Duolingo is available as both a website and an a free app for mobiles and tablets. It is an app that allows you to learn a language and I have to say it is absolutely fantastic. I love this app. It’s easy to use, no advanced knowledge of the language is required and it is brilliant thought out.

You start with either a basic level or you can take a short test – the test will then place you where it thinks you should go.

Duolingo is like a tree. you start off at a base and translate sentences which are broken down into lessons. Once you’ve finished all the lessons in a particular skill – that skill turns gold. Once you have completed a line of skills – a new line of skills appears. Each skill is a particularly topic – these start off easy like Basics and progress to harder ones like clothings, education and Verbs: Modal and Idioms.

The website and the app are slightly different and I recommend you use both. Firstly the app has a word pairing feature which I really like, it also has a sentence builder from preselected words. The website has an answer against the clock feature – which is really good at building up association with a word.

If you don’t understand something there is a forum where you can make a comment and others can help explain something to you. There is also (online) a skill overview which talks about the particular skill and gives you an overview of the grammar rules. The main why you learn with Duolingo thought is through try and error – like a child does.

The app is designed designed to get you from going from a complete beginner to relatively comfortable with a language. It doesn’t help towards giving you conversational skills – but it certainly helps you build up a vocabulary and increase your understanding of grammar. It’s not a complete programme for learning languages and you really do need to supplement it with other ways of learning a language. However considering it’s price tag (or nothing) it is certainly one of the best free ways to improve your language.

Hannah Arendt (4 Stars)

This film is currently available on Netflix in the UK, you can watch it here (or get it here on Amazon).

I was struggling with this film a little bit – I didn’t know whether to place it at 3 1/2 stars or 4; the last thirty minutes really were really good so I cemented that it should be given 4 stars.

As a historian I struggle sometimes with films about historical events, particularly the Holocaust as that is one of my fields of interest. I like the idea of a film because it is able to give a voice to an idea or a subject and that voice can be transmitted to a wider audience than perhaps a book. Take for example the film, The Grey Zone. The title comes from a chapter from Primo Levi’s The Drowned and The Saved, and it challenges the idea the Holcocaust was or still is seen as a black vs. white. Good vs. Evil. Bad Nazi vs. Innocent Jew. He argues history doesn’t like a narrative that doesn’t fit into this black and white morality; but what happens when it’s not clear cut…there were Jews who collaborated with the Nazis…and thus they enter a grey zone – they are not innocent victims nor are they Bad nazis. Levi argues that he cannot judge these people, he was a survivor of the Holocaust and he said I cannot judge a fellow Jew for making the decision to prolong their live, even if it was only for a few months. I like that film The Grey Zone brought this argument to a wider audience, this idea that you cannot see the Holocaust as a purely black or white phenomena, however the problem with the film is that I think it forces the viewer to judge the Jews portrayed within the film and then forces you to change that view. Whilst that is good because it gets you thinking and challenges you, I still can’t help but think the original spirit of The Grey Zone has been lost with the film.

Oh this occasion though I learn more on the idea that this historical film was good because it portrays a great female writer who is perhaps not given as greater credit as she deserves. The film is set in the 1960s and is about Hannah Arendt. Hannah Arendt was a German-Jew who fled to Paris in 1933 after the Nazis came to power. Under German occupation of France, Arendt was sent to Gurs internment camp – where she was able to escape to America. In 1951 she published her first great work, The Origins of Totalitarianism – a book which has ranked highly on several top 100 books. Eight years later she became the first female lecturer at Princeton. This was a woman who was writing remarkable work at a time when Arendt was the wrong gender in academia. I think it’s important to recognise her achievements for her own right, but also to recognise that she did this at a time when a woman’s role was seen in the kitchen. Today, we see the 1960s as the beginning of a sexual revolution and the growth of gender equality, and whilst we can point the origins to there it was not an overnight magic wand that improved gender equality.

The film centres around the Adolf Eichmann trial, Arendt’s coverage of it and her subsequent publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. This film helps to highlight some of the controversy surrounding her publication, not least because the book was seen as sympathic to Eichmann and particularly damning towards Israel, but also about some Jewish leaders, particularly those that were seen in league or collaborating with the Third Reich.

Whilst I agree with Levi’s argument that people cannot judge Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in order to prolong their lives, or save as many Jews as possible. I also admire and agree with Arendt. Whilst everyone was arguing Eichmann was a monster, Arendt disagreed and said he was just a man obeying the law, a normal bureaucrat doing a job. In some regards that is very true, what happens when the political system is geared towards the mass extermination of Jews. Do you do you job and follow that system, like a soldier obeying orders…or do say this breaks an international morale code, even if it didn’t break an international code until after the war. I like also that Arendt was not afraid to criticise Jewish collaborators and see all Jews as this Innocent Jew label and she addressed this murky grey zone which exists.

