Tag: Tools and kit

Evolution of the Grey Fox

The Grey Fox talks openly and honestly about his evolving blog: seven years old and with a slightly broader remit of “ageing with style”:

Style is not just how you look and what you wear: it’s how you live – where you go on holiday, what car you drive, the watch you wear, what food and drink you like, what you do in your spare time, how you treat others, what books you read.

Always worth a read.

A place to live and work – late addition

A late, but essential,  addition to the previous post.

Apparently, singer Tori Amos is selling her Ballywilliam House, her home in Kinsale, Ireland.

I feel I could both live and work quite happily there.

I love Georgian architecture and this looks amazing. I particularly like how the lawn rolls up to the front door.

The asking price is €1.45 million. More details here.

According to Neil Gaiman, in a recent tweet, “This is where I finished American Gods, where I wrote a lot of Anansi Boys, and where I got flu and completely failed to write any of the Graveyard Book. It’s the most peaceful and magical place. I hope it finds a new person who cherishes it.”

A place to live and work

Back in the century of 9 to 5, there was Home, there was the Commute and there was the Office.

In the age of the sovereign professional, the Commute often disappears. Home and Office become one.

According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics, 4.3 million people now work from home. That’s 13.6% of the total workforce (both employed and self-employed). However, the data suggests that half (50.3%) of all self-employed people work from home, either wholly or using home as a base from which to visit clients.

That’s a lot of home-offices.

Continue reading “A place to live and work”

Funky font, serious function – Sans Forgetica

I love this. Researchers  at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia have produced a font designed to aid recall: Sans Forgetica.

I think I’ve wittered many times (mostly on the Burning Pine blog) about  how a little cognitive “friction” can aid learning and recall. The challenge in an commercial writing has been to get clients to accept the idea that hard equals good. The risk-averse always prefer muzak.

However, the science is well described in books like Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, and Carmen Simon’s Impossible to Ignore.

The Times reports

It is designed to boost memory retention by disrupting a person’s usual reading patterns. Reading Sans Forgetica requires extra effort, unlike traditional fonts that many readers are able to scan without creating a “memory trace”.

This process, the font’s creators say, boosts engagement with the words and deepens cognitive processing, adhering to the psychological principle of “desirable difficulty”.

“It should be difficult enough, but not too difficult or too easy,” Janneke Blijlevens, an RMIT lecturer in experimental methods who also worked on the project, said. “There is an optimal level of difficulty to read which leads to the highest memory retention.”

He said that the font was ideal for highlighting important facts that might need to be recalled during an exam, such as dates, historical events and quotes. “You would certainly never set an entire novel in it,” he said. “I like to think of it as blue cheese, it works very well in small portions.”

The researchers recruited 400 students to test a range of memorable fonts and Sans Forgetica was the clear winner subverting the right amount of design rules without becoming completely unreadable. It was then tested alongside a more conventional font in a simulated exam. Students remembered 57 per cent of a section of text in Sans Forgetica, compared with 50 per cent of the text written in Arial.

A font that works like blue cheese. Perfect.

Image: my first play with Sans Forgetica. The lyric is, of course, Warren Zevon’s They Moved the Moon from the Transverse City album. Out of interest, that track features Jerry Garcia on guitar.

Death of the (standalone) camera

We all know it, but still startling to see the data. This from Statista:

To the camera and photo equipment industry, the rise of smartphone photography has had devastating effects. According to CIPA, a Japan-based industry group with members such as Olympus, Canon and Nikon, worldwide camera shipments dropped nearly 80 percent between 2010 and 2017. The steep decline was mainly driven by a drop-off in shipments of digital cameras with built-in lenses, the type that casual photographers used to rely on prior to the rise of smartphone photography.


Photo by Alfonso Reyes on Unsplash

Five resources for elegant watch-wearing #workstyle #watches

Do you struggle to tell a dive watch from a driving watch? A field from a tank watch? Or even a dress watch from more casual models?

The importance and role of watches has changed. In these smartphone days, many don’t bother with a watch at all.

A watch to tell quality rather than time

However, with a little attention, a man’s watch can be an elegant indicator of success and a valuable signal of competence.

Remember, when you studied marketing? The reason that City law firms and accountants have plush offices hung with expensive art is that they are selling a service. You can’t try before you buy, therefore you rely on signals to decide whether you are buying real expertise.

We all do it, all the time. In a study a few years ago, researchers found that volunteers  wearing Tommy Hilfiger or Lacoste polo shirts were deemed more successful than those wearing unbranded or Slazenger tops:

In summary, the researchers found that volunteers who wore a polo shirt with a Tommy Hilfiger or Lacoste logo (i.e. recognised premium brands) were rated as wealthier and of higher status than those wearing no logo or a Slazenger logo (i.e. a recognised non-luxury brand).  Similarly, they were more likely to persuade passers-by to partake in surveys, more likely to be offered a job and raised more money when collecting for charity.

