Crossing a line

16 Feb

I quit my job in December. Some might say it’s neither big nor clever to go voluntarily unemployed while living in Britain’s most expensive city, but sod it – I needed a change, and with my journalism degree quite literally gathering dust, I thought it high time to elbow my way into the press full-time.

This (intensely hopeful) career plan, couple with a newfound surplus of free time, has brought me to learning Teeline shorthand. Self-teaching, of course, since a £3 textbook used by the National Council for the Training of Journalists represents a significantly lower risk of early onset bankruptcy than the NCTJ’s own courses. Having spent most of my uni years in Cardiff’s libraries, I’m finding the experience of nabbing a tax-funded desk and hitting the (singular) book to a pleasantly familiar one.

It’s also bloody weird. The genius of the Teeline style, as my second-hand tome excitedly explains, is that the symbols for each letter are based simply on their regular English equivalents. I’m inclined to differ – B looks like an obese 6, Z is a 9, and F resembles a partially deflated balloon. Meanwhile, Q is a giant U, Y is a smaller U, O is a wide U, and U is a U. Sheesh.

Putting aside the fact that this alphabet has more Us than a 11 year old’s IM logs, it’s undeniably a clever system. Almost all of the symbols are designed to be joined with the others, so it’s comfortably similar to writing in normal cursive, and it’s flexible enough that I could start out writing whole words before becoming more adept at cutting unnecessary vowels. I can almost see why, in age where good digital sound recorders are available for £20, it hasn’t died out as a form of taking dictation.

I’m having bigger problems than obsolescence, though: fancy symbols or otherwise, my handwriting is still bloody appalling. This inability to draw a flat line without giving it a slight curve, or a curve that looks too much like a flat line, is proving a bigger barrier to my self-inflicted education than the actual syllabus ever could.

On the plus side, I recently gave myself a lot of time to practice.

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