Thursday, 14 December 2017

Pantomime Horse Race

Last Sunday we went to see the Pantomime Horse Race in Greenwich, south London. Despite the snow, ice, slush and sleet, we set out for Greenwich by train, well wrapped up against the wintry weather and with an essential supply of chocolate flavoured biscuits in our bags*. As soon as we were on the platform, looking up and down the white railway lines, I wondered whether we had been somewhat hasty in our enthusiasm to see the event. But once we were on the train, the heaters under the seats restored our interest in having an unusual day out.

* "bags" Insert vowel and keep B clearly thick, as it is similar to "packs, pockets, buckets" - all containers

Such events always involve some waiting around for things to begin*, so we allowed plenty of time to get there, and walked around Greenwich Park, now white instead of green. There are a lot of grassy slopes in this park and we could* see children and adults sliding down and toiling up on the steeper ones with their lightweight plastic sledges. There were a few small snowmen dotted about, quite a feat of construction*as the snow was barely an inch thick, but there was no difficulty finding twigs and stones for the features. We walked up the hill to the Royal Observatory and looked out over the snowy landscape*, with the cold grey river Thames in the distance. A curtain of fine sleet entirely obscured the top halves of all the tall buildings at Canary Wharf on the far bank. How strange for those in the upper offices to see nothing but white out of the window instead of the usual far-reaching views.

* "to begin" Through the line, similar to the short form phrase "to be", similarly "to become"

* "we could" Not phrased, so it is not misread as "we can"

* Omission phrase "of (con)struction"

* "landscape" it is the halved L that is in position, so it does not matter where the base of the P ends up

As the time of the race neared*, we made our way to the grounds of Devonport House. Just before getting there, we saw two police officers on horses coming down the road. Clearly the police horses had requested to be present today, in order to*display their intelligence and calm behaviour, as a fitting contrast to the daft humans in their costumes showing much less decorum than they were. The start time was delayed and meanwhile it had begun to snow with proper*big flakes, much more acceptable than the slushy droplets that had been falling earlier. At last* all the panto horses arrived at the start line, looking very colourful and full of energy, and with larger than usual horses’ feet, covering what I hoped were trainers with good rubber soles to grip the icy patches on the road. The race consists of lots*of short dashes between all the local pubs, taking in short drinks in each one. The first stop was just across the road, and they all managed to arrive at the same time with no straggling* but much noise and merriment.*

* "neared" Halved version of short form "near". Not thickened, as that is used for the "ing-gered/inkered" series of sounds

* Omission phrase "in ord(er to)"

* "proper" Always insert the first vowel, and the diphone in "appropriate" as these are similar in outline and meaning

* "at last" "at least" Always insert the vowel

* "lots" "masses" Always insert the vowel

* "straggling" Helpful to insert vowel, as it could also make sense as "struggling"

* "merriment" Using "-nt" for the suffix where "-ment" cannot join

Their arrival at the second pub at the other end of the road was a little more drawn out, but still full of enthusiasm and energy. The dash to the third pub round the corner was slightly downhill, so that was a help to all the horse legs that had failed to practise their running and endurance skills. The fourth pub was immediately opposite the third, so that section of the race took about three seconds, but with no less speed, cheering and noise. We finally saw them run off towards the fifth pub, with legs getting noticeably tired and some of the horses’ heads wobbling about and costumes going awry. I am not sure whether they were suffering from the cold, from the heat of running in costume, or from all the shots that they were drinking. As they disappeared down the road, we decided we had enough photos*and made our way back to the train station. Our fingers were quite frozen*, the gloves getting wet and the camera getting snowed on. There would be more fun and games at the end of the main race, as the first five winners undertook a further obstacle course to determine the overall winner.

