Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Cruise Ship

Last month* we spent a day at the riverside at Greenwich, as the weather was warm and sunny*. The River Thames is generally the colour of weak coffee with a dash of milk, and on a grey day it is quite unattractive. But with the sun* shining, the surface sparkles with every wavelet, and the wakes of the boats are illuminated with brilliant white foam and splashes. The tide was coming in, and where it laps onto the little corners of “beach”, the mud and silt are churned* up, creating swirls of light and dark brown. The “No Swimming” notices are certainly easy to obey, and I often wonder why anyone would even entertain the thought of entering the water.

* Omission phrase "las(t) month"

* "sunny, sun" Insert the vowels in these and "snowy, snow"

* "churned" Keep the Chay well slanted, so it does not look like "turned" which has a similar meaning

As we came close to the riverside railings, looking up river to our left towards Deptford* Creek, we saw the huge looming white form of the cruise ship Viking Sea, tethered a distance from the shore. Its graceful pointed prow was facing down river and one of us remarked how great it would be to see it move off. While I was thinking about getting up the departure information on my phone, to our surprise, we noticed various small boats and a larger tug boat position themselves around the ship. The radar on the top of the ship started rotating which was a sign that it was preparing to leave. A large thick rope was sent up to the ship from the pilot’s tug boat. Several river taxis* were rapidly offloading last-minute* cargo and people at the floating dock alongside. The dock was finally pulled back away from the hull. Workers in the small boats released the tethers from the static buoys and we watched the dripping ropes being drawn up one by one into the tiny portholes.

* "Deptford" The P of the longhand is not sounded, although natives of the area may omit the T and say "Depford"

* "taxis" Helpful to insert the vowel inside the Ses circle

* Omission phrase "las(t)-minute"

At last* the ship was free of its moorings and began to move about slightly with the turbulence of the tidal currents. Passengers were lined up at the front viewing platform. Finally, we saw the ship glide slowly down river behind the pilot boat, turn the bend and go out of sight beyond the trees and buildings. It left a very big empty* space on the river where we had watched it, and the other river traffic, for over an hour. Once out to sea, it will become just a tiny white speck on the vast North Sea, until it reaches its destination in Stockholm in Sweden where once again* it will dwarf all the buildings round it.

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

* "empty" Omits the lightly sounded P, therefore stroke M, not stroke Imp

* Omission phrase "wu(n)s again"

The Viking Sea operates under the flag of Norway and is classed as “small” of its kind which enables it to undertake river cruises, which some of the larger cruisers cannot do. Big, giant and huge can mean anything and so we need some figures to bring it all into perspective. It was built in 2015 and is fifth in a series of six, with the last one being scheduled for 2020. It is 228 metres long and has a beam (maximum width) of 34 metres. Its gross tonnage is 47,800* tons, which is not a weight measurement in this case but a volumetric measurement of the enclosed space in a ship. This derives from the old word “tun” meaning barrel, with one gross ton being about 100 cubic feet. The ship’s dead weight is 3,640 tonnes*. It has energy-saving hybrid engines with diesel generators and gas turbines, optimised hull shape and solar panels, to achieve maximum fuel efficiency and minimise exhaust pollution.

* "47,800" No need to write anything for the word "thousand" but if have already written in an Ith or the outline for "thousand", then leave a space before writing the 800, so it is obvious that it is not a numeral. This illustrates the benefit of being a little behind the speaker, to take advantage of the best way to write numerals and other phrases.

* "tonnes" "tons" "tuns" All pronounced the same, so it is up to your general knowledge to produce the correct longhand spelling in each case

The ship’s speed is 20 knots. It has 550 staff and crew, and can accommodate 930 passengers in its 465 cabins, enticingly called staterooms, which to my mind is where the Queen would be staying!* It has 9 passenger decks served by 6 elevators, 2 swimming pools one of which is an infinity pool, 2 Jacuzzi hot tubs, spacious lounges decorated in a Scandinavian theme, gourmet* cuisine and restaurant facilities, and a free self-service* laundry on each cabin deck. All the Viking cruisers are adults only, with no gambling casinos or children’s facilities, and so are aimed at a particular market and type of customer.

