How does it eel?... smoker at work
totalcontent is just back from its annual away-weekend in Holland. This time we took in the Stanley Kubrick show at Eye, the impressive new film museum on the north bank of the Ij, as well as a noteworthy North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam.

But it was one of those chance, totally bizarre encounters that lingers in the memory. Or should that be nostrils? On the Sunday between showers, we decided to take a stroll through Monnickendam, one of a series of picturesque medieval villages perched on the banks of the Ijsselmeer.

Apart from its less-than-charitable attitude towards witches in the olden days, Monnickendam is best known for its ancient tradition of fish smoking. And this happened to be the day of the annual smoke off, when over 100 competitors from the Amsterdam area converged to see who could smoke the tastiest eel (paling) or mackerel.

stamp of approval.

I’ve written plenty of words about stamps for Royal Mail, and I’ve contributed to Design Week’s Vox Pop several times. But you could have knocked me down with a feather when my name appeared in an answer to the question...

‘Who in the design industry would you like to see celebrated in stamp form?

Here’s what Phil Jones, founder of Real Time Consultancy and old friend had to say:

I live in Bloomsbury and my house has a blue plaque on it for the writer Dorothy Sayers who lived here in the 1930s. Other houses around my area have the same blue plaques recognising great writers, Charles Dickens in the next road to me for instance. Wouldn’t it be nice if we recognised the writers who make the design industry tick? Every annual report, brochure, ad campaign is written by great wordsmiths and many of them are unsung heroes. People like Patrick Baglee, Jim Davies, Tim Rich etc., are worth their weight in gold and how nice if we saw them smiling back at us from a stamp?

Thanks Phil, always good to feel appreciated.

Bleedin’ ’eck... the ink went straight through 
The writer’s trustiest companion is his notebook. Over the years I’ve become something of an aficionado, and when I occasionally stray from the tried-and-trusted path, I usually regret it. Like this seemingly attractive £2 sale bargain from Sainsbury’s (top), which turned out to have a really bad case of bleed through and was abandoned after just six pages.

My preference is for an A5 hardcover (orange if possible) with 90gsm gridded paper. Quo Vadis Havanas are particularly durable and satisfying to write on, and I’m also partial to Rhodia Webnotebooks, which come in a really great dot gridded option. As a work essential that you’re going to live with for six or so months, it’s worth plumping for something with decent quality paper that can take all kinds of inks and abuse.