddings and a Funeral on the Olde Worlde DVD player. We were amused to realise the film was made pre-mobile phone dependence. Extant alarm clocks and plot turns that only work without ubiquitous GPS were much in evidence. And several glorious Land Rover Defenders. Real ones, not the current travesties.

At the funeral referenced in the film title, John Hannah‘s character reads Funeral Blues by Yorkshireman W.H. Auden.

Not exactly what you’d call “romantic” given our almost anniversary, but it is a very moving poem, and Hannah performs the recital with a wealth of emotion for his character’s lost love.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


*Or most non-American places actually. Except Japan – who do it entirely their own way. Like many other things.

As with spelling “colour”/”color”, Canada is indecisive on the matter forcing many immigrants like myself into being cautious and using a longer format and spelling out the month to avoid misunderstandings in the first 12 days of each month.





Go on – write something!

23 02 2021

A “stream of consciousness” can so easily become a “river of shit”, don’t you think? Let me demonstrate, please do:

One’s deepest, most considered ideas, once brought to the light, may prove to be nothing more than the fetid miasma of an open sewer. But that’s OK. No, really, it is. An idea is just a point in space. Or time. Or something. It’s a point anyway. Transient. It’s not inherently good or bad, though I think it’s true that acting on some of them has historically been shown to be spectacularly bad. (Looking at you, Adolf!)

My point though (about an idea being a point) is that it can be used as a marker, an intellectual cairn if you will, en route to another idea. Or even a cluster of them. These may be better or worse, or just different to the one that preceded them. An idea is not a destination in itself. An idea rarely exists in a vacuum. When it does, it’s a dangerous thing, for that way lies madness. Or religion. Or other politically dubious views. Or all of the above.

An idea that can morph into other ideas though? Ah… that is powerful indeed. The ideas may be complementary or contrary, but the person who is capable of leaving one idea behind in preference of another is capable of change, of learning, of growth! Being unwilling to leave an idea under any circumstances is the sign of someone intellectually shipwrecked. Left clinging desperately to a familiar, apparently safe rock, and in so doing, denying themselves not only the risk of drowning, but also the chance of reaching dry land.

Ideas can be sampled, compared, adapted or rejected, but to tie oneself unquestioningly to an idea is to close down novel thought and the chance of growing into something new and remarkable.

To be willing to at least sample ideas you think you’ll reject is to be open to persuasion. It’s a risk for sure. It may mean your current beliefs can no longer pass muster. But not to listen… to assume the new idea is wrong… that is cowardice. It means you dare not give other ideas – potentially contradicting your own – the simple chance to persuade you that you are wrong. It means you inherently believe your current “truth” is fragile and you’d rather believe that than risk believing something more persuasive to you. Consider the implications… it’s equivalent to a parent saying “because I said so!” as irrefutable proof of being correct.

But I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, of course. 🙂

Points in space. Or Time. Or something




Creating dots/grids/lines in MS-Word for journaling or letter writing

13 02 2021

So I went through one of my creative phases a few weeks ago and made some hand-stitched journals. They got progressively better, neater and usable. I gave them away though because the paper I’d used wasn’t particularly fountain pen friendly, so they weren’t too useful for myself.

Here’s the first attempt, complete with end-papers and bound in part of an old pair of jeans…

You can see that for the first try I just used some old graph pad and some printer paper in alternating signatures – just to get the hang of things. Unfortunately Canada – despite being nominally metric – subscribes to the US paper standards, so we typically get “Letter” sized paper at 8.5″x11″ instead of A4. There’s not a huge difference for most usage, but the A-series paper sizes are so much more well thought out, in that if you cut A4 in half you get A5… with exactly the same aspect ratio. Fold that in half and you get an A6 notebook… again: with the same aspect ratio. Quarter of Letter size is OK… but it’s just not as aesthetically pleasing in my view.

Along the way, I discovered that HP 28lb (105 g/m2) printer paper – readily available from Walmart and other places – is actually reasonably good for fountain pen ink. I gather there’s a 32lb version too, though I’ve yet to find any in my local shops. Even the cartridges of ink that came with my Pilot Parallel barely bleed through, and that’s saying something!

The next challenge came in pre-printing the pages of the journals to make them more use-specific. (Week per spread diary, hiking journal, wine tasting log, that sort of thing…) And at that point I got bored and shelved the project…

At Christmas, my lovely family bought me some really nice writing paper (Tomoe River for those in the know), which though a wonderful gift now constantly gives me a dilemma when I write letters. Will this particular recipient appreciate the way the Tomoe River brings out the shading in the ink? Or will they be struggling enough just to read my scrawl, and not even notice it was a fountain pen rather than a Biro?

Tomoe River is sold as A4, and this particular paper is 52g/m2, so pretty thin. It helpfully comes with a cardboard template sheet with a grid on one side and lines on the other. The paper is thin enough to see the guide lines through it, and some of us, believe me, need all the help we can get to write in a straight line!

It occured to me then that if I pre-printed very faint lines (or feint-ruled as it is in the UK) on the 28lb paper, I could use it more easily without it being as obtrusive to the recipient. I then went on to make grid and dot patterns because, well, I could! I enclose them for your delight and delectation – or ridicule, if you’re of a more negative persuasion.

Remember – be Internet safe! I didn’t put anything dodgy in these Word files, but to be frank – you don’t know me from Adam, so make sure to use a virus checker before opening the files.

