Free Ticket Giveaway!

We’re going to be busy again this November. Making hay whilst the sun shines and all that.

Although, thinking about it, it’s going to be November so the sun aint gonna be shining.  So maybe a better saying would be: “let’s spend a load of money and book up those Christmas show stands because everyone’s looking for Christmas gifts and we sell excellent Christmas gifts so we need to put our gifts in front of those people so that they spend their hard earned money on the fruits of our hard earned year round labours.”

But that isn’t quite as snappy.  So we’ve booked up our November to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ and hopefully make enough money to keep producing the gifts that we’re proud to create.

It really is that simple.

Now, because we spend so much money on these stands, the organisers give us some complimentary tickets and we would like to offer them to you!  We’re not going to run a competition because we find that it ends up on some ‘money saving’ site that has a url to directly click through and even an answer that you may need; and then we have 1000s of requests from professional competition enterers. (One time, a bright spark had put the wrong answer up so we had to discount around 90% of the entrants).  It’s not that we’re judging competition enterers (see what I did there).  I can remember buying “Take a Break” in the late 1980’s and armed with just a few postcards and a book of stamps, I would very happily use my free stuff – particular favourites included the sun-cream and the bright blue mesh shower pouf to exfoliate my legs in the shower (do you remember those? awful things).  It’s just that we’re not Ambre Solaire and we don’t need tens of thousands of email addresses for people who simply aren’t going to see us on a supermarket shelf.

So, please only respond to us if you genuinely want a pair of tickets to one of the shows.  You are under no obligation to buy anything, to visit our stand or even to like us or follow us on our feeds (although that would be very nice).  We would just like to know that we’ll be sending out codes to claim tickets to people who will make use of them.

So, if you’d like the chance to win a set of 2 tickets to either the Spirit of Christmas at Olympia or to Country Living Christmas in Islington, then please EMAIL ME and tell me which show you would like to attend.  That’s it.  I won’t save your email address or bother you or do anything.

I’ll simply pick 15 people at random on September 30, which should give you lots of time to plan your trip.

We also have ONE precious set of tickets to the Wealden Midwinter Fair to give away so if you’d prefer to not come into London, do put Wealden as your preferred choice.

That’s all.

Further show information can be found by clicking on the images below:

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1 Set of 2 Tickets up for Grabs!

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10 Sets of 2 Tickets up for Grabs!

 

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5 Sets of 2 Tickets up for Grabs (Saturday not included)

 

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The joys of the approaching “back to school” day.

As the first day back at school approaches, are you like me and thinking ‘Thank God, a bit of peace” or are you lying to yourself? Or have you just spent 2 months in your house in Tuscany?

When I say that I’m relieved about the first day back at school, I’m not talking about that first ever bittersweet day of school. You know, the one when their blazer is too big and they look way way too young to be let outside, into the world to fend for themselves, to endure the horrors of playground politics. Because that very first day is the one that is indelibly inked into your DNA for evermore.

I can remember spending a year skipping merrily about, telling anyone who would listen how much I was looking forward to my house being empty from 8.30am until 3pm every day for the first time in what felt like forever. My husband took them and I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour. I’m never quite as pragmatic as I like to think.

But for quite a few years now, the long summer holidays have produced an awful cacophony of emotions and feelings within me. Because I have felt that maternal mix of guilt at being a terrible mother whilst simultaneously experiencing the certainty that I’m being a terrible businesswoman. I would go so far as to say that when I used to want to scream at them every time they innocently asked ‘what’s for lunch?’ I’d even feel the guilt of being a terrible human being. Ok, I’m kinda lying here – I did used to scream at them when they asked about lunch, so much so, they stopped asking for a while and then started to make their own.

So, if you have a child or children ranging from the age of 5 to, let’s say 14, you’ll be doing that whole trying to find shirts in the only Marks & Spencer/Asda/Tesco that doesn’t seem to know your child’s size even exists.