Whilst she is not without controversy and I do agree with some of the critique against her I can draw a parallel with an argument I made with the Historikerstreit. The Historian’s quarrel to give it it’s English name was a debate in the late 1980s in West Germany about the crimes of Nazi Germany. Reading the original article that sparked the debate, I said it wasn’t as controversial now as it was at the time, because we’ve internalised the debate and gotten over the shock of it and reassessed our arguments. I drew a parallel in this argument to the writing of David Irving, who was convicted in Austria for Holocaust denial. Whilst I don’t agree with Irving’s work I do think his controversial work set us into a backlash to prove him wrong and helped us cement key ideas and go over the evidence and strengthen our argument – which is not a bad thing. History would be very boring if no one was brave enough to challenge the status quo and go with the same evidence and never question it. History is not black and white and it is always an interpretation – one that needs to be always challenged and questioned.

What I admire about Hannah Arendt is that she wasn’t afraid to leave her traumatic life events with her own experience with the Holocaust to one side and listen and really judge Eichmann’s trial and come up with a commentary that was different from what others were thinking and then not afraid to publish that argument. Even after the backlash it created. This film helps bring that idea to the forefront, which I think is a good thing.

Reader Under The Spotlight – Philofaxy Feature

I was lucky enough to be featured on Philofaxy’s website as a Reader Under The Spotlight. Philofaxy has been amazing this weekend I was lucky enough to be featured now once but four times on their Web finds post. I was unaware of this until my phone notified me that I was getting a high amount of traffic to my blog. Yesterday I received 828 views to my blog. I have had over 1,000 people visit my blog since I started on the 25th August…a little over five weeks ago. I feel that is a massive achievement for my young blog and I’m very happy.

Today I would like to introduce you to Emma.

Hello My name is Emma, I am the author of A random English life. I’m very new to the Filofax world/community. I have only really been a ‘serious’ Filofax user since June…I’ve dabbled before that but just to the very boring Filofax inserts and never stuck it out to fill a full year. Since June I’ve been making my own inserts –  I’ve changed the design about three times and have finally found an insert I like and it will keep me going for the rest of the year. I’m looking forward to 2016 when I can finally stick to using a paper planner for the whole year – Sorry Note 3, I still love you but you’re fired as my personal assistant!

1. When did you buy your first organiser and what was it?

I honestly have no idea when I bought my first Filofax. I didn’t even know what Filofax it was until I looked it up for this question. It was an A5 Metropol Zip. At the time it had to be zip because I hated the idea of the pages getting crinkled and damaged whilst in my bag (a clear sign I didn’t baby my planners back then!). I think I must have been around 14 or 15 at the time so we’ll say 2002-3.

2. What other brands have you used or considered using?

I’ve never used another brand, I’ve always bought Filofaxes. I was given two Louis Vuitton planners that were rescued from a close encounter with the bin – I don’t know anything about them though and I’ve not used them yet. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be tempted by another brand and maybe in the future I will, right not thought I am trying to restrain myself.

3. Out of the organisers you own which is your current favourite (Style and Size)?

This is a difficult question. I currently have three planners on the go – An A5 Original and a Personal Original, both in dark Aqua and a Mini Malden in Grey…can I have three favourites?!

4. How many Filofax or other brands of organisers do you own?


  • A5 Metropol Zip in Black,
  • A5 Original in Dark Aqua,
  • Personal Metropol Zip in Black,
  • Personal Original in Dark Aqua,
  • Personal in Vintage Jack,
  • Personal Original in Jack (it’s on it’s way!)
  • Compact Patent in Lemon,
  • Mini Malden in Grey.
  • Two Louis Vuittons I know nothing about.

I also have a very beautiful vintage planner which was made by an independent company on Amazon. It’s brown leather and it’s like a tri-fold flap, it comes together and is sealed by a clasp which is called a vintage vase – it looks kinda like a vase but that description does not do it justice. I will get round to reviewing it on my blog at some point so you can truly see how beautiful it is.

5. What is the oldest organiser in your collection?

A5 Metropol in Black
6. What do you use your organisers for?

The Metropols and the Louis Vuittons are not in use. The Compact in Lemon I regret buying and I just use that to store spare pages in. The vintage tri-fold I use to store my DIY beauty recipes (I’m a hippie who believes commercial shampoo and skincare are bad for you so I’ve started to switch to making my own!).

Vintage Jack has been used for a while and whilst it’s in great condition I’ve currently retired it for a bit. My Personal Original is my main planner and my A5 Original is used for my historical research and learning German – as they are closely related. Finally my mini is used as a wallet. Original Jack I have no idea what I am going to use that for…maybe an ornament on my bookshelf so I can stare at its beauty and avoid doing work!

