I saw a worrying piece of news last week. It said that fewer and fewer children are being taught to write. I’m not talking about novels or student theses at the age of five . I mean the ability to write your own name. With a pen.
I suppose it’s inevitable. Keyboard skills have taken over from learning how to write an attractive cursive. And how often do you write more than your name ? We no longer sign cheques- because no-one has a cheque book any more. We don’t write letters to each other now that we have email and Twitter and all the other facilitating gizmos. Communication has never been so easy. Or so facile. Writing – I mean real sentences and paragraphs – is being overtaken by abbreviations, and – God Help Us All and Oscar Wilde – with emojis ( am I spelling that properly ? And if I’m not, does it matter ? )
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not an old Luddite, complaining about The Good Old Days. I have lived through the entire digital revolution. When I was six I learned to write with a fountain pen ( A little blue Conway Stuart) I hand wrote all my schoolwork until I was fourteen, when my dad bought me a portable Olivetti typewriter. My wife bought me an electric typewriter and then I bought an Amstrad Word Processor ( notice the change of name. A typewriter WRITES words with TYPE. A WORD PROCESSOR turns words into an electronic soup and spits them out onto the paper.) It had a memory of 72k. A budgerigar has more brain power than that.
And then I was seduced by the magic that is Apple. I bought a Mac Classic. It had (for the time) an elephantine memory.) You could include artwork. It was a miracle. In the end I bought the first of the mid-range Macs – and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I kept the Classic for years. It made a wonderful doorstop
. I’m not complaining. I accept that the world is spinning faster every moment. I am dazzled by the speed and colour of a digital world – what. other world can there be now ?
And yet… and yet… I like writing with a pen. A fountain pen. Or rather far more fountain pens than I should decently have. I know it sounds silly, but I love watching the ink line stream from the nib across the paper. Thought turned directly into action. And what about love letters ? How many people keep them, I wonder, tied with a piece of faded ribbon. They are a reminder, a piece of the past which has survived to the present. Do people write love emails? Or love Short Messages ? Or Love emojis ? And is they do, where do they keep them ? Hidden somewhere in The Cloud, wrapped up in a bunch of passwords ?