Garden gate

Progress is slowly being made with reinstating Dad's garden gate. For the last few years it has just been lying across the side path - not exactly providing any security.  The reason for this was that the hinge brackets that came with the gate were not easy to fix to the brick wall. More properly, the spacing of the gate struts meant that the hinges had to be fixed to the very edges of a brick. For some reason the style of the gate was incompatible with the spacing of the bricks. One of the bottom brackets was partly secured by being screwed into the mortar between bricks, never a reliable option.

I found some posts which allow the gate to be hung on them, rather than hinges bolted to the wall. Of course, the posts were a little thicker than the holes in the gate, so today we drilled/filed out the holes a bit and sized the gate up against the wall. The upper support can be screwed securely into a couple of bricks, but the bottom one will be a little closer to the edges of the bricks than I would like. Still, it should be secure enough. It only stabilises the gate, rather than taking any of the weight. Normally both posts would be upright, allowing the gate to be slotted on to them. However, that doesn't work with the brick spacing, so we decided the bottom one would point down. This means it has to be put in place after the gate had been hit on the top bracket. The upside is that no burglar would be able to lift the gate off its support without unscrewing everything either. 

Once the holes are drilled for the top post - something I have left my father with for the week - then we can do the rest next weekend. Once that is done, new holes will have to be drilled to accommodate the new latch position, the gate sanded and repainted. That last bit can wait; as long as the gate is in place I will be reasonably happy.

Edison Collier in antique marble

I bought this pen on impulse, mostly because I was frustrated that the Pelikan M205 Amethyst hadn't come out at the start of August. I rather liked the idea of the silver marble, but for some reason, at the last minute, my eye was drawn to the antique marble. I haven't been disappointed. I ordered a fine nib, a steel one rather than a gold one. A good steel nib is perfectly acceptable nowadays. I do like gold nibs, but I'm not going to get hung up on them.

So I ordered this impulse pen - which at £115 was more expensive than the Pelikan I planned to buy. As I am in the UK I limited my choice to the production range, rather than the custom one from the US, along with the customs charges that would apply.

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I find it difficult to express just how delighted I have been with my purchase. This pen is simply gorgeous. It is perfectly weighted, it fits in my hand just so (I don't have small hands, I have piano-playing hands with a pretty decent stretch) and writes beautifully. The body is silky-smooth, with stunning colouration in the marble design. It reminds me of tobacco being rubbed in the pouch (a favourite task of mine as a child was to flake my Dad's pipe tobacco). The nib is smooth, just a small amount of feedback. I bought a fine and it is a very usable line size. To start with I tried a few inks out just by dipping. I do feel that pens each have their happy ink. My gold-nibbed all black Parker 45 CT would be wrong without black ink in it, for example. My clear TWSBI 580 also seems to have settled with black ink. My Violet-capped Faber-Castell Loom fits well with Diamine Imperial Purple. In some pens the end result differs wildly. Both my Kaweco Skyline Sport and my steel-nibbed Parker 45 have Diamine Marine in them, but the result in the page couldn't be more different, as the photo below shows. As the Kaweco is the mint green version I really wanted to fill it with Marine, expecting the colour the Parker produces. I was disappointed, but then I think the Kaweco nib still needs some work on it as it skips rather more than I would like.

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I digress - perhaps a topic for another day. Back to the Collier. As a brown-ish pen, it really didn't warrant black ink, but I really have no liking for brown inks, so that left my blues, of which I have four: Diamine Imperial Blue, Diamine Misty Blue, Diamine Blue-black and Cult Pens (also Diamine)   Deep Dark Blue. I opted for the DDB, as I call it. I have since tried the blue-black in the pen, but with the fine nib it looked rather thin and pale, so the DDB went back in. Ironically, I loaded my TWSBI AL with the Imperial Blue, which left me without a pen with blue-black in, so I decided to try that in my Pilot Capless. The TWSBI brought out the teal tones in the ink, in the Collier it appeared lighter than the DDB, but in the Pilot (also a medium nib, as is the TWSBI) the blue-black is very dark indeed. 

So here it is, a pen I am very taken with. It is always in my daily carry pen case now and I don't see it leaving any time soon. I keep my clear TWSBI and my Pilot Capless with my Midori Travelers Notebook and in my Lihit Labs smart fit small pen case I have my Parker 45, my Cult Pens mechanical pencil, my Pelikan M205 Amethyst (it came out, I bought it, but then that was never much in doubt - it's purple), my TWSBI AL (purple) and the Edison Collier. So I guess my handbag contains a fair amount of pen wealth, but I can live with that. 

Fatigue

It has been one of those days (weeks/months even).

So far I have managed to forget - yet again - that taking a photo in portrait alignment is worse than pointless if you want to use it in a blog post, as most of the time it gets rotated to display in landscape. I have been caught by this before and had it explained to me by people who understand these things. At least this time I have made myself a note, in both Evernote and Onenote. 