Forgive the self-reference, but I blogged about that research, here. Anyhow, back to watches.

The sovereign professional has a unique challenge: how to fit in with the client’s team, while also signalling that you are the premium product the client is paying for.

Some big consulting firms take the view that consultants on-site should be indistinguishable from the client’s own team. That might work if you have a heavyweight consulting logo behind you, I’m not sure. But, the independent, sovereign professional needs some signals subtle enough to avoid alienating temporary team-mates.

The watch as credibility signal

An elegant, understated watch can signal credibility. However, the world of watches becomes esoteric quite quickly. Here are five useful resources:

  1. How to choose a watch – a fantastic primer on styles and history from the Art of Manliness blog.
  2. 11 rules of the watch – another great guide to watch-wearing from Gentleman’s Gazette. This blog is a rich source of information on watches and watch-buying.
  3. Dezeen – The fantastic Dezeen.com used to have an online store of design-led watches. Sadly, the store is no more, but they do have a list of the (mostly small) brands that they used to stock.
  4. Grey Fox – the Grey Fox blog (“A mature search for style.”) has regular features on watches for men.
  5. Omologato – “The world of motorsport inspired timepieces”. This one’s a bit different. I came across the brand a few months ago and was just struck by the owner’s passion both for motorsport and for watch design.
Helvetica No1 Bleu Marine Light (Mondaine.com)
British Racing Green (Omologato Watches)

Main Photo by Eric Didier on Unsplash

Tools and kit – desk and office

For many sovereign professionals, your desk and your office will be where you do your greatest work. But, more than that, it’s your anchor, your lair and your retreat.

Invest the time to find the best desk for you, and to make your office the best possible environment in which to create your greatest work.

It may not be what you imagined. You need to balance form with function. I love the look of traditional, pedestal desks, but I have long legs and I hate the constriction of tucking them out of the way. In the end, leg space and a large, flat surface won out.

The Gentleman’s Gazette is always worth a visit and, here, it offers a guide to the Well-Appointed Office:

The desk should be the central piece of your office, both at home or external. It is there that you will write, read and – in a word – work. I like the mixture of old and new, of antique and contemporary: my desk is an English oak measuring 33 x 58 inches, over a hundred years old, that I bought at a local antique furniture shop.

And, here, to the all-important desk, where I learn that my personal preference is for a Bureau Plat:

On the matter of desks and offices, Cultural Offering has a long-running series on studies that you should check out, here. It includes this object of envy:

Pinterest is also, of course, a great source of inspiration.

We spend so much of our working day at our desk, in our offices, even with the liberty of flexible working and neighbourhood coffee-shops. It’s worth getting this grounding right.


Tools and kit – pens and ink #Writing

If you’re a writer, you have to love proper pens and ink. It’s in the rules. Even if most of your time, and all of your product, is typed. And, these days, even my always-carry-a-notebook is more often OneNote-on-an-iPhone.


But, all of the good stuff, all of the origins, all of the creativity begins on paper. In ink. From a pen.

After years of trial and error, drawers full of pens and a cupboard of opened and abandoned ink bottles, I’ve settled on these.


Great ink is a revelation. Some inks are thin, watery and scratchy. Others are as smooth and soundless as thought.

For the past few years, I’ve been a dedicated fan of J. Herbin inks:

Their standard range comes in 30 different colours. I’ve settled on three:

  • Eclat de Saphir (sapphire shard) for writing
  • Lierre Sauvage (wild ivy) for editing and annotating
  • Rouge Bourgogne (burgundy red) for oops-I-need-to-edit-my-edits

There is just one hitch. Herbin’s traditional bottles, as above are impossible to use, short and squat, with a long, narrow neck and a pointless “pen-rest”. The reason the bottles of blue and green are empty in the picture is because I decant them into more usable ink bottle. That said, it’s a small inconvenience for a great writing experience.


I have some every expensive fountain pens, both new and vintage, but for everyday, work-horse use, nothing beats the Lamy AL-Star.

The design is stylish, contemporary and ergonomic. They are simply great pens with user-friendly features like a window on the ink-reservoir, easy-to-change nibs and a comfortable, contoured grip.

They are remarkably cheap, too, for such a reliable and well-built pen, around £23 for the AL-Star and less than £20 for the Safari (which is the same design, but in plastic rather than aluminium).


Pens and ink. Everyday tools that deserve a little attention.