Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Filofax: the perfect way to keep organised

In an age when more advanced mobile telephones can hold a diary and store a database of contacts, why should one use a paper-based system like a Filofax? Good question. Yet enthusiasts for the Filofax appreciate the way it combines both form and function. It looks great and it’s better at the task than anything else.

Its leather outside is attractive, its paper inside lets you scribble notes without needing to do any double clicking, and the thing does not crash. It has space to store some stamps and lets you store thoughts and to-do lists without the hassle on typing on a numeric keypad or with a tedious stylus. Conversely, the mobile phone diary has an in-built design flaw: it is impractical to check the diary, or jot down a new phone number, when the phone is to the ear. With a Filofax, one can hold the phone to the left ear, hold a fountain pen in the right hand, and have the Filofax on the lap or on a table. It provides a much more civilised experience.

For most, the “personal”-sized Filofax is best because it will easily fit in the pocket of a Barbour and in your briefcase. Bigger sizes are fine but less portable. Also, have a look at the extra inserts that are available such as the London street map and tube map.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Starting and managing a classical music collection

The very first thing you need is a guidebook which reviews CDs and tells you which are the best recordings for all the major works. If you are going to go to the trouble of building up a collection, it is worthwhile ensuring that you get good quality recordings, and a CD guidebook will tell you the differences between the best recordings, helping you to avoid lemons. I use The Grammophone magazine’s Classical Good CD Guide 2002. The latest edition has been slightly renamed as The Classical Good CD & DVD Guide 2006, alluding to the fact that many operas are now appearing on DVD. Penguin also does a guidebook, The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs.

As your collection grows, it is worthwhile thinking about storage. There are plenty of plastic monstrosities you can use. If you want something elegant that also keeps the dust off your collection, then you should turn to Manufactum. This German firm sells elegant marble paper-lined wooden boxes with six drawers that take 150 CDs.

Here are some suggestions for essential CDs for your collection. Where I have views on the recording to buy, I have given details.
  • Handel: Coronation Anthems, conducted by Preston and Pinnock (Archiv)
  • Allegri: Miserere, Choir of King’s College Cambridge (Decca)
  • Beethoven: 9 Symphones, conducted by Leonard Bernstein (DG)
  • Saint-Saens: Organ Symphony, conducted by Daniel Barenboim
  • Chopin: Piano Works, pianist: Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca)
  • Brahms: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra no. 1, pianist: Maurizio Pollini (DG)
  • Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
  • Handel: Acis and Galateia
  • Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique

Correspondence to thank people

People are rarely thanked. Yet they really appreciate appreciation. People warm to those they think are on their side. Get a pack of thank you cards, and keep some to hand at both work and home, and in your briefcase, along with some stamps.

If you attend a function, send a thank you card if you were invited personally. You might also send a complimentary letter to the speaker if there was one a and you thought he was good. But don’t be insincere. Mention one or two things he specifically said that you liked. Use a fountain pen of course.

Unless your cards/notes are pre-printed with your name and contact details, include your calling card (business card) so that people know who you are. They will probably keep your card, perhaps using you as a useful contact for the future.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Everyman editions of P. G. Wodehouse books

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of P. G. Wodehouse’s death, Everyman (in 2000) started publishing extremely elegant hardback editions of Wodehouse’s books. From the delightful colour drawings on the cover, through the majestic lining paper inside, to the pleasing feel of the printed pages, these editions are a real pleasure to read.

I am currently reading Wodehouse’s The Luck of the Bodkins in this format, which thus far is proving to be a real treat. Wodehouse is in my view best read, rather than watched on the television, principally because the richness of Wodehouse’s wordcrafting is delightful. In The Luck of The Bodkins, Wodehouse starts with: “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.” On television, this picture would be entirely lost.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Hyacinth Bucket approach to carpets

There is a very simple rule: never ask visitors to your home to remove their footwear when they enter (except if they are wearing wellington boots or are particularly muddy). The only people who demand guests are exposed in socks are those who model themselves of Hyacinth Bucket (from the BBC series Keeping up Appearances). Of course, a gentleman should obey such demands, but no gentleman should issue such a demand. Instead, in your own home, place a doormat by the door for guests to wipe their feet, and choose hall carpets that are up to the task (e.g. from Brintons).

A gentleman believes that form and function go hand in hand. A Barbour jacket is designed to be used: a Hyacinth Bucket will always want it to look immaculate but a gentleman’s Barbour will look warn over time. Similarly, a Filofax can eternally look immaculate if one does not use it, but it is designed to look used over time. The sort of person who insists on footwear removal is the sort of person who buys an expensive, mahogany dining room table and then insists on serving dinner on it with a tablecloth hiding its beauty. They should have just bought something made from MDF.