Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Jack, Josh And Uncle Bill

All the paragraphs are 100 words

Brothers Jack and Josh have had a great time learning shorthand over the summer months, fitting it in with their college assignments*. They have found out that Uncle Bill knows some shorthand as well although he is very rusty. What better way for everyone to help themselves and each other than to correspond in shorthand, guaranteeing that the subject matter is of the highest interest, being the activities of family members. It doesn’t practise high speed but is a good way to practise smooth correct writing and revise the vowel signs, which are needed more when writing for someone else.

* "assignments" Contraction, on the line

Dear Uncle Bill, How is Auntie Sheila? We hope
* you are both well. We are now able to write our news to you in shorthand. We were surprised that you did shorthand in school ages ago. To make sure you can read our shorthand, we are writing slowly which is good revision for us. We will make up for it by doing some fast takes later on. By now we are finding it rather difficult to go slowly! We are keeping a notebook* of our activities, so we can keep you and Auntie Sheila informed. Best wishes*, Jack and Josh

* Omission phrase "we (h)ope"

* "notebook" Insert the first vowel, as this is similar to "handbook"

* "Best wishes" Upward Ish in order to join the phrase

Dear Jack and Josh, Thanks for your message. I did manage to read it all, but it took some time, as it is a very long time indeed since I did any of it. That was at school long before your parents were born, and I only used it as an office boy for a few years. I am writing this from draft outlines that Auntie Sheila has prepared, otherwise it would take a week to write it out in shorthand that you could
* recognise! It is good to keep my memory in shape in my later years. Uncle Bill

* "you could" Not phrased, so it does not look like "you can"

Dear Uncle Bill, We were so pleased to see your message in shorthand. It is very neat and we see you have got out your old dip pen from your schooldays. It is so different from our efforts, but of course we can all read each other’s notes, which is the main thing. We are going to print and keep the shorthand images in a folder, so be careful what you write in them! Then we can learn from the outlines at a later date. Do let us know if we make any mistakes. Best wishes
* from Jack and Josh

* "Best wishes" Upward Ish in order to join the phrase

Dear Uncle Bill, Today we went to town to a museum. After we had gone round, we noticed a guide giving a rather loud presentation on the history to a group of visitors. We instantly got out our mini notebooks
* and took some of it down. We sat in a corner so we were not obvious to everyone. It was a really big challenge but at least the speaker was going a lot more slowly than normal talking, which was helpful. Despite many big gaps, we filled in for each other, not bad for our first attempt. Jack and Josh

* "notebooks" Insert the first vowel, as this is similar to "handbooks"

Dear Uncle Bill, Jack and I had to travel around on the trains today, on college assignments. We went separately with the aim of writing down all the automatic announcements at the stations and on the trains. We have swapped notebooks
* and are now working on transcribing* them. Lots of phrases are identical, such as the warnings, so that is a bit of a giveaway* and not really testing our shorthand that much. But the placenames are a big challenge, because we went to different areas. It’s great as it doesn’t take any extra time to do. Love from Josh

* notebooks" Insert the first vowel, as this is similar to "handbooks"

* "transcribing" Omits the second R, to stop it looking like "describing"

* "giveaway" In full, as using the short form would not be clear

Dear Jack and Josh, Glad to hear of your activities on the trains. I have done the same with the television adverts
*. I only got a few snatches of words here and there*, and I had to use a pencil for that. I wonder if you can read the scan of my scribbly* notes? Can you do the same and send some to me, so I can have a go at reading your scribble? It would be quite an achievement for me to read that, but I do have Auntie Sheila here in case of outline emergencies! Love Uncle Bill

* "adverts" Normal outline, insert the first vowel to ensure it is not misread as the contraction "advertisements" which is written on the line

* Omission phrase "here (and) there"

* "scribbly" Insert the final vowel, so it is not misread as "scribbled"

