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.
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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.

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Ta – Da…

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Paintwater

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.

Cognac

My glass is taken around the corner
to be warmed,
and brought back to the bar.
A bottle of cognac
is dusted off and I’m poured
a long
unmeasured measure.

I hand over my money
and once I let go of the cold coins
I’m rewarded
with a warm glass
against chapped skin.

I handle it
as though it were a crystal ball,
with its bulbous bottom
in the palm of my hands.

I feel the muscles in my fingers relax,
and as I circle the drink
under my nose
the solitary ice cube spins
around the edge of the glass
before melting
into the toffee coloured liquid.

I take a sip, and think
about how good this drink
always looks
against burgundy coloured nails.

I hold the drink on my tongue
for a second
and let it warm every part of my mouth.

This amber syrup
with its golden fumes
melts away my ashen memories
of an air-conditioned day
in a grey office.

I think about
nothing but crispy fallen leaves,
and chocolate Labradors
pawing unfamiliar snow.

I think about hanks of wool,
piled into bookcases
ready to turn into gifts.

I think about matches
rattling in their tatty boxes,
waiting to envelop
the corners of logs in flames.

I think of fur collars and hooded coats,
antique fountain pens,
and sepia ink.

I think of the unassuming brown second class stamps,
lined up on the bottle green leather of my bureau,
ready to send
my warmest wishes
across the world.

Unashamedly bragging…

…about the fact that the inimitable blogger behind the ‘Surviving in Italy‘ scenes has allowed me to place words that came out of my head, onto her little patch of cyberspace.

Grazie mille, and I hope you all like it. Click here for my flash fiction memoir called Spoonful of Sugar. Below is a little sample.

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A Character Based on Possessions (a freewrite)

I always thought his chair looked strange without him sat in it. You had to sit in the room a long time to get a glimpse of it empty. When you did you couldn’t help but notice the difference in colour of material where the sun rarely had a chance to reach the places masked by his body. On the rare occasion that he left the confines of the chair it would be because he needed a new, sharper pencil for his crosswords. He kept a healthy supply of orange coloured 2H pencils in an old coffee jar. This lead stained old jar was always wedged into the corner of the windowsill, tucked behind the curtain and more often than not next to a red poinsettia, the pointy tips of the freshly sharpened pencils contrasting with the withered pale red tips of yet another unwanted gift from his daughter who offered endless plants instead of her time.

It always confused me how someone who couldn’t go to bed on a blunt pencil was not affected at all by the noticeable layer of light-coloured dust on the dark red radio next to their bed. I had heard the radio several times on a Sunday morning, so I knew he used it, but it was so old that even the sound coming from it sounded thick with dust. I think he was focused on the things that would keep his mind from wandering, and this was his crossword competitions, so the only things that warranted his time outside of this pursuit, was the sharpening of his pencils and the hole-punching of his competition entry forms so that he could store them and keep on track of his lack of success.  The only reason he kept the poinsettia on the windowsill for so long was for his neighbours to see that someone had been there to see him. The plant itself was just one more unnecessary object around him.

An Outdoor Scene (a freewrite)

Outside the office I can hear the traffic flowing along the dual carriageway, with a large roundabout facilitating everyone’s movement. The sound of the rain mixes with the engines to create a gritty swish of relentless noise outside the window.

The wind zigzags through the few token trees which struggle to stay green amidst the grey weeds circling their roots. At this time of day, as the offices release their workers onto the greying turf the dutiful roundabout starts to heave with fatigue, taking deeper and deeper breaths as it breathes in the approaching  cars, swirls them around and around, then spits them out the other side. The rows of cars at the edge of the shore keep growing, becoming huge tidal waves, swelling and roaring while they wait for the next wave.

People sit motionless in their cars staring ahead at the monster they must face. As they trickle forward towards their sacrifice they think of the other side and how if they just get through this, another day, they will make some changes. They just need to get through the sea storm ahead of them.

During the dead time before the storm there are people who are listening to the same radio station because their mouths are moving along in time to the same songs and I wonder what everyone sounds like inside their bubbles. They are tapping the steering wheel and waiting for their turn in the storm.