Wednesday, 30 August 2017


I think it is* time for a change from the usual sets of short letters that I have been doing, which are intended to give short practice paragraphs with easy matter, that you can rehearse* intensively and so bring up your speed without the stress of a long passage. In other words*, if you fall behind, each passage soon comes to an end, giving you an opportunity to catch up. This time we have some postcards*, which suits the holiday season of August, although obviously no-one is going to need a shorthand writer* to help them produce such missives. You could* however write one in shorthand if you have a friend who can read it, and thus reinstate that perennial frustration for the postal* worker, namely the postcard that looks interesting but is not possible to read, unless they are nearing retirement and started working life in an office when shorthand was still common. The other point is that you can get so much more information on a postcard in shorthand, but you will need a sharp pencil to write the tiny outlines, and avoid ink, as it may be delivered in the rain. I find that biros can do thicks and thins, if you are not* having to go very fast and can be careful* with the tip control and pressure.

* "I think it is" Halving to represent "it"

* "rehearse" A long ascending outline, needs to be written shallowly, similarly "rehearsal" which is even longer

* "in other wo(rd)s" An alternative way to write "words" when it joins better in a phrase

* "postcards" "postal" Omit the lightly sounded T

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writer"

* "you could" Written separately, so it does not look like "you can"

* "you are not" This is always written with full strokes, in order to make a clear contrast with "you will not" which uses halving and N hook for the "not"

* "careful" Optional contraction

Dear Pam and family, We arrived safely Saturday night. It is just wonderful here, our hotel is simply fabulous and the view is out of this world, what with sunsets over the bay and the mountains. Tomorrow we are taking a boat trip and going to the sea life centre. The kids went wild with excitement when they saw some dolphins in the bay. Jack has found a great golf course, so the girls and I can go shopping one or two* days. I wish you could* see the malls here, they are amazing*. See you in two weeks*, we have some great photos and vids to show you. Maggie

* Omission phrases "one (or) two"  "two wee(k)s"

* "you could" Written separately, so it does not look like "you can"

* "amazing" "amusing" Always insert the second vowel

Hi Tom, Just a line to let you know we are doing well here in the north. We are having a family break from work over August. We got a great deal on the hotel package, so there is money left in the pot for excursions etc. The food is very good and they have a wide range. You know how Johnnie loves his restaurant meals from time to time*. We are just sitting on the terrace with our wine and relaxing after seeing the sights in town. Hope all goes well with you next week*. Best regards, Jackie

* Omission phrase "from time (to) time" with halving used for both T's

* Omission phrase "ne(k)s(t w)eek"

Dear Mum, flight was good, and hotel is great. So glad we booked this one, the facilities are brilliant. We spent the whole of yesterday in the swimming pool and today we went up the hills to a vineyard*. Bought some local wine for you, you will love it, very sweet and fruity. The food is interesting and, yes, we are eating the healthy options, after having lost all that weight to get into our swimwear! Lots of love and see you next Friday. Betty and Co

* "vineya(r)d" An alternative to the short form for "yard" where it joins better

Dear Janet and John, Here we are in sunny Sandy Bay again. We love coming back here, it is so peaceful and quiet, especially where we are staying* a little way out of town away from the amusement parks. Our holiday house is very comfortable and has a lovely garden to sit in. The weather has been glorious, but we had rain for the whole of Monday, so we went into town and saw the museums. Hope all goes well with your meeting next week* and we can chat about it all very soon. Will phone you to get a date. Love from Mary and family

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

* Omission phrase "ne(k)s(t w)eek"

Dear Auntie Flo, I thought you would like to see this view of the city of Bath, as you have spent so much time here yourself when you were living in that old house. I am so glad I took your advice to come here for a holiday and I am having a wonderful time seeing all the places you mentioned. Do you think you will ever visit here again? It is just as you described, but the transport is much better nowadays. You would feel right at home. Give my regards to Uncle Henry. Love from Edward*

* "Edward" Using the suffix -wa(r)d, similarly "backward, forward, onward"

Hi James, How is it all going at the office? Yes, I am thinking of you all while I am lying here on a hot beach with my pineapple fruit cocktail, listening to the waves and seagulls. Never mind, you will be off on your cruise before long and I shall be thinking of you again but this time from my office desk. Going water-skiing tomorrow, then paragliding, then hot air ballooning, such a lot of hard work for me to do over the next week, but I am sure I will manage! I will post some photos* and videos* online for you quite soon, if I get the time with all these important things I have to do. Regards, Charlie

* "photos, videos" These are similar, so insert the diphone in "videos"