* "photos" "videos" Insert the vowel, as theye are similar in outline and meaning

* "frozen" "freezing" Insert the first vowel, as they are similar in outline and meaning

There was never any doubt that the race would go ahead despite the snow, and I think that the weather conditions just added to the silliness, daftness and sheer doggedness of the event. After all, extra cold requires extra drinks, an incentive to press on rather than give up or cancel. I think next year we might be able to follow it all the way round, as by then I will have discovered the best combination of gloves and mittens to keep the fingers operational and actually moving when required. The purpose of the race, apart from the fun had by participants and onlookers, is to raise money for charity, and that is really the main reason why nothing the weather could throw at them would put them off completing this uproarious and nutty spectacle all the way to its soggy but triumphant conclusion. (796)

You can't beat the real thing when you have a need for speed

Monday, 4 December 2017

Santa Dash

We have had our first little bit of frost and last week* a sparse offering of undersized snowflakes* fluttering down for half an hour. The periods of cold have been an incentive to finish off the garden jobs, replant a few items and clear the mud and leaves from the paths. All that is done now, and when we get much colder weather, ice, frost, snow and biting north wind, I will not be wishing I had done it all earlier. Whatever the weather is doing, it will not officially* be winter until the 21st of December, although I have always felt that winter begins with the onset of wintry weather, and the same with all the seasons. Although the weather may be playing games with us, the same cannot be said of Christmas. During December it finally* gets underway after an uncomfortably long warm-up in October and November, muscling in before its due time.

* Omission phrase "las(t w)eek"

* "snowflakes" Note the FL hooked stroke is always normal left version when initial, i.e. it is not reversed for vowel indication like the FR stroke is. FL is only reversed medially or finally in order to make a good join

* "officially" "finally" Keep the Ish clearly vertical and the N horizontal. It is also helpful to insert the final vowel in these two

Yesterday the Christmas season truly arrived in my area, with the festive and colourful spectacle of the Santa Dash* in one of the parks. This is a fun run event where everyone dresses in Santa suits, which are provided for the registration fee. We went to take pictures and as the start time approached we kept seeing little groups and gaggles of red Santas appearing from different entrances and paths, from between trees and coming round corners. They were all ages and sizes. Before the run started, there was a group photo* opportunity, and then a ten minute warmup session, with popular Christmas songs booming round the park from the powerful sound system.

* "Dash" Ish is written upwards after  D, and downwards after T, in order to provide extra differentiation

* "photo" Insert the last vowel, so it is not misread as "video"

At the blast of the horn all 400 plus Santas made off in a looping circuit of the park and then out onto the High Street, a total of 2 kilometres*, ending up in the square in the main shopping centre. The slight mizzle got heavier but did not become rain. This was not good for the camera, but was certainly ignored by all the Santas whose enthusiasm would not be dampened in the least. At the finish line they were each given a medal for taking part. This was the first time we have had a Santa Dash in this area, and many shoppers stopped at the roadsides to cheer them on. I hope that next year the onlookers will be more numerous, as cheering crowds are a big part of the event, and possibly the wet conditions meant there were fewer shoppers around than usual.

* "kilometres" the L is downward in order to make a more compact outline, similarly "column"

Once home, my thoughts turned to the camera, which I had been constantly wiping, especially just before allowing the lenses to retract. I set up a drying out place to drive out any moisture, using a bean bag* and a hot water bottle as the heat source underneath. I am sure the Santas were doing the same, removing their* wet Santa suits and getting back home to dry off, warm up and view their selfies and photos*, and celebrate their achievement with the first mince pie of the season. (504 words)

* "bean bag" Insert a clearly thick dot for "bean" so it does not look like "bin bag"

* "removing their" Doubling of the Ing stroke for "their"

* "photos" Insert the last vowel, so it is not misread as "videos" My Youtube of the event

Monday, 20 November 2017

Downward L 3

Here are some more practice paragraphs for final L stroke. For a full explanation of the principles for each set, please see the Theory L Forms* page on the theory website. The following have upward L for a final vowel and downward if no final vowel. These are the actual words of the speech and I did actually take them down myself. We had a structural surveyor in to inspect the building and we found it was structurally sound. The house owner has created an artistical and pleasing interior and I always knew he was artistically gifted. The mural consisted of fantastical animals and figures, and I hear that it was fantastically expensive to produce. We have subjected the figures in section one to a statistical analysis, but we found that the second section was statistically unusable. We have been working on the logistical problem of getting all the parts to the factory, and have to say that it is a logistically complicated procedure. He is an extremely egotistical person, so it is no surprise that he generally behaves very egotistically.