If you’d like to explore other options for yourself, or prefer not to download files from unknown sources, the essential elements I used were as follows. You can obviously tweak them to your own needs:

  • Open MS-Word and set page margins to zero on all sides.
  • Insert a table and add a few rows – it’s not important how many. If you are creating a grid or dots, add a few columns too.
  • Set the row size option to “exactly” rather than “at least” and set the row/column dimensions you want for your lines/grid/dot-spacing.
    • I found 7mm worked well for me, but if you’re a small writer go smaller by all means.
  • Add additional rows and columns to fit as many as you need to fill the page.
  • Go to table properties and set its position to be centred relative to the page in both horizontal and vertical dimensions. This will centre the table on the page at print time.
  • Now things get style-specific.
    • For lines, go to “Borders” in “Table Design” and de-select the vertical lines on the outsides of the table. They’ll become dotted on the screen, but will no longer print.
    • For grid, you need all the lines, so do nothing.
    • For dots, go to “Borders” in “Table Design” and de-select all the lines – you don’t want any lines to print – you’re just using them to give accurate spacing. Now add a “.” character in the first square (or “+” or one of the Wingding characters if you prefer) and duplicate it across each cell in the row and then duplicate the row down to fill all the rows. You have a small amount of control of the dot location within the table cell by selecting left/centre/right/top/centre/bottom justification and cell margin, but make sure you do it on all cells to maintain the relative “pitch” set by the cells spacing. It’s not really necessary though.
    • I chose to make my lines/dots quite faint so they weren’t obtrusive once I wrote on the paper. Do this by selecting “Pen Colour” in the borders setting or text colour for the dots. I used the pale blue “Blue, Accent 1, Lighter 80%” and also “Orange, Accent 2, Lighter 80%”, but knock yourself out – make it as faint or bold as you like! I also made the lines dotted rather than solid, to make them even fainter. You can make them solid black and extra wide though, if that’s your preference!
  • Duplicate to a second page if you want to make use of your printer’s double-sided print facility.
  • Print! If asked, ignore the error about margins being out of range – the printer will print as much as it can and leave the minimum white space around the edge it’s capable of. If you prefer – print to PDF and print it on someone else’s printer if it’s better than yours!

The same principle will work on any paper size you may want to use. Just add more rows/columns to fill the page.

If you’re making refill pages for a loose-leaf journal, like a Filofax, start by creating a TextBox of the correct page size and putting the table in that. You can then guillotine or cut to the text box perimeter once it’s printed.

Use two columns with two tables in panorama mode if you’re going to pre-print pages for a hand-made journal. That’s my next project. Once I get around to it…

I hope you found this of some use. Let me know how you got on!





A Splash of Colour

4 02 2021

So it’s been quite some time since I booted up my photo editing PC, and I paid the price with a couple of rounds of Windows updates for my sins. Not to mention some guff about my mains adaptor being below par, requiring lower power modes on the poor neglected thing, and best of all – the clock being 2 minutes slow for about half an hour before it caught up. Plainly the wee beastie was in a snit and determined to make me pay.

After tea, it seemed to be in a better mood, and I got on with uploading several months’ worth of casual snaps I’d taken on my iPhone and camera. No “proper” pictures, but stuff I’d felt snap-worthy at the time.

One series I just found from way back in June I thought I’d share. “Accidental Art” is the best you could say. “Pretty Mess” is more accurate. These are literally photos of pieces of kitchen towel I’d been using to clean up messy nibs as I tried out differing fountain pen and dip nib inks.





Sing me a Temple of Coincidence in Canada

25 01 2021

Repeat visitors will be aware that I often post entries to this humble blogscape when I’m struck by a pattern or coincidence. (Or a bus, perhaps).

Yesterday I was finishing off binge-watching Temple and feeling a mounting discomfort as the main character made more and more decisions of dubious moral foundation as he sought his ultimate goal.

Source: IMDB

In episode 7, Mark Strong’s character was about to perform surgery on a patient when I noted the background music was Joan Armatrading’s 1976 Love and Affection. (Who could not be moved by the opening line “I am not in love – but I’m open to persuasion”?)

YouTube: Joan Armatrading – Love & Affection

This immediately transported me back with a memory of watching her live at an intimate concert at some venue in Milton Keynes in the mid-80’s. Might even have been a gym if I recall correctly. Anyway, I instantly punched Joan into Spotify to add her copious catalogue to my randomised listening.

Today I got to listen to her album “Me, Myself, I”, the vinyl of which I suspect is still in my mother’s attic. One of the early up-beat tracks is called Ma-Me-O Beach.

An odd name, thinks I.

This being the 21st Century and Google being such an easy temptation, I thought I’d see if I could find out the back-story. Ms Armatrading might have been raised in the Midlands but she had slightly more exotic beginnings in St. Kitts, and I fancied this was perhaps some harkback of her early life. Some sun-baked paradise cove in the West Indies maybe.

I was gobsmacked then to discover that there really is a place called Ma-Me-O Beach… landlocked in the middle of Alberta! Its Wikipedia entry even mentions Joan Armatrading allegedly liking the name as she saw it on a road sign (maybe she was lost?!).

Source: Google Maps – Ma-Me-O Beach, Alberta

Wikipedia tells us it’s a summer village located on the southeast shore of Pigeon Lake, in Alberta, Canada. It is located approximately 100 km southwest of Edmonton. Note it’s just north of “Westerose” too. I guess it’s a “summer village” because Winter’s coming…

It seems Ma-Me-O derives from the Cree word for “pigeon”, omîmîw (ᐅᒦᒦᐤ).

So there you have it… binge-watching Temple to Joan Armatrading and back to Western Canada.