Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Timbuk 2 Messenger Bag Review

Okay just to make it clear right up front. I love this bag! I am a bit of an obsessive rucksack/bag buyer (not handbags though!). I look at rucksacks wherever I see them. Examine the outside, does it look cool? What outside pockets are there. Where will I put my pens, my notebooks, my purse, keys. How will my papers fit into it? I have several that I use depending on the purpose. I have a couple of leather bags also. One trendy brown Italian messenger bag which I also like a lot and a small Italian handmade brief case. North Face, Jansport, Ducati rucksacks are regular bags that I use. So I do like good gear.

I had come across these bags on the internet about a year ago but they were not readily available in the UK, though I notice there are more on the internet in the UK now. Timbuk2 hail from San Francisco and they allow you to design your bag. The three panel front seems to be their trademark. This was certainly not designed by me, but 'off the peg'. I bought it in REI in Austin during their June sale. I had one on my list of 2 dollar to the pound bargains I wanted to take advantage of. How far away $2 to £1 seems now yet it was only 7 months ago. I was originally interested in an extra small black messenger bag. I'm with Henry Ford. Why have a bag with 3 coloured panels when you could have em all black! Anyway had that in my hand when I saw the one pictured. It was the small but reduced to $35. When I looked at the extra small at $60 and the small at $35 I really had no decision to make....Perhaps the pink and purple doesn't suit the macho bikers. I'm not a pink kind of girl but the purple adds a feeling that's not too girly for me.

And I'm happy with the size. It is large enough to hold A4 papers and notebooks. My average load might be some A4 papers, an A5 notebook, my Asus eee pc, my wallet, keys, iPod, too many pens and pencils, maybe a couple of Moleskine size notebook too. A few pieces of fruit add to the weight but as I eat them during the day the weight reduces.

It seems to have just the right combination of pockets and zips for me, allowing me to keep some order in my bag but 'm also able to just chuck things in too. It has both velcro and clips to hold the front flap down which seems like overkill for my purposes but not if you used it as messenger bag on the back of a bicycle. It comes with an optional stra to go round your body for steadying the bag if cycling but I've never used that. The material is very hard wearing and waterproof. I've never found any dampness inside and it rains a fair bit here.

I think I would buy an extra small too next time I'm visiting th US for when I'm just popping about town with my Asus or a book but I am happy with this bag for that too. I have used it almost constantly since June which is unusual for me as a bag addict.

So any negatives? None that I can think of. It's a messenger bag so sits on one shoulder but you can pop it over your head and across your chest which evens the weight up but I tend to try not to carry too much.

Finally, in case I didn't make it clear. I love this bag!

Timbuk2 do a whole range of other styles of bag so even if you don't fancy a messenger bag you may find something else you like.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Crane & Co Jotter

I thought I'd share with you one of my Christmas presents. It is a Jotter Card Holder from Crane and Co. A beautiful aqua blue leather jotter that holds 3"x5" cards. So you can use standard index cards with it but some plain white one's come with it in the lovely box. The front holds one card for you to jot your notes on and at the back is a pocket to store spare and used cards. I think I would only carry a few cards in there at a time though. Now it as an extravagance as using a leather holder for jotting down quick notes on index cards isn't really necessary but it is a pleasure to do. And it was a present....

Crane & Co are a US based company and you lucky folk in the states can jump online and order some of their lovely stationery. The jotter pad on their site retails at $29 so it's not completely ridiculous in terms of price. Aspinal of London do a 4x6 version for £35 but Smythson of Bond Street do a 3x5 one for £95! Now that is extravagant.

So where did my Crane & Co jotter ad come from if it's US based? Well even though it was a present I now it came from Magenta Ink which is a small, specialist stationery shop in Edinburgh. It does wedding stationery but also has an interesting collection of specialist and imported items including some Kate Spade products. If you like quality stationery and good service and happen to be in Edinburgh you should pop in.

How exactly I shall use the jotter I'm not sure. I am the sort of person who always remembers things I need to do at the very time I can't do them. I then promptly forget all about them until the next time I can't do them. I'm hoping that if I carry this with me I shall be more likely to jot things down as a later reminder so that I will do all those little things I regularly forget.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Notebook Have a Look - Castelli Diary

I suppose it's not strictly a notebook but still worth a look. My diary for this year is a Castelli A5 page a day diary. It has a material clasp that keeps it closed, a pen holder in which a cool Castelli pencil is included, a ribbon marker and perforated page corners. It is one of those diary inserts that fits inside a cover. Mine is red. The paper is of good quality, smooth and white. I do generally use a pencil in my diary seeing as arrangements change but I'm sure it would suit gel pen, ballpoint or fountain pen. The pages have plenty of space for writing, a decent top line margin which I like to use which also has a cute little bit for recording temperature and weather conditions. It has appointment times that run from 8 till 8, and at the bottom of each page an interesting date related fact. For example did you know that King Robert II Stuart of Scotland was crowned on 22nd January 1371? And who could forget the cancellation of the Grand National after two false starts on April 3rd 1993.

I also add a line down the centre of each weekday page so that I can add in any date related to do items or reminders of things I did do.

I have seen companies use this brand for promotional items. This one is no exception, I was given it rather than purchased it. It retails at £15.50 which is quite pricey for a diary I guess. A Collins would be much cheaper but not as stylish. I guess however that it's not that different to the price of a Moleskine diary of similar size and it does have much nicer paper than a Moleskie in my opinion.

