How I turned a Bull & Stash notebook into a Fauxdori

Bull & Stash are wonderful at marketing. I have never impulse-bought an expensive notebook so quickly in my life. I also instantly bought one for my brother at the same time and spent plenty of dollars on shipping it to Australia to him, so sure was I that this would be the best thing since sliced sweet potato as the new toast.

One look at the plethora of beautiful people on their website putting this soft leather notebook into their back pockets, next to wild horses and pine trees and waterfalls and I was hooked. So THIS is the reason I haven’t finished writing my novel yet? It all makes sense now.

The book arrived and I fell even further in love. They say you don’t know true love until you look into your child’s eyes for the first time. Au contraire, Rodders. These people have just never received a Bull & Stash in the post.

I was so in love with the cover and how it started to age the minute I looked at it, that I chose to pretend initially that the flimsy little card centre piece was perfectly acceptable, and that when they tell you this is your last notebook they must really mean it and this cardboard must surely be super cardboard. Oh, it’s bent already. Um, well, that’s ok, because the next set of refills will have a new cardboard bit won’t it? Hang on, how much are the refills? $7 for 50 pages? With $20 shipping? Maybe that novel will have to be a very short story instead. Sorry agent, I couldn’t afford to write the ending.

I write on the first page. I don’t care about anything anymore, I’m going to love this if it kills me. I turn over. I can’t turn over. Well, I can, but I’m left with 2.5 inches of paper to write on. And it’s near impossible to write on the rear of the page because of the screws that you have to fold it over. I so want to love this that I start googling refillable notebooks so that I can see how to source some refill that will mean that I can also afford pens, pencils, beans, and water while I own this notebook.

My search brings up all sorts of wonderful things called fauxdoris. Yes ok so it sounds like Aldi’s version of your favourite biscuit but it is in fact the apparently wide-spread term for a DIY Midori notebook. A Midori notebook is everything the Bull & Stash notebooks say they are going to be, only they are functional aswell. You can write in them. You can make your own refill or buy reasonably priced ones online. You can turn the page. You can, in short, use it for the rest of your life. Below is a photo of the Midori on top of the Bull and Stash. Same size.

IMG_4437.jpgSo I am faced with a stationery geek’s dilemma. Do I accept that I was taken in by someone who looked like Maid Marion writing her memoirs against the trunk of a tree and just buy the Midori so that I can actually use it? Or do I just not let this bull have died in vain and make sure I put the notebook to good use?

Or… do I have a stab at this Fauxdori lark?

After more hours than I care to admit, combined with a friend buying the Midori with next day delivery, I worked out the following:

  • The screws and cardboard can be removed in their entirety from the Bull & Stash
  • A Midori is £34-40
  • A Midori is narrower than the Bull & Stash
  • A Midori comes with a spare elastic (now mine)
  • Moleskine Cahier notebooks are exactly the right height and width to fit perfectly inside a Bull & Stash cover
  • The holes left after taking the screws out of the Bull & Stash are not central, making it hard to use them for anything else

After analysing the above data and borrowing my sister’s leather hole punch (and buying a 3 pack of Moleskine Cahier notebooks on Amazon Prime), I have done the following astounding adaptation, and can actually hand on heart, up against a tree, with my hair in a long plait and a waterfall in the background, say that I have found/made my notebook for life.

As any other review of the Bull & Stash notebooks has seemed to say the same thing (bloody gorgeous leather, bloody impossible to use) see below for ways to do your own similar adaptation.

  1. Remove the screws and cardboard from the cover and lay it open, with the inside facing up.IMG_4443.jpg
  2. Use a tape measure to mark the centre of the leather. Mine was 28cm side so I put small dots 14cm in. Measure 5cm up from the edges and place a dot on the centre line. This is going to be where you punch the hole. Mark another dot parallel to the ones already there, but on the centre line again. This will also be hole punched.
  3. Use a leather hole punch on a 2mm setting and when you are sure that it is hovering over each of the four dots, make a hole.IMG_4444.JPG
  4. Thread the elastic that comes spare with a Midori so that it looks like the photo below. If you don’t know someone who has just made the same Bull & Stash purchase as you and then felt compelled to buy a Midori straight away I don’t know what to suggest in terms of where to buy this elastic. Make sure that the knot is on the back of the book so that it doesn’t interfere with the notebooks inside.IMG_4455.jpg
  5. A quick google of how Midori suggest you secure the books together will help you. I have chosen to have one notebook and two sets of scrap paper either side for writing draft stories that can then be binned and replaced once they are typed up.

With just a little tweaking you can have all this space to write on… both sides, no metal screws, and you are in control of what priced notebook you get to replace it. You can even use scrap paper or cheap copier paper which I definitely do not advocate that you take from your office printer.


Ta – Da…



Dalloway – a review. Thank you for being a better reader than me.

Review of ‘Dalloway’ performance at The Riverfront, Newport, 21 Sept 2016


A dark room, with a single cream chaise longue at the rear of the stage, and long white panels draping down. Nothing else. This forms the set for Dalloway and it’s intriguing already.

Rebecca Vaughan appears, and straight away starts telling us Mrs Dalloway’s story. She wears a jade green shin-length skirt, with a fitted jacket of the same colour, and dark brown Victorian style shoes with a modest heel, her fair hair in a neat up do. All very authentic.

Now let me let you in on a not very well-hidden secret: I did not like this book. It was chosen for my bookclub (shameless plug: go visit my Reading Between the Wines page and join us in taking over the literary world) and I so very much wanted to like it because it would mean that when I told people that the sort of authors I liked were, ya know, people like Virginia Woolf and Tolstoy, I would actually have read something by at least one of them.

