Wednesday, 30 September 2015

My Month in Numbers 2015: September

Hello hello.

So, it's then end of another month. And it very nearly wasn't.

Well, of course, today was always going to be the end of another month, but I just only remembered the other day that I hadn't yet written this post.

[You see? All you people who tell me you'd join in but you always forget to count something during your month? Let my laxness be a comfort to you. I rarely count anything throughout the month ... I just find the numbers somewhere in the stories I want to tell.]

If you're new here - maybe you found me through my #300in30Days blog commenting project - yoo hoo! Hi, hello, how's it hanging? [Don't answer that.] If you'd like more info on the whole My Month in Numbers thingy check here - you're welcome to join in now, then, any time. Never.

So let's get started ... I'll lead by example ...

3.15am = the time I got out of bed to view the lunar eclipse on 28.09.15
Personally I couldn't find the moon. Don't judge me.

But, to be fair, I had woken up, without the aid of an alarm clock, relying solely on my desire to see the eclipse to wake me up in time. So, really ... I'd done my part.

James got up and tracked it down by leaning out of the workroom window from where he took this:
We didn't do anything as drastic as actually go outside to view it ... although I kind of wish we had. Never mind there's another one view-able from England in 2019. Not long to wait.

 I'll set my inner alarm clock now.

And, speaking of ingenious inner workings ... ahem ...

I met a 4 rotor Enigma machine this month:
James and I went to see a 2+hour talk called 'Codebreakers: The Story of Enigma' delivered by Dr Mark Baldwin at our local theatre - there's more info on the event, which tours the country, here.

Now then ... before you leap to Cumberbatch-conclusions, I haven't even seen the Imitation Game even though, as it turns out, the machine he brought with him did actually feature in the film! So now, when I do get around to watching it, I'll just forget about ogling Benedict Cumberbatch or Matthew Goode and simply apply myself to looking out for this machine ... I'm quite sure ...
We went because James is interested in war-related' stuff' and I like puzzles plus, we live somewhere that isn't exactly deluged by interesting events and so ... when you see one ... you go! 

When we arrived in the car park I did predict that I'd be the only ovulating female there. [Not that I ovulated while I was there. It wasn't that exciting.]

But, in a sea of men, the majority silver-haired, with a lesser number of ladies-of-a-certain-age in attendance, I did spot 2 other pre-menopausal females there. Which was disappointing. I wanted to feel special.

That aside, it was an interesting night out, if a little bamboozling at times. The next day, a weary James blamed his tiredness on 'all that learning we did last night'. So yes, it was quite full on, but, Dr.Baldwin had promised that we'd leave there that night knowing how an Enigma machine worked! And while his conclusions about our ability to to comprehend it may have been overly generous ... we definitely came away understanding more than we did on arrival.

And while we're talking about things that are hard to work out ...

I set myself a blog-commenting challenge to leave 300 in 30 days:
This was something I decided to do on a whim one day in the middle of the month, while I was mulling over ideas for how I could maintain and broaden my blogging network. And, as things tend to go with me, the idea's already spiralled into a full blown 'project'.
  • I'm tracking each blog I comment on using a spreadsheet.
  • I'm pinning every blog and recommendation to a Pinterest board.
  • I'm tracking how many new vs existing blogs I comment on.
  • I'm keeping a log of all the ideas thrown up by all my blog-visiting.
  • I'm learning what I like to find in a blog post [which will feed back into my own].
  • I'm learning what lots of quiet bloggers think of my blog [because they're speaking up to let me know!].
So, as you might imagine I'm gathering *lots* of statistics .. but I'll save them for after the experiment when I'm sure I'll have several reflective, and hopefully useful, posts to share.

And ... speaking of experiments ...

3 books = the titles picked out of a hat at the 1st meeting of the Lucky Dip Book Club

I'm planning to tell you more about this book club sometime soon - in a post of its own - so I won't say too much here. The salient points, some of which made their impact on this month's numbers, are:
  • This was the 1st meeting.
  • The gallery, where it's hosted, was closed for the night and there was no one there when I peered in through the windows! I knew I didn't have the wrong time, so I just sat in my car and watched to see if anyone else turned up! Eventually someone did and the organiser came to the back door to let them in, I got out of my car and asked if I was in the right place. I was. 
  • It's brand new and not, yet, well publicised, and so there were only 5 people there. 
  • Of those 5 people 4 of the attendees worked at the gallery. Then there was 1 of me. [Sitting around the table it felt a little like I was facing a panel at a job interview!]
  • 3 book titles were picked out of the hat and we now have 1 month to read/take inspiration from the book/s and make something creative in response. [Anyone who remembers when Kirsty Neale and I hosted The Copy & Paste Project will know why I liked the sound of this club!]
As you'll imagine, this little escapade made it into my entry for the day in my 'Learn Something New Everyday' journal [a life-documenting project hosted by]. It's the 5th year I've taken part and, while I almost didn't take it up again, I decided I'd miss those 30 insights I've jotted down each September in previous years.

