Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

12.8.09

"Don't forget to type."

The sky has dripped for days with the kind of precipitation that wets everything without making an impression on the gauge. You could hardly call it rain. When it rained a few weeks ago, in the evening, I sat in the day room - the one that overlooks the back garden - for a while just to hear the sound of it beating on the iron roof. That room is an extension added in the 1950s to the original 1948 roofline. Rain on an iron roof is music. Until it leaks.

*

Everything seems to have stopped. Against the grey sky the trees are black fretwork bending to a cold, raw northerly. The lawn has returned but I haven't mown it for months. It's winter’s last gasp.

Look closer. Everything is in bud. All waiting, tense, silent, like sprinters on the blocks of an Olympic final.

Next month, the gun will go off. Until then the buds lie in wait. Of course, the magnolias are running a different race. Bare a few weeks back, they are now loaded with hundreds of absurdly large flowers from pink to white to crimson. They look like angels with outspread wings. We had magnolias in our last house. We moved when William was four months old, and he spent some of the waking hours of his first months propped up in his pram and gazing out the west window of our old house at a magnolia unfurling its angels.

*

Work. An archivist at the school handed me several pages of neat handwriting, a teacher's contribution to the oral history I am editing. Can we have it typed, I wondered. Sure, came the reply. Later: the secretary can't read it, the archivist told me grimly. So she can't type it, she added. It wasn't bad handwriting, it was a perfectly readable cursive script enhanced with a few copperplate details here and there. Exactly the kind of writing you'd expect of a teacher in his late fifties.

But she couldn't read it. It took me a moment to realise the shocking implication of this disability. Nothing to do with the secretary personally, of course.

We are heading into a world in which people are able to read only typed words. This is the death of handwriting.

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