Here the L stroke is repeated. A foul person will behave foully, a vile fellow will speak vilely and a servile person is likely to act servilely. This fish has scales but that fish appears to be scaleless. However I can confirm that the fish is not tailless. He felt his job in the factory was repetitive and soulless. He was a totally guileless person and he always wore totally styleless clothing. He knew that to continue would be futile, and he did not want to make a habit* of acting futilely. The crowd was very hostile to the authorities, and continued behaving hostilely for a long time*. We have investigated the whole matter and we are wholly satisfied that the problem has been solved. I am the sole owner of the property and all decisions will be taken solely by me. Not only was it a dull grey afternoon but the teacher went on speaking dully for hours on end. During the incident everyone remained cool and I commend the manager for reacting so coolly to a difficult situation. Compare these which are formed differently. This jumper has a hole and I do not wish to wear holey clothing. The dolly was wearing a straw coolie hat.

* "habit" and "hobby" Insert the first vowel as they are similar in outline in meaning

* Omission phrase "for (a) long time"

These outlines have downward L after a halved* or doubled* stroke, for similar motion, and only add a final dot for the suffix. He considers himself to be a sober intellectual type of person. The other person seems to be intellectually deficient in my opinion. These theories are totally conjectural and are not based on all the facts. All their comments are conjecturally based, in other words they have been guessing without having sufficient facts. I have registered my name and address* on the electoral record. It is electorally unacceptable to use out of date or incomplete lists of voters. He does weightlifting to improve his pectoral muscles. I have taken on an additional part-time job. He said he would additionally let us have* the sale items at half price. Delivery of the goods is conditional upon paying for them in advance. I am giving them permission to use the rooms conditionally and will review this later on. The driver only had a provisional licence. We have given the builder permission provisionally, as long as he completes the work within one week.

* "halved" "doubled" Ensure these are clearly half length, as "half or double stroke" would also make sense

* Omission phrase "name (and) address"

* "let us have" Downward L in order to join the phrase

These outlines have downward L after the halved* stroke in order to* have similar motion with the preceding curve or hook. I am completely in agreement with the plan. We should speak boldly on the matter* when we are at the meeting. The war of words was bloodless but very intense. The cat crept softly into the garden and pounced swiftly on the mouse. This house is exactly what we require. It is also adequately furnished for us to use at once. He has deservedly been given the monetary award, although he says he is not interested in worldly goods. I told them that I unreservedly recommend this person for the job. I vividly remember the day that we met. The man spoke fervidly about his new invention. There was a fatal accident* at this junction last week* and one person was fatally injured. He was fitly described as a great scientist and inventor*. He came from a poor village in the northern foothills. It was very thoughtless of them to make such remarks. I hope they will not behave so thoughtlessly again. The lady made the dance look absolutely effortless. She glided effortlessly across the ballroom. Their words unfortunately left the poor fellow quite comfortless.

* "halved" Ensure clearly half length, as "half stroke" would also make sense

* Omission phrases "in ord(er to)" "on (the) matter" "las(t w)eek"

* "accident" Ensure the K is straight, and the N of "incident" well curved, to prevent misreading, and helpful to also insert the first vowel

* "inventor" The similar outline "innovator" should always have its second vowel inserted, as the meanings are similar

Note the following distinguishing outlines which need no vowel sign although it is always advisable to insert one to help with reading back, if there is* any doubt over whether you have used the correct outline. A fatal accident* is one that causes death. A futile course of action is one that will not achieve its goal and is a waste of time*. A vital piece of information is the most important* one. It is vitally important that we assess the risks beforehand*. A thoughtless action is one where the person has not looked ahead to all the consequences. A thankless task is one that draws no gratitude or appreciation from anyone. The outline uses the short form.

* "if there is" Doubling is used for "if" but never for "for"

* "accident" Ensure the K is straight, and the N of "incident" well curved, to prevent misreading, and helpful to also insert the first vowel

* Omission phrase "was(te of) time"  "mos(t) important"

* "beforehand" Optional contraction

Learning shorthand principles and outlines may seem a thankless task at the time, and it is true that it cannot be done thoughtlessly, but once you have covered it all completely, written an exam dictation swiftly and transcribed* it all exactly, you can now boldly go on to earn a good wage as a reporter, absolutely deservedly, or do an existing job effortlessly rather than just adequately. You might possibly even be recommended unreservedly for promotion because you are now completely qualified. Gaining this vital skill will not have been futile. I am sure you will vividly remember the day when that envelope containing the shorthand certificate actually arrives through your door. (1007 words)

* "transcribed" Omits the second R so that it does not look so much like "described"

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Fireworks 2017

We have had an abundance of fireworks this November. Gone are the days of buying tiny single or boxed fireworks and letting them off in the garden. That was hugely exciting at the time, as we were so close to the action, and almost on top of it when holding the sparklers. Those who still do so seem to favour the all-in-one firework that gives the whole show from one large box. Nowadays, we prefer the gigantic spectacle of communal displays held in the big open spaces by local authorities and organisations. We went to three public displays and enjoyed much more than* our donation in the bucket could ever have bought.