 More on what I've learned about the book club [along with details on how you can join in too] soon  ... but for now let's continue the book theme elsewhere ...

4 = the number of unrelated books eBay believed complemented a recent purchase ...
The novel I bought - The Crossing by one of my favourite authors Andrew Miller is a story in two halves, focusing on the life of a couple up until a key turning point in their life ... then the remainder of the book is drift across an ocean and a mystery on the other side.  

It's a meditation on feelings, disconnection, freedom, life, loss, abandonment, discovery and sailing.

And nowhere in it ... nowhere at all ... and nothing about it ... nothing ... would lead me to think that a title that would 'go well' with it ...

... would be The Complete Guide to Sausage Making:
There was obviously a subtext in there somewhere that I simply didn't notice! If you've read it, or when you do, let me know about any hidden sausage parts I missed will you?

And, finally ... how about we round the month off with tea and cake? No better way ...

1882 = the cafe in Northallerton where I had lunch with my sister and parents. 
That's us, there, in the reflection in the tea pot 'Hi!!!':
It's nice when everyone's schedule means they're free for a trip out all together. Like when we were 7 and 9. 

We ate fish cakes. My sister was strangely offended that they were ball shaped and not cake-y and therefore not fish-cakes.  

The '3 meats' that set us off down a Shakespearean rabbit hole ... 
We passed a pub menu advertising a '3 meat carvery' and my sister pointed out how off-puttingly vague that was ... like which 3? Did you have to guess? Could you guess? Were they distinguishable?

Then suddenly the witches from Macbeth sprung to my mind ... "when shall we three meet/meats again?"...

... and, after we'd finished giggling we spent the rest of the afternoon thinking up dishes to add to the menu of the Shakespearean themed cafe we were going to set up!!

Anyone for the Hamlette [ham omelette?], Curryolanus and rice? To be or not two bean wrap? The Taming of the Stew? The Prince Hal[loumi] salad? Troilus Egg and Cressida sandwiches?


OK, OK ... enough of the puns ... I promised you cake ... here's some from another well established company ...

Betty's, est. 1919
It's a prerequisite when I'm anywhere that has a Betty's tearoom that I must go in and buy something from the bakery to take-away. This time I bought James a 'Fat Rascal' [a type of scone that is always entertaining to ask for over the counter] and what I got for myself came in this beautiful little box wrapped in a bow ...
Never has a lone, humble [but delicious] egg custard felt so special!
But not as special as the waitress feltwho brought us tea and coffee in yet another cafe we visited in Northallerton ...

As the waitress was leaning over our table delivering our drinks Mam, entirely innocently, expressed her admiration for the handmade containers in which the milk and hot water were presented by turning to her and saying: "Ooh, aren't they lovely jugs?"

And again. There was giggling.

Lots of it.


So that was my month ... meeting new people and an old machine; no sausage meat but an inspiring Macbeth carvery; lots of books and even more blog-commenting and one rather special egg custard and red moon!

What about yours? Every month you're always more than welcome to:
  • read, enjoy and go about your day! 
  • read, enjoy and drop me a line or two in the comments about your month, or mine.
  • read, enjoy and join in on your own blog [again you can find the info on My Month in Numbers here.]
  • OR ....
  • read, enjoy and drop me a line or two about your month, or mine on my Facebook page [where I know commenting is much easier] or via Twitter

See you later September ... you've done a valiant job of keeping it bay so far but ... I've had to wear gloves twice now on my morning walk ... so I think we're both going to have to stop kidding ourselves and give in to Autumn gracefully.

Hello October, you can come out of hiding now ... the gloves are on ... I'm ready for you ...

Julie x

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Why I'm leaving 300 blog comments in 30 days.

Last week I set myself a challenge to leave 300 blog comments in 30 days.  #300in30days

Why would I inflict such a thing on myself? I hear you, and my aching elbow, ask. Well ... read on ...

As any unpaid blogger will tell you, after they've carefully plotted, drafted, written out, edited, taken photographs to illustrate, scheduled and then promoted a new blog post, receiving a comment on it really does help them feel it all might have been worth it. 

Well, that's what any honest blogger will tell you.

There may be those who profess to really not care about the number of comments they receive, that they do it all for the self-expression or the connection with others.

But I'd guess that unless they've actually removed the comment facility on their blog [thus proving they don't want/need comments] then those bloggers are either:
  • [a] getting so many comments that they can be safely confident enough to know they are reaching their audience as they hope to;
  • OR [b] they're lying. 
  • [Or maybe they're masochistic and they just enjoy the feeling of being ignored...]

So, I'll be the first to admit that, when my posts don't receive many comments which is actually the general rule [none of my posts this year reached 20 comments and the average is just a handful per post], I feel it. 
  • I feel like I'm wasting my time;
  • I feel like whatever it is I enjoy blogging about just isn't hitting the mark with readers;
  • I feel silly for spending so much time blogging if no one hears it;
  • I feel it's a good job I enjoy writing my posts and documenting my life in this way. Otherwise there'd be no reason for me to do it. I'd be long gone.
But, hang on hang on ... this is not intended to be a pity party!  