WordPress is hanging on uploading a photo (correctly oriented). I don't use it often and I'm now reminded why!

Windows 10 decided to tell me it was downloading today: it told me that last month, I just didn't install it. Perhaps that's the penalty ; if you download and don't install, every month or so it will download again, just to fill up my hard drive and hammer my already pretty measly internet connection.

I have decided I like iOS 9 though, apart from the little hiccup of an ad blocker app being withdrawn from sale a day after I buy one. There are some useful features in the new OS, ones that I am already using quite a lot. 

I am now starting a week off work, which is a great relief. Less of a relief was that most of my systems crashed towards the end of the day, so I was unable to finish some things I wanted to do. File that one away with the other annoying work things that have happened this week. It just seems that no matter how good, how helpful, some people are never satisfied… But enough of that, I'm on holiday now and I don't intend to get into an argument (with myself) on the internet about the correct amount of gratitude that should be shown by people who are, essentially, living off handouts. I want to look forward to some days out in the early Autumn sunshine and a visit from my best friend. What's that? Yup, the forecast is mostly for rain. Of course it is.

I think I should quit while I'm (mostly) ahead - and see if Evernote will offer these musings up to my blog in the near future…

Simple Pleasures

Yesterday I stood for a while in the kitchen, looking out into the back garden. I was mesmerised by the activity at the nyjer seed feeder.  I put a small, two-bird, feeder up last year, not expecting to see much activity. The large, general, seed feeder I have sees very few visitors (which is a shame, as I have plenty of feed for it).  However, soon some beautiful goldfinches started to eat the nyjer seed and regular activity has continued at this feeder. Note to self: buy a larger one.

Last night the feeder had two birds at it, noshing away. A third was on the washing line nearby, with a fourth sitting on the neighbouring garage roof. Bird 3 hopped from the washing line to the top of the bracket the feeder hangs from. Bird 4 took his place on the washing line. Bird 3 then hopped down from the top of the bracket to perch on the hook part. He then peered intently at the occupants of the feeder for a few moments, hanging a quite a crazy angle. Next he hopped down on to the top of the feeder itself. One of the occupants looked up then flew away, allowing Bird 3 to take his place. Bird 4 was still waiting his turn, sitting on the washing line. 

Bird 3 amused me. He looked like a cheeky chappie. For all I know he was a bully and was making threatening moves towards the other finches, but I like to think not. I chuckled every time he moved that little bit closer to his goal.  Simple pleasures.

Card-making

Trying out a couple of new Tattered Lace dies I bought.

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A New Hobby?

About a month ago I saw a post on a local facebook group which was advertising a weekend course leading to the Foundation Amateur Radio Licence exam.

In my teens/early twenties, I used to do a lot of shortwave listening. It started with an old radio which I used to listen to shortwave broadcast stations at night - in the days when there were plenty of them around. I later moved on to a Lowe HF-225 which enabled me to listen to SSB transmissions as well.

When I moved to London I made more use of my scanner, on airband. I used to sit on my balcony and watch Concorde fly over while listening to the pilots talk to Heathrow approach.

I did investigate taking my amateur exam, but it seemed in the too difficult category back then. The lowest grade was the Novice exam and for someone who happily left physics behind at the age of 16, it was a little off-putting. Plus, the Novice licence didn't allow access to the HF bands, which seemed a little restricting to me.

Fast-forward to 2014 and here was this post… Places available on a two-day course. I looked up the Foundation licence and it appeared to be eminently achievable. It seemed as though fate was about to intervene to rekindle and extend my old hobby. I duly booked onto the course and a couple of weekends ago I headed off to the local radio club for my tuition. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, despite being a little nervous. It turned out there were only two students, so it was a very relaxed setting. I learned loads and, best of all, passed my practical tests and the exam, so am now the holder of a licence and an M6 call-sign. I am looking forward to exploring some of the myriad of avenues open to a licensed amateur.

I know that modern technology has taken over from a lot of the old amateur interests, but they are still out there. Phone signals go down in emergencies, phone batteries don't last long. Handheld radios do. Computers and the internet, whilst doing away with a lot of the old broadcast shortwave stations, have brought with them additional amateur interests and have extended others. My Dad used to hook the Lowe up to his computer and decode weather fax transmissions. I have weather apps. Times change. During the course, though, I watched data being picked up from amateur high-altitude balloons. Fascinating. Computers have added a lot of data modes to amateur radio, as well as things like Echolink, which I might investigate at some point. Amateurs now monitor, and use, satellites. They do moonbounce contacts. Oh, and someone built a space station and the astronauts on it use amateur radio to talk to people on earth. Imagine the thrill of speaking to an astronaut on the ISS! I will be listening in at least.

I have yet to speak to anyone, but then I only have a 2m/70cms cheapie (but very usable) Chinese radio. That said, last weekend a new repeater fired up pretty local to me. Excellent reception, so I have been listening in to some of the testing that has been done.

So much still to explore and learn; this is just the beginning of my adventures in amateur radio.