7. How many sections do you have in your organiser and what is each section used for?

I’ll just talk about my main planner which is my original personal. If you’re interested about my other ones I have a blog on my wallet and I’ll get round at some point to the others. There are six sections in my planner (I just use the standard Filofax inserts I would love to get a set of my own dividers, I’m currently designing some).

  1. General Filofax stuff you get – useful information and my personal information
  2. Addresses – Penpals and important people
  3. Week on two pages – left side a bullet journal and right side a week on one page. This is a great setup for a leftie!
  4. A- Z fold monthly calendar (has a month of each side and I move it from behind to in front of my weeklies when I go to the back month).
  5. Finance tracker – I like to track what I’m spending on planners so I can shame myself and tell myself I have an addiction that needs to be controlled and buy a new planner I don’t need any way!
  6. Shopping lists – mostly done by a topic – some as a website.
  7. Blog ideas
  8. Freezer Inventory
  9. I have a Fly lady section – I’ve not gotten round to starting it yet though
  10. Telegraph top 100 books and a books I’d like to read
  11. Films I’d like to watch
  12. Ideas for my history group to go and do.
  13. Notes
  14. Map of the world
  15. Blank paper.
  16. A clear plastic pouch that holds random stuff like plasters.

8. What was the feature about Filofax you like most?

I like the rings – I like the ability to take stuff out and move it. I like that if I make a rough note I can take it out- write it up neatly and throw the rough note away. I like how I can move everything if I want too. It’s completely flexible. I also love the notepad feature in Originals.

9. If you could design your own Filofax what would it feature?

I’d start with an Original. I’ve probably put a back pocket on it (like for notes in the mini). I’d make the elastic bigger in the a5 so it could hold a bigger pack of post it notes. I’d include a zip compartment to hold pens in. I’d like the original to have pockets rather than just slits but to retain the same format.

10. How do you carry your Filofax?

Personal just goes in my bag. The A5 Original have a little pouch – that pouch also keeps my German textbook and my Dictaphone – so it’s less about protection and more about a compartment that goes in and out as and when I need it.

11. Which Filofax in the current range do you like the most? Are you going to buy it?

Original in Jack – yes I bought it L

12. What is the most you have ever spent on a Filofax or other brand of organiser? Which model?

£44.84 – that was for my Mini Malden. Funny how my smallest planner was the most expensive, even Original Jack didn’t cost as much!

13. What’s your favourite Filofax tip or hack?

I am still a newbie – forgive me that I don’t have a tip or hack. I guess it would be that you can make and print your own inserts really easily and you don’t have to be a computer wizard or a creative individual – I have a blog post on it.

14. Turning to Philofaxy, what do you like the most?

Honestly. It’s the community. I love being able to ask questions and get answers. Filofax now has gone so underground it is difficult to go and see a Filofax in person before you buy it. So getting advice from people is fantastic. On the blog I’ve read so many things…so I guess it is the variety, but my favourite post if I had to pick would the getting big sheets of paper into at a5 with the magic of folding.

15. And what do you not like about Philofaxy?

That I found it too late and you have so many blog posts for me to read.

16. What was the last music track you downloaded or bought?

It was probably Adel Tawil’s album Lieder (Songs), he’s a German singer, famous for being in Ich und Ich. I really like this album and it’s helping me with my German.

17. Have you ever attended a Philofaxy meet-up? if not do you intend to one day?

No I have never attended one – I only discovered Philofaxy in May. I think there has only been one event during that time in London and I was too much of a newbie to go. I may go to a future one.

18. What was the last movie you watched?

Everest – there’s a review of it on my blog. It’s amazing I recommend you all go and watch it!

19. What was the last book you read?

Since August I had this big plan to read the Telegraph’s top 100 books – I decided to do it in reserve (as a die hard Brummie (a person born and bred in Birmingham, England) I had to save our local treasure J.R.R. Tolkien for last). So that means my current read is George Eliot’s Middlemarch – I’ve been on it since August and I really do not like this book – I’m trying to force myself through it. I have a tracker to encourage me to read at least one chapter everyday.

Thank you Emma.

As you know we are always looking for new people to appear in our ‘Reader Under Spotlight feature, you don’t have to be ‘well known’ or a long term user to be considered to appear in this ‘spot’.

So please contact Steve philofaxy at gmail dot com today. Thank you.

Filofax: Printing your own Inserts

This is a follow-on from my post on Wednesday, in which I showed you have to make your own inserts using Publisher. If you’ve not read that one you can find it here.


So the finished product of the last post is pictured above. Now I am going to show you how to print it out. What we are going to do to start with is get the crop marks which you can see in my above picture. These I had already set up before making this post and I didn’t turn them off for the photo, which is why you maybe wondering why they do not appear on yours.