For a start I appreciate every one of those handful of comments. They're a wonderful handful.
  • They're a handful from the kinds of hands that put down everything else to type out a greeting to me from far and wide.
  • Hands that are warm, friendly and steadying.
  • Hands which, were my comments section the 'real' world, would be pulling a chair out for me to sit, and passing me a cuppa. 
  • Hands that would wave to me from across the road, from out of a window, from above a crowd. 
  • Hands that would cover their faces when I made an awful joke.
  • Hands that would draw me into a hug when I needed one.
Quality will always win out over quantity but, in order for my writing [and my shop] to succeed, and in order for my network to stay alive  - I need to make a conscious effort to keep those relationships going AND meet new bloggers

And I know there are many good reasons I don't receive lots of blog comments ... for example ...
  1. As well as a blog, I also run a Facebook page and a Twitter account where I chat with people on a wider scale than I do here. And social media makes it so easy to leave comments and chat. Easier than via blogs. 
  2. I'm moving away from focusing on sharing craft projects here, so it's possible that much of my old blogger network has moved away from me as I have moved away from craft-blogging. AND ...
  3. I admit that I am not the world's most dedicated blog-commenter myself. So I don't expect to receive something that I don't always give. [Stop sniggering at the back there!].
In short ... don't worry about me ... I'll get by; I'm not letting this get out of proportion. I'm just stating facts. And feeling a little bit exposed in the process ... but I feel it's worth talking about.

But rather than merely bemoan my current situation:
  • Partly because self-pity never won friends or influenced people ...
  • And partly because it's tricky to leave blog comments in the dark ...

I decided to act in the spirit of an old proverb: to light a candle rather than cursing the darkness.

And challenging myself to leave 300 blog comments in 30 days is my candle of choice.

Between now and October 17th, as I'm leaving my comments on old blogs and new, I'm hoping that somewhere amid the 300 ...
  • I'll connect with a few new-to-me bloggers.
  • I might find new readers who appreciate my blogging style.
  • I'll put out so much positive blogging charm ... that some of it might find its way back to me one day.
  • I might make someone's day.
  • I'll find new inspiration, new aspirations, new friendships. 
  • I'll come face to face with some of those serendipities I very much treasure but which you can never plan for! 
I'm keeping track of all the blogs - old and new - I visit during the challenge and will no doubt share some of my experience, reflections and statistics as I move along.


[1]Just join in!!
  • Set yourself a 30 day period [any time you like]; 
  • Start commenting and counting up your comments;
  • Use the hashtag  #300in30days on Facebook/Twitter [I'm not yet on Instagram] to share your experiences. 
[2]Suggest a blog for me to read.
  • Let me know who you enjoy reading.
  • I thought 300 comments would be easy - just 10 a day. But ... it turns out it's trickier than it seems - especially if I want to leave genuine, engaged, comments each time.
  • So help me, and anyone else reading, by linking me up to new content in a comment [!] or via social media.  #300in30days 
  • You're welcome to self-promote, or pimp a good friend or family member's blog. [I'm not against some light nepotism or cronyism!] 
[3]Share with me where/how you find new blogs.
  • For example I've recently discovered some hashtags [eg. #30plusblogs] that I can use to find bloggers I would never normally discover.
  • Where do you go when you need a shot of something fresh and new?
  • What are your techniques for uncovering blogging treasures? 
And finally ... 

[4]Keep me going!
  • Cheer me on, share my posts on social media, leave me a comment!
  • Slide cups of tea into my peripheral vision while I sit here typing, typing, typing comments.
  • Knit me a support bandage to prevent RSI!  ;-)

Over to you dear blog reader, maybe you'd like to ...

  • share your own feelings on how blog comments make you feel;
  • share thoughts on why people might not leave comments; 
  • chat about anything comment-related;
  • and leave me those links! 
See you here soon or at the #300in30days hashtag sooner.


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt: The Last Edition

Hello hello.

Like summer itself the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt, hosted by Rinda at Gallo Organico, draws to a close today and so this is my final scavenger post for 2015. 
  • After all those days out, clutching the hunt list with me wherever I went ... 
  • After all those streets, skylines and waterways scrutinised ... 
  • After all those paths trodden in search of treasure ...
... it seems only fitting that my final 'find' is something rather more sedate.

I didn't find 'No.4 Someone playing a board game or card game' and so instead have turned to one of the alternative items:

Alternative C. A Rocking Chair 
Early in the summer my Dad, an alchemist with all things wooden [in no way does that description make any scientific or grammatical sense does it?] restored this heirloom rocking chair with near-invisible repairs. 

It's been handed down the family to James's Mum but had recently experienced a minor calamity which left it quite literally 'off the rails' and 'off its rocker'. 

But which of us here can't say the same thing? 