* "staying" No diphone, as the "I" sound is included in the Dot Ing

* "gourmet" Intervening dash vowel in third place, struck through the end of the GR stroke

* "self-service" All outlines beginning with "self-" are in second place, following the vowel of "self"

Here are some other items you might be offered on a cruise from any operator. You may have your own mini-bar with drinks, filtered water and snacks. Binoculars may be provided, a coffee maker and a luxury blanket for evenings on your veranda. You may have a king size bed and there will most probably be a 24-hour room service. Robes, slippers, toiletries and hair dryer are essential comforts and possibly a large flat-screen interactive television and movies on demand. You may have your own security safe, and the convenience of direct dial satellite phone service and Wifi. Free laundry and drying cleaning service are helpful, as well as shoe shine and pressing. Your entertainment and wellbeing are catered for by the library, theatre with bands or cabaret, cinema, whirlpool* spa, sports arena, gym and fitness facilities, promenade and lido decks, multi-deck atrium or winter garden, hydro-therapy pool, salon*, shops and boutiques. Age-specific children’s programmes will keep the kids happily occupied in a safe environment, and a night nursery caters for younger children. Your package may include a bottle of champagne to welcome you aboard and priority reservations for shore excursions.

* "whirlpool" Intervening dash vowel in third place, struck through the end of the PL stroke

* "salon" Insert the dash vowel in this and in "saloon" which have similar meanings

Now that you have a selection of cruising holiday vocabulary and practice with numbers, all that remains to do is to make sure you have packed a few shorthand notebooks and pencils, so that you can lie on the lounger beside the pool, or relax in one of the living rooms, visualising in shorthand snatches of nearby conversations, and writing down any outline that did not come to mind quickly enough. But best of all, you are in the enviable position of being able to write a complete journal of your travels, if not on a cruise like this then just a trip to a nearby place of interest at home, without taking up precious vacation time in slow and laborious longhand. Afterwards, the individual pages of shorthand can be scanned and collated with your digital photos into a unique scrapbook slideshow that will be both a pleasant reminder of happy times and also a revision resource that is a little more interesting than the normal dry passages in the book. You can even work in some transcription practice by typing in captions so that you can share the finished effort with your friends. (1066 words)

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Pond Dramas

My garden pond is generally a haven of peace and tranquillity, with goldfish swimming lazily in and out of the sunny* and shady patches, and gliding between the water lily leaves. They appear out of the darker areas, to be lit up by the sun in brilliant orange, yellow or pink shapes, and then disappear again into the shadows. The black ones come into view when they swim over the light green mossy areas. On a warm day I sometimes sit and eat lunch on the garden bench alongside and watch their comings and goings. They are continually patrolling their* domain looking for titbits to eat, sometimes finding a fly and sometimes mooching around in the blanket weed that grows all around the shallows. Occasionally what is swallowed is spat back out as an inedible piece of floating debris.

* "sunny" Always insert vowels in "sun/sunny" & "snow/snowy"

* "patrolling their" Doubling for "their"

The calm of their world is not entirely unbroken. If there is* a sudden fright, the fish will rapidly turn tail and, as some of them* are quite large, they can produce a big noisy splash as they go. It only takes one fish to do this and the others will follow instantly, just like any bird or animal will do, react now and stay safe. Fortunately the bench is a few feet away, so lunch no longer gets spattered with pond water, resulting in the crusts having to be redirected to the sparrows and blackbirds. Sometimes they do this because one of the larger ones has come close to the edge for a pellet or bit of bread, and their tolerance for this unsafe position runs out within a few seconds, what I call grab and run. Occasionally they fail to get it, as the lunge and fast retreat are all carried out* in one movement, with no stopping to check if the food has actually been captured. Then, when the commotion has died down, a smaller fish, to whom the shallower water is not so threatening, will casually* swim up and get the piece without any fear or hurry. Other times the crumb will suddenly disappear from sight, not some mysterious exit into another dimension but eaten by one of the black fish, who are mostly invisible against the background.