Ctrl + P (or however you get into the print option > Select the down arrow on your printer > Advanced Output Settings… > Marks and Bleeds > Crop marks > Allow Bleeds (you’ll see why later).


Now because my filofax page is a personal size it shows up nicely on the page. As A4 is half of A5 – it’s slightly harder to see the crop marks and they are not as nicely laid on as with the personal (because there is not as much space room as there is on the personal sized print out).

Now you are probably looking at mine and wondering how I have my weekly the wrong way round in the second photo and not the first one. It’s all to do with the number of pages you have. On an a4 sheet of paper you can fit two personal sized inserts each side. In order to print them in the correct order we are going to set it up to print a booklet.

Ctrl + P > Under the pages section there is a tap to change the options, it should say One page per sheet change that to booklet side-fold > Make sure landscape is selected > change print one sided to Manual 2 sided Printer flip sheets on long side. 

Manual two sided printer flip basically tells the printer that you intend to have the paper landscape and flip on the longer side of the paper – it helps it to decide to position the inserts on the page.

Now a side booklet prints the inserts in a particularly way. If you imagine an a4 piece of paper folded in half it will start with page one, open fully to pages two and three and finish with page 4 on the back. However if you were to open that up and lie it flat. Page 4 would be on the left of page 1. So the print order is 4 and 1 on the front side, and 2 then 3 on the back. So we need to set it up to print in the same way.

So on the order of publisher your first page should really be your page 1 followed by 2, 3 and then 4. However if you want a week on two pages to open up are be a double spread…then monday needs to be pages 2 and 4, and the week with your tasks needs to be 1 and 3. So your page orientation should be

Page 1: Tasks and weekends

Page 2: Monday-Thursday

Page 3: Tasks and weekends

Page 4: Monday – Thursday

You can go ahead and print more than four pages – but that begins to complicate the system of where you place things and my printer is temperamental so I much prefer printing four at a time. Now from experience I have printed this and the alignment is out on my computer…the reason it is out if because a4 paper is measured at 210mm x 297 mm. so that 7mm gives a slight problem. The way round it is to add a mm to your 2nd and 3rd pages. The easiest way to do this is to add a margin of 1mm to the left.

Page Design > Margins > Custom Margins… Left 0.1cm.

Now we need to realign pages 2 and 3 only to the new left margin. So select page 2.

Home > Align > Relative to margins (if not already checked) > Left. 

Earlier in the post I told you to select allow bleeds, the reason for this is because now you have moved your layout design by 1mm, technically 1mm is not on your page…but by allowing that bleed it will still print the whole layout design.

Now you should be ready to print. Printing is more difficult to explain – because every printer is different – it takes some experimenting and I’ve been printing for about 3 months now and I still sometimes get it wrong when I go to print (I really should write it down but never do). So now is the time to experiment. The insert I made for this tutorial is not the one I actually use so rather than waste paper printing an insert for this tutorial – knowing I wouldn’t use it. I switched to printing the insert I do use. This is a square grid (which would be a Monday insert on this tutorial) and a week on one page (which would be a Task and weekend insert in this tutorial). I just did a tutorial for the most popular insert design, which is the insert most people are likely to use. The great thing about making your own inserts – you can personalise them to your taste!


My printer is an up and over printer so when I put the paper in the feed like this:


I use paper that is 100g, that’s a medium thickness paper, I use it because I have a Stabilo 68 pen, which I love but tends to shadow or bleed through on thinner papers, I also stamp in my planner. If you do not do either of those an 85g paper would work for you, you could even go lower too…but 85g is a pretty standard paper to buy. Next up you need to cut it. I don’t have a fancy guillotine and there is a reason for that. I found it cheaper to just use a Stanley Knife, cutting matt and a cork backed ruler. Also, when you are cutting you can just cut on the crop marks, but not all the way through the paper – meaning your crop makes stay when you cut the horizontal so they are there when you cut the vertical lines.


After freeing the paper from the scrap I have my personal sized sheets ready…this is the point I washi tape them. I use to use thinner paper, but when I started stamping I upgraded to a thicker quality. When I had thinner paper I liked to use washi tape to help strengthen the holes, which would become a weak point. Whilst I no longer really need to washi tape them, I still do for decoration and because I have a load of washi tape to use up.


Now all you need to do is punch your holes and put them in your planner and you’re done. I have a KW-trio hole punch. I like it before it does a5 to mini through the adjustable settings – so it works with all my planners. There you have it. Home-made diary page inserts that are tailor-made to exactly how you want them. It’s also great because if you get bored or are still finding an insert that works for you…you can print a few weeks off and then try something new. You are not committed to a whole using an insert you do not like and you’re not committed to buying say a whole years worth of a day on one page insert, when maybe you only use one a week. Just print a few out as and when you need them.