So that's it for another year. Another summer. There's just time for a quick look back at my full set of 21 treasures: 

All 21 'found' items:
Just like I did during last year's final round-up I've been trying to draw out just what this collage can tell me about my summer ...
  1. Delightfully there are lots of blue skies! Hoorah! Way to go England! [Remind me of these photos next time I slander you for not giving us any warm days this year!].
  2. En-masse like that there's an almost ridiculously condensed essence of 'nostalgic-summer' happening: Donkeys on the beach? Yep. Glittering water? Yep. Fun fair? Check. Ubiquitous touristy shot? Absolutely. 
  3. All those bikes, boats and tents; it could almost be a storyboard for Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five: The Movie'!
  4. And so much blue, yellow and red!  And all flowery-ness and greenery-y!
  5. Oh and ... it records the fact that I went to see Hamlet!! 
Did you know that I saw Hamlet? No?

*wonders where you've been all summer*, *wonders if you're fibbing*, *wonders if you've had a recent concussion.*

If you'd like to catch up with the summertime stories behind those photos then you're welcome! Just drop into any of my scavenger hunt posts from across the season:
And I mustn't forget a big thank you to Rinda for organising the hunt, for coming up with yet another taxing, vexing and ultimately inspiring list and, most importantly, for encouraging us to take time to both document and share our summertime experiences!

Here's to the Summertime Scavenger Hunt 2016!!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Portable Magic: My reading habits Q&A

 Hello hello.

My friend Helen at 'I Will Bloom' tagged me to share my reading habits after she, in turn, had been tagged to do so by Lizelle at 'Sandals and Sunnies'. And, seeing as how the theme fits with my 'Portable Magic' series [where I chat about books and book related doings] I thought I'd pick up the tag/the baton/ the gauntlet and answer the questions.

You can catch Helen's post here and I think I've tracked the originator of the meme, the vlogger who set the questions - The Book Jazz - here on Youtube.

Oh, and ... all the photos I've used to illustrate this post are ones I found by mooching round my hard-drive ... and, from that, it's become clear to me that books have featured heavily in my life-documenting in the last 6 or 7 years!

So let's open up the first page shall we ...

Q: Do you have a certain place at home to read?

A: In my head I'm all Jo March, from Little Women, blocking out the world by reading in her romantic window seat.

In reality I don't have a window seat. In fact there are just 3 window-ledges in the entire house, the largest being in the kitchen. And I think my neighbours would talk if I crammed myself up there to read.

So, no, I read anywhere and everywhere at home but mainly in bed, on the settee and, weather permitting, the garden.

Q: Reading at home or everywhere?

A: Everywhere.

When I work on campus I always take a book with me, to read in any spare time and sometimes on the bus home.

And I take, and/or buy, books on holiday.

I've also been known to read while James enjoys the aerial displays at airshows [personally I just go for the fresh air, hot dogs and ice cream].
And, despite having to stand, in front of the loo, for over 3 hours, on a warm and extremely full train back from London last month ... I managed to read my magazine: 
[Occasionally, on especially bumpy parts of the journey, I had to remove one hand from it to reach for the grab rail, but still ... it was a pretty good effort!].

Q: Do you watch TV or listen to music while reading?

A:: If James is watching something on TV that I'm not interested in I'll read through it [while trying to ignore the loud fight scenes / explosions / zombie groans / impenetrable plots in the background]. But I don't tend to put the TV on for myself and then reach for a book.

I do however often have the radio on while I'm reading; at night that's music [Radio 3 in bed] and during the day it's talk radio [Radio 4]. I'm a filthy multi-tasker.

Q: Do you eat or drink while reading?

A: Certainly do.

Especially if it's particularly unputdownable novel where you wander around the house dressing yourself, scaling stairs, preparing breakfast, with one hand while clutching the book in the other. In those instances if I didn't eat or drink while reading ... I'd be going hungry! 
And a cup of tea is a prerequisite for reading. In fact I didn't know you could do one without the other.

And what about Prosecco? Does that count? [Well I was on holiday]:
Plus, I read lots of library books and, if I was that way inclined, I could track the eating habits of readers of different genre just by looking at the smudges on the pages and the scatterings of food stuffs that occasionally drop out of the creases in the spine! [Chocolate, poppy seeds, cigarette ash etc etc].

Q: Reading aloud or silently in your head?

A: To myself, I read silently unless there's an especially wonderful piece of prose that I need to hear aloud to myself or that I need to share with James. 

Actually, I do that a lot. 

Similarly I also occasionally tweet perfect phrases I've come across in books too. 

It feels like I'm giving credit where its due to the authors; kind of how a sports fan might share the video of a brilliant goal ... I don't see why sporty types should get all the replay fun! 

As for reading aloud I used to do that a lot too, to James, if it was a book we both wanted to read at chat about together at the same time, without taking turns. I think I read the entire Harry Potter series to him, with voices. [They could have paid me to do the audio books while I was at it].

Q: One book at a time or several at once?