* "If there is" You can double "if" to add "their/there" but "for" is not doubled

* "carried out" Halving to represent the T of "out"

Another noisy event that happens more frequently* is when one of the biggest fishes decides to nose around in the weeds at the shallow shelf end, where the marginal plants grow out over the water. It will sometimes ram itself into the weedy area, flipping its tail left and right, with the hump of its back and fin right out of the water. Sometimes it is a joint effort with two of them, and a few smaller ones, all wanting to benefit from the attack, which often sounds like someone entering a swimming pool from a water chute. Having dislodged and eaten any insects hiding there, there is then more thrashing about to reverse or turn round and get back to deeper water. There is no chance of them accidentally getting stranded on the surrounding soil edge, as there is a wire mesh fence all round. This did happen to one fish many years ago but we noticed the fish in time and it recovered from the ordeal. Now I ensure the base of the mesh is right on the edge.

* "frequently" The semicircle W sign is shown, but the outline is perfectly readable without writing it in

Sometimes there is a single plopping splash, from a fish deciding to lunge upwards after a fly either on the surface or just above. If the fish lands on the lily leaves, it then has to rapidly slither between them* and disappear out of sight but most times they just fall back straight downwards. As there are many goldfish, any insect landing on the surface stands no chance at all of surviving more than a few seconds. The ripples from its* struggles do not go unnoticed for long. The vibrations from a trapped fly also attract the attention of the pond skaters, who close in on the target with great speed. Apparently they can skate at a metre per second. They themselves do not seem to suffer predation by the goldfish, as their feet just dent the surface of the water and they glide over it with much less disturbance. When several pond skaters converge on a fly, they will fight each other for it, jumping off the water and over each other. The victor will then sit on its prize in triumphant ownership of its meal.

* Omission phrase "betwee(n) them"

* "from its" Halving to represent "it". Note this "its" here is a possessive and is not spelled with an apostrophe.

There are many other little dramas that take place*. A bee or wasp may end up inside the netting. The holes are only 15 millimetres wide, not large enough for them to get through while their wings are going. They can only escape by landing and crawling out. Occasionally I have found a dragonfly or butterfly inside and they need help, as they tend to flutter in one place, without looking for another route out. There are lots* of large gaps and spaces all round, and over the top surface, which is made up of several separate strips with open spaces between them*. There are easy escape routes everywhere so that no bird can become trapped, and these are positioned so that any visiting heron cannot use them to attack.

* "take place" Note that the phrase "taken place" omits the L hook

* "lots" Insert the vowel in this and in "masses" as they are similar in shape and meaning

* Omission phrase "betwee(n) them"

One day we found a young wood pigeon sitting inside on the edge, wondering what to do. It must have* landed on the centre of the netting, sunk down and fluttered to the plants at the side. Despite the big size of the top gaps, they are not large enough for a pigeon to fly out, but fortunately there are not long periods when no-one is at home. I had to walk up carefully* on the far side and very slowly roll back the netting, and being a young bird it stayed still and unafraid* until we gave some gentle encouragement for it to fly away. (975 words)

* Omission phrase "it mus(t) have"

* "carefully" Optional contraction

* "unafraid" It is the Fr stroke that is on the line, so it does not matter where the N stroke ends up. Note that "afraid" on its own has a left Fr plus stroke D.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Vintage Festival

A few weeks ago* we went to an event in a nearby park which celebrated the vehicles and lifestyle of the middle part of the 20th century. There were* classic cars, motorbikes and scooters, and stalls selling items from earlier eras. The first thing we saw on entering the park gates were rows of vintage cars, in every colour and shape, all gleaming, polished* and perfect in every detail. They were parked on the grass in spaced out rows, with plenty of room for admirers to wander* around and inspect the chrome work and elegant interiors. The older visitors were reminiscing on when they owned such cars and were obviously enjoying seeing them again, restored to a condition probably better than when they first left the factory. It was difficult to imagine that these cars were the ultimate in modernity at the time.

