Saturday, 31 December 2016

Lovin' Margate

Margate has a great deal going for it ... not least our wonderful micro-climate. Over the last few days, while much of Britain has been enduring freezing fog, we have had spectacular sunset skies and 'freezing sunshine'. Makes you feel good all over as long as you are appropriately dressed.

Although I am no fan of the main social media options [I just don't get their appeal !] I am delighted with the almost daily postings and pictures from other residents and visitors on

Found these three examples there on Thursday.

From top to bottom posted by Carol Newton, Sian Foulkes and Darren Milgate. I hope you don't mind me sharing your talent here.

Friday, 30 December 2016


Happy new year to my small band of regular readers!

Instead of stealing a load of fancy graphics and greetings from elsewhere on the web ... and lacking the talent and inclination to attempt an original ... I offer you a trio of photographs from the 2013 Pirelli Calendar which was the first ever where the beautiful models kept most of their clothes on.

These were shot on location in Rio. I was saddened to see from TV coverage that the crappy parts of Rio [and Cuba too] are even crappier than I remember them from my happy times in both places during 1956.  Ye Gods!  I was an [almost] innocent teenager and yet the memories are as fresh as ever, OK, maybe time has added a little sparkle of fairy dust but.I certainly enjoyed coffee and company in a bar like this!

In this shot the guy in the hoodie gets to shine a light on the model who is writing her journal by the light of an oil lamp.

But the end result was well worth it. May the end result of all that you aspire to in 2017 bring you
happiness and may they exceed your expectations.

Photographer: Steve McCurry
Model:             Isabeli Fontana
Publisher:        Pirelli

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Lazy photography

After all this time I could never abandon my interest in photography.

But as someone once said, 'Those who can, do: Those who cannot, teach: Those too dim to teach become consultants - but even time catches up with them too.'

Having never owned a smart phone my cameras [both of 'em] are pretty basic point 'n' shoot bits of kit which rarely leave their auto settings and, until the weather warms, up rarely leave home either.

So now I get my foto fix via third parties and magazines.

I enjoy watching the regular updates from which is where I discovered this lonesome ghost ship by a Greek practice called

But, for ultimate reading pleasure a screen is no substitute for a well produced analogue magazine,

In the past I have mentioned Hungry Eye, a small format quarterly from independent publishers in Sussex. It is an A5 format with very few advertisements and not too heavy on the technical side.

Recently changed from monthly to six-a-year is Professional Photography. Their website is a bit of a heavy sell on subscriptions
so don't bother with it. Instead check out a copy in a real shop ... but beware, the change from a tenner won't even cover a regular Americano at Caffe Nero. I can be inspired by looking at images by other photographers and amused by their marketing 'next big thing' which are usually variations on old and proven concepts. Expensive indeed, but a good couple of hours of reading ... although I expect it to shrink back to its former pagination after an  issue or three.

Monday, 26 December 2016

The Well Appointed Desk

Pic from The Well Appointed Desk
Feel like a quick browse?

One of my favourite blogs to check every couple of days is The Well Appointed Desk. You can find a link over on the right here,

Each week or so you will find a regular feature called 'Link Love' from whence you can get lost in an amazing collection of links.

For instance, on December 21st there were direct links to 14 sites about pens;6 about ink;2 about paper and notebooks;3 about planners;1 about pencils and 8 about 'other interesting things'. These lists vary in length with each issue.

Thanks to  'other' I accessed a BBC radio programme that I had missed back in 2012 called 'The Stationery Cupboard' in which Lucy Managan justifies her fascination with paper and pens.

Under 'Field Notes for urban sketching' there are some great examples of art on the go.

In an earlier posting there was an item about how mail-order companies in Canada have to take steps to stop ink freezing in winter shipments.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Art and books

We are incredibly fortunate to have a world class contemporary art gallery in Margate. It opened five years ago and its first [and so far,only] permanent exhibit is a neon sculpture called 'Turning Pages' by Sir Michael Craig-Martin.

This was originally commissioned in 1975 and was positioned over the entrance to the Public Library. As it was a tribute to a retiring librarian the design and location seemed appropriate.

Then, for some reason best known to the artsy-fartsy community it was relocated to the Turner
It's just visible above the couple standing in the centre.
Contemporary Art Centre for its opening in 2011.

Surely something art related would have been more appropriate than a neon book? Maybe a statue of JMW Turner or his portrait?

So, since then the front of the library is naked red brick and the foyer of the gallery has this thing.White neon against a white wall?!

At least is sets the theme for the gallery's love of grey captions to pictures against grey backgrounds!

But now, and you really couldn't make this up, the gallery has published a print of the sculpture. It is about 2 ft square. OK, so it is a 'limited edition' but be honest now. How many people do you know who would shell out £750 for it unframed ...or breath taking £900 for having it stuffed into a very plain looking frame?

