Thursday, 16 October 2014


Matchsticks - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Whenever I am writing material for these blogs, I do my best to recall my first days of shorthand learning and the difficulties that had to be overcome. In hindsight* it is easy to see how we were led through it all by our teacher, who had many years' experience of teaching the subject. The year was September 1972 and I can see the college classroom very clearly, with three long continuous rows of tables facing a double blackboard. I can see our shorthand teacher, Miss Jefferson, standing at the front, a small slight lady, probably about 60 years of age. We had all brought with us our lined notepad and pencils, as we had been instructed, and we were each given a New Course shorthand book that contained all the lessons. The very first* thing we were told was the basis of Pitman's Shorthand, written by sound and not the longhand alphabet, with examples like "knife" and "cough". She then drew two circles on the blackboard, with crossing lines in the middle, and told us that all the strokes derived from these straight lines and parts of circles.

* "hind" on its own is written halved with N Hook

* Omission phrase "very (fir)st"

Matchsticks - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

We duly began the first lesson in the book, which was entirely straight strokes and some dots and dashes. Our first efforts at reading the sentences were extremely halting, as we were really deciphering each outline by referring to the stroke list. This was a very lengthy process and getting to the end of the exercise was quite a feat of patience, fortitude and endurance for all of us. The outlines did not look remotely like words, obviously because they were not yet familiar to us. It was like solving a puzzle made of matchsticks and ink blots, but we all persevered and put our best effort into it.

Matchsticks - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

During breaks between other lessons on the business studies course, we would go over the sentences again, full of determination to solve each of these little mysteries one by one, ending with the final outline successfully read, and a cheer going up that the sentence was at last revealed. Occasionally one heard mutterings of, "We'll* come back to that one in a minute" and sure enough, someone would eventually get it deciphered, to cries of "Of course it is, I see it now". Some of us also took the Pitman's Memo magazine, and we often read that communally in the lunch break. We felt that we were not going to be beaten by outlines that were trying to hide from us, and we attacked each passage with eagerness and energy, determined to make out all the words. We treated the outlines like footballs, kicking them around between us until they gave up their meaning. We enjoyed our victories immensely and got the taste for these* regular triumphs over the squiggles. Fluency was not on our minds, that was for the far distant future - next term!

* Always write the vowel in this type of apostrophied phrase

* Insert the vowel when "those" "these" are out of position

Matchsticks - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Several weeks* into the course, and further on in the theory book, we had similar but lesser struggles. Each chapter not only introduced new items, but also naturally included practice on the prior ones, as the previous and the new vocabulary were all present in the exercise sentences and passages. This meant that the necessity to decipher gradually* reduced and real reading increased, and after a while those first lessons appeared to be ridiculously simple. It was quite obvious that this leaning stroke was a P and that humpy curve was an M - the sounds had at last attached themselves to the strokes. This did not happen by spending hour upon hour memorising them, but because we were using them constantly whilst working our way through the chapters. Most class lessons started with some revision of the previous one, and at that time we were always encouraged to ask questions*, as by then we had had time to ponder as well as practise. This was done communally so that everyone could benefit from the answers. I can imagine that question time is when a shorthand teacher learns which points the students regularly find difficult, and is therefore a golden opportunity to improve teaching technique.

* Omission phrase "several wee(k)s"

* "gradual, gradually" are written with full strokes, to differentiate them from "greatly"

* Optional contraction "qu(estio)n"

Matchsticks - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Each stroke or principle started off seeming* strange, new, unexpected, interesting and exciting (depending on your level of enthusiasm for the subject) and almost immediately they began their gradual* descent down the scale of novelty. The bottom of the scale is zero for novelty, but a hundred per cent for familiarity, fluency and comfort. This is exactly where all the outlines need to be, and with regular practise and use, they cannot fail to arrive there. The more you practise, the shorter this journey will be and I would suggest little and often is the best method, so that fatigue does not set in. The mind and hand need to rest and consolidate the new information, and while this is happening, you can be doing something entirely different and useful - in fact, consolidation time could be the fancy new name for your refreshment break, as long as you make the effort to write the outline for tea, coffee, juice, snack or sandwich on the pad before you go off to consume the items.