Everest (5 Stars)

Everest is a film based on the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. The film focuses around the expeditions of Adventure Consultants, led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Mountain Madness led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhall).

I am not a big fan of horror films, it’s not because they scare me, it’s because they bore me. I always find the plot-lines predictable and when they try to scare people, I predict it and often do not find it that scary. I much prefer films that are more psychologically scary, or give an idea that scares me. To me, Everest is absolutely terrifying. I was scared watching it in the Cinema. The beautiful visual display of the mountain and by seeing it in 3D – it made the mountain really come to life; I felt like I had been transported to the South Submit.

The film begins by telling you that the trek to Everest is not simple achievement and most of the beginning of the film is dedicated to the fact that you are physically dying as you climb Everest. Climbing Everest is not a test of endurance, it’s a test of speed. Can you leave Camp IV and submit Everest before 1pm and can you submit and return before nightfall. If you fail to submit before 1pm. If you fail to return before nightfall your chances to survive exhausted, staved of oxygen, dehydrated, malnourished and increasingly risking exposure and frostbite decrease dramatically.

The film explores the idea of commercialising Everest and sending inexperienced climbers up the mountain and the risks that causes. Commercialisation brings people. When climbing the mountain climbers use certain routes, increased people on certain routes create a bottle neck. Bottle necks cause delays and delays on Mount Everest use Oxygen and can cost lives. Battling all of that you have the weather and when your in a extremely high risk situation with inexperienced climbers, rapid changes in the weather can cost lives.

This film is visually beautiful, it’s intense and the acting is superb. You must go see it. I also recommend watching the Seconds from Disaster documentary which is available on Youtube. It helps to spell out the decisions in the expedition that led to the disaster.

Filofax: Make your own Inserts

I hate filofax inserts, the paper quality – any ink just seems to bleed through or shadow, the calender on a Sunday and a split weekend – so if like me you use to work on the weekend you have no space to write anything. Now they have changed the week on two pages to have an equal sized Saturday and Sunday to match the rest of the week…I’m still not that keen on buying them. I have discovered a better insert for my filofax – ones I make on my own. This post is all about how I make my inserts and what software I use. I have tried a few products – Good old word, Gimp (it’s like Photoshop but free!); but the one I have found that I like the most is Microsoft Publisher. It’s very straight forward to use and the printing options in it are good.

So let’s get started with a basic lined week on two pages tutorial. Let’s open up Publisher.

Start menu > All Programs > Microsoft Office > Microsoft Publisher

Next up you’ll want to create an insert that is the same size dimensions as your planner – for this tutorial I am working with a Personal sized filofax. The dimensions for a standard filofax personal page is 95mm (or 9.5cm) wide and 171mm (17.1 cm) tall. There is something about the 171mm I don’t like – probably because it is uneven…so I always make my insert 172mm – not that it probably makes any difference…it just makes me feel better!

The opening screen will be a page size selection screen. You’ll need to create your own template for a filofax.

More Black Page Sizes > Custom > Create new page size…

Width: 9.5cm

Height 17.2cm

Margin guides – set all to zero.

Now you have your blank template. Let’s jazz it up a bit with some lines. You’ll need to insert a table.

Insert > Table > 1×1 Table

Next double click on the table and alter the dimensions of the table. I put the width at 9.5 and I want my line thickness to b 4mm. However when I try to adjust the height I can’t go below 0.63cm. The trick is to unclick Grow to fit text (outlined in purple on the photo) and then adjust to 0.4cm. Next up you want to align this table to fit within the page (green in photo).

menu options

Align > Relative to Margins > Align > Center > Align > Top.

Now we need to add some more lines in.

Make sure the table is selected > Right click on mouse > Insert > Insert below.

A quick way to do this quickly is to press Ctrl + A together and this will select the whole table, meaning when you repeat the above step you double your lines each time. Eventually you’ll fill the complete page with lines. However, so far this table is invisible. So we need to add some lines to it.

On the design tab they’ll be a Borders option (blue on the photo). As I have 4mm spacing between my lines – I like my line to be quite thin, I’m also going to be blocking off the days to give them their own section – so I want to contrast writing lines and section lines. First I’m going to select Ctrl + A to highlight all the table and then I am going to adjust the settings to be 1/4 pt line, line colour to be the second grey from the top and select that only the inside horizontal lines are colour. Now if I want to have just lined paper – I can stop there.

