Tag: School

Real writing

Yesterday I was working on allatsea and in particular I was adding to a page about my childhood in SA, and it was all about writing. By writing I mean the physical act of forming words using a pen or pencil (or a quill or even a hammer and chisel). I learnt how to “write” in my third year of primary school (Std 1 for those who come from my generation), at least I learnt how to do what they called “real writing”, or, as it is better known “cursive script“.

I knew more or less how to write (print) by the time I hit school anyway, but this new fangled skill was one that was taught way back then to almost every child in the country, doing real writing set you apart from your fellows in the junior classes and meant that there was one more thing for teachers to nit pick and to warm the rear end/knuckles/legs or wherever they preferred to use the wooden spoon or ruler. We had specially ruled exercise books with the normal lines and an extra line above and below it. It looked similar to the pic below; the green lines being the extra lines.  

Technically these spaces were where the ascenders and descenders would go so that they were all the same size. Heaven help you if those ascenders and descenders were not of the same height or depth, you would have to do it again until you caught the hint. Of course all slopes had to be at the same angle too, and I think we would have initially practised individual letters until we had more or less got the hang of our P’s and Q’s. Remember that there are upper and lower case versions of each letter of the alphabet and they all had to join up somehow.

All of this new fangled stuff was crammed into our heads and we had to stop using printing and start using cursive or else! (slitting of throat motion with finger).

I was one of those thousands of school children all over the world that had an awful handwriting, even I admit that I cannot read it, although the scrawl I use today bears little resemblance to the scrawl I had way back in the late 1960’s.  I am not quite sure who decided to make school children miserable by imposing the restrictions of cursive script in our lives, it was not as if we had a gazillion other things to worry about. Cursive is supposed to speed up your handwriting by eliminating the constant pen raising that printing imposes, although I was always much quicker printing than writing cursive. In fact today I use a mix of both, joining 2 or 3 letters into one and printing others, although my handwriting has really developed and changed as I became more or a keyboard user. Everybody does agree that only pharmacists can read what I write and it usually will result in a box of green pills, a cough mixture and a very large spiked suppository.

Lucida Handwriting font

Back in school we would labour over our exercises all under the watchful gaze of Mrs Shirmer who seemingly created perfect letters on the board which looked nothing like the labourious creations that we struggled with. As far as we were concerned she was never satisfied, and a glare from Miss Shirmer could  chase a lion away. 

As the years passed so we got better at it, considering how much practise we had, although every one of us had a different style of writing, some were neater than others (girls mostly) and some looked like drunken spiders had done a waltz down the page. 

When we hit high school we were introduced to a new subject called “Technical Drawing” and our first week or so was spent relearning how to print! Mr Van Der Merwe would tell us to fill a page with A’s or B’s or C’s depending on his mood and how bad we were unlearning cursive. In technical drawing everything is printed, cursive is not used! neatness was imperative and stencils were not allowed. I think tech drawing was one subject I really found interesting because it gave me a whole new world to explore, and while I was not brilliant at it I was that interested in it that after I had left school I bought a drawing board, and used to draw isometric and perspective drawings of ships and aircraft.   I probably still use the skills I learnt in that class today, and while I can’t remember how to draw an ellipse I at least know what an ellipse is. 

Back at the normal school desk we were now much faster at taking notes, and often had to translate from Afrikaans to English on the fly while scribbling at a rate of knots and naturally I drew comments about my scrawl.  

Not much has changed except that nowadays I do not need to use cursive anymore, In fact while thinking about this blogpost I tried my hand at writing the alphabet in cursive, and it was not good! However, there is no teacher leaning over me and making suggestive motions with the cane or wooden spoon. I can write as untidy as I want to and nobody can tell me otherwise. There appears to be a movement afoot to stop the teaching of cursive script in schools and I am ambivalent about that, I do think that it is a skill to acquire although not much use in a modern world where keyboards dominate and most teens can do things with their thumbs and cellphones that I won’t even attempt. It would really be a shame to scrap the skill because it is considered archaic and of no real use, if anything it should be taught because sometimes you just need to sit down and write a decent letter to the bank manager or your sweetheart. Alas  nobody writes letters anymore and that personal touch is gone.  

As somebody that dabbles in history it is inevitable that I will encounter documents from an era when cursive was extensively used, and trying to decipher that writing can be really difficult, so maybe being able to write cursive does make sense.

The example above I found in an archive and it was a petition to Paul Kruger for a pardon, although it was very legible in spite of it being over 100 years old. 

I used to have a number of penfriends over the years, and we used to scrawl our way back and forth on a regular basis, and of course when we were in the army letter writing was a regular occupation. Somehow sending an email home just lacks that touch that a much thumbed letter holds. Letters were things to keep and reread when it got quiet and you longed for home, and of course many soldiers would lovingly sniff the pink pages that their girlfriends would send them, and that would cause them to perform many pushups. A printed love letter just does not cut it!  

So pick up your pen and relearn cursive, it may come in handy one day!

Yours sincerely,

© DRW 2017-2018.  

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:02

Jeppe Boys. A Glimpse.

On Heritage Day, 24 September, I joined in a photowalk at Jeppe High School for Boys in Kensington. I did have an ulterior motive behind it because I wanted to photograph the War Memorial on the property. It is one of the 3 school memorials that I am still pursuing (the others being at St Johns and KES). When I was ready to enter high school my parents actually considered sending me to this school instead of the local academic high school, however, as fate would have it I ended up in the local technical high school instead. Who knows what would have happened had I ended up at Jeppe? 
 