* Insert the vowel, as "something" would also make sense here

Matchsticks - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I hope that you are able to persevere through the "matchstick" phase, and rapidly get to the point where those first few pages acquire a completely different type of novelty - one where it seems strange that they could ever have been difficult and unreadable. If you are reading this in shorthand, then you will have already done that. Those reading only the longhand might try the trick of turning a page of small print upside-down to get the feel of what learning to read was like in the beginning, with the mighty relief of familiarity and comfort for the eyes when the page is turned the right way up again. You will know that you have finally arrived when a page of shorthand looks different and wrong when it is seen upside-down - even better if you can actually read it in that state. (1008 words)

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Changing Season

Changing Season - Part 1 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dandelion flower
Last burst of warmth
I am wondering why it has taken me so long to get used to the idea of it not being summer any more here in the UK. We have had the benefit of a late but prolonged* summer, after the very wet and miserable start to the year with its persistent heavy rain and flooding. Once the better weather arrived, it seemed to settle in quite agreeably, and the warm days just kept coming. At first* this led to some complacency and eventually I realised that, even at the beginning of warm weather, it is prudent to remember that there is a limited supply of such days, and we should get out and about as much as possible.

* Stroke Ing cannot be halved

* Stee loop is used for "first" in some phrases

Changing Season - Part 2 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Last week*, however, I had to admit the inevitable*. Even though it was still mild, whilst walking towards the bus stop I noticed that I was kicking through rather more yellow tree leaves than usual. One or two* would have gone unnoticed*, but a few gusts of wind had brought these colourful reminders of autumn fluttering down, swirling on the path but held immobile* on the grass verges. My first thought was, "Oh well, I suppose it had to come some time." I quickly adjusted* my attitude, from one of expecting endless* summery weather to one where I was a bit more determined to make the most of the remaining warm days, after this sudden reminder that they were unlikely to last much longer.

* Omission phrases "las(t) week" "one (or) two"

* Note distinguishing outlines for inevitable and unavoidable (using halved V), endless and needless (using N and D strokes)

* "unnoticed" "immobile" such negatives repeat the stroke, for clarity

* Written exactly as spoken "a-jus-ted", don't be tempted to put in a stroke D like the spelling

Changing Season - Part 3 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Rose flower
Summer's end
rose offering - tiny
but welcome
The word "season" comes from the Latin word "to sow" as in sowing seed, as that moment in the year is obviously the most important* one to identify accurately. We all know that the seasons progress in a steady manner without fixed boundaries, with the likely weather, temperature and plant growth changing slightly each day. However, I find that my idea of where we are in that gradual progression seems to be* influenced by which of the four words I have decided to call it - spring, summer, autumn (or you may say fall) and winter. Even this can be ambiguous, as officially each season starts on the 21st* of its month, with spring starting on the 21st of March. If there is snow on the ground at the end of March, I feel that* these convenient and fixed descriptions* are not quite good enough and I insist that we are still in winter. With the first change of wind direction, bringing mild air and warmth, then to me it is spring and any cold periods are called "cold snaps" in the expectation that they will take the hint and not last longer than a few days.

* Omission phrases "mos(t) important" "seems (to) be" "I fee(l) that"

* Stee loop for "first". Written on the Hook N side of a stroke, the loop becomes "nst" stading for "next" as in "Monday next"

* "descr(iption)" is a contraction, but the plural "descriptions" is a full outline, according to the dictionary. No satisfactory explanation can be found, so I assume this is an anomaly that first appeared in one of the "20th Century" dictionary editions and has persisted ever since. Before that, the contraction was given as an alternative to the full outline. Writing for myself, I would just put the plural S on the contraction.

