I went to Clark’s College in Walthamstow, which was known as a ‘secretarial college’ at the age of ten. I started to learn shorthand when I was 14 as well as typing, book-keeping, commerce, etc. When I left school at 16 I got a job as a secretary to Mr Burrows, a sociology lecturer in the University of London. I used my shorthand professionally from that day until I was 24.
Thereafter I used it sporadically to take down the lyrics of songs from the radio, long before the internet could deliver them in minutes, and more importantly to record what the teachers had to say at Parent/Teacher meetings. I was able to take down verbatim what they had to say about my children and know that the notebook would never be read by anyone. Sometimes I would look down at my shorthand notes as they eagerly awaited whatever pronouncement was to come. Very often I told them exactly what was there in what they called ‘the squiggles’ but sometimes I doctored the hieroglyphics to soften the blow or because I didn’t think what the teacher had to say was constructive. I also use it to write my christmas present list and things in the diary for my eyes only.
Anyway what brings all this to mind is that I have started using my shorthand recently as I am doing some work for an elderly gentleman. He finds using the tape recorder difficult and prefers to talk to me at his own pace. I find that my ability to take down dictation and transcribe it is as good as ever. Maybe I will never reach those 150 words per minute days but it is fast enough for him and very satisfying for me.