We want to make this a diary insert though. So I am going to count the lines (I got 43). I’m going to leave the first two lines alone. That’s going to be where I put the month. I’ll move my cursor to the fourth line and count ten. With the ten lines highlight I’m going to go back to the borders section and change the colour of the line to be black. I’m then going to remove the Top and Bottom borders and then reapply them. This will remove the light grey line I have previously put there and replace it with a black line. After that I’ll count out another ten lines – but only adjust the bottom line to be black.

So now you’re diary insert is beginning to take shape – you have space for four days and a section for the month.

Next i’m going to work on the month bit. I’m going to select the first two lines then I’m going to merge the two lines together.

Higlight the first two lines > Layout > Merge Cells

Now the fun part – selecting your font, you can personalise your diary inserts to however you want them. For this tutorial I am going to use Copperplate Gothic Light. I’m just going to write the month and year in. I found with my font I could go up to 16 and it look nice. Next I’m going to write the days of the week in.


Now it looks like we have a problem because the line is covering the written days of the week and you cannot see the full type face. That’s not a problem because you can press Ctrl + P and see how it will print. Now with my font I can see that it sits right on the line and looks pretty good – I can see the whole word. I would leave it like that. However if yours does not look like that I would suggest changing the margins of your cell.

print preview

Select the whole table> Layout > Cell Margins > Custom Margins > Top 0cm > Bottom 0cm

If that still doesn’t solve your problem – drop a size down.

Now we have half a week and it looks good, so now we need to work on Friday-Sunday. If you want to have a notes section – you could use the 8th section for that. However, I’m going to show you how to make a daily tracker.

So on the left hand side you have a page selector – at the moment we only have one page. We’re going to right click on the first page and add a new blank page underneath the one we have.

Right click > Insert Page > 1 > After current page > Insert blank pages

We’re going to insert another table – but this time it’s going to be a grid. so follow the steps above but make the 1×1 table 0.4cm wide and 0.4cm tall. Now we’re going to fill the width of the page with squares to line our first line.

Ctrl + A > Right Click > Insert > Insert Right. 

Repeat until the width is covered. I added two more squares than I needed and centred it.

Now it’s important to remember that if you are going to punch this, you need to think where the holes are going to go. In the first page we aligned everything to the left and the holes will go to the right. In this second page, the hole will be on the left. So we need to optimise the right side of the space. I’m going to go to the first whole square on the right and add an S to it – to mark Sunday, and I’m going to go backwards writing the letter for the day of the week in each until I get to Monday. I’m then going to go to the next whole square after Monday and merge it – In this new line I’m going to write Tasks. Then I’m going to duplicate it once above the line we already have – this will put it in line with the month on the other page. and then 10 times below (this will but up in line with the end of Monday on the previous page).

So now we have a completed task section. I’m going to duplicate a line one more time…but this time merge the line with the days of the week in – so I get a complete line again. Then I will keep adding this line in until I reach the bottom of the page. So I start off with a 7 day grid but finish the page with lines. Now all you need to do is add your days of the week, add the line colours in and darken the section colours.


Now it looks almost complete except for the fact that the days of the week are not completely on the page. You’ll need to go into the cell margins and add 2mm onto the right side. So it puts the text back onto to the page – I selected 0.3016 cm for mine.

And that is it. You’ve got your layout – next post I’ll show you how to print it!


Birmingham’s Archaeology (Birmingham Heritage Week).

I know very little about the early part of Birmingham’s history. I probably know more about Leicestershire’s local history than I do about my home city – which is a shame, but as part of Birmingham Heritage Week, the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society hosted a lecture about their excavations and what they have discovered and then followed this by a walk, which pinpointed the sites then talked about.

Before we get into the archaeology I have to talk about Birmingham and Midland Institute, where the talk took place…their lecture theatre has to be the best one I have ever been too. Look at the fabulous historic lecture theatre – I love the colour of the seats which I can only describe as puke green! The seats were so comfortable too, unlike most university ones.


The talk was given by Dr. Mike Hodder and Dr. Stephanie Ratkai. Dr. Mike Hodder was Birmingham Council’s planning Archeologist for twenty years and together with Dr. Stephanie Ratkai has worked on excavations of numerous sights in Birmingham, including the Bullring, Library of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The talk itself centred on the archaeological work in Digbeth, which was a historic industrial site, that was prone to flooding. The fact that it was such a damp site has undermined the legend that Beorma and his followers settled here and that is why the city is called Birmingham. If Beorma did exist, he probably didn’t settle in Digbeth.