Breath taking? Piss taking more like!

Books I can understand. Art ... well that's beyond me in this particular manifestation.
Yellow print on blue background and yours for £900
With a compact camera or mobile phone you could probably grab a shot of the original, trick out a print on Photoshop and have your own for about 90p

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


It now hardly seems possible that I once drove around 20,000 international miles a year and couldn't even imagine then how one could exist [let alone live!] without a car. Some of my most fun-filled driving days were in a variety of Fiat sports cars.

Well it is now nine years since I last drove a car!

The freedom is amazing! The pressure on the finances has been significantly reduced.

OK, I accept that some folk really DO need a car for their specific life styles.

I've had fun in Riva speed boats too, so I was delighted to read that Fiat and Riva have teamed up to create a special edition of the cute 500 convertible detailed and fitted out to Riva yacht standards. Seems it  is due to be released in UK next year.

On Sunday I offered you a collage of notebooks from Start Point and mentioned that it was 'location shots' for Midori Travelers Notebook that had encouraged my foray into their marketing world.

I have now unearthed some of these from the internet,courtesy of Patrick Ng in Hong Kong.

Guess I have used too many photos from others over these last 100 or so blogs, During 2017 I plan to do more original stuff ... well at least 50:50 ...with my brace of Canon compact cameras.

On the topic of photography I leave you with a couple of seasonally chilly shots from daughter Sally's portfolio ... and no, I can't claim credit for these shots either. She long ago moved on from 'Dad's snapshots' to professional photographic modelling.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Continued from Friday

Some marketing can be amazingly subtle and very cost effective.

It was the various instagram 'location shots' of Midori Travelers Notebook that originally lured me into the whole TN scene that almost broke the bank.

Then I figured that I could do some similar shots right here on the Kent coast but somehow never got around to it.

Whilst all this was happening a small business was hatching in South Devon.

I had heard of Start Point and had indeed taken bearings of the lighthouse there, way back in my supertanker navigating days.

Year end is surely a time to get my disparate journaling and notebook acts together with a new start point with a cover from Start Bay Notebooks.

Do I NEED a leather cover? No!
Do I WANT a leather cover? Yes!
Santa agreed, so I placed my order on Tuesday December 13. It was acknowledged the same day with a shipping notification a day later. My A6 notebook cover order was delivered in pristine condition on the 15th. Now that's what I call service!!!!!!!!!

Yes indeedee. Time to get back in the flow with a small English company ... my favourite type of enterprise. With a smooth sea and following breeze I should be coming back to enjoy my 'new' brand of notebookism during the months ahead.

Now if only I can create the need to buy an A5 cover from Start Bay Notebooks.

Mmmmm. Suppose I order one anyway with faith that the need will manifest when the time is right?

That really is an act of faith. Appropriate for Christmas I guess and as long as I spend an equal or greater amount on the lady in my life and a favourite charity too ....?

These photos are culled from various sources via Start Bay Notebooks sites and then montaged together using a free 'PicMonkey' editing program. They remain copyright of  Start Bay Notebooks.
What's Not To Like Here?

Friday, 16 December 2016

From Quo Vadis to Start Bay in around 50 years!

My first awareness of notebook branding and marketing was long ago and far away when my constant companions and life management systems were an A4 Quo Vadis planner and a Filofax with spring clips that would nip your fingers with the ferocity of a cornered rat.

As my career[s] took various turns and made various demands so my choice of notebooks changed. 

I was suckered in by Moleskines back story which was soon exposed as a fable anyway. I nearly bankrupted myself by climbing aboard the Midori Travelers Notebook system and their regular updates ...and then turned off totally by their ever escalating costs.

By comparison though, the delightful Canadian Paperblanks collections seemed fairly priced, but both the cost and quality were too ambitious for my budget,

Then I discovered Field Notes and the amazingly astute marketing talents of the co-founders Aaron Draplin and Jim Coudal. Truly a lesson on how to take a simple product and grow it into a global brand and coveted collectors item as an affordable luxury.

Along came another small outfit creating another USA artisan's version Notepads Brand who almost, but not quite, jumped on the Field Notes 'me too' bandwagon ... as did the oddly named Word. which was openly and obviously run by a consortium, designed by a committee and produced by a team and therefore not my scene by a country mile.

Now my needs are so modest that I don't really need a notebook at all. But old habits die hard. I am happy with an A6 pocket notebook ... usually sold in packs of three for around £10. Then I rediscovered Moleskine who, with their Cahier range, amazingly, come in at the lower end of the price spectrum at around half that price [from]

I remain fascinated by Field Notes creativity but am happy with my Moleskine's plain matt black card covers. My elderly eyes enjoy the creamy toned paper with the last sixteen pages fine perforated for removable notes or messages without butchering the rest of the book. I like that the pages are sewn in with no glue to dry out in hot climates and no staples to rust in my dampish seaside home. I like the simple ephemera flap inside the back cover ... where I keep a calendar that I downloaded and printed myself,

I fully expect this pack of three to last me until this time next year!