Changing Season - Part 4 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Nasturtium flower
Until about a week ago, our warm and sunny* weather had extended* into the "official autumn", which began on the 21st of September, but in the last week the early mornings have been cold and wet, with everything outside soaked and dripping from the overnight mist and fog. The remains of a few roses and fuchsias in the garden are holding out and providing red and pink dots of colour, and the nasturtiums are glowing like jewels around the pond, although they will be the first to collapse when the first frost comes. After a certain amount* of resistance, at last the word "summer" has, like a lacy straw sun-hat, been dusted off, cleaned up and stored away for when it is needed again. Likewise I have put off the summer cardigan and brought out the zipped fleeces, and will be checking over the supply of wrist warmers, thin for cool breezy days, and thick for freezing days. I am not fond of successfully wrapping up against the cold only to find the ends of my sleeves exhaling warm air and sucking* in cold, thus breaching my defences!

* Always insert the vowel signs for sun/snow sunny/snowy

* Keep the T stroke vertical, so that it does not look like "expanded" which has a similar meaning

* Omission phrase "certain (am)ount"

* Insert the vowel sign and keep it clearly thin, as "soaking" has a similar meaning

Changing Season - Part 5 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Before long I will be rummaging through the winter socks to see what needs replacing, and looking for an excuse to knit some of the lovely sock patterns in the new knitting book. I will look over the range of gloves and mittens which suit every degree of damp and cold that might occur, like a squirrel counting the acorns and hazelnuts in his store - although I suspect* the squirrel has only two concepts in his mind to describe them - "enough" and "not enough"! The thin jackets have been cleaned and corralled at one end of the wardrobe where they will stay undisturbed throughout the winter months, and the padded coats brought to the front and all the zips and buttons checked. The ankle boots have swapped places with the sandals at the front of the shelf, a mutual journey of about eight inches. I am now confident that I will not be taken by surprise, and it only remains for me to gloat over the success of these essential preparations against frozen fingers and toes. The only other thing that I have to do is resist the temptation to stay indoors and hug the radiator, as exercise is really the most efficient way of keeping warm. (836 words)

* The contraction is only used for the verb, which has the accent on the second syllable. The noun, with the accent on the first syllable, has full outline.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Something Easy

Something Easy - Part 1 of 2 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
I like to have four blogs per month* so I am going to squeeze in just one more before the month ends. I am sure you have had quite enough for the moment* of practising points of theory such as the hooks or learning new vocabulary and so I am keeping to the simple words. Although learning how to write lots of new words is important, I think the biggest factor* that will increase writing speed is knowing all the very common words perfectly. Most speaking uses quite a small number of words over and over* again, mainly the basic words that create and connect sentences. Because they come up in every sentence, if you stumble over these, then you are losing* a very large amount of time whenever you have to slow down to think of them. It is like being in a three-legged race, but instead of your foot being tied to another person, you are trying to run while being tied to a memory that cannot provide the outlines as fast as they are needed. The result is wild guesses at outlines, too large and spread out on the line in the panic to get something down.

* Sometimes the intersection Ith for "month" can be run on as a phrases, rather than intersected, as in "this month", and in some phrases the full outline is quicker and clearer "las(t) month"

* Omission phrase "for (the) moment"

* Keep the R Hook clear, as "fact" has a similar meaning

* The second "over" is reversed purely to gain good joins in the phrase

* Downward L is used in words like this in order to join the next stroke. "lose" is written upwards

Something Easy - Part 2 of 2 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The mad dash for high speed should not be the normal method of improving your shorthand. It can be used as an occasional test, but in between I believe the best method is to work on reasonably* simple passages, so that the shorthand being written has a chance to remain correct and neat. It is never a waste of time* to practise outlines that you believe you know quite well. At speed, it becomes clear just how well they are known, or not, as the case may be. A difficult part of the dictation can cause the mind to freeze, and so the better the easy ones are known, the more likely it is that the writing will not be slowed down. Once this habit has become established, it provides a solid background against which the more difficult outlines can be dealt with. Both of these paragraphs contain exactly 200 words and so it should be easy for you to practise them at certain speeds. Writing each paragraph in two minutes gives a speed of a hundred words a minute, and taking four minutes on each paragraph gives you a speed of fifty words a minute. Time to begin* practising! (400 words)

* Insert the last vowel, as "reasonable" might also make sense. This applies to many words with the -y ending.