Dear Uncle Bill, Here are some of our notes of adverts
*. We chose the food ones, as they are more simple to find the outlines for. We had the brilliant idea of taking down some dialogue from a cowboy movie, as we know you like them. We did it from a video, so we could* fast forward* through it to get the phrases fairly quickly. It was about the sheriff chasing the cattle rustling gang and other outlaws making trouble in town. Thanks for your messages, we like seeing real shorthand other than what’s in the book. Love from Jack

* "adverts" Normal outline, insert the first vowel to ensure it is not misread as the contraction "advertisements" which is written on the line

* "we could" Not phrased, so it does not look like "we can"

* Omission phrase "fas(t) fo(r)ward"

Dear Auntie Sheila, We have been having a wonderful time reading Uncle Bill’s messages in shorthand. We would like to buy Uncle a modern shorthand pen for his birthday, do you think that would be a good idea? We would include some good quality ink and pads as well, as we noticed the dip pen was sputtering on the rough paper. Let us know and we will order them straight away.  We can’t wait to see his face when we bring them over, and we think it may cause more stir than your chocolate covered birthday cake! Jack and Josh (900 words)

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Burgess Park

We are back in park visiting mode, and doing our best to get around before the summer weather finally fades away. A wintry day is no barrier to our outings, as long as the sun is shining and the sky has the maximum amount of blue, but even better to do it whilst it is still warm, the trees are green, the plants are colourful and the fresh air is mild rather than bracing. A week ago we went to Burgess Park in south London. This is another patch of green which we had overlooked, as it did not at first sight* seem to be of great interest. I always look at the satellite image of the map to see if there is an ornamental* garden, as something to aim for. We travelled to London Bridge and then took a bus through Southwark* and Walworth. Bussing through traffic congested suburbs is made tolerable only by being upstairs on a double decker bus, so that we can look down on the suburban scenery, searching for items of interest to note for the future, or passing judgement on the less attractive parts of the cityscape.

* Omission phrase "at firs(t) sight"

* "ornamental" Using Ray, in order to join the following hook and strokes easily

* "Southwark" The W in the spelling is silent

The park is a long thin one on the map but, as we entered, it was very open and spacious. In the centre is a lake, with a walkway over it. The water surface was covered in a bloom of green algae, and as the water birds swam through it, they left swirling dark trails which soon closed over. Notices warned of the health hazards of coming into contact with the pond water. The swirling shapes looked just like the gas clouds of planet Jupiter, although all in shades of green. The surface patterns, although fascinating, only added to the feeling that this water was unhealthy for its inhabitants, as well as being unappealing to look at. However we did see several anglers in their various fishing locations, so presumably the fish are surviving. When we reached the far end, we saw several swirls appearing from nowhere and then some back fins just breaking the surface. The fish must have been* about a foot long or more, going by the size of the disturbance.

* Omission phrase "mus(t have) been"

As we rounded the lake we saw several little groups of miniature concrete house sculptures dotted around in the grass at the sides. These were to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Second World War, when their houses, which were located here before the park was created, were bombed and destroyed. In the middle area, construction work was in progress, laying the drainage ditches for the new sports pitches. We went on to the south side where there is a lower level path which was once the Surrey Grand Canal. We found the Bridge To Nowhere, which crossed the canal, although closed at present awaiting refurbishment. We will look forward* to walking over it in future, going from one nowhere to another nowhere, or perhaps both sides will be promoted to special “somewheres” by then.

