Saturday, 21 May 2016

Ted's Essay

It's great to have reliable staff who can fill in when you are a little busier than usual, and if they perform well, it can sometimes lead to promotion. Ted is already Chief Dictionary Looker Upper. 

Pitman's New Era Shorthand

Ted with dictionaryI have been asked to write an essay with no long words, so that the boss can continue working on some changes to the websites and blogs. I always keep to short and easy words because they are much easier to read.  I am using my favourite purple ink in the green pen.

Dino reading map on screen
River Thames with the Letter U
in the middle at Greenwich
My friend Dino is a very slow reader and so I have to write things that he can get through without taking all day. He reads at twenty words a minute*, which is one word every three seconds, and that is quite good for a dinosaur, at least* that is what Dino says. I think it will be easier as well to practise writing it all really fast and get up a good speed, with a number of words a minute* that is a lot higher than usual.

* Omission phrase "words (a) minute"

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

Pitman's New Era Shorthand

I am going to tell you about my day out to the centre of London. We went up on the train, and I am very pleased to say that* it was a fast one for most of the way. I like the fast trains but sometimes it is difficult to see what we are passing and it is too fast to see the names of the stations.

Underground carriage join
Then we went on the underground trains and we sat where the two carriages are joined. It is interesting to watch the floor at the join, because it is all moving and sliding. The train is open all the way along and you can see all the carriages at once, moving from side to side and going round the curves.

* Omission phrase "I am very please(d to) s(ay) that"

Pitman's New Era Shorthand

Fountains at Somerset HouseWe went to Somerset House where there is a big open area in the middle. There are lots* of holes in rows where fountains come up from underneath. Children and people were running about through the water. The fountains were going up high and then down low, and the water drains away along all the sides down a long thin gap. It was a hot day and this is a really good idea that is safe for everyone. It is very good for tourists who need to cool their feet after all the walking around town.

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

Pitman's New Era Shorthand

Covent Garden interiorThen we went to another place called Covent Garden where there are lots* of market stalls. We watched the street performers. One man was juggling with knives which I did not really like. Another one did some tricks balancing on a ladder. There were* people standing around in costumes on metal stands that make it look as if they are floating. There are a lot of that type now around the tourist places, but everyone still likes to watch them even though they know it is a trick.

Cat in basket performer
I liked the one that looked like a cat in a little basket, but it is really a man’s head and he is sitting underneath the table with just his head showing. The children were stroking the fur paws and wondering how it was done.

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

Pitman's New Era Shorthand

Building work with painted sheetingThen it was time to go home. On our way to the station, we went past a building that was being worked on. They usually cover them up with white sheeting to keep all the dust and dirt inside. This cover was not white but was painted to look like a real building. This is a very good idea and I was wondering if the painting was how it was going to look when finished. I think I will only find out next time* we go back that way.

Criss crossing railway tracks
We took the underground train and I am always searching for the old decorations and tiles. The one in the picture may be a modern version of old tiles. We had to change trains when we were nearer home, and the last photo shows all the lines crossing. It was mid-afternoon so it was all quiet and empty. London is very busy and noisy, so I was glad to get back to the more green and quiet area. Best regards, Yellow Teddy (668 words)

* Omission phrase "ne(k)s(t) time"

Undergound tiles "To The Trains"

Monday, 16 May 2016


On Sunday the 15th of May, we went to the 18th Streatham* Common Kite Day. Unlike our usual outings, we and many others did not want a calm hot day to enjoy the sunshine. Everyone wanted a breezy day, but hopefully some sun as well to keep us warm. I am happy to report that this is just how the weather turned out, a mixture of blue skies and clouds, sunshine and breezes. We arrived at Streatham Common railway station and our route towards the green was confirmed when we saw two large high flying kites visible over the rooftops. Streatham Common is a large area of grass and woodland in south London, much like all the other commons in London, but on this day it was completely transformed*. The entire green was dotted with people, and the sky dotted with colourful kites, with lots of white strings between them*. There were* stalls in brightly coloured tents, selling food, souvenirs and of course kites, information on local societies, such as wildlife conservation and Friends of the Common, and a children’s play area with bouncy games and slide.