You’ll be working out if you should bother sewing/ironing/sticking those labels in or even whether you should bother marking the clothes with a Sharpie. Because, quite frankly, if they’re stupid enough to lose their pants at the swimming baths, they’ll more than likely find someone else stupid enough to not notice that you’re walking around in theirs.

You’ll be queuing, yes, queuing at a shoe shop with a ticket system exactly like the deli counter at a supermarket. You’ll be waiting to see how much your child’s feet have grown in the week that you feel it’s been since you were last there clutching onto a ticket with an unfeasibly long number.   You’ll then have a mini heart attack and weep a little when they ring up the total on the till – or perhaps that’s just me with three children exactly the same size who needed shoes and trainers bought for them every 2 weeks because their feet grew so quickly (or is that just my imagination).

And, if like me, you’re a bit of a neat freak and you like the smell of a new pencil case, you’ll be questioning your children on what they need for their next year. Is it time for compasses? (does everyone know someone who tried to tattoo themselves at school with a compass? No? Just me then).

And so it goes that you’re buying protractors, erasers, pencil sharpeners that you know will be lost within three hours on the first day, and you’re grabbing some colouring pencils, and HB pencils and possibly a Lamy if you’re feeling flush or they got a WHSmith voucher for their birthday. And of course, you have to get them a new pencil case because the unidentifiable ‘matter’ that is crumbed into the deep recesses of last year’s case is actually starting to smell and you can’t possibly infect the new items with the dirt. At least not for the first week.

And as the day approaches, you’ll start feeling a little guilty that you’re excited about getting some semblance of a life back, that you’re really wanting to look forward to hearing the word ‘mum’ again without it sounding like nails down a chalkboard. Because however much you love your children and even like spending time with them, there’s nothing quite like that moment of closing the front door and being able to just get on with your own stuff.

Unless, of course, you’ve just spent nearly two months in your house in Tuscany with your family, living the ‘simple life’ with bronzed healthy children who haven’t spent more than an hour on their computer for the want of getting back in that pool with their cousins. In which case, console yourself with the vitamin D that has been absorbed to last you through the winter.

Although I can’t help but think you’ve been a bit laissez faire with your preparations. Have you ever tried getting a pair of grey Teflon trousers on the day before term starts? No? I have – it’s not pretty.

Oh, and if you’d like to buy some excellent and very special ring binders, refill pads, pencils and notebooks for the new term, pop over to the site and grab some. We’d love to inspire your little ones with some plans…

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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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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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Embarrassing things I did at The Stationery Show

IMG_0054If you follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook or suffered through my various blog posts (well done and thank you!) you’ll probably have already gathered that we returned, after a five year absence, to the National Stationery Show in Islington this week.

I have waxed lyrical about my thoughts on trade shows before, so, just to sum up the general gist of my feelings for these events, it was with enormous trepidation that we set up our little stand on Monday afternoon.  The costs, the energy, the emotional investment and the general rolling of the die in the gamble of ‘do I put myself through that again or not?’ have all been spoken of before.

I should also mention that there was an added cost/benefit aspect to the decision to return to the Stationery Show this year. It’s a very expensive business having to taxi from West to North London every day! No prima donna me, just a messed up panic attack sufferer – and trust me, I still had to take pills for the cab rides as I’m phobic of traffic jams (I know, a Londoner phobic of traffic jams!! Go figure!)).

I digress…

I woke up on Tuesday morning to make my first coffee of the day and found our beautiful 2 year old cat dead on the kitchen floor. She was a rescue cat who, in the short 5 months of her occupying our home had wormed her way into our hearts and it was horrifying to see her just lying there dead. Vet can only surmise a congenital heart disorder and family of five were left in shock and rightfully really upset. Not the most auspicious of starts to the first day. I was quite relieved to leave the home/office that morning as I’m sure that I would have moped all day waiting to hear for the cat flap clicks.