Diamine Autumn Oak Ink

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Another ink I had to wait for. Then, when I got it, I put it in one of my Parker 45s (the one that now has Marine in it), No amount of soaking or flushing was successful in eradicating all traces of my usual black ink, so I had to abandon using the autumn oak.  Also, I decided it would probably look better in a wider nib, so I loaded my Safari with it.

I think this was a good decision: I intend to use this ink for decorative lettering, so having a wider nib is more useful. However, this nib/pen seems to run a little dry with this ink, so I have to be careful to avoid gaps.  I have only used this combination, so I have no comparison to make with this ink in other wide-nibbed pens, or other ink in this pen. That said, I shall continue to use it as it's  lovely compromise between orange and brown for me.

Diamine Marine Ink

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When I first decided to try this ink it was out of stock. That got me the misty blue, which I like.

I now have the marine and I love it. For me it's just the right mix of blues and greens. It comes out  with a nice intensity. In the Parker 45 it has a wonderful depth. In my Rialto it appears paler - intriguing how an ink can look so different in different pens. It's still a lovely colour though, just paler.

 I can see this ink being in regular use. I would happily use it as an everyday colour

Kaweco Skyline Sport Classic

I bought this pen partly out of curiosity, partly purely because it came in a mint green colour and I love mint green.

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It's relatively cheap and to be honest, it looks and feels cheap. When I hold the pen I can feel the joint between the nib section and body move slightly. 

I will be sticking with cartridges for this pen, as the filler is likely to be pretty teeny; indeed I haven't read a good review of the bottled ink converters.

I opted for a medium nib, as it's my preferred width. As with my Parker Rialto, this medium has a slightly flat appearance, so there's a discernible difference in stoke width. To my mind, that alters the look of my writing - and not necessarily for the better.

The nib is ok - I have had some skips and false starts. It isn't nearly as gorgeous as the nib on the Faber-Castell Loom. As said earlier, I don't think it quite suits my writing style.

I have used two ink colours in it so far and it doesn't seem to produce the colour depth that some of my other pens do. Diamine's imperial purple looked a bit more like a pale violet than the rich depth I get when using it my Faber-Castell.

The pen is as light as a feather and teeny when closed. It needs to be posted, or it is a bit short for writing with. After several days of usage the nib still skips a bit. Other than that the pen is easy to use. I have been writing with it quite a lot, to see what I think of it.  For jotting down quick notes it is fine and for a smaller hand it would be a great pen. For me, the barrel is just a little narrow to be comfortable for a long writing session, as I have large hands. I have a similar problem with my Parker Rialto and for that reason I prefer to write with my chunkier pens.

These Kawecos get good reviews, for value for money and, apparently, for being extremely robust. I have no desire to test that, but it is small (and cheap) enough to drop into a small purse or bag.  

In conclusion, this is a perfectly useable pen, good value for money and easy to chuck into a bag. That said, it's a little too small for my hand and I doubt I would buy another Kaweco Sport.

Faber Castell Loom

I bought this pen purely because of its looks. I opted for the violet cap.

It arrived in a very nice, card, presentation box, in a nice sleeve. For a £25 pen I thought the presentation was excellent. The box contained a cartridge and also a cartridge blank. The Loom takes the short cartridges and the length of the barrel means you can use the blank to ensure the cartridge remains securely attached to the feed. You could also do that with a spare cartridge. I bought the Faber-Castell converter, though, as I prefer to use bottled ink. There's something I find quite soothing about the act of filling a pen from a bottle of ink.

The Loom is heavy, possibly the heaviest fountain pen I have, weighing in at 34g. My Parker IM is 30g and my TWSBI 580 is 28g, although it really doesn't feel like it.

The Loom looks gorgeous, it really does.

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I currently have it filled with Diamine Imperial Purple and the colour on the page seems much more intense than the same ink in either the Kaweco Skyline Sport, or the Parker Rialto (all three with a medium nib). Mind you, both the Kaweco and the Rialto have a definite breadth to the nib, almost as though they have a flattened tip. The Loom produces a very nice, rounded line.

The nib on this pen is quite possibly the smoothest I have ever written with, it really is. It just glides across the page, it really is beautiful to write with. Unfortunately in use the pen is a little fatiguing, because it's so heavy. 

Some reviews have commented that the grip on the Loom is slippery. I haven't found this to be the case at all. My Parker IM does have a slippery grip, as is sometimes the way with a metal barrel. The Loom doesn't, nor do the horizontal grooves bother me much.

The cap is a very firm fit - it can be hard to get off the pen. It comes in a range of stunning colours (yes I am tempted to buy more and fill them with matching ink colours), but it does feel quite plastic.

The pen can be used posted or unposted and the cap doesn't really alter the balance much, which is handy.

Overall I am very impressed with this pen. The only negative at all is that it is a little heavy. Aside from that, it is an absolute winner. And that nib… it pushes this pen into a close second place, after my trusty Parker 45, with its 14k gold nib.