A: There's no straight answer to this ... erm ... 
  • If I really get drawn into a book of fiction or a memoir I tend to read it through before moving on to another. 
  • Reading mainly library books - with a definite return date - certainly helps me power through, focus and read one at a time without procrastinating.
  • But if I BUY a book and then stop, and then pick it up later ... this can go on for a long while before I get it read! And I definitely read other things in the meantime. 
  • [There was about a decade's lag between my starting and finishing Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which turned out to have been worth it in the end!]
Plus I read non-fiction in between to, as and when, dipping in and out. At the moment I'm dipping in and out of '13 Ways of Looking at the Novel'  by Jane Smiley and Tom Phillip's 'A Humument'. 

Q: Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or number of pages?

A: All depends:
  • it can be very satisfying to read up to new chapter but ...  
  • not all books have chapters and some that do have huuuuge ones ...
  • and,either way, if I'm really tired, then I'll happily stop mid-chapter, mid-paragraph, mid-sentence, mid-wor...

Q: Bookmark or random piece of paper?

A: Goodness this is a whole discussion in itself!

In fact ... I wrote a full blog post on this exact topic not long ago: 'Tell me you're not a corner folder: a few thoughts on bookmarks'. 
[If you haven't got the time/inclination to read it then, basically, I use both].

Q: Do you ever read ahead or skip pages?

A: Nope.

I'm tempted. Always. But I do my best to keep the surprise sacred. 

Q: Do you ever write in books?

A: Not in library books!  And not in fiction; not since I left college/university:
  • I spent a childhood being told not to write in books ...
  • then life as a student where it was necessary to do just that ...
  • and then, once I'd graduated and returned to a 'layman' reader status, it took me almost as long to get out of the habit of taking notes, underlining and adding diagrams and arrows! 
And, just recently, while reading  '13 Ways of Looking at the Novel'  I've picked up my pencil again and started scribbling notes. It's like I've never been away.

So, those are my reading habits. What about yours?

I'm probably meant to tag someone to join in now but ... I out-ran my luck with this kind of thing the last time I joined in with a tag-along type meme.  It was tough finding people who were happy to have the torch passed to them and so ...

... I'm going to tag you, yes you. If you want to join in just copy and paste the questions and give it a go. Feel free to link back to me in your post AND to drop back here to leave me the link to yours.

Right then ... I think there's a book or two calling my name ... see you later.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Keeping the story going: a tale of protecting vintage papery treasure from the fire.

My English literature dissertation, [written a long time ago now], contained a chapter titled "Paper and skin both burn: the Textuality of the End".

Sounds cheery no?

I won't go into all the details [you'll be relieved to hear] but, in a wider exploration of apocalyptic fiction, this chapter in particular was an in-depth look at the interesting role of literature, books and story-telling in the event of an apocalypse/nuclear war.

So what's this got to do with anything? Well I suppose it proves that - long before I collected vintage books and ephemera - an interest in the preservation of narratives- and indeed even of paper itself - has been a running theme through my life ...
Click to learn more about this vintage school syllabus
And it's been because of my collecting in recent years, that I've realised that when it comes to books that haven't been professionally printed ... when it comes to things such as:
  •  blank books [notebooks, excercise books, diaries etc]
  • or blank sheets of paper / postcards etc, 
  • or else books which began their life as blanks which have since been written in by a regular, non-famous, owner ...
... we don't have to wait for an atom bomb to destroy those ... because we're already doing a good job of that in the here and now!

Who saves empty, unused, notebooks and albums?
Vintage stamp album [SOLD].
Who saves all the old ledgers and diaries and schoolbooks that the hands of everyday people have made their mark in?


Other than 'people like you and me' of course ...

It all started with a ledger, and a journal that wasn't mine ...

When I first started getting interested in art journals / creative notebooks I became aware of people working directly on to the pages of old ledger books; adding their own artistic layers on to an already intriguing background. They looked so - for want of a better word - cool that I decided there and then to keep a look out for one of my own.

And that's what got me started.

The first thing I found - upside down and poking out the top of an old tea-chest at a collectors' fair was not actually a ledger but this journal:
It's pages are part blank, part written in by 'Rosemary' and mostly stuffed with her personal ephemera such as Christmas cards, newspaper snippets and letters. I've had it for over 5 years now yet I've never shared it anywhere [although I did once submit an article about it somewhere, which didn't come to anything .. not that I'm still sore about that or anything ...].

From time to time I mull over big plans for it, I dip into researching the owner, I wonder about contacting her descendants, I think about writing another article about it ... and if any of it ever comes to anything, I promise I will share more!

It remains one of my favourite ever vintage treasures, and this sentimental attachment I've developed for it has prevented me from using it for the purpose I initially intended; I've never used it as an art journal.

Instead it remains as it did when its original owner closed the cover for the last time. Which is certainly part of the charm; the pull; the romance of collecting vintage personal books and ephemera. They've had a life already, before they reach your hands. They're already intriguing, full of life, full of silent stories, before and even 'if' you do anything with them.

Then it became a 'collection', and I a 'collector' [and 'dealer'!] ... 

Ever since that first thrill of discovery I've been scanning the shelves of the second hand books I regularly browse [and goodness knows there've been miles of those!!] for more.

I'm always on the look out for a glimpse of a spine or page that looks slightly different to those of the hoards of regular printed books that line the shelves. Hoping that there'll be another post-owner notebook, journal, diary etc just waiting to steal my heart.