* Omission phrase "look fo(r)ward"

At the west end of the park we came across Chumleigh Almshouses with their ornamental* gardens, a very pleasant* surprise. Despite the hot weather we have had and the lateness of the season, all the plants were in healthy bloom and looking good. With the buildings and the trees around, they seem to have escaped being cooked in the August heatwave. The secluded shady gardens wrap around the buildings, and are divided into different sections which makes a relatively small or narrow space much more* interesting. We saw a pair of wrought iron gates with a map of the world on, with a padlock in the centre. This just about sums up the state of the world over the past half a year, securely locked and patiently* waiting for the signal to open up again. We will be returning to the park to find other interesting bits of history and odd corners that we may have missed first time. By then the pitches will be completed and tidy, and, even better, the lake will hopefully clear itself of the algae once the colder weather arrives. (689 words)

* "ornamental" Using Ray, in order to join the following hook and strokes easily

* "pleasant" "pleasing" Helpful to insert the vowel, as these are similar

* Omission phrase "much more)"

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Full And Fully


This article practises the suffixes -ful and -fully, which as single words are written with the normal strokes. The suffix generally uses the hooked stroke, and adds the dot vowel for the adverb. Where the hooked stroke is not convenient, full strokes are used, with downward L, but upward for fully, to indicate the vowel. Let’s follow the pernickety Mr Speller as he writes his diary for the week. He can finish his writing day knowing the shorthand in his diary is correct, and can then relax in the armchair and peruse the delights within one of his many rivetingly interesting, large, thick and voluminous dictionaries.

On Monday, I rose at dawn, when everything is peaceful and quiet. It was a beautiful sunny* day but I was mindful that the weather forecast had shown some frightful rain and possibly harmful high winds coming our way. This was very helpful information and so caution was definitely needful*. I decided to make a short trip to the park to see the colourful displays, hopeful that I could avoid the rain. I was grateful to the skilful gardeners for the delightful and cheerful sight that greeted me as I entered the park. I was thankful for the thoughtful way in which the park was supplied with plentiful seats everywhere.

* "sunny" "snowy" Generally helpful to insert the vowels, to differentiate

* "needful" Special outline, to enable the first vowel to be clearer, compare the distinguishing pair "needless" "endless"

On Tuesday, I went into the library which had just been redecorated in a tasteful* blue. I returned a biography about a characterful person who, despite a shameful and spiteful past, with many doubtful* motives, remained dutiful* and respectful to his family and faithful to his ideals. Leaving behind his fearful days of wishful thinking, he led a purposeful life and ended up with a powerful career. It was a truthful account of a trustful* and positive person who overcame a hurtful past.

* "tasteful" "trustful" Omit the lightly-sounded second T

* "dutiful" Special outline, to distinguish from "doubtful", so that vowels can be safely omitted

On Wednesday I decided to clear the garage. It was full of awful rubbish and I had to be careful that I did not trip over it. It was not going to be a restful* day. It was a fanciful notion that I might need any of it. There was a handful of boxes of paperwork that I should keep, which I had been neglectful to file properly*, and which consisted mainly of items that proved I was the lawful owner of the house. I drummed up a forceful attitude to deal with it all, so ditching the rubbish was not so painful after all. I became quite resourceful and was successful in converting some spare wood into shelves, a useful addition to the storage. It was a truly* wonderful feeling when it was all finished.

* "restful" Omits the lightly-sounded second T

* "properly" Insert the first vowel, and the diphone in "appropriately", and their derivatives, as these are similar in outline and meaning

* "truly" "utterly" Insert the vowel, as these are similar in outline and meaning

On Thursday I went to look at a new house. Thankfully the weather was fine and my banker had thoughtfully sent me the information I had requested. The house was beautifully and colourfully decorated, and delightfully situated next to the woods. The owner very helpfully showed me around and cheerfully explained its history. I respectfully asked to see the garden and I walked purposefully round it to check the size. It was skilfully planted with flowers, shrubs and trees. The far end was frightfully overgrown* but helpfully the owner suggested it could be converted to a sunny patio. I was powerfully persuaded of its charms and hopefully I can make an offer on this tastefully* furnished property.