The company website is at and it wasn't until I looked there that I realised I already had one of their products, the Travel Journal (World Design) . It is a classy journal and I may look it out for the blog. It cost £10 though and in some ways that has stopped me writing too much in it. In a way it's too nice whereas I will scribble all sorts of nonsense in a Paperchase journal which isnt cheap either but doesn't feel as precious. Perhaps that's a bit daft but I think other notebook fetishists will understand. I also noticed that they had a Football Manager notebook for recording match reports and collecting autographs too. What a neat idea though again it seems quite classy for that type of activity. I wonder if anyone has ever used it? I'm the sort of person that forgets a game as soon as I've seen it so i wouldn't be much good to me but there are plenty of folk who can remember not only the score but the goal scorers, the players that took part in the move, the substitutions, I could go on....

The one thing about having a page per day A5 diary that can be problematic is carrying it around. My bag is often heavy and I look for ways of minimising the weight. However it's mid January and I'm still coping with it's size. I just cant really deal with a diary that's much smaller for keeping track of appointments, meeting venues and to do items.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Leaves on the line.........

In a random fit of enthusiasm, that and I'm waiting on the hairdresser to open, I've decided to carry on with the train theme. As I said previously, I imagine most of my blog entries on trains to be rants about lateness. Is it particularly British to talk about the punctuality of trains? It can be an obsession for weary commuters who tut at a 3 minute late arrival. I find that when commuting often if you don't relax about the timekeeping you may well go mad. I try not to run from platform to platform when the trains are having problems. You're on the train then they tell you it's cancelled and to go to another train on another platform. Though if there is nothing wrong with the actual train you're on why move all the passengers? I try not to crush into a 3 carriage train if there is another one due in 15 minutes.
The obsession with trains runs to hanging about at the end of station platforms noting down the engine model and name of every train that comes and goes. Surely a throwback to the days of steam when trains looked different and were different. Surely dying out?

But it is perhaps our obsession as a nation with punctuality that drives our interest in trains timetables and the reasons for late running. Combining this with our other obsession, talking about the weather, is just heaven to many!

  • Frozen points or signals
Rarely are temperatures below freezing a shock up here and yet on a frosty morning this reason for lateness is sadly predictable. Can they not just tuck them in under a duvet at night?

  • Leaves on the line.
Everyone's favourite. I think it affects the train's braking system because the tracks are slippy. Sounds odd but being unable to break cant be a good thing.

  • The wrong type of snow
I personally have never heard this excuse but it does get trotted out as another favourite.

  • Landslide on the line
Too much rain, not enough trees. Can we blame the rail company for that?
  • Flooding
Act of God? Tran lines have been in place for years and years. I imagine that flooding in a particular place would have been noticed by now. In Scotland we had a Summer of tropical like downpours most days (without any other tropical benefits) and flooding on the train lies seemed more common. Particularly bad on the way in and out of the main stations of Glasgow and Edinburgh. I guess the water just heads to the lowest bit of ground it can find. There was a mad day where the water in Princes Street Gardens was above the wheels of the train. You could feel the wheels slipping and several pumps were in place. Most folk were 3 hours late that morning and late going home again too. In some ways everyone loved it. The chat on the train was full of humour (let's face it commuters dont speak to each other too often) and everyone had a great story to tell.

My favourite reason by far is not weather related and perhaps I made it up but saying the train was late because of cows on the line at Polmont and they were all wearing blue eyeshadow just makes me laugh (sorry ladies of Polmont...)

To be fair bad train days aren't that common but they seem to come in clusters and happen with regular monotony when I've left work early to go a place. Such is life. Perhaps there are some much more exciting reasons for trains being late but not round these parts.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Trains? Where are the trains?

I was recently asked by one of my fellow diyplanner forum buddies where the trains were on my blog. It is in the title of the blog after all. To be honest I just anticipated writing the blog while on the train in my commuter world. i din't particularly anticipate writing about trains. However, seeing as I was asked I thought I might do a few train related bits n bobs. You would need a large planner to get all the train times in for a start! So I thought I'd pop some pictures on from the National Railway Museum in York. It's open all year round except for the 24-26th December and entry is free! Dont you just love some British museums. I've visited several times but I find it less exciting now than i did that first time. I do love steam trains and that is part of the fascination.
The age of steam.... I'm too young to remember when steam trains in Britain pulled carriages of commuter trains but I have been on a few tourist ones and they truly are wonderful pieces of engineering. The Mallard that sits in the Railway Museum is a design icon. It still looks modern today and above is a picture of the plaque commemorating it breaking the world speed record for steam traction. It's perhaps no surprise that the Japanese Bullet train also pictured looks not disimilar in terms of aerodynamic design. This is the only Bullet train you can see outside of Japan and it is a bit cramped. I can't imagine the same number of people crished into it as get squashed into our rolling stock every day.
One of my favourite parts of the museum was finding the cafe on the platform called the Brief Encounter cafe. Of course like many British museum cafes the food isnt great. I could have disrailed a train with my fruit scone the last time I was there, but it's all part of the experience. Brief Encounter is a classic British film with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard where two strangers meet in a railway station and continue to meet. Tempted almost into an affair. Of course the emotional affair is very powerful as it is a 1945 film. There is no jumping into bed. Not sure I even remember a kiss. Yet it is a classic of it's time.
So if you are passing near York, it is a very pleasant town pop into the National Railway Museum. It's well worth a free visit.