But there hardly ever is. Ever.
Vintage, handwritten, recipe notebook. [SOLD]
And so, on the rare occasions I do manage to strike papery gold, I tend to buy it.

How can I not? How do I know I'll get the chance again?

In fact ... I see them so rarely I'm still ruing not buying an old, blank, reporter's notebook from the vintage market in Tynemouth about two winters ago ... [maybe sharing that fact will lead me to, finally, let it go ... ].

So where is it I'm looking?

  • I regularly browse charity shops, 
  • and occasionally car boot sales
  • and also vintage shops, collectors' fairs and junk shops. 
  • And then, for the last couple of years, I've visited the antiques haven that is the Hemswell Antiques centres plus several other large antiques/junk centres on the same site in Lincolnshire.
Regarding the latter centres they are huge buildings [it's an ex RAF base!] crammed to the rafters with antiques and collectibles [a great day out if you're a  rummager!] and you can find just about anything you're seeking in there.

But, the thing that sticks out for me is, that when most people would consider rarity in collectibles it's probably not paper goods that would spring to mind first. And yet ... while wandering around these wonderful, vast, buildings ...

... what you learn is that war medals, ceramics, paintings and spoons are ten a penny, a dime buys a dozen. But paper products? They're just not there.

After spending all day there I uncovered the grand total of four vintage items that were paper related.

And I bought three of them!

They included this 'aide memoire':
Click to learn more about this vintage palm-sized notebook
... plus ... a box of unused 1920s index cards [see image further down] and a gorgeous handwritten school syllabus book from the 1940s [shown in first image at the top of this post].

Meanwhile the fourth was a beautiful writing set from the first half of the 20th Century inside a fold-out desk pad, complete with its original gift box. It even had a pad of monthly 'to do' lists. And was divine. But also a bit beyond my budget.

So, I brought home those few I found and - as always - I bought them with the intention of either:

  • using them in my own projects, 
  • keeping them for my own collection, 
  • or passing them on to other, welcoming, hands via my Etsy shop

And I don't even mind selling them. I'm delighted  that - somewhere down the line - they'll end up being admired by another treasure seeker ... because as long as these items are out there in the world once again I'm happy!
Learn more about these vintage index cards
And I enjoy doing the necessary leg work to find them, it's part of the joy of collecting. All that browsing, bending and sifting. All that flipping through, eyeing-up and reaching over.

I revel in the serendipity of stumbling across a glittering single treasure in the midst of an ocean of predictability. 

I love spotting the nugget in the dirt, opening up its covers - in reverence - to flip through its pages with my dusty fingers. And then I take an additional pleasure in knowing that - right up until I handed my money over - the seller/shop assistant had probably been thinking: 'That'll never sell. Who's going to buy an old notebook / school book / index card etc?'.

Who indeed?
Click to learn more about these vintage menu cards
Not that it's hard to understand why some people throw old notebooks and paper goods away, or why some vendors don't realise what splendidness they've got in their hands; after all the vast majority of the population doesn't love old paper like we do!

I cringe at the thought of relatives or professional house clearance companies emptying a house and throwing away this kind of thing, the kind of thing they don't realise we'll happily pay for!! If they did see the value [a] they'd be pleasantly surprised and [b] there'd be more of it for us all to rummage through but ... [c] it might put the prices up!!

So ... I don't know ... maybe I'll just happily continue to mine shelves and boxes for this rare treasure.
Click to learn more about these blank vintage postcards
Maybe if I could find it everywhere it would no longer feel I was on a vital rescue mission!

A mission to salvage the notes, ephemera, and collections of everyday people over the last century and to take care of them, as they did.

A mission to to ensure its legacy, to be inspired by its back-story, to give it a new lease of life.

A mission to save it from the fire and keep the story going for a little while longer ...


Thanks for reading me today.

If you'd like to contribute to the story of preserving, enjoying and using vintage books and ephemera please do so:

  • you can leave me a comment;
  • you could blog your personal collection of ephemera and share the link in a comment or via my Facebook page and I'll come and visit. I'm sure you've got your favourites you'd love to share with us all.
  • you could share your favourite places to browse for treasure;
  • if you've purchased some of the collection from my shop I'd love to hear about its new life with you! 
  • OR ... you can just share any papery ponderings this post has stirred up in you! 
I'll await your notes ... 


Thursday, 10 September 2015

How to catch a live performance of Hamlet. Plus the *best* piece of advice a sister ever gave in the history of theatre-going.

Hello hello.

If you're already tired of me talking about Hamlet then:
  • [a] imagine how James must feel and 
  • [b] feel free to unfollow me and remove me from your blog-reader 
... because it's probably going far easier for you to forget you ever heard of me than it will be for me to forget I ever saw the production of Hamlet that everyone is talking about!

I'm never normally in with the in-crowd and, trust me, I'd never have thought a love of Shakespeare would have put me there. So, all things considered I'm just going to string it out a bit longer ...