* "overgrown" "evergreen" Insert the last vowel, to prevent misreading

* "tastefully" Omits the lightly-sounded second T

On Friday I fully intended to finish up my week’s work. I was awfully tempted to delay it, but I had carefully made a list and had resourcefully made up a timetable of what to do when. The work went painfully slowly at first*, but by mid-morning I had successfully completed a large portion of the list. I had fancifully thought I could complete it by four but I had neglectfully left out three very important projects from my checklist. However I found that I had wrongfully labelled them as unfinished, and I had very usefully already completed those last week*. By five I successfully marked off the work as finished and was feeling wonderfully relieved that everything had been done. (673 words)

* Omission phrases "at (fir)st" "las(t w)eek"

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Travelling Again


We have spent the past five months staying local and not travelling outside our area, like millions of others around the globe. We have avoided public transport, as requested by our government and leaders, and we have only used the car for short shopping trips. But now, at last*, we are able to start using the buses and trains again. A few days ago we made a short train journey to another local shopping area, and today we had an outing to Crystal Palace Park in South London.

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

As we near the end of August, it is now essential to make the most of the remaining time of warm dry weather. Such pleasant* conditions can sometimes go on all through September and occasionally into October, but September is always the month of surprises. It could turn cold and stay that way, or we could* have a mixture. The month is always marked for me as the return to school, and if the weather had become colder, I would not be feeling so deprived by being confined to the classroom. The excitement of the new term, with new form room, new form teacher and new timetable, was generally enough to consume my thoughts. Nowadays I just think of the parks and want to catch the displays of flowerbeds before they go over and get cut down, tidied and planted with spring bulbs, winter *pansies and primulas.

* "pleasant" "pleasing" Helpful to insert the first vowel

* "we could" Not phrased, so it does not look like "we can"

* "winter" Insert the vowel, so it does not look like "wonderful"

Today has been gloriously sunny* and warm, with a few gusty winds, and we really could not waste it all by staying* at home. We took the bus and train to Penge East station, both of which were very sparsely occupied. A ten minute walk led us to the lower entrance to the park. We went up to the lake and spent a while watching the crowd of pigeons on the lake edge who were watching us. There seems to be* two sorts of pigeon, the independent ones who will look out for certain arm movements (bread flinging) and fly towards them immediately, and the rest of the mob who just follow what everyone else is doing, no questions* asked, whether the flight is towards food or away from trouble. Beady dinosaur eyes kept glancing at us but our arms did not make any of those meaningful movements. There is a café nearby where people may drop crumbs, so we need not kid ourselves that the pigeons are starving, hungry or even peckish at times. Indeed park pigeons often just sit and snooze, with a temporary lack of interest in the offerings. It is however an unbreakable rule that food must be* eaten when available, if there is the slightest room in their tums, as who knows what tomorrow may bring, maybe rain and no offerings at all.

* "sunny" "snowy" Generally helpful to insert the vowels, although here the meaning is clear

* "staying" The Dot Ing includes the vowel, so no need for a diphone

* Omission phrases "there seems (to) be" "mus(t) be"

* "questions" Optional contraction

We took one of the paths up the hill and went past the large sports centre and stadium. Further on* we stopped to greet the giant sculpture of the head of Joseph Paxton, who designed the glasshouse. We then walked further up the grassy slope to the hilltop where the Palace once stood. It is a wide open space of several terraces, with two grand marble stairways in the centre. We sat on a large chunk of marble at the very top and had our sandwiches, watching the scudding clouds and looking out over the distant view of the countryside of North Kent. It was somewhat misty in the distance, as we have had some rain in the past few days*. Most people were strolling, some were jogging and a few were dog walking. The only relatively crowded places in the park are the children’s playground and the lakeside café nearby.

* "further on" Adding N Hook can also mean "further than"

* Omission phrase "pas(t) few days"

The Victorians loved old ruins and if there were no ruins to hand they would make fake ones to feed their imaginations. Now here was one of their great and glorious achievements, the Crystal Palace, reduced, after burning down in 1936, to a few decaying steps, walls and empty statue plinths with grass and wide gravel walkways instead of neat paths and flowerbeds. The sound of the fountains, chatter and bands playing* has been replaced by that of the wind in the trees, crows cawing and, on event days, intermittent faint voices floating over from the direction of the sports arena. I don’t think they would have been so enthusiastic over these particular ruins.

