In defence of typewriters

A dear friend of mine, who is a ‘real’ writer, is composing a piece along the lines of ‘TYPE WRITERS : A conspiracy to keep young women away from embarking upon more ambitious careers.” (My delightful friend takes life seriously).

She asked for a comment. And got more than she bargained for. As a result she has ordered me to blog, so here goes.

Having departed school and following a highly entertaining interlude at art school (the less said of that the better – a 27% attendance for the year was apparently NOT acceptable. Who knew they were counting???) my desperate parents enrolled me in a Secretarial School where I learned to TYPE.

“Open Semame”. It didn’t take long to work out that fond parents had inadvertently handed me the keys to a fabulous new world. I could explore almost any field of endeavour I chose, then abandon it once the novelty wore off. And so I did.

At some point I put together a CV – 29 jobs in 5 years. Needless to say, it was not the CV I distributed.

Relax. I am not going to drag you through each and every one – just the highlights and low lights.

First job was very junior typist for Mike Silver Radio productions – he of “Inspector West Investigates”, “Squad Cars” and so on. (Some bloggers will definitely remember Springbok Radio). I encountered some truly weird and wonderful people – one extremely well known ‘voice’ could never been booked to record when the moon was full. He would throw off his clothes and cavort around the studio stark naked, waving his privates at the girls. Cross my heart. Mr Silver had at least four typists working at any time. Each of us occupied a cubbyhole off a corridor, and he would stride up and down, dictating a different script to each of us, who typed as he spoke. He was phenomenal, a genius even. But even he could get muddled and every now then a character would appear who didn’t belong in the script you happened to be working on. Sufficient to say I became a quick and accurate typist. No choice as Tippex hadn’t been invented.

Next was London, where in retrospect I totally wasted my opportunities. Got an interview with an ITV big shot, courtesy of Mike Silver but didn’t understand how London transport worked. Got it into my head that Elstree was a distant city to London, and in a panic, envisaging entire nights spent commuting, declined the job offer. Doffie!

In those days, South Africans had a reputation for being good workers (and they probably still do have). All you had to say was “Ja” and you got the job, sometimes without even knowing what the job was. That’s more or less what happened to me. They even sent a taxi to fetch me for the interview, terrified I might not turn up! Anyhoo, I ended up working for almost my entire London experience with a publishing company. I’m telling you this just in case you think I can’t KEEP a job.

Back to South Africa and it was one typing job after another. The activist lawyer who got busted by the security police, and carted off to 90 days detention leaving me cowering behind said typewriter all alone.

Another lawyer job which included collecting weekly cash payments from really sad folk who had fallen on hard times and into dept. They would frequently cry as they dug out their pathetic offerings from tatty envelopes and threadbare purses, and so would I. In three months I resigned every Friday. One Friday, the lawyer poured me a G&T and delivered a proposition. An apartment, paid for. A car (sports car? I was so stunned I didn’t ask). And most of all, I would never have to take money off poor folk ever again. And an increased salary. I gulped down the G&T with faked sophistication, told him airily that I would think about it, then ran home as if the hounds of hell were on my heels. I never went back, not even to collect my unemployment cards. Damn, I never dared walk down that street again, just in case I ran into him. Poor sweet man. Out of boredom I had flirted outrageously, without any thought to the consequences (he was very tasty too) and it was all my fault. Learned a good lesson there, and lots about conveyancing, which you really don’t want to know about.

There was a job with EMI record producers. Envisaged meeting Elvis. Resigned after three days having been instructed to clock in (some sort of a machine?)

A lovely job, above the shop at Markhams in CT. Sec. to marketing manager. When he was away, which was often, I got, from choice, to sell silk ties to lovely men on the shop floor. Sadly, Markhams taken over by Foschini where I transferred. But only for a week. If you arrived half a minute after 8.30, you would have to give a written explanation as to why you were late. This proved irresistible and I would invent outrageous and often graphic explanations ranging from the difficulties of leaving the lover in bed, to the bus being highjacked by aliens. Resigned before they got the chance to fire me.

Enough. Sufficient to say I got so hooked on exploring the endless possibilities of ‘typist wanted’ I spent my lunch hours attending interviews, even when I was happily employed. Secretary to Private Investigator – one job I didn’t get. PI said I was too ‘nice’ and the work was mostly unsavoury. Secretary to owner of Boswell Wilkies Circus. Got the job offer but it meant traveling with the circus and so I declined (was in lust with some long forgotten boyfriend). Fool! Everyone wants to join the circus and I could have done it.

I could go on and on. But won’t. Must go. Skype calls.

Message for L πŸ™‚ There you are. I did blog as ordered. And typewriters are not a conspiracy to keep young women away from embarking upon more ambitious careers. They are (or were) a key to opening many doors. And once in the door of your choice, the sky is/was the limit. Entirely up to you.


PS sorry for any typos. Gotta run.

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22 Responses to In defence of typewriters

  1. Ruth2Day says:

    LOL! this was wonderful to read. What an interesting life you have lead. I think you should be co-writer on this book

  2. colonialist says:

    Highly entertaining. And so outrageously unlikely it HAS to be true!

  3. A very entertaining read, footsy. I can just imagine you with the Boswell Wilkie circus, but I’m sure you’d lose your job after you’d set all the animals free. πŸ™‚

  4. So very interesting to read….imagine the stories you could have told if you joined the circus….

    • footsy2 says:

      And imagine the opportunities it might have presented. Flying trapeze – being shot out of a cannon – apprentice lion tamer. Manning the coke stand ….

  5. Reblogged this on annie21livinginusa and commented:
    I loved this piece!

  6. Gunta says:

    You do tend to crack me up! O_o

  7. Pussycat44 says:

    If only the art school could see your work now! You have had an interesting and hilarious career, footsy.

  8. Sonel says:

    Oh, I truly had fun reading this Footsy! Wish I’ve known you in my younger years. We would have had fun for sure! πŸ˜† Always great to remember the good ole’ days and all the job adventures. It’s no fun in the circus. Believe me. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for sharing. πŸ˜€ β™₯ Hugs β™₯

    • footsy2 says:

      I wish I’d known you too :-). We could have caused havoc. Did you get to join a circus? Do tell!

      • Sonel says:

        πŸ˜€ Believe me, I am sure we would have. πŸ˜†
        I wouldn’t call it ‘join’. My mother ran away from my abusive and alcholic father with a german who was in the Chipperfield Circus when they were here in SA and we lived with them for 2-3 years. I was about 3 years old and did not enjoy it all. Because of that I hate clowns (the ones there were not nice at all) and sign petitions all over to prevent circuses from having wild animals in their shows. πŸ™‚

      • footsy2 says:

        Clowns are a weird breed indeed. Pretty scary in fact.

  9. Arkenaten says:

    Damn, I hate being last to the party. This was a marvelous read, Footsy. Hosed myself.

    I spent my lunch hours attending interviews, even when I was happily employed.

    That line says it all. Hilarious. The whole post reads like a script.
    Now the following post ( which I blindly read first) makes more sense!)

    You really do know how to tell a tale.

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