But, before you get even more annoyed with me, I'm not being entirely self-centred when it comes to yet again bringing up the subject of Hamlet - an entirely sold out production. I'm not trying to rub it in. To gloat.

In fact ... if you wanted to see it and missed out then, despite what you've been mumbling about me under you breath, I'm actually here to let you know there's a way you can catch a live performance! 

And this is it:
Image taken from National Theatre Live site
Three times this week I've directed three entirely unconnected people to the Hamlet page on the National Theatre Live site ... so I thought it was time I actually got round to sharing it here; because it's slightly quicker than telling everybody one at a time! So here we are.

**On THURSDAY 15TH OCTOBER 2015 [and then with encores from 22nd] a performance of the production will be broadcast LIVE into cinemas!!**

I know it's not entirely the same as being there in person for example:
  •  you won't get to breathe the same air as the Prince of Denmark / BC
  • and you won't get to plot the logistics of whether you could jump on him from the upper circle while still maintaining your dignity ... 
Image taken from National Theatre Live site
But, equally:
  • you won't get arrested!
  • and you won't get a mouthful of 'bits' following the big explosion at the end of the first half like the people in the first 5 rows must have had [you might still jump at it though!] 
  • and you most likely should get to see all the angles that my 'restricted view' seat didn't afford me! 
To find out where's your nearest participating cinema: 
As far as I can tell the broadcasts are worldwide and not just the UK but ...
  • please don't hate me if there isn't one near you!
  • and please don't hate me if there is one near you but it's already sold out ... keep an eye on those 'encore' showings. 
If you think it's not your kind of thing I'm not sure I can persuade you otherwise ... but maybe I'll give it one small go ...
  • Despite being over 400 years old it's a modern play. Even from day one it's been a modern twist on old 'revenge tragedies'. And it remains relevant today - anything with an overthinking, procrastinating, character at its centre will always speak to my heart! 
  • Plus the vast sets and wide-ranging [if inconsistent and slightly confusing] costumes in this production certainly go some way to keeping that aspect alive.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY!!!! If you think you don't understand the language of Shakespeare then, for me, that's an actor's fault not yours. 
  • A good interpretation by a thoughtful actor, who understands what they're saying and who wants you to understand, will deliver the lines in such a way that allows you grasp the general idea even when you don't understand every word or phrase [I think of it as how babies understand what we say to them even though they don't yet speak the language].  
  • And, fortunately, this version has plenty of actors who can do just that, and not just Cumberbatch [you'd expect him to express himself clearly wouldn't you?] but I found Anastasia Hille as Gertrude very natural and Ciaran Hind actually managed at times to make me see things from Claudius's persepective ... which [considering he's a murderer at the heart of all Hamlet's problems] must be a first for me!
And if you need further convincing ... watching Cumberbatch step on to - perform on - and then step off this table, so beautifully effortlessly ... is almost worth the price of a ticket in itself! 
Image taken from National Theatre Live site
And finally, if you do go and see it, then allow me to pass on the key piece of advice my very wise big sister passed on to me before I went ... 

"Yes, make sure you eat something; just to line your stomach. You don't want to be sick on Benny."

And, not wishing to go all braggy again, but from where I was sitting, when I saw this in real life, when the curtain rose, and when Benedict Cumberbatch was sitting on the stage directly below me, if I hadn't heeded that advice and lined my stomach earlier that evening  ...

... I actually could have been sick on him. 

Admit it. You're jealous now aren't you?  


So to the Hamlet page on the National Theatre Live site now, yes? Good!

If you manage to get tickets then do keep me up to date, let me know what you thought of it! Even if we end up agreeing to disagree.

But if the excitement does makes you vomit ... maybe keep that part to yourself.


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

One half vintage papers, one half craft supplies, one whole load of inspiration. [A new range that makes up in creativity what it lacks in grammatical accuracy].

Hi there.

Yesterday I finished adding a new range of creativity kits to my Etsy shop and I thought I'd share them here to give them a chance of being seen and to give anyone looking for a new project this coming autumn a chance of being inspired!

I started putting this range together back in early August but had to take a break from the necessary sorting, packing, photographing, photo-editing, description writing and uploading elements as [and I may have mentioned this before ...] I had a longstanding date with my favourite Dane [although Carsten Bjørnlund comes a close second ...] and everything was put on hold.

[Seriously, if I'd have turned down to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet because I had to re-stock my shop you would have, quite rightly, detested me for my idiocy and loss of perspective; and I'd never have spoken to myself ever again. So ... all-in-all it's just as well that I went.]

But back to the papery bits ...

The new range of 'Plundered Pages: Craft Packs' is a twist on my old faithful 'Plundered Pages' packs which are a curated, themed, collection of vintage papers. Only, for these new packs I've added in a collection of craft supplies which coordinate with the vintage papers. Hence the tag line:

"One half themed vintage papers, one half coordinating craft supplies, one whole load of inspiration!"
  • This way a single pack should be enough to get you started on a new creative project without you needing to find other elements to compliment the images. 
  • You might want to add in all kinds of other items, but these new packs are a great starting point!  
I won't show you every single pack [they're all set out nicely in the shop anyway] but let me give you a quick overview of the kinds of themes you'll find amongst them ...