I bought the book, uploaded a photo of the book open halfway on my legs while holding a cup of tea to Instagram with hashtags like ‘ilovewoolf’, and then went back to the beginning to start reading it. I underlined a few lines in the first few pages then I got stuck. I found that the pace didn’t change. I found that the sentences ran on longer than this side note that I’m writing. I found that I had to re-read whole paragraphs over and over and still couldn’t work out who characters were. A book that describes a single day in the life of a character, and I couldn’t wait for that day to end.

In short, I gave up.

I grew tired of the effort that the book demanded of me and I’ve had to work hard to accept the fact that I’m not the Virginia Woolf fan that I thought I was (see here for an interesting book about the books we assume we will are fans of ‘Reading Dangerously’)

When my friend text me about meeting up at the Riverfront Wednesday to watch a Virginia Woolf thing she caught me at a hormonal time, having a meltdown, and I was so desperate to see her that I just said yes. She could’ve invited me to a Trump rally to be honest and I would’ve shown up. I said ‘yes, yes, yes, book me in’, and just assumed it would be the famous lighthousey one.

It wasn’t until an hour before the show that I looked up what I was going to watch. Dalloway. I see. Right. Okay. And I’ve paid for this? Hmmm. Okay. It’s all going to be okay. Just a Wednesday night I’ll never get back. No biggie. Get over yourself. My heart sank slightly, not least because I’ve just decided to give up alcohol (during the week at least), and I was going into this sober.

When Rebecca Vaughan started speaking, her eyes took on such life that I couldn’t help but be snapped out of my cynicism. I was transformed to a different age. In my frayed skinny jeans and messy bun I felt at home with this woman in her twee twin set and immaculate hair. I felt like she was talking just to me. Rebecca made you feel as though you were the only person in the room. Like you were her best friend. She lets you in. Of course, I know it is Virginia Woolf who employed the technique of using monologues and the telling of inner thoughts and secrets to make the reader feel this way, but I definitely needed someone like Rebecca to breathe life into the words. I couldn’t help thinking that the recently award winning sitcom, Fleabag, is a modern day Mrs Dalloway, with her side glances to the camera, and the outpouring of her real thoughts.

The swift change into other characters was astounding, not to mention the sheer skill of remembering ALL THOSE WORDS. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that before, with no break or interval.

Despite being drawn effortlessly into another era, I was acutely aware of how relevant all the themes are today. I could feel what she felt. I too have spent many a moment wondering why I didn’t marry the people I should have. I felt the anxiety of Septimus Warren Smith. I felt the pity of Lucrezia trying to comfort him. I felt it all. When she snuck off into another room at her party I was there too hiding. When she pointed and talked to the thin air at the side of the stage I saw the man she was talking to. I saw him, I tell you.

The subtle arm tremor for Septimus, the leant back swagger of Peter, the wild child Sally, the whole demeanour of Mrs Dalloway herself. All just so varied. To watch such a colourful performance with nothing but while cloth and a white chaise longue is impressive. To stand there in a twin set, a slim elegant young woman, leaning forward on tip toes at the front of the stage, and make me form a vividly sharp image of a troubled ex-army man riddled with anxiety in his final moments, is incredible.

Listening to some of the lines there were moments in which I felt truly sure that Virginia Woolf must surely be the finest writer of English that has ever lived. And surely that is the meaning of a successful adaptation of a novel? – to instil or rekindle an appreciation of the original work as well as producing a standalone piece of art in its own right?

Rebecca, how exactly you’ve made me want to go back and read the book, along with all of Woolf’s other work, is beyond me. So, I want to thank you, for being a better reader than I am and for seeing all the beauty in this novel and character, and conveying it in such a deeply penetrating way.








How Shall I Tell the Dog?

‘At about the same time as they were building Machu Picchu, or even earlier, we in Britain had pretty much finished Salisbury Cathedral. Give me Salisbury Cathedral any day. It makes Machu Picchu look like a child’s toy.’ Oh Miles. How sad that you are no longer with us. An excellent book choice this month to add variety.

Looking forward to hearing what everyone else thought of this at bookclub Weds. Let me know your thoughts if you have read it.



My mother’s eyes looked as though they were full of black smoke. They looked like this a couple of times a year. Ordinarily they just looked muddy, like the paint water I would always leave too long before refilling when I was a child painting at the kitchen table, for whole days.

She would moan at me then for waiting until the water was a foggy brown smudge before heaving herself up from the sofa, grabbing the glass, and emptying it down the plug hole where it would create a swirling kaleidoscope pattern on the cream plastic sink. She’d then run the cold tap while she looked ahead out of the window, nearly always filling the glass until it overflowed with clean clear water.

Perhaps it bothered her so much because it’s what she did too. Perhaps she waited too long herself before she grew tired of the smudge in her eyes and that’s why she’d empty herself of food and open herself up fully to all the narcotics she could stomach until her eyes were a solid black soot, thick and heavy like the tangled mass of hair that used to hang lank down her back like splodges of black ink on white paper. Her pupils were spreading in her eyes and I wanted to reach out to her with a tissue, pinch the edge into a point and dab it into those eyes to blot away the darkness.


How to make a cake for someone who likes nail varnish

This gallery contains 50 photos.

Get hold of some silicon cake trays. Get hold of loads of different colour food dyes. Make a huge batch of sponge mix. Scoop some mixture into each of the silicon trays.  Put in the oven and bake for the usual time. In the meantime make upside icing. Make plenty. When the sponge is ready, […]