The Stationery Show and the C Word

I was reminded over the last couple of days that at least one person had read the blog I had written about embarrassing things I had done at the Stationery Show TWO years ago. (Thanks Simon).

I thought I’d follow up this year with another round up as I’d like to think two days at a stand in Islington is an excellent barometer of where the industry/world is right now.  In reality, I accept that it is actually a mediocre barometer of my mental state.  You tell me.

Firstly, I should like to address the C word head on.  It is a word that I have been known to judiciously use, sometimes converting it to an adverb (i.e. this is so C…… ingly shit).  Yes, I do think it works.  So it was, during conversations with various visitors over the two days, the C word and its veracity and position within our collective lexicons was discussed.  It seems that there is a seismic shift in opinion.  Not one person actually said the word, but most agreed that it does, indeed, play an important role in expressing extreme views/emotions/general feelings toward certain people in our lives/friends’ lives and life in general.  One of my particularly clever customers gave me his view on the entire issue which went something like this:

The C Word is to the F word what the F word was to the word Bloody a couple of decades ago.  Read it again, I think it makes sense.

I don’t think I’ll be putting the C word on any products in the coming decade or so, but never say never.  And I think the shift in the general feeling toward the four letters in a very particular order is interesting.

So what else happened at the Stationery Show this year?  It was busy.  The same people who always walk on by our stand did exactly just that.  I was rude to approximately the same percentage of potential customers as I usually am.  There were, this year, however,  a disproportionate number of people taking photographs without asking, some in such an obvious clandestine manner that I’m relieved that they spend their time taking undercover photos of notebooks as opposed to actually having to take actual clandestine photos. Please just ask to take a photo – I accept times are changing and the ‘no photography’ rules are a thing of the past.

There were some lovely bloggers.  In particular, three woman who were very complimentary and made me glow with pride and then they confused me with acronyms   of social media stuff.  I await enlightenment; a lightbulb moment of clarity that I’m hoping will make it all seem worthwhile.

Two very young ladies popped by and spent ages going through everything and taking photographs (without asking), loudly proclaiming their opinions on each title to each other (and although most of their views were favourable, they did offer up their considered and experienced opinions that some were simply shite).  So, having already ascertained that I must be deaf, being only a metre away, they scowled at me as I took a single step toward them, rictus smile on my face.  “What is it you do?” I ask and they tell me the name of the retail chain in which they work, or maybe their mums worked there, I don’t know.  I had obviously heard of the chain, but I genuinely didn’t know what they did.  So I asked and I can’t tell you what they said, because they looked down and mumbled.  Sam told me once they were out of earshot (you know, more than a metre away).  They weren’t the power tool manufacturers that I had always assumed, but they were just as unlikely to buy my stuff as a power tool manufacturer and I’m not entirely sure what they were doing at the STATIONERY show.  Still, they were good for a bit of righteous indignation.

Ummm, what else; one of my lovely customers brought me cake on my birthday and a thing of beauty that slice of strawberry sponge it was. I offered some up to my next door neighbour.  She promptly declined and then proceeded to extol the virtues of its aesthetics, taking photographs whilst breathing rapturous promises to herself to paint its delicately coloured layers.  All of which, and I’m only guessing here, is what makes her a great artist who deserved the TWO awards she had received the night before.

I, as someone who is currently overweight bemoaned the cake’s calorific content, saw no future potential for the beauty of said cake slice and ate it.  Which probably goes a little way to explaining why I didn’t win an award the night before.

I had a few wobbly moments when I hated everyone (is it just me? Please tell me it isn’t just me).  So a few extended breaks were taken.  I outraged Sam by taking my M&S salads upstairs, borrowing a plate, knife and fork from the cafe, decanted and ate like a civilised human being.  It was brazen and I don’t know their rules, but I revel in that whole middle-aged ‘what are they actually going to do about it’ state of mind.  I even sent Sam proof just to get that whole ‘I can’t believe you did that’ response from him – you know, from the man who’s survived proper muggings without a whiff of PTSD.

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I had a lovely time talking to fellow exhibitors, some extremely experienced, others not so much, but all of us aware of the rule of mid-sentence stop and slight nod of head to denote potential new customer crossing the invisible line onto the stand.  I laughed a lot during catch-up-on-life sessions with old friends and I didn’t cry.  Not once.

