PC 57 Writing Joined up – continued ….

The doorbell rang; it was a DHL delivery. “Sign ‘ere, mate” the chap demanded, thrusting the electronic data entry device into my face. I love my normal signature, but try as I might, scratching the pen across the face of the machine produced a poor example. It didn’t help that the pad was grasped in his moving hand, but he seemed satisfied and left. One’s signature is being replaced by your finger print in a lot of areas; it couldn’t come sooner for this sort of use!

A thought? How can you create your signature if you aren’t taught joined-up writing? Just printing the letters, I guess, but it’s not the same. Manuscript is literally ‘written by hand or, interestingly, typewritten – but not printed by machine. The word obviously comes from the Latin – manu scriptus meaning ‘written by hand’ and in the UK there are recorded examples of this that pre-date the Norman Conquest of 1066. Latin is also responsible for the word ‘cursive’, meaning running – as it’s faster to write if you join the letters up. A C15th Italian from Florence, Niccolo Niccoli (just such a gorgeous name huh!), is regarded as the inventor of the cursive script, which became known as italic – not to be confused with the slanted forward letter in type which is known as italic! (Seems ridiculous but true!)

During my time in the British Army I learned that soldiers generally had poor handwriting skills. One particular Chief Clerk didn’t do ‘cursive’ writing and had developed a quick sort of ‘capital letters script’ that he lined up along a ruler. Like this:

joined up 3

Works quite well, actually; but it’s slow by comparison to cursive.

When you’re trying to write something about ‘manuscript writing’ it’s odd what comes to mind. I have always been fascinated by the story from the Old Testament of Belshazzar’s feast; Belshazzar was the King of Babylon who died around 539BC.  After huge amounts of food and the raising of goblets of wine in toasts to various Gods, the king thought he saw the fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall. Well, I suspect we’ve all sensed that things get a little blurred when we’ve had a few, seen things that aren’t there, so it’s hardly surprising ….. and his knees shook to boot!! I imagine this rather debauched scene, the guests’ faces glowing with alcohol, the light from the oil lamps casting shadows everywhere, and this yellow ochre wall where, if you screwed up your eyes enough, you could make out some marks! Daniel, a well-known soothsayer, was asked to translate what the king had seen: “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin”.  “God’s brought your kingdom to an end as you’ve been found wanting; it will be divided between the Medes and the Persians.” That night Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede took his kingdom. Bit of a nightmare really; all because of some writing on the wall!! Maybe Daniel was in the pay of the Medes, and told the king what he knew was going to happen; you could easily see words and letters in the smudges and uneven plaster of a wall, surely? We’ve all seen the man’s face on the moon, so why not words on a wall?

Another quotation associated with writing that often whizzes around my little brain is this:

“The moving finger writes; and having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,

Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.”

I’m not one for poetry but this translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám by Edward FitzGerald has, for some reason, lodged in the depths of my memory. I know nothing about this acknowledged classic except these four lines; well, if I’m being really truthful, only to the semi-colon!!

Celina’s great grandmother Branca caught Spanish Influenza and her mind, poor soul, was slighted altered as a result! One of the fascinating consequences was that she could write backwards as easily as she could forwards!! Below on the left is a photograph of one of her letters from November 1918 to Minha Querida Virginia (My Dear Virginia) – with the mirror image on the right.

joined up 4

So why am I so alarmed by this idea that our children will not be taught cursive script? “Does it matter?” I ask myself, as I type away on my laptop! Why can’t they just be taught to touch type? Or do we really need to write to, I don’t know, compose the supermarket shopping list. “So last century; actually shopping ….. in a shop!” I hear you cry. “Do it online!” But if you do want to go and see, touch, feel just what is available you need to go. And of course you can do your list on your iPad or iPhone and take that with you. Check it out next time you go, just see how many people in your supermarket are using a scrappy piece of paper or interrogating their phone?

So we can now all swipe our phones across an electronic demand for payment, almost touch our credit card to pay for items if they’re not too expensive; will our grandchildren have any need to write their signature? Will their children even know what handwriting is? Who knows? But I read that students who write up their lecture notes rather than type them into a laptop, derive better conceptual and factual learning – in plain language, it sinks in better!! And they have better hand-eye coordination to boot.

Of course the irony is that these scribbles, a word describing immature and often illegible writing (!), are being composed on a laptop …… and sent electronically to you, when the subject of this postcard is manuscript writing! And it’s only very occasionally that I hanker after using a pen. I eye the pile of unwritten Christmas cards which, given an unhurried focus, will be enjoyable to ….. write ….. in my unique joined up style.

joined up 5

Funny life, inn’t?

Richard – 13th December 2015 – richardyates24@gmail.com

 

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