Taking notes and txt

Dear Obstreperous Readers,
OK, OK, apologies for being off duty for the last couple of weeks - so, I was having a good time!

And, yes, needn't nag, here you are now, I did promise that I'd return to the theme of txt and other speed writing, and after that I won't forget that I'm still in the middle of the History of World Vets, often today rather bumptiously referred to by those who organise it (but do not compete themselves) as the World Masters. Even though I have been a world champion, I've hardly thought of myself as a master of the world.


Right from about 1850 and up to very reecently almost all those who needed it, clerks, secretaries and journalists especially, have used Pitman's Shorthand. You could get down every word of a speech or a piece of dictation while still having time to think up questions. I had a formidable secretary once, Esme Langley-Ross, with a formidable IQ, who was so on top of the job that she would hector me as to the logic and the grammar of what she was taking down almost before I said it.

Pitman's is made up of short pencil strokes or "outlines", the meanings often determined by whether they were angled this or that way, or straight or curved, or written above or below the line, one for each sound - and sometimes special squiggles for the sort of platitudes and cliches that businessmen are so full of, such as "under the circumstances" or "From time to time", or "I am writing to you to say". (Why not just say it!). And everybody was everybody else's Humble Servant.

When taking down MPs' speeches in the Press Gallery of Parliament I never could read my own handwriting, which looked like an early form of hieroglyphics, never mind decode my shorthand, and had to crib from the experts, Hansard.

There were other systems adopted by a few people, such as Speedwriting, and even as far back as the 1950s, I remember a man sitting next to me in the press gallery who had a silent machine which he tapped on with two fingers and out slipped line after line of type on a long sheet of paper, like ticker tape.

But I said I'd go back to the telegram, which from the 19th century everybody used as the carrier of urgent messages. It was twelve words for a bob, and delivered within minutes by uniformed lads on bicycles. If you've ever read The Riddle of the Sands, a pre-World War 1 thriller, you would have noted how the hero went around London's West End one morning to fit himself out in stout sea clothing: as he left the shoe-maker he would telegram his tailor in St James to say he'd be calling there in Bond St in ten minutes and please have his new suit ready for fitting.

In 1946 a cousin of mine living in Cape Town, Peggy, accompanied by her husband, having been cooped up in S Africa all the war flew off to London for a holiday, leaving her sister to look after the kids. At the end of the trip they cabled home, economical with their words as everyone was: "Ma dad flying home tomorrow meet plane".

Unfortunately this had a one-letter misprint in it: "Ma dead flying home tomorrow meet plane" - more than enough to have their huge family, half of Cape Town it seemed, turn up to meet them at the airport in a fearful state, dressed in mourning, and, by special permission of the authorities, allowed to walk onto the tarmac where the aircraft touched down.

Out above them comes Peggy and husband. Peggy sees the mourners below and shrieks, "Oh, Migod, who's died!" and falls down in a faint at the top of the steps.


Just to gather the reins: We've been through the stages of the Over 40 Running movement's foundations in London in 1931, it's revival after the war in 1946 and of going international in 1972.

For it happened that in the USA also, at La Jolla in California, a man called David Pain had set up an Over 40 running club in the 1970s and flew them over to Crystal Palace to compete with us in the VAC. We also roped in a handful of Italians, French and Germans, booked Crystal Palace track and grandly called it the World Championships.

You can see how swiftly we grew thereafter by looking at the number of medals I'd collected by later in the 1970s (See my personal letterhead based on a little wooden model of myself as a Highgate Harriers veteran, which was used for hanging the medals.) We had 100 countries in by now and we swanned round to dozens of them to compete in various international champs, an opportunity to accumulate more awards while having a holiday in exotic spots. At the beginning of the 1980s I turned 60 and became the 200 metres world champion in Sotuh New Zealand.

More vet stuff in a day or two, I'm just writing up 2 things first:
1) How to join the vets yourself
2) Confidential for the moment.

Fill in the time by trying our latest specially devised exercise for men and women vets - or "Masters", if you like, the ladies too.

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