Home Opinion & Features Shameful confessions of a columnist

Shameful confessions of a columnist


As you read this, think of me, peck-pecking away, one laborious letter at a time. I wish I knew how to type

We often complain about our government appointing unqualified people to positions of huge responsibility.

In all fairness in this regard, I think I may owe readers a grovelling apology. I have been writing the Tavern of the Seas column daily for more than 40 years.

Some readers have even told me their grandfathers used to read my columns, and then their fathers.

For more than 40 years I have been hammering away at keyboards: first manual typewriter keyboards and then electric keyboards and finally “touch-screen” boards, which seem to be only pictures of keyboards. Now I feel I need to make a public confession. I cannot type.

I look with awe at competent typists who tickle out reams of words by running their nimble fingers across the keys. And I blush to admit I cannot type. All those daily columns (not to mention a couple of published books and magazine articles) have been pecked out laboriously, one letter at a time, using only my right index finger.

I admit this with a degree of shame. I did enrol for a typing course way back in 1972, but my instructor found me totally incompetent and virtually unteachable, so I left in disgrace. As a general news reporter I submitted most of my work by telephone. I’d call the newsroom and say in an important voice: “Put me through to a copy typist please,” and dictate my story to somebody who could actually type.

As a freelance columnist I no longer have the access to copy typists, so I sit crouched over my keypad, pecking away, one laborious letter at a time, every day. I look back on a lifetime of amazing typists with gratitude and envy.

My first teacher, “Aunt” Marie, at the Hughdale Mixed Farm School (enrolment, two pupils) was a brilliant typist as well as an inspirational teacher.

When not in the classroom she was the secretary of the local tennis club and farmers’ association and could type out minutes and reports as fast as members could speak.

I remember her looking up and smiling as her fingers danced about the typewriter keys, apparently completely independently, and thinking: “Amazing! It goes in her ear and out through her fingers without bothering her brain.”

The two copy typists at the Cape Argus, Pam and Tosca, were equally proficient. They could rattle off a story as fast as I could dictate it.

Remember, there were no “delete” buttons in those typewriter days. They got it right first time.

As you read this, think of me, peck-pecking away, one laborious letter at a time. I wish I knew how to type.

Last Laugh

At breakfast little Jimmy told his dad: “You know we Boy Scouts are meant to do a good deed every day? Well I’ve done mine already.”

“That’s good,” said his father. “What did you do?”

“You know Mr Jones from down the road? He’s overweight and unfit and I saw him trying to catch the bus to work, but he wasn’t going to make it, so I set the Rottweiler on him and he made it.”

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