* Omission phrases "a few wee(k)s ago"  "there (w)ere"

* "polished" Uses upward Ish in order to be able to join the T. The form "polish" has a normal downward Ish.

* "wander" Note the pronunciation rhymes with "ponder", hence the first place dash vowel. Also "wonder" rhymes with "thunder". Such are the vagaries of English spelling that inspired Isaac Pitman to create a more accurate system.

There were* stalls selling every sort of vintage item, household goods, gadgets, and toys, but mostly* clothes stalls, with genuine vintage shirts and dresses in gaudy colours and bold designs, boots and belts, hats and handbags, and all the accoutrements that went with them. Quite a few people were already dressed in their forties, fifties and sixties outfits, and I had to remind myself that they were not necessarily reliving those times, as many of them would not have been born then. But they faithfully copied the look, including hairstyles, so they did appear to have walked out of the pages of a magazine, a poster or a colour film of those periods. This was an opportunity to try out different fashions from the past, exciting and fun for the younger people, and a trip down memory lane for the older people, especially as all the items for sale* were genuine ones, with the expected wear and tear apparent on them. So, nostalgia and novelty, all within reach for various age groups, but not so far* back in time as to be alien or strange.

* Omission phrase "there (w)ere"

* "mostly" Omits the lightly sounded T

* "for sale" Downward L in order to join the phrase

* "so far" The outline for "far" on its own has full strokes

There were several large tents dedicated to different time periods. One had a dance floor, with fifties style music and people dancing in the styles popular then. Another had toys of the sixties and seventies, including a row of computers* all loaded with very basic early computer* games, simple to play and only requiring fast reactions rather than thinking or strategy. The forties tent had another dance floor with wartime music and dancing, and a cake table with everything made to Ministry of Food recipes. In the opposite corner were two tables containing a large array of children’s toys and games, many of which I recognised and remembered* as still being available in the sixties. On the tent walls were reproductions of posters on how households can help the war effort, reducing wastage and volunteering for various duties. Outside the tent was a shelter, a mock-up of a little Dig For Victory vegetable patch and a warden sitting reading his wartime newspaper. From the far corner of the park enclosure came the sound of wartime songs, some jolly, others wistful* and emotional, an encouragement for the people of the time to share their troubles and appreciate their triumphs.

* "computers" Cannot join the diphthong sign in the plural, therefore cannot use doubling. "computer" can join the diphthong sign, so therefore can use doubling.

* "remembered" Optional short dash through the stroke to signify past tense in a short form or contraction

* "wistful" Omits the lightly sounded T

I left the event briefly to do some shopping but on the way to the supermarket I glimpsed a lot of scooters zooming down the high street. After shopping I quickly returned to the park and found all the scooters parked down the centre of the area. They were in all colours and sizes, and my favourites were the ones with lots of extra headlamps on the front and a multitude of wing mirrors at the sides. Scooters always look like fun, as they are low and stable looking, and gentler than motorbikes. I did ride on such a scooter when I was about eight, when my uncle invited me to sit behind him on a short journey around the streets. It was quite alarming as I had to hold on to him and there was nothing behind me to help keep me on, and especially hair-raising when we leaned over sideways as we went round corners. I am sure it is more pleasant to be the one holding onto the handlebars and to be in control of the speed and direction.