Dear Mother, I missed my train so when I did arrive here they took ages to open and let me in. I am in a rather small guest house room, reasonable and clean but would be better if they smartened it up. The food is OK but I prefer my usual home cooking. The view is OK I suppose, but it is lost in mist and rain at the moment*. It is too cold to go to the beach, too windy to go up the cliff walk and too boring to sit indoors doing nothing until the weather clears. I am going to go into town and get a shorthand pad and pencil so I can practise from the news on the radio. My exam is the week after next so I think it will be a doddle if the weather stays like this all week. At least* I don’t have to answer any phone calls or emails* from customers for seven* whole days. See you soon, love from your bedraggled son, William (1016 words)

* Omission phrase "at (the) moment"

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

* "emails" Always insert the first vowel, as "email" and "mail" are similar

* "seven" Keep the N hook clear, as it is similar to the short form "several"

Saturday, 26 August 2017

River Walk

Thames at Richmond

We recently went on a day’s visit to see the river at Richmond. This town is the opposite end of London to where we live, and the river is younger, narrower and more pleasant than in the city and the Thames estuary. The day was sunny and mild but the forecast was rain by the beginning of the* afternoon. So we set out* reasonably early to make the most of the dry morning. The train goes from Waterloo Station on a circuit to Richmond and the other stations, ending up once again* at Waterloo. So it was quite novel to be sitting on a train leaving Waterloo, with the announcer’s voice telling us that we were on a train to that same station. At least we did know the reason, but it might have been a tad confusing for a visitor or tourist. On arrival we took a bus to the river bridge, so that we did not waste any of the few sunny hours walking down the long high street.

* "beginning of the" Stroke Gn for "beginning" can be intersected or written underneath, whichever is clearer

* "set out" Halving for "out"

* Omission phrase "wu(n)s again"

Richmond Bridge

We took a short walk down the shady* side of the river, then back again and over the bridge towards the main town. We wanted to be on the sunny side of the river and going towards a small park, where we planned to eat our sandwiches on a warm seat watching the peaceful sparkling river flowing gently by. As we approached the park there were* spots of rain. By the time we got there, the rain was heavier and so we had to find a seat under a big tree. The drops and splats of water had no trouble finding a few openings between the branches and soon we were sitting in a row under several umbrellas, despite our hope that the tree would be our protective canopy. The rain collecting from the nearby paths began trickling over the muddy grass in a growing rivulet flowing down to the river’s edge. The surface of the Thames was now pitted and mottled with a covering of ripples from the raindrops. We saw several canal boats going along the river, some owners unconcerned by the rain and others sheltered from it*, as they were safely under cover in their cabins.

* "shady" Insert the last vowel, so it is not misread as "shaded"

* Omission phrase "there (w)ere"

* "from it" Halving for "it"

In the distance the sky was bright in patches, between the dark rainclouds. Quite quickly the weather cleared and we made our way back to the bridge in the dry, with warm breezes and even a bit more sun. We took a walk in the other direction as far as Richmond Lock. We ascended the lock stairs and crossed the river on high, looking down on the giant metal lock gates which are held aloft and which are tilted and lowered when required. This lock is used to control the water levels up river, to provide a stable environment by reducing the effect of the rise and fall of the tides in order to maintain a navigable depth of water at all times.

Richmond Lock

We crossed Richmond Bridge again, wandered into the busy town with its noisy traffic and made our way to the station. Once more* we got on a train coming from and going to Waterloo Station. We were soon settled in our comfortable seats, watching the downpour cascading off the train roof and seeing some flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder.  The hurrying crowds and busy atmosphere on the main concourse were quite a contrast to the quiet river, and the green and pleasant surroundings of Richmond. The weather was clear again when we arrived at our station and we were once again in green and quiet surroundings. Once home, the last job of the day was to download all the photos, retracing all our steps and wanderings. Another successful jaunt to be relived via the photos, when the dark and cold of winter make going out and about less appealing. The river scene would be quite a picture in winter, with snow and ice, so perhaps that is one for the bucket list, but avoiding the slippery waterside edges, and including some time in the shops to warm up. (683 words)

* Omission phrase "wu(n)s more"

Sunday, 20 August 2017

With What

This article practises the four short forms: with, when, what, would. These can be confusing when first learned, as they are all the same shape with only the position and the way they face being different. They are best practised as the first word in a short phrase, so that they remain in position. Phrases will get them happily and easily assimilated, as the phrases present more memorable shapes and pictures to your mind, and then you are in a good position to use each one of the four on its own correctly and without hesitation. Then you can avoid the unhelpful and miserable habit of reciting the foursome to extract* the one you want. Such a recitation habit will stick to you annoyingly like chewing gum on your shoe, so please do better than I did and learn them separately in phrases to start with or at least not in a set of four consecutive signs along the line.
* "extract" Insert the second vowel, and the last vowel in "extricate" as these are similar in meaning and outline