* "Streatham" is pronounced "Strettam"

* "transformed" Optional contraction

* Omission phrases "betwee(n) them"  "there (w)ere"

A large arena was roped off in the centre for the displays of kite flying that were to take place during the afternoon. The atmosphere was one of excitement, anticipation and exploration, as this event is one of those* where visitor participation actually makes the day happen. Families and children were buying kites, unpacking kites, launching kites and running around with them. The kite stalls had the wind vane type tethered to poles around the tents and I think my favourite* was the rotating circular one with long tails. One always sees these at the seaside and I wouldn’t have been surprised to turn round and glimpse the sea somewhere!

* "one of those" Insert the vowel in "those" as it is out of position in the phrase

* "favourite" Note "favoured" is written with anticlockwise V stroke

Most of the kites were geometric shapes in rainbow colours, with trailing tails. Many were in the shape of animals: swallow, owl, kite (a type of small hawk), bright pink flamingo, black menacing shark, mauve smiling fish, pink octopus and blue and green dragonfly*. There were* some airplanes and I liked the one that had a spiral tail attached to each side of the tailplane, looking like curling spinning vapour trails. A few were indeterminate beasties with big eyes, fangs and waving tentacles that one felt might sting like a jellyfish. One could buy the smallest kite, barely six inches in length, but being made of shiny mirrored plastic, it shone like a brilliant flying diamond, fluttering and glinting in the sun and appearing larger than it actually was. These are ideal for flying at home* in the garden, with the advantage that they can be flown by running along with them, without having to wait for a breezy day or a trip to the park.

* "dragonfly" The Fl is reversed only when necessary to join a preceding stroke. Fl stroke is never reversed for vowel indication like the Fr stroke is.

* Omission phrases "there (w)ere"  "at (h)ome"

In contrast to the personal kites, there were* some large floating* characters, giant nylon constructions filled out by the wind but held aloft by a large parachute type of kite much higher up. The first we saw was an enormous crocodile, and being long and thin he was undulating in the breeze, but fortunately not roaming around and filling his giant belly with any of us. He was later brought down and next up was a voluminous billowing blue teddy bear, swimming horizontally and swaying this way and that. Before we went home, we saw a third offering in the form of three angel fish tethered along the lower part of the line, also swimming in the air and enjoying every minute of their freedom before being packed away at the end of the day.

* Omission phrase "there (w)ere"

* "floating" Insert the vowel, so it is not misread as  "flying" or, if badly written, "fluttering"

We watched two of the kite displays, where specialised* kites were danced around the sky above the arena to music, swooping up and down, and crossing over each other and back again. The interesting thing about these is that they are not flat, so when they land, they are still standing up on their points, and can be jerked back into flight again. Dancing kites to the loud soundtrack of Chariots of Fire held our attention completely. The next display was two kites with extremely long tails that formed circles, loops and spirals as they followed the track of the kites. These reminded me of the toys we used to make, with a wooden sewing thread spool on a length of string, with a very long light plastic tail attached to the spool, which could be* swung round in loops in the back garden.

* "specialised" Essential to insert the diphthong, as otherwise this looks like "specialist" which is similar in meaning

* "which could be" Not phrased, in order to keep the "could" obviously in position, so it is not misread as "can"

We left mid-afternoon, and by that time the crowds had doubled and many were sitting on the grass on their picnic blankets, eating and drinking to get their strength up for another session of kiting and running around. The great thing about this type of event is that once it is over, that is not the end of kiting but just the beginning. Everyone who bought a kite can return at any time and continue flying their* kites on the green*. I am sure that once this happens, the children with smaller kites will start to literally raise their sights onto bigger kites, and if the budget doesn’t stretch, then make their own. Plastic bags and barbecue skewers will start to reappear in wonderful new shapes, with a much loftier purpose in mind, attaining the freedom of the skies for their ground dwelling owners. (887 words)

* "flying their" Doubling for "their"

* "green" Helpful to insert the vowel, as it could be misread as "ground"

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Dear Mr Pitman

---Original message---
From: Pitman
Date: 10/5/2016 - 8:30 (GMTDT)
To: Ryter
Subject: Any news?
<<Dear Mr Ryter, Have you been doing anything interesting lately? I would really like to hear about it, but you must write it all in shorthand for me and then I will enjoy reading it even more. I always like to hear how my students and shorthand devotees are getting on. Best wishes*, Mr Pitman>>

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

Dear Mr Pitman, I am sorry I have not written for a while, but I have been extremely busy. I was going to tell you all the interesting things I have done and seen over the last few months, but there really is no time at the moment* to go through my diary and compose a summary of activities. It does take some time* to get it all together and unfortunately I have had to leave all that until later, and concentrate on my shorthand studies. I hope you are able to* excuse this lack of news from my neck of the woods.

