Written by: Suzette Richards

From the newly opened ream of paper, 
I choose a clean sheet from the wrapper.
I mark the middle of the paper lengthwise,
drawing a pencil line near the ends – twice.
I inspect  the blue carbon copy folio, 
checking it for wear – dark like a biro .
Completing it with tissue paper – three layers to stay,
ensuring that the carbon faces the right way.

(I have been known to type copies in mirror image on the back of the original.)

I get comfortable behind my desk 
and pull the typewriter closer to the edge.
The chair I am sitting on is just right 
to allow for my forearms to be straight .
In class, we had to learn to touch type this sentence
containing all the letters of the English alphabet: 

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Checking the margin settings at 5 spaces in  
and locking it into place with the leaver.
We did not have the luxury to “justify” our work 
and the end of the lines appeared higgledy piggledy.   
I count out the number of letters in the heading 
and calculate the center of the script.
Carefully I type the heading in capital letters, 
first locking the capital function into place.
I press the return bar twice, 
giving me two line spaces 
between the heading and the first paragraph.

That done; 
I return the carriage to the left margin 
and begin the paragraph 5 spaces in, 
remembering to unlock the capital function. 
The bell sounds 5 spaces from the end 
(as I had preset it)
and it gives me just enough room 
to finish the fist line 
and to break the last word
at an acceptable place with a hyphen. 

Lo and behold!
I’ve made a spelling mistake.
Thank goodness for the new invention of Tipex. 
Carefully I roll out the paper, 
as not tot lose the grip of the roller 
and using the blue eraser, 
I carefully erase the mistake
on the carbon copy –
taking care not to rub too hard 
and creating a hole in the tissue thin paper. 
Rolling it back was a trick, 
as not to lose the line I was typing on –
but not always successful 
and it ended up a fraction higher or lower. 
No mistakes were tolerated when typing documents
and we had to discard it 
and start over again....

The word “I’ve” 
has to be typed 
by rolling the paper down half a space, 
typing a comma,
and then rolling it back into the line position. 
This is why it was easier to type: “I have”,
instead of “I’ve” on the typewriter.

Hiaku poets would have loved it, 
as you had to depress the lever 
to type each capital letter, 
including “I”.
It would be ideally suited for 
Suzette Prime, 
as all text are to be written
in lower case.

The letter “a”
had worn on the key from overuse – 
the up stoke had lost half its length. 
The curling tail of the “g” had lost its definition. 
Other than these identifying marks, 
the trusty old Remington  
my father had given me,
has put me in good stead.

My old typewriter is gathering dust,
but if I want to write a card or a letter 
to a friend, 
there is nothing that beats
my Parker fountain pen,
which I use to sign all I have typed
on my black typewriter.

26 April 2013

PS: My late father was a war correspondent, stationed in Cairo, hence my love of writing.