* Omission phrase "much m(ore tha)n"

The first was the municipal display held on Blackheath Common in south east London. We arrived in good time and spent an hour and a half walking round the funfair. It was a sea of noise and neon lights set amidst the almost blackness of the heath. My favourite is always the Dodgems, as I enjoy the music and also the nostalgia, as it is basically the same as it was when I was young, except that the metal floor is brighter and smoother, the lights are brilliant neon colours rather than just red and yellow ordinary bulbs, and the music amplification is better quality. But the deafening rumbling, the squeals of delight and the excited chatter and shouting are just the same as ever.

As the start time approached, we left the fair and wandered back over the heath to get away from the glare of the lights, so that it would not interfere with the photos and video*. Everywhere children were waving their LED light wands in the shape of swords, whirling windmills, and illuminated fairies and butterflies. There was a countdown from ten to start the display, then followed eleven minutes of glorious pyrotechnics filling the sky. The special sighs of admiration came when one burst spread out in a cloud of sparkles gently falling like golden rain over the arena. There were* plenty of screamers and some glowing golden* ones ascending in whizzing spirals, to then burst into showers of stars. I did manage to actually see it all with my eyes, as I held the camera aloft and as still as possible, otherwise it is easy to miss the real action whilst looking at the camera screen.

* "photos and video" Helpful to insert vowels in these as they are similar in outline and subject matter

* Omission phrase "there (w)ere"

* "glowing golden" Always put the diphone in "glowing" as these are similar in outline and close in meaning

The second event we went to was the next day on the fifth of November, held at Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets*, north east London. Although it is a built up area, the park is very large. We arrived early again and walked round to find out where the display would be happening, and what would be the best place to stand to get good pictures, and also to make a quick get-away at the end. This time we stood further back, to ensure all the action would be captured in the camera shots.

* "Hamlets" Note the vowel goes to the left of the Tick Hay, to ensure it is clearly at one end of the stroke and not in the middle

We enjoyed seventeen minutes of display, which this time was accompanied by music and sound effects. In the short pauses between segments, we could* see the white clouds of smoke blowing over the almost bare park trees, with the moon behind it and intermittent airplanes gliding overhead on their approach to London Heathrow Airport many miles away. The residents of some of the tower blocks adjacent to the park had the best overall view, sitting in their living rooms, with drink and snacks to hand. I think I prefer to actually be out there in the dark amongst the crowds, seeing it all happening in the open air. The park was thick with people and no doubt the crowds were solid in the main viewing arena. As soon as it was over, we made for our planned exit, and found ourselves marching in a flood of people towards the train station. However, by the time we got there, the crowds had thinned out considerably, and we ended up being the only ones on our platform and had the train to ourselves. This was the opposite of what I had supposed it would be.

* "we could" Not phrased, so that it is not misread as "we can". Similarly "you could" "I could" are not phrased.

The third event was the Lord Mayor’s fireworks on the River Thames between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, held the following weekend, as the culmination of the day's spectacular events. We saw some of the Lord Mayor’s Parade and were delighted to see the golden coach going past, preceded by drummers walking along beating their giant kettle drums, which let us know* the star of the parade was about to come past. After it was over, we spent some time in St Paul’s Cathedral and then watched the river traffic whilst eating our sandwiches. Finally, as it grew dark, we took up our chosen place by the granite riverside wall on the South Bank and waited for the set time, watching river boats going past, until all we could* see were lights reflected on the black water. There were* more light wands on sale and also the novelty of hats set with flashing lights, which I just about managed to resist.