* Omission phrases "at (the) moment"  "I (h)ope you are able to"

* "some time" Halving to represent the T in this phrase

I have taken to getting up earlier, so that I can do some extra shorthand practice before everyone else is out of bed. While waiting for the breakfast toast to pop up and the kettle to boil, I can usually fill up two pages of the facility drill book*. This is quite an easy task as the outlines are already there and I don’t have to struggle to remember them, although there is still the* work of reading each sentence before I copy it out, but that is becoming much easier. Whilst eating breakfast, I read through the next few pages in advance. I have set myself the task of writing another two pages before I wash up the breakfast things and this really makes me get a move on. The clock seems to whizz round so fast and before I know it, it is time to dash out of the door and be on my way.

* Omission phrase "there is s(t)ill the"

* Facility drill book PDFs of blog articles

Before I leave the house, I check that I have all my shorthand material in my bag, to keep me going throughout the day. I have to take the bus and train and there is often a lot of waiting around, especially with train delays, so that is my chance to read through yesterday’s practice dictations, or maybe revise some points of theory in the book, so that I don’t repeat past mistakes*. This really makes the waiting time fly past and soon my train is pulling in to the station. I always try to get a seat in the carriage at the far end, where it is quieter and less crowded, and I can get on with my shorthand reading without any puzzled looks from passengers.

* "mistakes" and "mistaken" omit the T, but past tense "mistook" does include the T stroke

During the day there is not much opportunity to do any more practice, but I am glad to report that I can now take down all my telephone conversations* in shorthand and any other* notes that I have to take at meetings and interviews, although this will* go better when I get my speed up a bit more. In my lunchbreak I like to sit in the park and read the newspaper, but sometimes I feel that* there is nothing newsworthy to bother myself about, so I just write over the headlines in shorthand with a red biro.

* Omission phrases "telephone (conver)sations"  "and any oth(er)"  "I fee(l) that"

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

After work I have to walk down the high street to the station and I often go into the store to see if there are any bargains with the shorthand pads. I keep the more expensive smooth ones for dictation practice and taking notes of real meetings, so I need to keep a large supply of the cheaper ones for home practice. I can get through the ink in two shorthand pens during a busy day at work and in the evenings I wash them out before refilling, but if I don’t have time for that straight away, I just refill with water so that they flush out cleanly later on. I did once have a go at writing with that water, and was very surprised that I could actually see the light blue outlines quite well, so that is a good thing to know if the ink runs out during the working day.

Evenings are taken up with family time but just before bedtime I do spend half an hour or so looking up outlines, as it is not really practical to carry a big dictionary around during the day. I always write the correct outlines in a list down the margin of a blank pad, so they can be practised on the train, which means I don’t have to look them up again and again*, something I have learned the hard way not to do, it is such a waste of time* to repeat my efforts! What with my working day and all the other household and family activities, I have had to fit the shorthand into all the spare moments I can find. They are definitely there, but in lots of short segments, but as you know this all adds up to a reasonable amount of practice time, with the advantage of spreading out the effort and avoiding fatigue.

* Omission phrases "again (and) again"  "was(te of)time"

I think you might have guessed that I have a secret motive behind all this extra attention to my shorthand studies, and that is because I know there is* a job opportunity coming up soon and I believe my shorthand skills will put me ahead of the other applicants. If I am successful in my application, I will certainly write and let you know. So once again*, my apologies for not having much to report, and I hope that* next time* I will have some good news to tell you. Yours most sincerely*, Mr Ryter (960 words)

"I know there is" Doubling to represent "there"

* Omission phrases "wu(n)s again"  "I (h)ope that"  "ne(k)s(t) time"  "Yours mos(t sin)cerely"

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Perivale Wood

Many apologies to the London Marathon, but we found something better to do with that particular Sunday. We had another item of interest and destination in mind. We travelled through London doing our best to avoid* the crowds from that event, and yet when we arrived at the place, we found a dense crowd of three million or more all in one enclosed area. All of them were English despite my expectation of seeing a few Spanish ones amongst the throng. The venue for this amazing* gathering was Perivale Wood Local Nature Reserve where the Selborne Society were holding their annual opening of the woods to the public, so that everyone can have the opportunity to walk around and admire the three million native English bluebells that fill the wood. We have mostly* Spanish bluebells at home, which are larger, lighter blue and slightly stripy, and just a small clump of the true English variety, which are darker blue, with smaller flowers lined up on one side of the arching stem.