[In the top picture you can see a small label on the cover of one of my notebooks. This is simply to help me spot the right way up easily]

Meanwhile, here in England, Peter Cattermole runs Start Bay Notebooks from Devon and Ray Blake offers some amazing services on his strangely named website

There is a great interview with Peter on [stand by, another RSI inducing address coming!]

On the strength of this I surfed a little more on line and placed an order with Start Bay Notebooks. More about this self-indulgent me-to-me Christmas present next time. Please be there.

The Planning Office at Start Bay Notebooks

Demonstrating how Peter used 4D Planning to launch Start Bay Notebooks


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas in Naples

Last time in Naples we made a point of visiting Via San Grigorio Armeno. This also known as Presepe Street.

A presepe is a nativity scene. I knew these as  cribs in my childhood home  but ours were simple and crude compared with the amazing creations of the artisans of Naples.

It feels like Christmas every day in Presepe Street where families make and sell some fantastic interpretations of the Nativity.

This is a narrow street where every shop offers your choice of scene, from miniatures that will fit the palm of your hand to some massive dioramas over a metre wide. 

These incredibly detailed 3D models can include whatever your imagination can conceive ... not just the Holy Family but pop singers, politicians, sports stars and celebrities. You can even buy the component parts to create and populate your own unique version.

I leave you with a handful of pictures from Naples.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Christmas Cards

After a lifetime of nativity scenes, I chose this card by local artist Darren Lewis.

Whilst the love of my life was doing her annual thing for family and friends with copious lists,I addressed a handful of these more contemporary images.

At £2.99 a time this could become an expensive pastime and I reminded myself that I got into photography because I was crap at art.

So one sunny, chilly December day I wandered down to the harbour to do my own version with a tiny Canon IXUS 70 camera.

With a few sheets of A4 cartridge paper, my desk top printer and an hour later I had this result.

Some unique cards that I could print off as required. I left the insides blank so that I could use the same design for casual notelets after the festive season has ended.

I bought my artists cards from Loveley's Gallery in Northdown Road Cliftonville. You can find Darren Lewis on line via Google and apparently, numerous social media platforms.

My Christmas 2016 masterpiece!


Friday, 9 December 2016

Maybe a good idea ... then again ... maybe not

 On December 4th I wrote about an expensive sting by Royal Mail. So when I read this news item it seemed like it might be a good idea.

However, it is said that the devil is in the detail and this is certainly true where Amazon has their fingerprints on something.

And for this reason I think I shall treat it with extreme caution and use local stores or/and eBay instead.

I was tempted by the cover blub and concept of this book,  Then I saw the price around £20.00

Another case of waiting until it hits the January sales!

Meanwhile there are plenty of reviews and extracts on line. Like this one.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Monday Mindfulness

Stolen from the internet
Tomorrow I hope to bring you a Tuesday Tune

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Stupid Boy adds to Royal Mail Coffers

I am certainly not a heavy user of Ebay, but of course, that is no excuse for this latest example of my own stupidity costing me dearly.

I couldn't find this item on UK/Europe/Asian sites so for once I whizzed my order over to the good old USA.

On due delivery day it arrived in the form of a postcard inviting me to toddle along the sorting office and hand over £11,25.

To save you doing the math, that almost doubled the outlay that I had expected. So, with a mental reminder to 'never do THAT again' I gritted my teeth and handed over the loot to claim the parcel.

Back home I read the small print. The two items in my parcel were valued at $9.99 each, equivalent to £7.85 or £15.70 in total.  According to the label 'Customs charges are applied to imports into the EU over £15 for VAT ...'

The summary said the fee was made up of £3,25 VAT plus £8.00 Royal Mail Handling Fee.

Are they 'aving a larf or what????????????

Here's what really stung:

If I had added carbon miles and bought each item separately they would not have attracted VAT as they would be below the £15 threshold.

Since when has the UK imposed VAT on printed book? [Answer is 'never']

And how dare the Royal Mail, [A government agency] which already appears to be in a state of self-destructing decline charge a massive £8 fee for taking my cash and passing it to HMRC [another government agency]?

Season of Goodwill?  Bring it on! Just don't buy anything from the USA,

At this rate it will soon be cheaper to fly to NY and collect the damned things myself ... or start another courier company to hasten Royal Mail's total disappearance.

Better still - shop local and buy 2nd hand from The Old Bank Book Shop
 operated here in Margate by Pilgrims: Hospice Charity,