* Omission phrase "there (w)ere"

* "we could" Not phrased, so that it is not misread as "we can". Similarly "you could" "I could" are not phrased

* "let us know" Downward L in order to join the phrase

The display began exactly on time, with a lone red firework ascending to let us know* to start recording. It quickly grew into a crescendo of bursts and bangs, and very forceful explosions that echoed around the area,  reflecting off the surrounding high rise buildings and bouncing back within a half a second. The reverberating booms and bangs made us feel like ants at the bottom of an oil drum in a hailstorm. It was truly a display worthy of the principal dignitary of the most famous city in the world, with giant glittering starbursts in quick succession, in all sizes and colours. In the slight pauses between bursts, we saw glowing white, yellow and pink clouds of smoke, and at one point thick grey smoke, which we smelled but thankfully did not have to breathe as it dissipated quite rapidly. The unmistakable whiff of burnt firework chemicals  brought back memories of the back garden bonfire nights, just as much a part of the experience as the intense light from the blazing fireworks themselves.

* "let us know" Downward L in order to join the phrase

At the end there was a great cheer and shouts of appreciation from everyone, and then they all streamed away to their next destinations. Some would be going on to pubs, caf├ęs and restaurants, and other entertainments in the city, and some like us making for home on the warm train, chugging towards our much quieter suburb, after an evening of open air entertainment on the riverside. (1083 words)

My Youtubes of these events:
Blackheath Fireworks
Victoria Park Fireworks

Lord Mayor London Fireworks

Monday, 13 November 2017

Stay Sharp

I like to listen to talks on my Ipod*, in the comfort of the bed, as a way to relax before going to sleep. I can pay attention without being distracted by other activities. Quite often, the person will say something that immediately strikes me as relevant to the task of shorthand learning and writing. Fortunately, being conversant with that wonderful system, I can scribble it down and continue listening without interruption. The speaker was talking about staying alert and acting on what one knows to do. “Stay sharp” he said and continued with his theme. That seemed to me* to be the epitome of efficient behaviour for both the student and the shorthand writer. Pay attention in the lessons, to the book, stay sharp and focussed* when listening to matter being dictated, stay sharp when reading back to avoid transcription mistakes, and stay sharp when producing the final text or report.

*"Ipod" and "Ipad" Always insert the second vowel

* "to me" and "of him" Helpful to always insert the vowel when "me" or "him" is out of position in a phrase

* "focussed" and "fixed" Always insert the first vowel as they are similar in outline and meaning

London Shard

That’s not the end of it, as “stay sharp” most definitely refers to the point of your pencil. I have found the ideal is the normal HB* office pencil. On the graphite scale, the letter H stands for Hard, and the B stands for Black, as it is midway between those two. A pencil designated B is too soft and will blunt really quickly. A pencil designated H or F (for Fine) will be difficult to get thicks and thins out of. A hard or blunt pencil will have you digging into the paper to get the line variations, and this will* seriously slow you down. The tight grip necessary for digging will prevent fine control of the shapes produced, as well as fatigue. Lastly* it will waste the reverse side of the paper as it, and possibly also the next sheet, will be full of indentations, thus doubling the cost of your stationery. The back of the paper should be as smooth as silk. A sharp point takes less pressure to write with and a pile of sharp pencils, ready to swap to, is a shorthand writer’s* best friend. A rubber or eraser is a shorthand no-no, so that can be sawn off and the second end sharpened as well. Paper for use with pencil can afford to be slightly rougher than when using pen and ink, in order to* get the pencil to more readily lay down its graphite.

* "HB" Alphabet letters are general written in lower case, but here it seems more legible to use capitals

* "this will " Downward L in order to join the phrase

* "lastly" Omits the lightly-sounded T

* Omission phrases "short(hand) writer's"  "in ord(er to)"

I like the dictionary definition of sharp: quick, intelligent, incisive, astute, clever, quick-witted, on the ball. This is so much better than running the risk of earning that other epithet “Not the sharpest tool in the box*.” You may or may not be a sharp dresser, you might meet someone who is a sharp operator (not the best character trait*) or you may find you have said some sharp words. All these are detracting from the real meaning of the word that we shorthanders* know it should have: the attitude of someone whose mind is constantly on their shorthand improvement, seeing outlines every time they hear words, and producing fast and correct shorthand in an exam to get the certificate, at a job interview to get the position, and on the job to earn the wages. (529 words)

* "box" "bags" "packs" "pockets" Helpful to insert the vowels in these

* "trait" Also pronounced "tray"

* "shorthanders" No need to thicken the N as the D is part of the doubling, and in any case a doubled thick N stroke stands for "ing-ger/ing-ker"

Any more volunteers to put their head in there?