* "playing" The Dot Ing includes the vowel, so no need for a diphone

It now serves another purpose, a public open space with magnificent uncluttered views of the countryside, facing south east and therefore away from the cityscape. Instead of being impressed by inventions and goods within a giant glasshouse, we can now sit on the hilltop and enjoy the openness, big sky, fresh breezes and the quietness, as a relief from our other invention, the noise and commotion of the city and suburbs. It is large enough for there to be no noise of traffic. If the Crystal Palace had not been moved here from Hyde Park, the area might have been built over or put to other less appealing* uses, so the existence of this large public park is the legacy of the Palace, even though the building has long since gone. There are refurbishment plans and these appear to include the repair of the terraces, for event use, so this valuable amenity will remain for everyone’s enjoyment in the future, along with preservation of the remains. (894 words)

* "appealing" "appalling" always insert the second vowel

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Jack And Josh

Each paragraph is 100 words

Dear Auntie Sheila*, Thank you so much for sending the shorthand books. What a great idea, it will certainly help us take better class notes, once we have got through the books, and we will be well set up by the time we go off to uni. We were quite taken aback when we saw the squiggles and shapes for the first time*. But then we thought, hey, Auntie learned this at a young age and in only three months, so we can manage it as well. We will give it our very best effort. Love from Jack and Josh*

* "Sheila, Jack, Josh" Insert the vowels in names on the first occurrence, and then omit, as long as there are no other similar names later on

* Omission phrase "for (the) first time"

Dear Auntie Sheila, It is a whole month since we started on the book. It doesn’t feel so strange now, and we have got through several chapters already. Like you said, we are writing out the drills and sentences regularly. We take turns reading the shorthand in the book while the other writes it down, and at the same time* with our phones recording, which means we can do it all again later on. I have been listening and practising on the train, much more* useful than staring at some Youtube or Google. Josh and I are about level. Jack

* "at the same time" Halving for the T of "time"

* Omission phrase "much m(ore)"

Dear Auntie Sheila, Good news, the pens have arrived and it is a big novelty for us to write with real ink. I hope that won’t slow us down till we get used to them, but I am sure it will be an advantage for the future. The writing is very smooth and the notes are much easier to read*. I don’t think I want to go back to pencil, but Jack and I agree that pencil is better on the bus and train. We might need to upgrade the pads as well to a smoother paper. Best wishes*, Josh.

* "read" Insert the vowel when phrased, likewise "to write" "I wrote"

* "Best wishes" Upward Ish in order to join the phrase

Dear Auntie Sheila, Did you get the photos in my text message? What do you think of our shorthand? I think mine is neater than Josh’s but then his attempt was going a bit faster than mine. I decided to speed up my talking in the middle of the passage, a bit of a sneaky trick, but he did the same to me the other day and went ten words a minute* faster than I had expected. We are even now and it adds interest! It just goes to show, you have to be ready for anything. Love from Jack

* Omission phrase "words (a) minute"

Dear Auntie Sheila, Halfway through the book and we are getting on really well, which is amazing* as we also have lots of college work. We are using the shorthand as relaxation, although it is a good workout for the brain and fingers, like playing football after classes. Or maybe the college work is relaxation from the shorthand work, not sure which it is! Looking back at chapter one is absolutely amazing*, as it now looks like child’s play to us. Won’t it be great when the last chapter looks like that too!  We are practising writing every day. Josh

* "amazing" "amusing" Always insert the vowel in these and derivatives

Dear Auntie Sheila, Sorry for the long delay, we have had extra college assignments to do. We kept on at the exercises, and are now only two chapters from the end, which is mainly special outlines and phrases, so all the theory is done. We can now take reasonable college notes without stumbling too much*, which wasn’t* possible at the beginning. Once home, we speak the class notes into our new voice recognition program, which saves a lot of time. That leaves more time* for practising, and we now have a brilliant incentive to improve. Love from Jack and Josh