So all in all, I’d say it was a successful and exhausting two days. Will I return next year?  You’re C….tingly right I will.

 

 

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My birthday and Emojis

Happy Monday!

It’s my birthday week and I suspect much cake will be eaten. I will be charming the pants off every buyer who stops by our stand at the London Stationery Show and I will probably be complaining about my back aching. I’ll be complaining a lot. But then it’s my birthday week, so it’s allowed.

And on my actual birthday, I’d like to think that a few birthday cards will pop through the letterbox and land on my doormat. I will, hopefully, receive quite a few texts from friends including the ubiquitous ‘Happy Focking Birthday’ from one particular individual who shall remain nameless.

And then, Facebook will tell a bunch of real-life friends that it is, indeed, the day to celebrate my birth. They will post on my wall with good wishes. Whether it’s a ‘Happy Birthday honey’ or a ‘Hope you have a lovely day’, I think it’s nice to know that people I haven’t seen for a few years have spent 30 seconds of their day thinking how much I’ve aged on my profile picture and writing me a birthday wish. An emoji heart at the end of one of those written actual words of well wishes will also be acceptable. Just to emote a feeling of warmth and sincere love for yours truly. Any other emojis, are, if I’m honest, banned. A bottle of champagne would be ridiculous (I don’t drink), a party hat – I’m not 6, and don’t get me started on a tick or a 100 – I’m not even sure what they mean.

So you’ve probably gathered at this point, I don’t like emojis. I don’t like them for quite a few reasons.

Firstly, I think they’re infantile. They’re the keyboard equivalent of a 2 year old with a crayon firmly held by a chubby hand drawing something that looks bloody awful and telling you “it’s mummy” or a “beautiful flower”.

Emojis are lazy and their overuse MUST be affecting the literacy and eloquence of us as a society.  Why would you need to know the word ‘perturbed’ or discombulated‘ when you can just select a confused emoji and have done with it.  If you don’t know the words exist, then you’re not making the most of a language that is rich with nuance and culture, that is in need of preservation.

Now at this point, I should come clean. Because 12 years ago, I saw the popularity of the original emojis – the smiley on a Nokia – using the colon symbol and an open bracket for a smile.  I ran with those first emojis, producing a range of postcards using existing grammatical symbols to create a range of 4 simple emotions.

I can remember showing it to someone who was working here for some holiday money – his response went something like this:

“That’s just great. You have the worst of both worlds. A hideous expression of modern pop culture combined with a ‘text’ that takes at least 24 hours to be received by the intended recipient. Good job.” Now imagine that being said in the monosyllabic tones of a 19 year old history student with a serious and untreatable case of sarcasm and you’ve kinda got the vibe.

“Perfect” I responded and sent to print.

And they did very well for us, those postcards. We were ahead of the curve by about a year so they made it into quite a few boutiques that do nonchalant cool with twists of irony so brilliantly.

And we also produced some matching ‘txt speak’ versions including LOL (which I think my lovely in-laws still think means Lots of Love). And I use text speak and the standard wink, smile and unhappy faces when I’m not really thinking about what I’m writing or when I think a more detailed response is unnecessary.  My own phone can not read emojis any more complicated than a few of the basics.  Consequently,  I often find myself looking at a text from a friend that is made up entirely of black squares.  I’m hoping that it’s a barrage of emoji abuse, but I can’t help but think it’s possibly an offer of a free meal – I just wouldn’t know.  But, all bad choice of ‘phone aside, I still can’t help but think that the world has gone mad with it, hasn’t it?

Orwell called it. I know that the comparison has been made by many many, far more eloquent people than I, his explanation of ‘Newspeak’ in 1984 sums it all up for me – Orwell explains that Newspeak “…. is a language characterised by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning”

… and dumbing down our ways of communicating with others is really very scary. I’m perturbed. And I don’t think there’s an emoji for that.

So, on my birthday, if you simply post an emoji cake on my wall, I will judge you.