* "avoid" and "evade" Always insert the 2nd vowel

* "amazing" and "amusing" Always insert the 2nd vowel

* "mostly" Omits the T

The website said, be warned, the paths are muddy. As we boarded the train near my home, I realised that I had forgotten to give my oldish shoes another layer of wax dubbin as added insurance against the wet, so whilst on the train I broke off lumps of soft lip salve from the tube and smeared them over the shoes with a tissue. At last I felt I was properly* ready and prepared for everything from loose soil to woodland puddles and gloop. As we left Perivale Station, we noticed people coming towards us with a muddy ring around the edge of their shoes. We knew we were going the right way! We followed our directions which just happened to coincide with the trail of tiny lumps of mud here and there*, which increased in density as we neared the entrance.

* "properly" and “appropriately” Always insert the vowel

* Omission phrase "here (and) there"

The event was very well attended by families with children. There were* stalls with maps and pencils to mark off the wildlife found en route, craft stalls relating to the woodland and an example of a section of laid hedge. We started the circuit around the woodland, following the arrows. Wildlife information sheets were pinned to the posts and trees. We continued swimming through the sea of blue and followed the winding paths until we had blue left and right, blue at the front and blue at the back. There were* people in front of us talking about the bluebells and people behind us talking about the bluebells. This was one of those* places that demands your whole attention and does not allow you to think or chat about anything else.

* Omission phrase "there (w)ere"

* "one of those" Insert the vowel in "those" and "these" when they are in a phrase and out of position

The atmosphere was almost like a party, with everyone invited who wanted to come and appreciate the national treasure of a bluebell wood. Everyone had a permanent smile on their face and I kept hearing the phrase “just look at that!” Of course, looking is not enough, one must take photos, and when the sun comes out, take the same view again in brighter colours and more varied contrast of shadows*. I intended taking this bluebell wood home with me for ever, and then coming back next year to capture it all again.

* "shadows" Insert the 2nd vowel, as "shades" could also make sense

We came upon Little Elms Meadow with more stalls scattered around a central clear area. As we entered, the Northfields Morris Dancers started their display of traditional dancing, with bells, white handkerchiefs and clash sticks (made of hazel from these woods), accompanied by music on the violin. The wonderful Mr Stag was standing around and having his photo taken with the children. People were sitting on logs or their picnic blankets eating their sandwiches. The sun came out and lit up the trees which were* just showing green buds opening.

I was delighted to be here at this repetition of the long-held English custom of special events and gatherings to mark the coming of spring, in a secluded field away from houses and traffic, apart from one or two* trains passing behind the trees on the boundary bank. After a while we continued our walk around the remainder of the wood, passing the Grand Union Canal on the northern boundary where the bluebells gave way to nettles and less spectacular undergrowth.

* Omission phrases "which (w)ere"  "one (or) two"

Once home I had a closer look at the printed map, which lists the quantities of trees and wildlife in the reserve which covers 27 acres (11 hectares). There are 3,000 hazel trees, 300 large oaks, 100 crab apples and 10* wild service trees, also maple, ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, elm, wild privet and cherry. The Paddock is an old permanent pasture and has 28 species of grass. There are 23 species of butterfly, including orange tip, speckled wood, purple hairstreak, comma, small copper and peacock and a large variety of moths and beetles, and wild honey bees. Society members have access all year and so they get to see the long list of birds, as they walk and sit in the woodland during the summer and listen for the different songs and flashes of colour. This great diversity can only be found in undisturbed ancient woodland and is the reason why we must preserve those that we have left, as they can be managed but cannot be artificially recreated. (877 words)

* "10" Always insert the vowels in the outlines for 10 and 18