Life without handwriting

I have previously mentioned on this blog about how much I like to send handwritten letters. Using a lovely fountain pen given to me as a gift by Julie, and investing in quality paper and envelopes too. My regular letter recipients are few these days, as many have decided that email is good enough. I now only send letters to a select few; those who reply in kind, bothering to put pen to paper. The price of stamps is a consideration of course. And they are due to increase soon, making the mailing of a physical letter something of a luxury in the 21st century. Rowland Hill would turn in his grave.

Of course, all of the above should have been in the past tense, as I can no longer write properly. The cause of this problem is one of those small things. Something you don’t think twice about at the time, but has lasting repercussions that you would never have imagined.

Late last summer, our new neighbours had decided to start to store their wheelie bins against the side of our house. I presume this made life a little easier for them, as it meant they would have to only move them a short distance on collection day, and they could also get out of their side gate more easily, without having to negotiate the three bins in the process. At first, I didn’t bother about them. They were not in the way, and caused us no obstruction, despite being on the narrow strip of grass that marks the boundary of our property.

However, as the summer drew to a close, we had a hot spell. Despite having secure lids, the bins began to attract flies and wasps. If we had our windows open on that side, then they would of course come into our house too. Then I noticed that they were killing off a fair bit of the grass that they were stood on, so it was time for them to go. I went next door to ask the neighbour to move them permanently, but there was no reply. I wrote a note to put through the door, explaining why I would be moving the bins back to their wall, and asking them not to put them back there in the future. I wheeled two of the bins across the driveway, and went back for the third.

As I casually grabbed the handle to tip it prior to wheeling, I got something of a shock. I can only conclude that it must have been filled with Plutonium or Uranium, as I had never moved anything as heavy as this bin on my own, in my entire life. I chose not to examine the contents, just in case. After dragging it the few feet, I put the note through the door. As I did so, the door opened and the young man appeared. I explained about the bins, and asked him not to do it again. He was profusely apologetic, and assured me that he had not realised it would be an issue, before promising never to do anything like that again. I was happy to have resolved the situation so amicably, and returned home.

I soon realised that my right wrist was hurting. Within a few hours, it was hurting a great deal more, and slightly swollen too. By bedtime, I had to take pain killers to get to sleep, and the next morning, it was worse than the day before. I could still use it though, and nothing seemed to be broken. I concluded that I had sprained my wrist, and that it would get better eventually. And it did, but it took much longer than I expected. Once the pain had gone, the wrist never felt quite right. Trying to open jars was harder than ever, and rotating it around, as in elevating a lever-action door handle for instance, was surprisingly tricky.

Then one day, I sat down to reply to a letter I had received. As soon as I took hold of my pen, I was aware that something was strange. I couldn’t hold it properly and was not able to maintain the correct angle for the nib to make contact with the paper. I changed to a ballpoint pen which was easier to grasp, but then found that the flow of my normal handwriting was impossible to achieve. I had to keep stopping, change my grasp on the pen, and try again. After one paragraph, I gave up. Two days later, I tried again. Still no good. It was as if I had forgotten how to write with a pen, and no matter how many times I tried, it took forever to complete one long sentence.

Since then , I have typed my letters, sending apologies, and the reason for doing so. But it just isn’t the same. The whole point of personal correspondence is the handwriting, or it might as well be an email. That simple incident last summer has changed something forever. Even my signature is hard to do now, and I have to think carefully before signing a cheque. I can manage block capitals, and a couple of lines on a card. I still write out a shopping list every week, but that’s hardly a five-page letter, with all the news from Norfolk.

I miss handwriting, more than I ever thought I would.

(I presumed that you all know who Rowland Hill was. Perhaps you don’t. Why should you?)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rowland_Hill

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46 thoughts on “Life without handwriting

  1. What an odd incident, and what lasting, lamentable repercussions…I am really sorry to hear about it. Typing is not a problem? I thought it was more tiresome for wrists…How terribly odd. Did the doctors offer any explanation?

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    1. Thanks, Nandia. It is restricted to holding a pen, opening jars, and some other ‘twisting’ moves.
      Otherwise, there is no pain, and it works well, including when typing.
      I confess that I did not consult a doctor, as I was hoping that it would just correct itself in time.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry to hear about your hand Pete. I had problems with my wrists as a teenager and know how frustrating it can be. I can see you haven’t been to the doctor – go! Maybe there’s some physio you could try? Perhaps something like squeezing a stress ball to increase strength in your fingers? I hope that you are still remaining in contact with your pen pals even if it’s not by handwritten letter πŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions, Lauren. I am going to try practicing writing and see if that helps. I may be able to learn a new ‘style’.
      I still correspond with those friends, but always feel that sending a typed letter is a bit of a cheat.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the link about Rowland Hill. I’m sorry about your hand and hope your GP might be able to help but I suspect you’ve already consulted with him. As long as you can keep typing your blog I’m happy.