* Omission phrase "waste (of) time"

* This phrase is an extension of the short form phrase "to be", similarly "to become"

Monday, 29 September 2014


Money - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Hoard of coins in museum
Sunbury Hoard (100-50 BC)
in the Museum of London
During the summer I visited several museums around London, showing the history of the area over the last few thousand years. As well as fragments of everyday life, there were lots of coins. Some of the dull ones must have been barely discernible from the soil, and some were of glorious shining gold. In one museum case there was a mound of grey slate coloured coins, a hoard that had been buried for safe keeping, maybe when the area was under attack. In other glass cases were collections of gold coins, laid out carefully in rows, gleaming just like the day that they were struck. My first thought was that this money was not spent on anything by its last owner, who obviously did not come back again to dig it up. Of course, as the gold never deteriorates, it will always outlive its owner, regardless of the circumstances that surround its hiding place. The second and probably more relevant observation is that the money is now worth nothing as money, and it has changed its value to that of an antiquity or the lesser value of its raw metal. They were a reminder that money is only of value when all concerned agree to abide by the rules of its creation, circulation and use.

Money - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Gold coins in museum
Roman gold coins (1st & 2nd C)
in the Museum of London
As children, we were once given a large quantity of farthings, which had ceased to be legal tender a few years earlier in 1960. There were four farthings to the old penny (hence the name "fourth-ings"), 12 old pennies made a shilling, and 20 shillings made a pound. This was before the decimalisation of the UK currency in 1971, when the pound became a hundred new pence. In fact I remember that people not only talked about five new pence but also one new pence, a slight contortion of grammar, which fortunately only lasted a short while, until the word "pee" replaced it and its name was one P. We played with the pile of farthings regularly, mostly using them as counters, or for shopping games, or laid out in lines and patterns on the carpet. We eventually buried most of them at the end of the garden, and in our imagination someone would dig them up in the distant future and be suitably delighted with their find. I hope that some archaeologist in the future does not puzzle over why the owner would want to stash* such valueless coins in the ground.

* "stash" is not in the dictionary. Full length Ish goes down after T and up after D. "Stashed" would have upward Ish in order to show the halving.

Money - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Roman coins in museum
Roman coins perforated for use
as pendants by the Anglo-Saxons
(Dartford Museum)
At holiday times we were given a large glass jar full of coins that our grandparents had saved up throughout the year. We counted it, rearranged it, and admired it. We were grateful for this wonderful gift, which occurred again at Christmas, and even at that young age I realised that Nanny was depriving herself of bits of cash throughout the year in order to collect them in the jar. Young children are well known for endlessly* counting their money, as if it would mysteriously increase if it was counted again. I don't think this means that they are greedy or avaricious, but that it represents a form of control, which children are sorely deprived of, at least in comparison with the choices open to adults. Children have to wait for gifts or ways of earning, which may be few and far between. They learn that their efforts and work (or those of the giver of the cash gift) can be converted into a numerical storage system and then exchanged for something else. The desired toys or items now become a possibility* to be worked towards, rather than an empty dream that can never be achieved.

* Compare "needlessly" which uses full N and D strokes to provide a distinguishing outline

* Optional contraction

Money - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I have been looking through some quotes about money, and the most common one is that money is not the most important* thing in the world and indeed that it can become meaningless. If I were stranded on the proverbial desert island, I would be urgently looking for water, food and shelter before anything else, as well as missing family and friends. Any money lying in the bank account would be forgotten as irrelevant and meaningless, whether the sums were large or small. However, here in the suburbs outside a big city, the necessities of life have to be bought, so I cannot quite agree with those quotes by people who feel that money is meaningless. I think maybe this is like the apples and pears on my trees in previous bumper years, when I could* pick, eat and give them away by the bagful at any time I chose to. I did not bother counting them, the number that I possessed was meaningless because I knew that there were more than enough, even when there were losses to the birds, snails, slugs and bugs. This carefree attitude continued until I came to the last few, which suddenly became more precious. Taking them off the tree left the garden with no colour and only the bareness and emptiness of winter ahead. Or maybe it was the thought of having to buy them again in the supermarket!