I was delighted to see an old Routemaster bus parked on the grass. These were the ones I got on every day to school, with no closing doors and an open back entrance, wonderful chrome bell pushes both up and downstairs, and an especially interesting concertina leather* blind that the driver could pull down behind him to block the passengers’ view of his cab. In the main display area there was also a modern single decker bus that had been converted into a snack vending bar, the Omnibus* Kitchen, which can be driven around to any such event. This is my ideal bus and I suppose one could go further and make a complete home out of it, rather like a long red caravan with all comforts and facilities included. I shall think of it every time I see my normal identical* bus approaching, especially on the way home when things are getting a little peckish. (864 words)

* "leather" Stroke L is doubled for the "-ter" sound only when it is alone, i.e. when it has no other stroke, hook or tick. Compare "washleather" "launder" "wilder" "holder" where it is doubled.

* "Omnibus" Helpful to insert the first vowel, as this is similar to "minibus"

* "identical" Contraction that omits the N, therefore on the line

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Instructor Phrases Section 7

These sentences practise the phrases in Section 7 page 220 of the Instructor, Omissions: Logograms (short forms)

This is the last section of advanced phrases in the Instructor. I find that the simpler short phrases learned early on give no trouble, and it is easy to apply their principles to make new similar ones. The omission phrases are somewhat less versatile but it is helpful to remember that the omitted words must always be ones that need to be reinserted for them to make sense. If a proposed phrase makes sense both with and without the omitted word, then the phrase cannot be used safely. Phrases are best learned gradually in small groups of similar ones, by writing them in a context rather than copying lists or cramming, which is an attempt to memorize. You may cram facts for tomorrow’s geography or history exam, and then forget those facts afterwards, but you cannot cram for shorthand, as it is largely a manual skill, like running, swimming or playing the piano. It is pointless* to hesitate over a phrase, as the loss of time is greater than any saving that would have been made, and if the phrase does not come to mind instantly, or if there is any doubt as to its safety, then the words should be written separately and in full, and then investigated later.

* "pointless" Full strokes because the "-less" cannot be joined to "point" without loss of clarity

We have asked again and again for more information but the mystery just gets deeper and deeper.

The plane flew faster and faster, and rose higher and higher into the clear sky.

The clouds came down lower and lower, and the weather became less and less pleasant*.

As the dinosaur came nearer and nearer, the children became more and more nervous.

Mr and Mrs Smith have travelled north and south, and east and west, in the past few* years.

They were very generous over and over again*, paying over and above the amount requested.

* "pleasant" Helpful to insert the first vowel, as this is similar to "pleasing"

* Omission phrase "pas(t) few"

* "over and over again" The second "over" is reversed in order to make a good join

The man’s pace became quicker and quicker, and he ran here and there all over the street.

The tenants had to find ways and means to pay their rates and taxes on time.

As the high speed cars raced side by side around the track, time and space seem to have been conquered.

You must bear in mind that we have customers in all parts of the world who are waiting for this item.

The fact of the matter is that they have not borne in mind the peculiar circumstances of the case with which we are dealing.

For the purpose* of my report, I will need a complete list of the facts of the case.

* "purpose" You could also use P+P+Circle S in a phrase or as an intersection to represent this word, thus omitting the R

Writing a complete history of the world in one month is completely out of the question.*

The essay is more or less finished although I do have one or two pages to check.

Sooner or later he intends to go out and buy two or three loaves of bread and three or four apples.

Four or five people are absent but five or six new students have arrived.

They made six or seven comments on the plan and suggested seven or eight improvements.

There are usually eight or nine teachers and nine or ten children in the classroom.

* "question" Optional contraction

They have made their decision and right or wrong* it must be considered by the committee.

Up to the present we have not received any letters in connection with building regulations.

Up to the present time we have not received any communications in connection with the work.

I have received several telephone calls in connection with their proposals.

They have done the work exactly in accordance with our instructions and in accordance with the recommendations.

Your decisions must be made closely in accordance with the matter set out* in the report. (609 words)

* "right or wrong" The phrase "rightly or wrongly" must be written in full or you can use the intersected phrase given on shown under the headword "or"

* "set out" Halving to represent the T of "out", similarly "carried out"