Friday, 13 July 2018

Football Game

I have just accidentally watched some football. The semi-final was in progress on the television as we were eating our evening meal, so I was a captive* audience. With white and red England flags fluttering from house windows in my area, I hardly dare say it but my interest in football is zero, unlike millions of fans around the world with their eyes focused* and their attention fixed* on every twist and turn in the World Cup games.

* "captive" One might expect full P and T with F hook, but it is written thus to enable derivatives "captivate/d/tion" etc

* "focused"  "fixed" Always insert the vowel, as they are similar in outline and meaning

In between the bird’s-eye views of the field and players, there were the close-ups, zooming in on the expressions on their faces, the elation, the puzzlement, the pain of the awkward landing and long slide over the grass, and the displeasure when the referee has called them out on some misdemeanour*. What struck me most was the look of concentration, determination and unshakable resolve to get control of the ball and kick it in the right direction. Nothing could put them off, distract or discourage. What wonderful shorthand writers they would make, if they took it up and gave it the same laser-sharp focus and attention. They have chosen to commit themselves, their time and energy to the necessary training and dedication, building up swift and confident reactions to the rapidly changing circumstances on the field, as well as sufficient stamina to keep going for an hour and a half of mental and physical exertion.

* "misdemeanour" There is an optional contraction for this M + Circle S + D, but it is not going to occur often enough to be worth learning unless doing legal work or similar

Even when they were not running after the ball, their eyes were scanning everywhere, watching every movement of the ball and players, so that they could react immediately when required. Although sports teams are encouraged by cheering supporters, I think it is likely that they have to blank that out at the times of greatest concentration and effort, as they calculate what is going to happen in the next moment, what they need to do and where they need to position themselves next, and reacting instantly to every change of situation.

You already know about all this as a shorthand writer, whether it is early days or later stages, or revision of an existing skill. It is not just high speed efforts that need that type of concentration. The first dictations in the first lesson, where “Abe paid a debt” and “Joe towed a boat today”, are as demanding as any that will be met with later on, maybe more so because familiarity with the strokes, dots and dashes has barely begun.  After a while, though, writing slowly will actually be quite difficult, as it now goes against the grain. The footballers seldom change from a run to a walk, instead they seem to just run in slow motion, or even bounce about on the spot, so that they are ready to speed up or change direction in an instant. They and we have to keep moving, never stopping to take a breather for a second before beginning the next move. Even if you have to stop writing, because the speaker has paused, you need to be hovering over the paper ready to write as soon as the speaker resumes.

There is no reason why you cannot watch the football matches instead of doing extra shorthand exercises. Just keep a pad and pencil on your lap, as you sink into the comfortable sofa with the drink and snacks to hand and your feet on the coffee table, and write down some of the commentary, especially the exclamations of surprise and excitement. When you read it back afterwards, you might wish to apply the most complimentary remarks to your shorthand accomplishments, both present and expected future ones: “What a brilliant pass, this is what they have worked so hard for, what skill, that extra training is really paying off, they are on their way now, if they carry on like this they are going to be unstoppable and victory will be theirs!”

When you achieve that fast (for you) dictation and read back with no gaps, you will not need a crowd of ten* thousand supporters, no flags, no accolades, tributes and praises*, no television interviews, no newspaper write-ups and no photo-shoots. There will be just the quiet satisfaction and certainty of being on the path to speed increase, which, unlike the school or club sports trophy cup, does not have to be handed back and awarded to someone else this time next year. (726 words)

* "ten"  "eighteen" Insert the vowels when using the outline rather than numerals as the consonant outline is the same for both

* "praises" Insert the vowel, so it is not misread as "prizes"