* Omission phrase "mos(t) important"

* It is better not to join "I could" as it looks too much like "I can" when written at speed

Money - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability. - Henry Ford

It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages. - Henry Ford

Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost a part of your life. - Michael LeBoeuf*

You aren't wealthy until you have something money can't buy. - Garth* Brooks

I ain't never been poor - just broke. Being poor is a state of mind, whereas being broke is just a temporary situation. - Mike Todd

* This French vowel, similar to the one in "turn", is represented by a dash parallel to the stroke

* The similar name "Gareth" would be best with the second vowel also inserted, to prevent misreading

Money - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made. - Joan Rivers

Money can't buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery. - Spike Milligan

We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like. - Dave Ramsey

I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something. - Jackie Mason

Money won't buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem. - Bill Vaughan

Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't* know where to go shopping. - Bo Derek (1087 words)

* "Didn't" is a contracted outline, in effect it reads "dint" and must have the vowel. Without the vowel it is "did not".

Monday, 22 September 2014

Apple Trees

Apple Trees - Part 1 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Cox's Orange Pippin
Cox's Orange Pippin
When we first viewed our current house over thirty years ago, it was the end of the day and we had decided to look in just one more estate agent shop before going home. We wanted to get the most out of the cost of the petrol to drive out here to the edge of the countryside, from our existing home in south east London. We were given the keys and the information sheet, and we duly sought out the road and the house. The house was empty and newly refurbished, but what struck me most was the garden. Although it was not particularly large, being springtime it was a sea of apple blossom spread over the thick greenery below. The garden was not overlooked, and although it was full of weeds and wild tree saplings, it was definitely full of promise for the future. We moved in three months later, in August, and discovered that the information sheet was correct when it said "garden with mature fruit trees". It was a lot longer than we had realised, when we pushed our way through the thicket of nettles, and damson and ash tree saplings.

Apple Trees - Part 2 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Bramley apple blossom
Bramley blossom
There was a large Bramley apple tree (which produces cooking apples) and this was the one that we saw from the upstairs back bedroom, spreading itself over the garden. There was a greengage tree, looking rather ancient but still laden with green plum-like fruit. In the centre further down was a respectable sized pear tree, and near the end was a large tall plum tree. Although the entire garden was filled with dense high weeds, as we cleared it, we discovered even more small apple trees. They all bore very small fruit which I assumed were crab apples, but they were most likely poor quality seedlings and also starved through years of neglect. The greengages were harvested, but as the trunk was largely hollow, and soft and rotting at the base, it had to go, before it became unstable and dangerous. One by one the straggly seedling apple trees were removed, as they were producing nothing eatable or decorative.

Apple Trees - Part 3 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Spartan apples
After a few years of enjoying making plum and damson jam, as befitted our move out of the suburbs and into the (almost) countryside, at last even the large plum tree eventually went. Its trunk was splitting and weeping sap, and various branches dying and falling off. The abundance of wasps in the fallen plums made the decision that much easier. All that remained was the Bramley tree, which continued producing prolifically and contributed to many delicious apple pies and stewed apple dishes. Eventually the branches died off one by one and the tree gradually became more misshapen. Finally it ceased to be either use or ornament and was removed. It was sorely missed, as it had introduced spring in the garden for a good many years and had filled the space with flowers, fruit and greenery. We left a tall stump in for a while, as it had a large hole where the robins nested. Eventually the wood dried out, the dead roots rotted away, and the stump became looser and could be rocked. Natural weathering and decay had done the job for us, the stump came out with very little persuasion, and the only work was to scoop out the crumbly roots.

Apple Trees - Part 4 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Cox's apple
All those fruit trees were probably planted in the mid 1930's, when the house was built, and so have given many years of good service, at least while they were being cared for. Since I have lived here, many plants and shrubs have come and gone, and finally I have reached the stage where low maintenance is a greater priority. Too many plants in a dry clay soil have produced crowded areas with nothing doing very well. This year I have been working on renewing various little corners, giving each plant its own space and curbing my greedy habit of squeezing in extra plants. Having had good success with a new apple tree ten years ago, I decided that I would restock the garden with as many as possible, ruthlessly taking out old woody shrubs and ensuring each tree has enough light and space to grow healthily.