The school was originally founded in 1890, but it’s present iteration in Kensington came about in 1911 when the school moved to its present site. The connection between Sir Julius Jeppe and the school is very strong and it is probable that he had a big influence in its formative years. 
  
There is an old world feel about the buildings and its grounds, and listening to our guide speaking about the buildings it was evident that there was pride in its traditions, heritage and future legacy. 
 
The War Memorial I was after is on the right hand side of the entrance, and consists of a dome with a portal over a plinth with the names of the masters and pupils who died during World War 1. The portal is supposed to allow sunlight to shine onto the name list below on 11 November, but that only really applies in the Northern Hemisphere. 
 
 
On either side of the dome are facilities that are now used as the school museum and a recruiting centre. One of the names on the memorial is that of James Humphrey Allen Payne, who was the headmaster of the school from 1905-1917.  He also lends his name to the magnificent “Payne Hall” which is inside the main building pictured above. 
 
Sadly though the building is showing its age and is currently being restored to its former glory. I suspect that this is hallowed ground for those who work or study here, and the weight of tradition hangs heavily upon it. Continuing our tour, we headed down to the extensive sports fields, which are now an integral part of  the suburbs around them.

Playing fields viewed from Caledonia Hill

It is difficult to really picture what this area must have looked like when the school opened,  today it is heavily treed and suburbanised, in 1911 people would ride horses, and the home of Sir Julius Jeppe would be a prominent part of the landscape. The house, “Friedenheim” was demolished in the 1960’s, and was situated where the school now has it’s sports fields and swimming pool. Only the gates survive from this legacy, although there is a monument to Julius Jeppe not too far away.   
 
The area by these gates is where some of the hostels may be found, and we were fortunate to be able to have a walk around in one of these old buildings. I must admit though, it was nothing like I expected, but it really was a glimpse into a different age.
 
 
With hindsight I should have asked whether this building was originally built as a hostel. I could however see the limitations of  the structure when used in a modern situation, sadly, our desire for electronics has meant that in some areas the use of conduit and surface mounted reticulation has ruined its looks.
Our next destination was the main school hall,  the foyer was also home to the Second World War Roll of Honour, and once again it was strange to read names on there that I had personally photographed the graves of. 
 
The main hall had been in use for examinations and still bore the traces in its rows of desks lined up in the available space, it was quite funny reading school desk graffiti and trying to see whether it’s quality had improved since my days at school. Sadly, it has not.
 
Then it was time to go home. I made a short detour to Caledonia Hill to check up on the status of the Scottish Horse Memorial. It was recently restored, but all the name plaques and inscriptions have been removed. The view is still amazing and it is well worth the climb. 
One last detour through Jeppe to photograph some old buildings and then home James.  Jeppe High School does not have the prestige of a place like St Johns, but it is still one of the the top 20 boys schools in the country, and is also the oldest known school in Johannesburg. It’s motto is Forti nihil difficilius, meaning “Nothing is too difficult for the brave”, also translated as “For the brave, nothing is too difficult”. 
 DRW © 2012-2019.  Images recreated 25/03/2016. Links replaced 20/05/2015 
Updated: 11/09/2019 — 09:04

Republic Day

Today is the 31st of May, and between 1961 and 1993 was celebrated as “Republic Day”. For those that don’t know South Africa became a Republic on 31 May 1961, and in 1994 that portion of its history ceased to be.
 
I was originally going to post about the day, and a bit of history and similar odds and sods, but after reading somebody post on Facebook the usual tired old “donderse ingelse het ons vroue en kinders vermoor en verkrag” issue raised I decided I would not. His argument was that the old flag should never have had the Union Jack in it because  “die donderse ingelse het ons vroue en kinders vermoor en verkrag”.
 
I will be honest, I was born before we became a republic, technically speaking I was born in The Union Of South Africa, and I do not really have too much enthusiasm for the country that it became when it was made a republic. Large portions of its population were disenfranchised by a nationalist government that wore strange hats, sprouted heaps of old cobblers and justified everything they did in the name of the Afrikaner and/or the Bible. At school we were expected to attend some sort of rally and wave flags and sing national anthems and worship Afrikaner heroes. Thank God I was spared “volkspele”. I am unfortunately a “donderse ingelsman” so much of that was not pertinent to me then, and is still no longer pertinent.  
 
All I will say is that I am glad 1994 happened, as much as I hate what this country is becoming through corruption, crime, nepotism and power hungry politicians, I still prefer it now to what it was before, I love the new flag although the national anthem does kind of confuse me. And, before anybody says “dan fokof terug Engeland toe!” I have news for you, I was born in this place, as were my parents. I am however considering that fokof option just so that I no longer have to listen to some idiot waffling about “die donderse ingelse het ons vroue en kinders vermoor en verkrag”. Oh, and if I spot any Afrikaners in the UK I reserve the right to tell them to “fokof terug Suid Afrika toe!” 
 
Oh, and in passing. In March 2013 I fokofed to Engeland. And while it has not been all honey and roses, at least I feel a bit more at home here.
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:27
DR Walker © 2014 -2019. Images are copyright to DR Walker unless otherwise stated. Frontier Theme