Day 2: Operation ‘Legible’
This is the latest plan of campaign. I approach making my handwriting legible like I do giving up coffee or cutting down on food that I like but isn’t a friend to me. I take a run at it from time-to-time. This latest tour of duty has to do with the fact that for months I have been losing useful handwritten ideas and poem lines due to the fact that I can’t read my own handwriting. So I’m slowing down, enlarging the words. Don’t be alarmed if you receive a card or letter from me with larger writing..and, even more surprisingly, that you can actually read.
Having mastered the production of individual letters of the (English) alphabet, we progressed then to ‘joined-up’ writing. My happiest memories as a school child was filling the ‘special’ notebooks which were lined like music manuscripts. I was not, despite my enthusiasm, an ‘a’ student.
Don’t forget your trowel if you want to go work
My second class teacher advised my parents to get me out gardening to strengthen my fingers. Nothing worked. In college nobody ever borrowed my notes (when I was bored I’d take notes with my left hand which were much more readable). In one workplace, a colleague told me that she wouldn’t respond to anything from me unless it was typed. That my handwriting has disimproved from there is not, you might say, a good thing.
Just what kind of handwriting am I producing?
So I’ve slowed down and am paying attention to the formation of the letters. And I notice an odd thing emerging. I loved cursive the moment I learned it. But I’m wondering where the system I learned originate from. What was behind its choice by An Roinn Oideachais?
By the time, I learned Irish, it had been standardised out of all sense of being a separate language. Only the “síneadh fada” remained and it was even reduced to a fada in the language of our learning.
I was in my late teens when I came across Irish script. A book in our kitchen at home. Yes, my mother told me – that was how they learned to write Irish in school. In my late teens, I sat down and learned a new kind of cursive and imposed it on my English handwriting. (Read more about an cló gaelach here) . A teenage affection as much as anything.
Now looking at my writing, I am seeing the strangeness of the hybrid going on between the two systems. The first system I learned is more fluid to my hand so I’ve kept the fluid aspects – it’s more rounded which suits my way of being in the world – and, of course, it has all the English letters. The Irish system is, in honour of where it came from, very beautiful, illustrative, if a little angular to my way of being. Both have the hint of tails that come in from the left as sort of ‘go faster’ stripes. And going faster, while still reflecting who I am not only in the sense but also in the manner of the writing, has always been part and parcel of my handwriting.
Handwriting – the personal is political
I haven’t said that much about recent developments vis-a-vis the Irish Language Act here. I have used the Omniglot website example of Irish script above – it’s the Universal Declaration of Human Right. For me, rights to language are like women’s rights or rights to create marital partnerships according to one’s actual preference for partner etc – they just are. It feels like fighting to have skin. Very strange arguments ensue when you try to prove that you are entitled to your own skin. Then purism, we know already, is not a useful thing in language or anywhere. In the middle of it all, all the nuances of the discussion are there in the words, from internal realm to hand to page – the ink flowing – and those tails of beginning letters are an extension of the blood flowing in the veins.