You are now familiar with the subject of shorthand. With much determination to learn, you just got on with it, and you took a pad and pencil with which to practise the outlines. With those two simple tools you learned how to write shorthand, and now you like to have them with you at all times*. You will find that with each passing day and week, the outlines become easier, as you become more and more* familiar with them. There is no high tech involved in plain paper and pencil, and with these basic supplies you can record anything anywhere at next to no cost or effort. You can write a whole word with one stroke of the pen, and then all the other words with the same rapidity. Students in a class often compete with one another* to be the fastest, but regardless of your speed, you have now joined with us in our shorthand universe. I hope you* agree that with this new skill your CV is greatly improved. Some strokes don’t join with the semicircle and so two omission phrases use the stroke. With reference to the
* job, it went to someone with the skill of shorthand, and with regard to the* wages, they are always higher for someone with this knowledge.

* "at all times" Halving for the T of "times"

Omission phrases "more (and) more"  "with wu(n) another"  "I (h)ope you" "w(ith re)f(eren)ce (to) the"  "with (re)gard (to) the"

When the time comes to write from a fast speaker, we must be able to* speed up when it is necessary. The students asked, when do we get to the last lesson, and the teacher said that when this term ends we will get there. Another asked when does the first exam take place, to which the reply was, when you start the* next term. When those people started last year they knew nothing but when this term begins they will be much more* competent. When these students come to the class, it will be a time when each person works to improve their education. In answer to the question* when is the time to practise, I always say when it is daytime, when it is night time and indeed whenever* there is an opportunity to do so. I asked the teacher, when were* they going to sit the exam. When we are* fast enough, we will apply for the speed test.

* Omission phrase "mus(t) be able to"  "much (m)ore"

* "start the" You could use "tick the" but it would not be entirely clear here, with the already halved Ray stroke, compare "started" in the next sentence to which it would look similar

* "question" Optional contraction

* "whenever" Normal contraction

* "when were" "when we are" Same outline, you could insert the vowel in "were" but generally not necessary as the context would make it clear

At the end of the first lesson you will know what it is and what is the reason for learning. Their friends wondered what do you do in that class and what does the teacher say. What you* must tell them is what would* be taking place tomorrow. Tell them what were* the requirements and what you must learn next time. They may say, what has happened*, you are writing shorthand all the time now. What is the matter* and what is it about the subject that keeps you so busy? So you told them what was the matter*, and what must be* done to achieve the speeds. This is what is called* dedication and it was obvious to everyone what was necessary to be successful. We are very glad to say that* this is what it has* resulted in. They asked what have you done? I answered I have done whatever was necessary at the time.

* "what you" "what would" "what were the" The second semicircle can be any of these three. If in doubt, write the words separately.

* Omission phrases "what has (h)appened" "what is (the) matter" "what mus(t) be"  "we are very glad (to) s(ay) that"

* "what is called" On its own "called" is a short form

* "what it has" Clearer to write the "has" separately, although it could be phrased if wanted

Some people would give anything to have this skill for their job but I wonder if some would go to the classes at all. They will never know how much would have been* achieved and whether their dream of exam success would be attained. Some of us would hope* that they do take the plunge and would indeed wish them every success if they do. Their teacher said this course would not have been* difficult for them and in fact* would never be anything other than successful. The staff would now like to say a word about the courses and of course would not be speaking for very long. The students would have been wiser to have brought more notepads and so would not have been struggling in the lesson. Some would say that a pen would possibly be better than a pencil for the higher speeds. The teacher said that she would see by the results who had worked hardest. Would you mind speaking a little louder and would your assistant please close the windows. I think the students would understand better if they listened more closely. In some cases a halved Way stroke is used, in order to* make a phrase. I would like to say something about shorthand but they would not be interested in it. We would be happy to send them the book, and we think many would end up reading it.

* Omission phrase "would (have) been" It is quicker to join a straight stroke here than a curved one, and legible because the "have" is often shortened "woulda been"

* "would not have been" Helpful to insert the vowel in "not" so it is not misread as "never"

* Omission phrases "would (h)ope" "in (f)act" "in ord(er to"

I had a word with the lecturer and he said I could* join the course when the term started in September. He told me what the cost was and I asked, would the course be full or part time*. I had a pad and pencil and with them I wrote all the words when they were spoken. I must say* what was clear was that the notes would be very easy to read back. With this book I learned everything and when this year came to an end, I had found out just what the subject involved. But I wondered, would the speed I have attained be enough for my new job? In conclusion*, the college staff would like to say that*, when the work is completed, what has been begun so well will be finished with the greatest success and with great celebration. (1075 words)

* "I could" Not phrased, so it does not look like "I can"

* "part time" Note that "full time" halves the downward L of "full" + M

* Omission phrases "I mus(t) say" "in (con)clusion" "I would like (to) s(ay) that"


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)