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      1. That’s such a shame Pete.
        It’s amazing how a small action can cause so much trouble.
        I was hacking coconut white ‘meat’ out of it’s shell with a small paring knife (I know, I know, stupid) and the knife slid across the surface and stabbed into my hand. It went right through between my thumb and palm..
        I went to hospital and nearly ended up in a Psychiatric ward as the nurse shouted over to the A&E doctor that I had stabbed ‘myself’ in the hand.
        The Doc took a long look at me & said ‘On purpose?’ NO! I replied, I was cutting up a coconut. ‘Ahh that’s a new one! It’s normally frozen beef burgers.’ They then gave me strong pain killers and superglued my wound.
        Luckily my hand healed really well as the knife had missed every tendon and main vein. However, even after a few years I still can’t open stiff jars or grip as well as I used to.

        It’s so nice that you want to still write ‘proper’ letters.
        I don’t know anyone who still actually writes letters. I said to someone a few weeks ago that I would love to have an old fashioned letter, but everyone just texts and emails now (including me) even postcards are going the way of the dinosaur.
        As an example, a young girl in our office had to write a report as the computers had gone down. She sat there for a few minutes, just looking a blank piece of paper. I asked her if she was okay. She said she was fine, but her mind had just gone blank as to how to write!
        It sometimes worries me that technology will take over & we’ll forget how to write altogether.

        Maybe that’s what emoji’s will be used for in future. Back to Hieroglyphics & chicken scratchings :0)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks, Kate. I used to write a lot of letters over a year. A nice fountain pen, vellum paper, and lined envelopes. I always believed that it was worth the time and trouble to show care and consideration to good friends. Making the effort to write a ‘real’ letter was one way of doing that.
          I still send them the letters, but have to type them now. I will keep trying though, and maybe I will be able to write properly again.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. You are right; nothing replaces a handwritten note or letter. I still write. I can hear the words of my mother, “Only black ink, blue would never be proper.” Interestingly, when something is incredibly important, handwritten is my go-to. I have written to authors and received a handwritten reply. Now, that is a double dose. What a shame about your hand, Pete. What did the doctors say? Sounds like more than a sprain.

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    1. Jennie, I must admit that I never did get this looked at. There was a lot going on in my personal life at the time, so I just put up with it. I might start to practice writing for a short time each day, and try to learn all over again.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree totally about the beautiful art of writing letter-so personal-and much more intimate allowing a bond not possible in other forms of communication. It is tragic to think that letters tied in bundles may disappear altogether. Now about your hand-I am so very sorry and therefore am thankful for typing after all. Best wishes that the healing process is not over just yet.

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  6. We don’t realise how important our hands are until they are unusable! Phil and I used to write each other long letters when we lived at opposite ends of the country, but no need now of course. One of my hobbies back in the day was calligraphy and I taught myself several alphabets which I can still tip my hand to with a bit of refresher practice, it’s a lovely feeling to write beautiful letters with a fountain pen you have to dip in ink. I hope your hand improves, physio would help I feel.

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    1. Thanks, FR. I confess that I used an ink-cartridge pen, but it was a good one! I didn’t have any skill at calligraphy, but using a ‘real’ pen made my handwriting much better.
      I have always appreciated skillful handwriting though, and envied those who were good at it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I totally agree that penmanship is a thing of the past, Pete. When I sit down to simply jot down notes during a meeting or even on a damn Post-it note, I have to conscientiously think the next flow of my hand.

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  8. Oh, how I sympathise. And what an awful way for the loss to have happened. There is nothing to compare with writing or receiving a handwritten letter and typed letters just don’t feel right at all. I lost my ability to write by hand, other than a shopping list or a postcard, a couple of decades ago and it still rankles hugely. Then again, where would we be without computers? They’ve made my life much easier but I still hate them! There are several fingers I can’t use any more. When all the tips go, I will have to resort to voice dictation and that might make me stop writing at all quite frankly. I’ve tried it already from time to time but it just doesn’t work with the speed of my thoughts. x

