PC 56 Writing ‘Joined up’ (Part One!)

My brother, another Scorpio, had his birthday last month and duly reached for pen & paper to write a ‘Thank You’ letter in gratitude for our gift. Such a pleasure to receive his note, the manuscript writing strong, informative and entertaining whilst I admit, in parts, a little difficult to decipher! And conveying more of the effort made than a hasty email or text on smart phone or tablet.

A recent survey by the global manufacturer of biros, Bic, discovered that 50% of 13-19 year olds have never written a thank you letter, 83% a love letter and 25% never sent a Birthday or Christmas card. Maybe 75% of those polled were not Christian (?)  but why not send a physical card to acknowledge a birthday? I know that Jacquie Lawson provides your online card needs, but you can’t put one of those on the mantelpiece, can you? Bic should be worried – who’s going to buy their products?  I am, however, so old school that I am wedded, some might say welded (!), to the need to write manuscript ‘thank you letters’ and send birthday cards. I think it’s a rather British foible, sending cards and the like. Love letters? Well I guess I have poured my heart out in letters to loved ones many times and sometimes ripped them up and started again; now it’s on twitter/some text message or email electronically produced and unable to give a hint of personality through the care you would have taken in your joined up writing.

We journeyed up into Alaska in June this year, following in the footsteps of great grandfather George, who made the trip each year 1900-1902 (See PCs 44 & 45). His manuscript letters to his wife Eva, in London, are a wonderful family treasure trove of experiences, thoughts and comments. His careful script conveys such richness, so much individuality, so much personality; they all started ‘My Darling Eva’, and ended rather formally: ‘Your Loving husband, GM Nation.’ See for yourself:

joined up

Lovely isn’t it? If he had been able to email his news to his wife, as in:

From: GM Nation

To: Mrs Eva Nation

Dawson YT 10 May 1901

My Darling Eva. I am emailing you this but it may be two or three weeks before I get an internet connection. Travel has entirely been given up for the last ten days and everybody is watching the river and longing to see the ice float away.…..

Sent from my iPad

 …… where would the record be now, on some disk, some iCloud? And how would I have known that he wrote these letters, but for the physical collection with Cousin Caroline on Vancouver Island? These thoughts came into my head when, the other day, I glanced at a headline in the paper. I looked, looked again …… and tried to register what I had just read. Under an eye-catching headline “Handwriting, you’re Finnished”, it is reported that a school in Finland (ha! ha!), which apparently is noted for its radical educational ideas, the country not this particular school, has decided to stop teaching cursive handwriting. It may surprise you but my English education didn’t run to understanding exactly what ‘cursive’ meant, so I lifted my trusted ‘Oxford Illustrated Dictionary’ (Yes, that one given by my maiden aunt when I was 16 (see PC 53)) down from the shelf. ‘Cursive’ adj. n (Writing) done without lifting the pen, so the characters are joined together.” Ah! OK! Joined up writing!! So they are not going to teach children how to join up individual letters together …… to let the script flow??

The Finns are not alone. In the USA forty-one states no longer require schools to teach cursive script! And within two days I read another piece concerning cursive script, this from the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, who has written many letters to his grandchildren, for them to read when they are old enough – “But I was saying to my daughter, maybe they won’t be able to read cursive with the way things are going.”

So personal, this ability to make writing ‘joined-up’. Can you remember the tortuous classes, holding the pencil just so ….. being told off for holding it incorrectly? No, of course not, but I do remember being beaten at boarding school for writing without my arm fully supported by a table; OK, maybe there might have been other issues that cumulatively added to trigger the beating, but the smog of history has descended! I see people today who were not taught properly and hold the pen in a funny way. No wonder they do not like writing in a joined-up way. However, I do take my hat off to those of you who are left-handed, as it looks to me as though you have arthritis, the way you twist your hand almost through 360°and then manage to write ….in a derogatory way some might say cack handed?

I used to hold my fountain pen in such a way that I developed a piece of hard skin on the side of my middle finger; it’s still there but not as pronounced, as the use of smart phones, tablets and laptops has reduced the amount of manuscript writing I do and hence the pen stays for longer periods in the drawer.

Many years ago I had to take a graphology test, as part of a recruitment process. It was in the days before I had a personal computer, and the application for the role had been in manuscript; couldn’t they use that?  “Ah! But the example must be in biro!”  This I could not understand, as the pressure applied through a nib varied much more than that from a biro, and weren’t they looking for variations of pressure, in addition to all the other bullshit? I assume the company believed that somehow my personality came out through my pen nib, although there is no scientific evidence to back up that claim. I’ve read that a backwards slopping letter signifies timidity or that how you write the letter ‘e’ was linked to your digestion – the neater and more closed the letter the better to digest – sprouts? I don’t think so! I remember looking at how I write the letter ‘e’ and realised I script it in two different ways!! An example might be:

joined up 2

You may remember my PC about treasured postcards? The one about a chap sitting at a desk answer an exam question about surrealism ……. and his pen jumped off the table and ran away? Well, my pen has run away with me, sorry!! So before you start yawning, I’ll stop  … to be continued ….

Richard – 6th December 2015 – richardyates24@gmail.com

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