Apple Trees - Part 5 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Apple blossomI am looking forward* to even more blossom in spring, and an entire summer of happy anticipation, watching the fruits growing and ripening. The last and best job is roaming around testing which apples come away gently in the hand, which is much better than finding out after they have dropped and smashed, or been nibbled by the slugs and snails on the ground overnight. Unlike shrubby perennials, there will be no need to chop back or tidy up at the end of the season, other than sweeping up leaves.

The total is now eight* apple and two pear trees, and I think this just about replaces what had to be removed all those years ago. Most are on dwarfing rootstock but one is on a vigorous rootstock, a variety called Sunset which is derived from the Cox apple. I am hoping it will grow rapidly and be similar to the old Bramley in size and shape, with the added advantage that the apples will be eaters and not cookers, and provide a colourful display of red fruits instead of the plain green of the Bramleys.

* Omission phrase "looking f(or)ward"

* Always write 8 as a numeral, not an outline, as the T stroke could be confused with the numeral 1.

Apple Trees - Part 6 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Apple blossom budsWhen I see the gnarled and knobbly bare bark in winter, I still find it amazing* that it can produce the beautiful flowers and the big luscious fruit, with just sunlight, air, rain and the highly unappetising and inedible soil in my garden. It is also gratifying to know that these are the only ingredients, as the trees are never sprayed or given any chemical treatment. It can be very tempting in winter to look at old plants and think that nothing can come of all the bare branches and sticks, but I make an effort to see the fruit tree twigs as little storage places for the miniature, if not microscopic, blossoms and fruits, wrapped up in the waxy buds and sleeping through the winter. This is my version of counting my chickens before they are hatched. When spring appears to come early, it is not so welcome, as it may bring the buds out with the risk of a return to colder weather and frost-damaged buds. If I knock off a twig by mistake, I think of the loss of the apples it could have produced, but then remember that this just means that the tree's energy will go instead into making the remaining fruits even bigger.

*Always insert vowel in "amazing" and "amusing"

Apple Trees - Part 7 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Mail order tree box
Best parcel
I bought these latest trees by mail order, and was delighted to find that the whole process was very easy and efficient. "Mail order trees" still sounds very strange to my ears, but they are packed and despatched very quickly, and so spend less than* 24 hours in their tall cardboard boxes. I found them to be much better than the sometimes leggy trees crowded together in the local garden centres, as they are obviously grown with space and air around each one, and pruned to produce a good bushy* shape. Mail order plants and trees would not have been practical years ago when emails* and the online world did not exist, and the very short delivery times that we now enjoy have made mail order plant buying easy and reliable. The choice of trees was enormous, and I must admit to being swayed more than usual by those sites with the best photos of the future apples. I was very tempted by the "Isaac Newton" apple tree, produced from genetic material from his famous apple tree, whose falling fruit inspired his theory of gravity, but in the end taste and colour won out over history. All our favourites are now represented in the garden, plus two that are not always available in the shops and which I pounce on when I find them.

* Downward L so that the next word can join into a phrase

* Insert last vowel, as "bush" would also make sense

* Always insert first vowel, to prevent misreading as "mail"

Apple Trees - Part 8 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Municipal ornamental crab apple tree
Municipal ornamental crab apple
I am very glad to be enjoying the results of thousands of years of apple breeding and development. There are now over seven and a half thousand* named cultivars of apples, three thousand* of which are grown in the UK. I have noticed that very often supermarket ads for eating apples portray them as crisp and fresh, but to me a crisp apple is one that has been picked too early! My ideal apple is soft and sweet, so this is another incentive to grow my own. The novelty of watching fruit appear from apparently nothing never diminishes, and the length of time spent in anticipation only adds to the pleasure of consuming them, and, even better, handing them round to friends. I am greatly looking forward to next year's fruit production, although these newest trees will only be allowed to bear one or two apples, as advised by the growers. Maybe it is time I made a map of the garden to record all the varieties for posterity, so that the new trees do not suffer the indignity of being called crab apples many years in the future when someone else lives here. (1517 words)