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    1. I would have guessed from knowing a little about you that you would have the same problem, Sarah. I love my keyboard, especially since I got the ‘large key’ yellow and black one! However, it cannot produce anything as nice as a handwritten letter.
      I have a friend who uses voice dictation for emails. He has to correct a few errors afterwards, (It doesn’t seem to like names) but otherwise it works very well.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pete, there is a lawmaker here in Nevada who is trying to reintroduce cursive back into our school system (http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/nevada/nevada-lawmaker-takes-another-shot-cursive-requirement-schools). As you know, I taught elementary school for seven years at various grade levels. Cursive was not taught, and students struggled with block letters. Of course, they could text at the speed of light.
    I took typing in high school on manual typewriters, and have typed ever since in the traditional way (I don’t “hunt and peck”), but all of my schoolwork up until that point was handwritten. I used to write nearly a full page, make an error, and then recopy everything, throwing the first attempt into the trash. By the time I finally produced a perfect copy of my essay or report, I’d gone through a ream of paper! For this reason, the typewriter was a blessing. My cast iron Underwood was eventually replaced by a computer, of course.
    Don’t assume that my handwriting was good, or even all that legible. When I was a literature/cartography student at the UniversitΓ© de Nice, back in 1974-75, I wrote an excellent research paper that was refused by the teacher because she couldn’t read my handwriting. Of course, we Americans don’t form our letters in quite the same fashion as the French, and my handwriting was not the best, but she had other American students in her class, so I decided that, subpar handwriting notwithstanding, she was just a lazy reader. I pulled an all-nighter printing the entire paper, resubmitted it, and received a lower grade because…it was late!
    In short, I am devoted to the keyboard, even though, of course, I do appreciate the attributes of good handwriting, and especially calligraphy.

    I’m very sorry to hear about your “wheelie bin” injury, and, as others have in their comments, urge you to see a doctor. It’s true that some injuries endure for months or even years, and that, when all is said and done, recovery may not be complete. At least, you’re able to tackle the keyboard.

    It would have been interesting to find out what was in that “wheelie bin.” Maybe an old motorcycle engine?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It may well have been something metal, David. The guy does a lot of work on cars. However, he would fall foul of the local authority if they discovered him dumping such things in the domestic waste.
      I had two typewriters when I was young. An old office machine from my Mum’s work, which was huge, and an Olivetti portable. Despite that, I never learned to touch-type, although I can manage to type quite fast, in my ‘own style’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear it, Nita.
      I noticed from my last mobile phone bill that I rarely use it, either for texts or calls. I used just 22 minutes of my 500 minute allowance, and only sent 31 of my ‘unlimited’ texts.
      Just not that popular, i suppose! πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hahahaha.. Pete..
        you are one of a kind..

        That’s just amazing that you can find the time to enjoy 😊 writing a letter..
        but don’t even remember that you have a phone πŸ“±..

        I guess you just love expressing your thoughts on paper..
        and I love reading those thoughts too..
        I think you should write me a really sweet letter..
        so I could enjoy 😊 reading with a Smile

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  10. ‘Tis so good to be reading you again! So very good. I could cry. Ok, I shan’t cry, but I shall quote from Shaw’s Pygmalion; “the beauty and nobility, the august mission and destiny, of human handwriting.” As a child of the 80s, I must have been the last generation to grow up with penpals and practice my penmanship. I think children nowadays are pretty much born with tablets and whatnot. Pacifier in one hand, iPhone in the other. I’m sorry to hear about the wrist injury and hope you’ll consult your GP to see if anything can be done. On the other hand, can you imagine handwriting a blog? It doesn’t quite have the same swing to it and I am therefore unashamedly biased in favour of your typing skills and dear, noble fingers. No chopping board action for you. Hugs from an old pal xx

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  11. Sounds like you severed a nerve or injured a tendon. What a pity! Handwritten letters are a joy to look at and how bizarre in our high-tech world that one rarely receives in the post a letter. Maybe a thank you card. That’s it. I remember when having attractive penmanship was important–it revealed a lot about the writer, the strokes, the angles. I find when I write by hand now my mind jumps ahead and I misspell too many words. On the keyboard, my fingers can spell but not when I write by hand. Funny how hands have taken on a personality of their own.
    Sorry, Pete, to hear you have to say goodbye to a fun hobby.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cindy. I did correspond with just four people on a regular basis, but always enjoyed the ‘retro’ feel of doing so. I still send them letters in the post though, just have to type them now.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. So sorry to hear about your wrist. I do not know how you feel, but my better-half does, due to inherited tremors that started a few years ago. I have to hand write anything in our household. What does your doctor say about it?

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    1. To be honest, GP, I never bothered to go. In all other respects, I can use it with no problems at all. Just the posture of gripping a pen seems to be the only thing that has significantly altered.
      I suppose I should get it checked out one of these days.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh the lure of receiving snail mails, just love it. I am sorry to hear about your hands. Mine are the same , the grip is not good since I got sick a month ago. Like you. I could not write well the way I used to. Be safe always.

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  14. I also like a fountain pen…I have a collection of many…..I love to write and take books of notes for my posts here…Have you found out what happened? That sucks….since my accident I have not been able to take my walks so I spend more time in front of the ‘puter than I should…..hope all is well my friend….chuq

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    1. It was just a sprain, but it seems to have affected how I grip smaller objects, or twist my hand. I suppose I should get it checked, but there’s nothing to see. It’s a strange one indeed.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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