Thx for reading 😉

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Two Little Boys Ltd | Award Winning Stationery and Gifts

Thank you to the lovely Kerry for such a ‘sparkling’ review (sorry, had to say it :))

Sparkle with Kerry

Two Little Boys was set up by Sarah Watts, a mother of triplets, in 2002. Sarah had noticed a gap in the market for well designed and even silly products for children and so set up the business creating activity books, snap cards and memory books to record your child’s progression through life. The business has since grown and she now sells a very large variety of products – see for yourself here.

After a brief conversation with Sarah, she soon learnt that I was a primary school teacher and so knew how much I love my stationery! She was kind enough to send me a variety of beautiful notebooks – including these amazing mini quote notebooks (which had my husband giggling!).

The notebooks are perfectly sized for travel and would fit well in a handbag/nappy change bag/man-bag, etc. There are 30 120gsm pages which are lined and perfect for…

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Being Ahead of our Time!

I’m just going through some of our product images and found this one – I wrote the copy, the lovely Lenalisa designed it and it was published in 2006.  2006! 

For those who would like a gorgeous notebook/sketchbook to capture their moments, just click on the image to be taken to the MotherShip site.  I still use mine and I do love looking back.  Here’s what it says on the back of the book:

“Moments, we all have them.  The first time you hear “I love you”, your baby’s first steps, an amazing gig, a profound comment, a silly joke that made your stomach hurt, a truly awesome view.

Write them here, keep them for inspiration, for fun, for life.”

Actually, I think that’s rather nice.  #keepingmemories

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Dawn and the Joy of Insomnia

There are many reasons for insomnia.  So many, in fact, that when someone asks me why I can’t sleep, I’d like to offer up this analogy.

If I were to ask you what someone had died from – you may respond with anything from head trauma (still looking for a blunt instrument kinda deal) to old age.  You probably won’t say the bleeding obvious, which is that the person died from a stopped heart.  And so it is with insomnia (kind of, sort of, not nearly quite as dramatic obviously).  But still, my answer to why I can’t sleep would be because my brain won’t shut off into sleep or my brain wakes me too early. It’s that simple.

Reasons behind insomnia are, obviously a little more complicated.  It can be because of the mind-racing that only seems to happen with such intensity just as my head hits the pillow, it can be too little exercise, too much telly, drugs, lack of drugs, the wrong drugs, hormones, too much light, no light, too much caffeine, backache, any ache, bad dreams or just for YOLO or maybe because of some damn-ned other reason as yet to be identified.  I have stopped trying to work it out as I believe that therein true madness can lie.  And if I’m honest, I’m not sure it really matters.  I can’t sleep.  I have tried most remedies and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  So I go with the flow until I (or my nearest and dearest) can’t handle it and I’ll either seek more drastic help or just absent myself for a bit to do some catch up napping.

Now I’m not known for being a woman who can find silver linings easily.  But there has been something quite thrilling about my very early summer morning starts over the years. Days on holiday, standing somewhere very quietly and looking at the pure majesty of a damned fine sunrise.  Because there really is nothing quite like a perfect dawn morning to make you feel alive.  It’s serene, it’s quiet (once those sodding birds have stopped declaring the start of another day – I don’t need to hear their declarations, because I’m awake and I can see the day has started).  The shadows created by the rising sun are stunning and, more often than not, my camera can’t quite capture that moment of perfection.  However much I have tried!

I don’t use optical or digital filters and I won’t alter images in Photoshop (except for product shots – they don’t count).  So I’m sure you can imagine how beautiful some of those early mornings have been.

 

And as my sleep pattern has turned into just that.  A pattern.  I’m now finding myself waking long after the dawn chorus, long after the sun has left the horizon line.  And although I have loved every second of every sunrise I’ve watched, I don’t miss it too much.  In fact, I can say that I don’t miss it enough to set the alarm.  But if you find yourself stirring in the early hours and you can see an orange glow through the blinds, go check it out.  It’s amazing!  And if you get a chance, grab a camera – because once you’ve stopped waking up in the early hours to watch the dawn, you can look back on the times that you did.

 

 

Reigate at Dawn.

Dorset Sunrise

 

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Getting to the point. Quickly and sharply

Today, I’m reminded of how petty I can be.

I’m sure that there have been many typos and terrible homophone usage in my copy over the years.  But I’m certain that you’ll not find a misspelling of the word ‘stationery’ anywhere.