* "too much" Includes the M in order to form the phrase, likewise "so much, very much"

* "wasn't" Always insert the vowels in apostrophied phrases

* "more time" Halving for the T of "time"

Dear Auntie Sheila, Get this, Auntie, we both took down at sixty words a minute* today! We struggled a bit reading back, but it was all there. Admittedly it was a passage from early in the book, but we are absolutely delighted. We have to repeat that, though, with something from the end of the book as well, and we are spending our day off preparing some of the later passages. We have the dictations recorded and it’s just a matter of getting up the courage to take it down without touching the stop button. I will email tomorrow. Jack

* Omission phrase "words (a) minute"

Dear Jack and Josh, As you can see, I have attached to this email a photo and a sound file. I am speaking at sixty words a minute for you and expect you both to be able to write it perfectly. You have both worked very hard, despite the subject being an unusual one, and I am very confident you can get it all down. Remember,* use my shorthand to prepare before you take it down. Then correct your outlines against mine, and take it again. Well done on your work so far and keep going. Lots* of love, Sheila

* "Remember" Indicate a pause either by writing a shorthand dash, as above, or leaving a space. Commas are never written in shorthand, they are too much like an outline.

* "lots" "masses" Insert the vowel, as these are similar in outline and meaning

Dear Auntie Sheila, We managed it again! Our shorthand was wild and woolly, with some wrong outlines, but we both read back OK and, most importantly*, no gaps. I remember you saying that sixty was “quite slow, really” and it is true, the recording does sound weird and unreal, but hey we got it all down, and we are on a roll now. Do send more if you can, so we can listen to you on the bus and train. We will be saving the sound files and speeding them up later on.  We look forward to the next missive!

* Omission phrase "mos(t) importantly"

Dear Jack and Josh, I don’t think you can manage this one, it is well beyond your present speed. I am not saying what the speed is, it is just more like normal talking. But do give it a try and see if you can get something. It’s a bit of fun really, and if you get half of it, that would be a great achievement. Like you said, save the sound file and before long it will not only be within reach, but it will become quite easy and you will wonder what all the fuss was about. Sheila

Dear Auntie Sheila, We saved that attempt* for our day off, so we could work up our courage to do it. We had a while of drilling to get ourselves into fast mode, but before I could suggest another hour’s practice, Josh said, “Let’s do it now, before we think too much* about it, we can always retake it later on as well.” It was the longest* two minutes of my life and I could feel my palms getting sweaty. What a relief when you said, “That’s it, boys”. Our sixties now seem ridiculously slow. Thanks, Auntie, Jack and Josh

* "attempt" Omits the lightly-sounded P

* "too much" Includes the M in order to form the phrase

* "longest" Alternative outline that omits the G stroke

Dear Josh, Hope you are having a great time at the seaside. I have a plan to repay Auntie Sheila for all those sneaky fast messages she has been sending to us. Let’s write a really nice message and record it at a hundred and fifty, which she said she used to do. We won’t say what the speed is. I think she will be pleased to give it a go, especially as we can ask her to show us how that can be done when we visit. Let me have your half minute as soon as possible. Thanks, Jack

Dear Jack and Josh, Thank you so much* for sending me your surprise high speed message sound file. I did manage to get it down, although not as neatly as in the past. Now, boys, please edit it on your computer down to a hundred, and take it yourselves. As you are both at around seventy, I think your notes and mine will look about the same. When you have done that, please come over and we can compare our notes over coffee and cakes* in the summerhouse. I think that will be an irresistible* challenge to you both! Sheila (1300 words)

* "so much" Includes the M in order to form the phrase

* "irresistible" Ray is changed to Ar for the "irr-" prefix. If that is not convenient, then add an Ar before the existing Ray or Ar e.g. irradiate, irrational, irrevocable, irremedial. This avoids relying on the insertion of a vowel.