Modern Digbeth today is actually compromised of two separate parishes, with Deritend being in the parish of Aston, which was separated by the River Rea. I have walked past the River Rea many times and always thought it was a later canal…but it turns out it was a river! Deritend was home to a pottery industry, which importantly gave it’s name to Deritend ware, which was manufactured in Deritend and in the Bullring area. The pots themselves were made by a orange local Merican mudstone and detailed with a V pattern with a white clay which came from further afield. The busy trade of other industries drew people to the Bull ring to trade, and probably either bought cookware while they were here or bought products within Deritend ware – which made for the successful distribution of Deritend ware throughout the Midlands, and it is found regularly in digs sites. During digs as well pieces of flint were found which indicate that the site was in use in the Stone Age as well. It is also home to the Old Crown Pub with a very impressive sign which claims the pub dates back to 1368, however excavations by Dr. Hodder in the beer garden have suggested that there is no evidence to support the claim that the pub is that old.


Residents in Digbeth who were actually in the parish of Aston campaigned that the needed their own church because flooding often prevented them from travelling across the river to get to their Parish church in Deritend. It is dubious whether this was true of whether villagers wanted a closer church instead of walking several miles to get to their one in Aston. Whatever the case may be the church was the site of the burning of John Rogers during the reign of Queen Mary I. He is recorded as a Martyr to the protestant faith and was involved in helping to translate the bible into English.

Just up from the Old Crown on the same side, excavations also found evidence of a man-made pool built within the medieval period, the reason behind the creation of the pool was unclear but the area was home to a significantly sized tanning industry which was probably connected in some way to the pool.

Finally, the bit of archaeology I did know about was located on the site of the Bullring, which was the site of the old manor house with had a moat (this is reflected in street signage with Moat Lane). During excavations they found that the medieval manor’s walls were remarkably well preserved. Just up was the corner of Moat Lane is a very tired looking building, which use to be a music hall and was frequented by the Peaky Blinders, this building is scheduled for demolition and area to be rejuvenated.


Ocean’s Eleven (3 Stars)

Danny Ocean (George Clooney) gets out of prison and has lost everything – including his wife Tess (Julia Roberts); so what do you do when you have nothing? Meet up with some of your old con buddies and get even with the man who is more dating Tess.

This film is predictable and a little slow. The plot is standard and there are no suprises getting from the start of the film to the end. It’s a pretty safe film, and it’s an alright watch. It’s nothing special but it’s equally not bad. I’d rather watch this film twenty times in a row than watch American Ultra again.

Hidden Spaces (Birmingham Heritage Week)

I’m a little behind with writing some posts. I went to this event last Saturday and I am only getting round to writing about it!

I am a history fanatic and it is safe to say that the study of the past takes up a lot of my time. I am very fortunate to be a Co-organiser of the Birmingham History Network (BHN). The BHN is a meetup group which is designed to bring like minded people together and organise events. Hidden Spaces was my second organised tour for the BHN and it formed part of Birmingham Heritage Week 2015. There was so many events to pick from over the week, and it was very difficult to filter through and pick something to do. In my opinion there was too much choice. Although if I run this event next year I think from experience I will be able to plan and organise the event a little better. I decided to pick a selection of venues that are normally closed to public viewing (which the exception of a few days each year). Often I walk past their buildings and always wonder what lies behind the closed door.

Birmingham Municipal Bank

First up with the old Municipal Bank, which was first suggestion by Neville Chamberlain (who is perhaps more famous for being Prime Minster during the Outbreak of World War Two) in 1915. The idea of the Bank was to courage workers to deposit their savings which would generate a 3.5% interest which would be used by the Government, predominately to help the war effort. The Bank was created by Act of Parliament in 1916. After the war the Bank survived and it moved to it’s current position in 1933. This building located on Broad Street was the headquarters of the Bank.

This is a big and very beautiful building. There are many safes behind this bank, and the building has a spooky element of being a ghost shell. I am not sure when the bank stopped being operational, but it closed because it was too big and too costly to maintain. I was fortunate enough to meet a woman who used to work here in the 1960s and she talked about the beautiful cashier’s desk that used to be in the main room as soon as you walk in…alas it has now gone and the building is just an empty shell. Another lovely bonus was that someone else in the group knew one of the people in charge of the Heritage Open Day and he very kindly gave us a tour around the other safes. The big empty vaults hold a silent history of what was once a very busy bank.

I think it’s an absolute shame that this building is not in use today. I can understand why it is too costly for a bank, but I was thinking that it is right next to the Registry Office. I think this building would be fantastic to be reused as a wedding venue…it has beautiful charm and room to be able to have a wedding and a catering/dance facility within it. Some of the former managerial offices could also be turned into Hotel rooms. Although there would be a problem with toilet and washroom facilities which are at present would be limiting. Nevertheless I think it would work really well as a wedding venue.

Curzon Street Station


I am quite clearly not a photographer, so my photos are appalling. Curzon Street Station was opened in 1838…but what is interesting is that this building was only partially built. There were meant to be two wings to the building, which appear in drawing plans but were never built. That’s why this building has the appearance that something is not quite right…almost missing. People often think that something has been removed from the building, in fact, the opposite was true – it was never added.