So, we were at the stand by 9 for a 9.30 opening. The doom set in at about 10am (possibly the wearing off of pre-taxi ride pill, who knows) but our stand was empty and the usual doubts whirled around my head like chattering dementors (bad enough when they don’t speak, but these ones are really verbal with the usual insults of doubts). And yet, at 11am, all heaven broke loose, PEOPLE! Not just people, stationery people. Stationery people who actually buy stationery for their stationery shops to sell to other stationery people. Yes, I know, the clue was in the title of the show, but I’m not so used to the joy of the ‘build it and they will come’ concept. Come, they did and we were busy on both days, taking a few orders, but more importantly, having the right buyers take the time to look through our products and to talk to us.

Time folded to speed the days and the monumental traffic jams on the way home were a good opportunity to catch up on emails and orders that had came in.

So, here’s to the embarrassing stuff:

  • Like an idiot, I noticed a name badge bearing the hallowed company name ‘Scribbler’ and literally just shouted “Scribbler” at the top of my voice (I wasn’t known as ‘foghorn’ for nothing at school). He duly turned around and I tried to style out my shock at my outburst as best I could; mumbling my way through the ranges and hoping that my initial impression of being an utter loon didn’t stick.
  • I told a very important potential client after she took a photograph of one of our notebooks, that should her company copy me, I would personally track her down and kill her. She then went on to tell me that she had run out of business cards but would write her contact details down. I duly pointed out that I now had a way to find her, hunt her down and kill her should her company copy us. She pointed out that, perhaps, if I thought rationally, should she be devious enough to copy our designs, she would probably have the guile to write an entirely fictitious email address in our pad. I couldn’t disagree with her logic. I liked her. I really hope they don’t copy our designs.
  • A really lovely lady from a multiple retailer that we would dearly love to stock actually turned up on our stand, declared herself and made all of the right noises about stocking us later in the year. I grabbed her, with no warning, and hugged her. I suspect she will be reporting to her boss as I type, that the woman at Two Little Boys is possibly a little too weird to deal with. I genuinely hope that she felt the love, but understand I may have overstepped the customary business parameters.
  • A wolf pack of ladies turned up from another multiple retailer, splitting up and checking out the stands. The tension amongst the exhibitors around us was palpable. Even though these ladies had partially hidden their name badges, we all knew. Two stopped at our stand and, as usual, produced no business cards when requested and left with a catalogue and impervious expressions on their faces. I then promptly followed them to see if I could get a glimpse of their names, but forgot to take my glasses with me and now apologise for what must have looked like a middle aged female stalker staring at boobs.
  • My body failed me and my immune disorder that is normally kept under control with drugs spiked through a little, so my chin and bottom lip swelled up – which meant that I left the after show awards ceremony way too early and, if anyone had noticed, would have assumed I was a sore loser.
  • Two young ladies wordlessly approached the stand, took a photograph of a few products and left without a single acknowledgment. I said ‘how rude’ quite loudly (and I still hope they heard). A further lady came to the stand, had the foresight to smile and then she took a photograph. Like a caged lion, I pounced, demanding to know what she was doing, to which she flashed her badge and meekly responded that she was ‘press’. I looked at her badge and apologised profusely.

Other than periodically making a fool of myself, I had a great time! The lovely couple on the stand next to ours had travelled all the way from the US to sell their leather pen holders and on the rare occasions that we had time to chat, we put the world to rights. I should also mention that knowing the guys who had put the entire show together and being able to thank them personally and acknowledge their hard work and success was an added bonus.

I loved catching up with old neighbours from years gone by, seeing delightful existing customers and hugging a lot of people that I was genuinely really happy to see again and I also met a silly number of new people.

And yes, only 2 of the 10 buyers who we had specifically asked, nay, begged to ‘pop by’ on their rounds did, in fact, pop by.

But right now I’m so buoyed by the response from everyone else, I actually spent a couple of minutes this morning thinking – “Their loss.”

Have to stop now – I have got a lot of emails to write starting with the words:

“Sorry we missed you at the show….”

And then I’ll have another cup of coffee and fill in the contract for next year.

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