The 'post-holiday', 'days out', 'in nature', 'on the water', 'in the woodland' type of themes:
These kits are filled with things like:
  • vintage images of owls, squirrels, hedgehogs, rabbits, foxes and bears
  • plus hedgerows, birds, the sea, scenery, 
  • and patterned papers and ephemera in warm shades of blue, russet and green 
All perfect for settling down with on these chillier evenings, in front of the fire, with a glue-stick and some scissors. These would be ideal themes for:
  • travel journaling and
  • scrapbooking holidays and days out in the fresh air! 
And then there are even more packs in appropriately autumnal / wintry shades and themes such as:
And then, for anyone inspired by more vivid shades [and anyone who isn't currently staring down the barrel of autumn like us in the Northern hemisphere] there's a glut of ...
If you're looking for inspiration on what to do with such a kit ... 
They're basically the exact kind of thing I use for all my creative projects whether that's junk journals, scrapbooking, collage, art journaling etc etc. I always tend to use a mix of vintage and new/reclaimed and you can see examples of this by searching my blog in general OR ...

And so ... if you get a minute please do drop by the shop and :
  • see if there's either something that stokes your own creative boiler ... 
  • or that you can imagine a friend getting a kick out of if you bought it for them as a Christmas gift. 
Whenever I put together those very specific themes I always know:
  •  that there's someone out there who will feel I made it just for them. 
  • Someone who will be so excited to see a collection which celebrates what they thought was just their own little niche
  • Someone who never expected to see their pet-topic in a craft kit!
Oh and ... I didn't even mention the new selection of regular Plundered Pages packs which are also rather specific! [eg. The Netherlands, Horses and The Unreliable Body!]

So, yes, do do do have a browse and I'll be happy to parcel up your choices and get them out into the misty autumn air and on their way to you ASAP.

Thanks for stopping by today. Any thoughts, questions, ponderings ... shout up in the comments.


Friday, 4 September 2015

Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt 2015: The South Bank / East Coast Edition

When I started writing this post I was sitting in bed, wearing a jumper, a cardigan and my dressing gown all to avoid having to put the heating on. Today the heating's on.

Add to that the fact that my tomato plant leaves are turning yellow. And between the pair of us James and I have sorted out 4 bags of clothes to donate to charity. All in all something tells me there's a change of season ahead ...

Which is why I'm glad that I've almost found all 21 items on Rinda's Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt list, because in just 3 weeks' time it'll no longer be 'summertime'.

There still remains one elusive category "No.4. People playing a board game or card game" and, while I know I could mock one up by telling James to whip out his Top Trumps and smile for the camera [now there's an insight into our private lives you weren't anticipating when you dropped by today ...] I'd much rather stumble across the scene naturally.  A bit like how I did with today's topic.

3. A person walking a dog (or other animal). 
I'll get to the dog in a moment [which is something you won't catch me saying very often!] but first allow me to just lead you up to it ... [dog, lead, see what I did there? Ah ...]

When we booked a hotel on London's south bank last month we had no clear idea about what the area was like. We knew it faced the river and had the London Eye somewhere behind it ... and that was it. It wasn't until we stepped out of the hotel's front door that we realised what a constant stream of people drift their way by it along the Thames-side footpath.

Soon, like two twigs in a game of Pooh Sticks, we merged with the stream and found ourselves meandering up and down the waterfront like everyone else. [At least when you're following a river you can't get too lost]. 

Although ... I say 'meandering up and down the waterfront like everyone else' except ... not everyone else meanders.
  • No, the tourists stumble around recording themselves using selfie-sticks, and stop dead in their tracks to take photos without warning. 
  • Meanwhile the locals cycle and run to and from work; tucking-in their elbows as they sprint by, to avoid jabbing the hoards of passers-by who have fewer demands on their time. And, to my surprise, they even scoot past on scooters. Dressed for their day job in the city. Scooters the likes of which - where I live, you never see being ridden by anyone over the age of 15!   
So, with all this life flowing around me it was an ideal place to try to find someone walking along .. whether or not I could spot an animal there too was a different matter. Eventually I captured this one which is a little uninspiring, but it gives a feel of the place I suppose: 
I've mentioned this before, in my Month in Numbers post for August, but after a frenetic 3 days in the capital I was ready for an altogether slower pace ...  

... which lead me, sedately, to finding someone walking an 'other animal':  
I'm not sure if I could have found anything quite as polar opposite than a dog amongst the London throngs and city skyline ... and a gentle donkey ride along an almost empty beach on the North East coast.

But I guess that's what travel's for? To change your scenery from time to time.  [And maybe to swap dogs for donkeys ...because I know which ones I'd rather find on a beach!]

Julie :-)


If you'd like to catch up on my 20 successful Scavenger Hunt discoveries then drop by my earlier posts here:
And you can visit curator of the hunt - Rinda - here at her blog Gallo Organico to catch her regular round-ups and link posts.