Now, I accept that it’s probably because I’m so kinky for stationery, that seeing an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’ in there is akin to nails down a chalkboard (or cotton wool… no?  Just me then).  But still, it’s the english language!  And if you are writing for a living, are you not supposed to have a superior grasp of our mother tongue? (Oooh, I’m getting quite het up here; I’ll stop now)

If you’re emailing me to tell me how much you’d love to write something about our stationary, because you’ve always loved stationary, I will (and I’ve been surprised at my own restraint here) very politely decline your offer of a review.  It’s stationery people.  Not stationary.

STATIONERY

(It was the same with the word ‘liaison’ when I worked in recruitment many years ago.  If your CV had the word liason in there, you’d have to be a frickin’ genius at everything else to not get binned).

Harsh I know.

I think fair.

But harsh.

That’s all.

 

Oh – Happy Easter!

 

Small businesses and reviews

So, you order something online, you get it in perfect condition in a reasonable space of time and you unwrap, wrap it back up if it’s a gift or you use as you see fit – if it’s something from 2littleboys.co.uk, you’ll probably be writing in it, using it to write with or drinking from it. But who am I to guess or even judge for that matter.

And the world continues to turn (it’s frightening how quickly it turns; one of my kids told me the rate in which it was actually going, and I felt a sudden need to cling onto the pavement with the thought of it).

And then, if you’ve bought from a larger sales platform or company, you’ll probably get a really irritating email at some point asking you to ‘review your recent purchase from….’.  And every so often, when you’re waiting for the washing cycle to finish, or when Peppa Pig is giving you some respite, or you’re stuck on the train with nothing better to do (but with excellent signal and you’re not smelling the man’s armpit to your right), you’ll click through and leave a review.  And it’ll be an excellent review or a shitty review and there will rarely be an in-between, because if you had just thought ‘meh’ when you’d opened the parcel, you’re probably not going to spend some of your precious time trying to think up real words to describe the ‘meh’ you felt.

I get it.  I really do.  At 2littleboys HQ, we order our padded envelopes through a large marketplace and they turn up in a timely manner and they’re always in good condition. (but then I’m not sure how much damage could be sustained to a box of padded envelopes).  So when the marketplace sends me an email to ask me to leave feedback, I do wonder who would respond and what they would respond with. ‘They’re envelopes, they arrived, I use’.

And that attitude can proliferate throughout our shopping experiences. But here’s the thing.  More often than not, the seller on that large platform or the people behind the online boutique are there, often grappling comically with tissue paper, trying to get everything done by the day’s postal deadline and wondering how the fuck they got through so many padded envelopes so quickly.  At this point, can I also point out the idiosyncrasies of wrapping with tissue paper.  I defy anyone to wrap anything in the stuff and not have it look like a three year old and his pet gerbil has had a go first.

And I haven’t even got to the hair pulling decisions, design skill, writing and production of the actual product!  Another posting sometime maybe :0.

We, at the MotherShip store 2littleboys.co.uk don’t have an automated request system for reviews or feedback. And when we see the reviews that have been left for our products on other platforms through whom we sell, or when we receive emails, Facebook responses and reviews on our site, our hearts really do sing.  I mean REALLY.  NB: Not literally – that sounds medically dangerous.  I mean: A little flutter of pride and a big smile of ‘wow! Someone likes our stuff’.

Because we do need to know if one of our notebooks made a friend smile when they really needed to, or if an activity book turned horrified faces surrounding your 4 year old on a plane into smiles of a peaceful flight.  We want to hear that the paper was a joy to write upon (yeah, that’s right, we’ve had that said actually, because it’s really important to some people and I can’t help but agree with them…).  We want to hear that you didn’t expect to receive the purchase so quickly and aren’t we amazing for turning the order around so quickly.  We want to hear that the really silly question you asked was answered quickly.  And I am pretty sure that every independent shop would agree with me when I say, we’d just like some feedback on our good jobs done.

So don’t wait for the larger companies to remind you, next time you get something from an independent shop, take five minutes to write ‘great service’ or some such niceness.  Because we don’t have complicated algorithms to connect with you nor do we have banks of people ‘dealing’ with you.  We are just simple folk doing some interesting stuff.

Right. I’m off to write a review about padded envelopes.

Happy Easter all.

 

 

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