I was a little more disappointed with Curzon Street Station – it was lovely to see round the building…but there was no one really giving tours around and as we did not have someone in the group who knew someone to give a private tour, nor someone who worked here there wasn’t much more to do than walk around. There were a few informative boards on one wall – but it was mostly empty. I thought it would have been better to see if there were any photographs of Curzon Street within the archive and perhaps of used one of these empty rooms to display that. I loved a collection of old keys that had been left in one of the rooms, it was like it had been left there on Friday night ready for Monday morning and it never opened that Monday, the cobwebs in the place gave it a fantastic touch. There was talk that this building was going to become a Museum, but I overheard someone discussing with someone else that it would have cost millions to comply with health and safety and they just couldn’t afford to make it a museum.

Birmingham Hippodrome

20150912_12233220150912_125323I thought the Birmingham Hippodrome did a fantastic job for Heritage Week. I loved the two women in traditional Victorian dress singing traditional turn of the last century songs, including ‘My Old Man’, although there is a photo of me singing this song somewhere (I am praying it doesn’t end up in the Birmingham Mail or something like that…), they were brilliant and great fun. I’m sad I did not get a picture of them. There was also a lovely guide who talked a bit about the posters which you can see on the left and briefly about the origins of the Hippodrome. He suggested that often Hippodromes were created to make a loss, and I know that often venues today make a lost. I thought they would have been more popular prior to the onset of Cinemas, Radios and Tvs; but apparently even back then they were build by wealthy people as a status symbol, but not designed to be a money spinner. Another great thing about the Hippodrome was the Historical Talk, one of the guides gave, which was an hour long sit down presentation about the History of the Hippodrome. I really enjoyed it and it was very informative.

Museum Collections


20150912_145703This was around about 2 O’Clock and having started at 10 O’Clock, a large part of the group decided to call it a day. A few hard corers stayed on a braced themselves for a 30 minute walk across town to go to the Museum Collections building. The Museum Collections building is like a big warehouse that houses the artefacts the museum has
which are currently not on, or never go on display. It was like an Aladdin’s Cave of Historical Goodies. It also answered a 20150912_152715question I have often wondered. I look around and see some beautiful sculptures and busts of people and sometimes during refurbishments these disappear and never come back. I often wondered where they go and if they are destroyed. Turns out a lot of them are stored in the Museum Collections and they have a fantastic collection of random things. It was great looking through them. Although it was nearing the end of the event and the building was getting ready to close, so it was rather a rushed look through.



An expected bonus


By this point it had been a long and tiring day, the group had done a lot of walking and exploring and it was safe to say we were looking forward to going home. The prospects of a long walk back into town was not appealing, however as luck would have it a man stopped me and said there were two vintage buses which were talking people back into Town. We decided to leave on the second to last bus and travelled on the London Red Bus. We were speaking to the ‘Conductor’ who was organising the stops, he said we’d turn right and stop outside Snow Hill Station, unfortunately we didn’t and the Conductor had no way of talking to the Driver, as unlike modern buses the Driver was completely isolated from the passengers on the bus. We ended up going back to Museum collections and we were about to go and get the train, when the Conductor said he was making one final trip into town and would not be coming back to Museum Collections. So we got a second trip round on the bus…which was fantastic and a perfect end to a very historical day.

Legend (4 Stars)

Tom Hardy stars as both Ronnie and Reggie Kray, twins who operated a gang in 1960s London. The film focuses on Reggie’s attempt to control his mentally unstable and overly aggressive brother Ronnie.

I have been waiting for this film for a few weeks now and I am to say it didn’t disappoint. I thought Tom Hardy played Reggie Kray very well…but to completely change persona in the same film and play Ronnie as well…He was phenomenal. That was some beautiful acting. Even just his facial expressions made the two twins stand out of completely fully developed characters in their own right.

I was a little more disappointed with Frances (Emily Browning) I didn’t feel her character was as richly developed as Ronnie and Reggie and whilst you could argue that was because she was a secondary character…I thought the set up of the film with Frances as narrator set this character up to a primary character…rather than secondary. I just wasn’t feeling a strong push…and I don’t think it has to do with a 1960s submissive female – which despite the view of the 1960s being a sexual revolution and the beginning of feminism was not as progressive as we would naturally assume.

The violent scenes in this were absolutely fantastic and I don’t think a good Krey movie could be done on anything less than an 18.

Throughout this film I wanted to give it 5 stars but something was holding me back. I can’t quite put my finger on what was missing and I think it might have been a bit more of a 60s music vibe. In the club scenes the singing was fantastic but I don’t know…I think it was a little too classy. Nevertheless this is one of the must see films so far…well worth a worth