* The stroke Ith is only used for "thousand" after a numeral, not after an outline Extensive information on apple varieties "A website to help you identify your apples"

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Eagles and L-Hooks

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 1 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
Eagle with handler
Visitor from Eagle Heights
Sanctuary, Kent

Hello Readers, My name is Eagle. You met Crow last month, but now you need to practise plenty of the L* Hooks to straight strokes. I am glad to say that* we eagles have a good supply of hooks, but we call them beaks and talons, or you could* say claws. They give you a clue as to how we apply ourselves to the subtle skill of clasping our prey. From their point of view*, eagles are a plague and a blight, but I am completely confident* that I can tackle the job without any glitches. To me it is as easy as playing. My blinking gleaming eyes can see everything equally well, a playful mouse or glossy black beetle scuttling close by in the clumps of grass, plump ducklings* waddling and paddling through clay ponds and puddles, hares in the ploughed field and placid cattle in the distance. I survey the scene from every angle, the tangles of  bushes and the jungle of grasses. I never get complacent and I plunge on my target with deliberate and complete boldness, and a sense of glee and gladness at the pleasing conclusion of my hunt.

* L stroke on its own is written upwards

* Omission phrase “I am glad (to) s(ay) that”

* Not phrased, so that it doesn't get misread as "you can"

* Omission phrase "point (of) view"

* You can use proximity for two con- outlines in succession, if preferred

* Derived from "duck+ling" therefore does not use K and L Hook

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 2 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Ship's badge
Ship's badge
National Maritime Museum
Our nest of cluttered twigs clings to the bleak cliffs, on ledges of brittle chalk and unstable rubble, or sometimes glossy* marbled rocks. We replicate ourselves with our annual clutch of blotchy speckled eggs and provide a surplus of new eagles to claim the land. When the wind blows, I am able to glide through the clouds, straddling earth and sky. I hover over the shingle shores and glassy* blue lakes for fish, leaving ripples and circles of waves as I fly away cradling my prey in my claws, which are as sharp as a sickle. My terrible talons clench tight as a buckle and stick like glue to my prize.

* glossy/glassy - inserting the first vowel is essential, as their meanings are similar

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 3 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

In spring the fields bloom and blossom with purple heather, the birds warble and the gaggles of sheep start to gambol. In summer I search the blank grasslands for the glut of scuttling voles and paddle in the gurgling river for fish. At the end of the year, I redouble my efforts, flying over the clearings and arable fields again, rectangles and triangles of glowing golden stubble. Not a single animal in this place escapes my notice, whether a bedraggled rat snuggled in a mottled bundle of hay nibbling the seeds, a lone sheep dawdling and toddling* along the bridle path across the plateau or a rabbit huddled under a nettle patch underneath the telegraph cables.

* Ensure toddle and dawdle are written clearly, as their meanings are similar

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 4 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

On the mountainside where I live, pupils from the camping club climb to the pinnacle. They settle beside their cold tents, clad in glamorous designer-label clothes with glitzy glass goggles and plastic rain cloaks with dangling toggles. Their meals are not at all frugal and they fiddle with noodles and a soup ladle in a hot kettle. They cook a cluster of apple and plum flavoured bagels mingled with flour on the portable griddle. They have a couple of bottles of clean potable water in their satchels and cuddle their soup cups close to themselves. A squiggly bolt of lightning and a clearly audible blood-curdling clap of thunder rattles their camp and sends them scuttling inside, as the rain tumbles down the rocks. Their giggles turn to complaining about the colder cloudy weather and they prattle and clatter on about blue-sky summer days and a more pleasant and less changeable climate. Their actions disclose the fact that* they have been too cosseted and coddled, and they are now in a battle when they thought it would be a doddle.

