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With all due respect: Musings on lost art

With all due respect: Musings on lost art

By Law Institute Journal



Can I have that in writing?

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These troubled times of off-again, on-again lockdowns and social isolation have given your correspondent plenty of opportunity for musings on various subjects and random ideas.

Musing about things such as; why does bottled water that emerges from a spring in Victoria cost more than petrol that is refined and brought in huge tankers all the way from the Middle East?

Also, do psychics know you are going to call and make an appointment? Planking: should I risk it? And, why does our neighbour’s cat think he lives here?

One day a considerable period of time was wasted trying to remember the last time I received a handwritten letter. There may be a number of WADR readers, and this is a scary thought, who may be young enough never to have received a handwritten letter.

We all communicate instantly through Zoom sessions, emails, texting and social media, and this may be a good thing, but there is something nice about a handwritten note or letter. I suspect some of us never write more than a few words in script. And no, your scrawled shopping list doesn’t count.

A handwritten missive is more personal and as a form of communication it certainly beats responsive acronyms such as LOL and OMG. And you can have that in writing.

Handwriting was once considered an essential life skill but it is now almost a forgotten art. A study has revealed that a third of us cannot even read our own handwriting. It seems that as long as you can sign your name you are in business.

From the earliest days, learning “joined-up writing” in primary school, your correspondent has envied those who have a beautiful cursive style. It was a skill I just couldn’t master and my handwriting still resembles the footprints of a drunk person navigating a snow-covered pathway.

One of the joys of the law is looking at old legal documents, carefully produced by scribes. They are almost works of art.

Perhaps it is misplaced nostalgia to mourn the demise of handwriting since the way humans communicate has always changed, possibly with the exception of teenagers, who developed their own language in the earliest times.

This writer was on a tram one day, and lacking anything else to do, tuned into a conversation between two teenagers. It was most disheartening, given that the three of us were all English speakers, to work out that there wasn’t even a hint of the topic of conversation and barely a recognisable word.

I’ve had more success communicating in Spanish (a language I don’t speak) with a taxi driver who was attempting to convey my family from the airport to our hotel in a back street of Barcelona. 

I knew the hotel was in a traffic-free area and to my shame the word “pedestriano” may have slipped out. The taxi driver exclaimed something in Spanish and immediately knew the area we were seeking. From then on during that holiday I simply added an “O” at the end of every word and the locals seemed to understand.

Or maybe they were just humouring me. ■

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