In a quiet period on my stall today I decided I wanted to write to while away the time. Not having a laptop with me I realised I would have to pick up a pen and rediscover what my actual handwriting looks like these days.
It is a rare thing for me to pick up a pen other than to sign a card, scribble a note to my other half or write down daily takings.
As a child I clearly remember practising handwriting styles. Fitting the pen between my small fingers to assess the most comfortable position, choosing a slant I decided, made it look all the more interesting. I studied the writing styles of my family and noted how very different they all were, I suppose this wasn’t such a surprise as we are all very different characters. I checked out the handwriting of my best friend at school, fairly large and tidy, carefully rounded with subtle quirks, like the ‘y’ having a long swooping tail. Her handwriting reflected her personality well. One of the brightest girls at school, she had a generous personality, was eager to embrace knowledge and being well-travelled for her age eager to impart information too. If you looked at her handwriting you would immediately realise, this was someone worth getting to know.
So, even at a young age I understood how handwriting gives an image of the person it belongs to, the level of intellect, whether you are tidy, busy, unruly, quirky, mean or generous, if you are vain, modest, secretive and a whole host of other possible traits. Handwriting could give the game away, however you sought to present yourself. This left me with a real concern as to how my personality might be portrayed when I picked up a pen!
Somehow and without the control I hoped to achieve, my handwriting developed naturally, and undoubtedly reflected my character against any will I had wanted to impose upon it. If you force an unnatural handwriting style, it simply won’t last.
As a child, every birthday or Christmas time presents or money would arrive from Aunts and Uncles. A day or so after the event, my mother would present me with a Basildon Bond writing pad and pen to write thank you letters.
Happily we didn’t have too many relations who sent presents as writing those letters could take quite some time. I only had to write two or three at the most and that would take up a whole afternoon. Eager to progress my written language skills, my mother insisted that each letter varied in content, telling me at some point these relations might meet up and compare notes on their letters so it wouldn’t do for them to be identical.
Never did it occur to me that each set of relations lived nowhere near the other, and more to the point, they were never likely to meet up except perhaps at family wedding or funeral and the likelihood of them taking my thank you letters to such events to compare content had to be deemed not just unlikely but beyond the realms of possibility.
The blank sheet of Basildon Bond would have a lined sheet placed beneath it to ensure the writing remained straight on the page. No crossings out were permitted; a misspelled word at the end of the letter and the whole thing would have to be written again.
Children get off so lightly these days. I always feel a pang of sorrow mingled with a touch of envy when my nieces and nephews scrawl a single line of thanks to their Grandmother. I know how thoughtfully she chooses their presents, deliberating on what they will actually like rather than what she thinks they should have. To be fair, they do telephone her sometimes but a phone call can’t be saved or treasured in years to come as can a carefully penned letter.
I still write to one of my elderly Aunts but will admit I type the letters. The excuses I use to myself to appease the guilt of using keyboard instead of pen include lack of time (writing longhand definitely takes longer), and I assume she would struggle to read my lopsided slant of words so therefore; I am making it easier for her to read what I have to say. Of course I have never asked what she feels about this. Does she open the letters and sigh, wishing that I had made the effort to use my own fair hand? I do feel guilty but doubt I will ever ask her, I can’t face all the rewrites as I stumble over words and feel compelled to start again because of the crossings out. Childhood rules remain ingrained.
By the time I reached college my handwriting style was of course firmly entrenched and something I didn’t even think about much any more. I did notice how my essays looked, the forward slant of words formed a uniform pattern on the A4 page. I sometimes wondered how comfortable the lecturer would find reading them as on occasion they looked positively mesmerising. Another form of modern envy, I would guess most students now use computers to write their essays, tripping their fingers across keyboards instead of suffering the writer’s cramp I used to get.
Of course all my writing is done on the computer now, I don’t have to worry about crossings out, or unsightly corrector fluid marks. However, sitting writing with just pen and paper is strangely therapeutic, nostalgic and good discipline of sorts. I have to think more carefully before I write; I can’t just hit the erase key or delete a whole passage in one swipe. Perhaps I should try it more often, before I forget to write things by hand altogether…