* Omission phrase "disclose the (f)act that"

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 5 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The climbers are now completely gloomy and glum, like skittles that have tumbled over. Their mettle seems to be largely lacking, and their laughable efforts end up bungled and mangled. The storm settles in and in their muddle they dismantle the tangled tent, they "turn turtle" and "pull the plug", driving home at full throttle, or clumsily throwing themselves onto the saddles of their cycles, and seeing if haply they can get home before the stormy* blasts begin. Their memorable holiday, to which they felt entitled, culminates in them telephoning for help. I am tempted to chuckle and chortle but I can only conclude that it is a complete riddle why these local people should wish to get in such a pickle, although equally I must pay them the compliment of having the pluck to make the attempt.

* Insert the last vowel, as "storm blasts" would also make sense

Roc ship's figurehead
The mythical Roc (ship's figurehead,
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 6 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I know I have been blowing my own trumpet and sounding my own bugle, and declaring my own admirable, noble and almost infallible personality. But I'm no poodle or mythical creature, and as King of the Birds I am as bold in completing my blog article as when I am at home on my cliff in the mountains. I recommend this single-mindedness and boldness as a miraculous and entirely suitable way to clear the blockages that occur when you find you are struggling and juggling with your own writing scribbles. All these resemble the quarry grasped in my claws and it is reasonable to recall my uncomplicated attitude and not allow these clogging mental intrusions to amplify themselves or strangle your performance for a single minute.

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 7 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Eagle's feet and talons
My radical suggestion to clarify this situation* is to replace these niggles and keep your mind as brutally sharp as an eagle's talons and clutch your prey outlines with the pen nib as I do with my claws. Instead of sitting at the table dabbling placidly and feebly over slow vocal babblings, your endeavours in this valuable classic system will blossom and you will be able to gloat over the numerical increase, maybe even double, in your typical speed of writing, including all the technical, legal, clerical, classical and political material. Yours truly, deeply, boldly, and regally, King Eagle

* Uses Ses Circle to indicate the two words, although only one S is actually sounded.

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 8 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Our friend Eagle has done quite well but he does not know all the shorthand outline variations, so here are some extras to practise. The hooked version is generally used for the verbs, so that derivatives can be written without changing the form of the outline. Mottle, mottled, mottling means a colouring of spots. Gold, silver and iron are metals, and they have a metallic sheen. A metalled road is one that is surfaced with broken stone. The science of metal-working is metallurgy. Mettle means fortitude or courage, and is actually a variant spelling of "metal" that arose in the 18th century. Meddle meddled meddling mean to interfere, and muddle muddled muddling mean to confuse or mix up. To model means to shape or mould. Compare the nouns medal, medallion, middle, and the adjectives medial, middling and modal, from mode.
Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 9 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The following do not use the L Hook. Idle means doing nothing or lazy, and the outline uses full strokes so that the diphthong can be joined. An image that is worshipped is called an idol and a popular performer may be idolised. Idyll or idyll (two pronunciations) means a charming pastoral scene and the adjective is idyllic or idyllic (also two pronunciations). Swaddle means to wrap or swathe a baby in long cloths, known as swaddling clothes, and the past tense is swaddled.

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 10 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The short form hand gives us handle, handled, handling, manhandle and mishandle. This same stroke is also used in candle, kindle, swindle, swindled, fondle, fondled (but note fondly), and similarly disgruntled. Startle, startled, startling means to surprise suddenly. Myrtle is an evergreen shrub with fragrant white flowers. Unsettle, unsettled, resettle, resettled, cannot use a hook because the first stroke has to be able to join. A bridle is the harness used to control a horse. A bride wears a bridal outfit at her wedding. A hurdle is what you jump over in order to get your shorthand from 99 words a minute to 101 words a minute!

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 11 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Truman's Eagle Brand Beers old pub sign
The following have distinguishing outlines. Gentle means kindly or easy, and Gentile means a non-Jew. Gentleman, gentlemanly and gentlemen are short forms. Vital, fatal, futile - vital means essential for life or success, fatal means causing death, destruction or complete failure. Futile means an ineffective or useless action and comes from a Latin word meaning easily poured out or melted - just how you feel when the speaking was too fast for your present level of shorthand skill. The nouns are vitality, fatality and futility. It is vital to practise regularly, avoiding the fatal error of hesitation, and remembering that it is quite futile to resist the urge to pick up your pen and write everything you hear in shorthand. (1414 words)