Lost Words, Lost Loves, Lost Keys, Lost Lust and Lost Matches.

14 Dec

Vintage typewriters are back in demand, both as working machines and ornaments.  I have sold quite a few over this last year.  I actually learnt to touch type on one of these old typewriters at a private secretarial college in Farnham.  The word processor was just starting to dominate but my teacher, who was quite the ‘character’ insisted we learn on one of these old machines.  “Girls, you must learn on a typewriter, rhythm ladies, rhythm”  she would implore with all the grace of a twenty stone Mitford sister.

I was listing a vintage 1950’s German model typewriter last month, and as usual I ran my fingers over the keys, a force of habit. I was drawn to the keys where the letters were worn.  It always seems to be the the ‘s’ key I mused, then I started to wonder about the person who had once owned this typewriter.  What were they like?  What had they composed on this machine.

I often find half started letters  when I open up an old typewriter and release it from it’s case.  More often than not it’s the “quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”  somebody has been trying to master the vagaries of the ‘Qwerty’ keyboard layout.

One of my favourite things I have ever found underneath a typewriter carry case,  were the football results all typed up in green ink for a particular week in September in 1971. How times have changed, quite charming really.  But what hidden history do these machines never give up?  With their disappeared letter keys what intrigue, romance, lust and forbidden passions, secrets and chicanery have they played their part in keeping?

One of the first jobs I had upon leaving college was for a certain organisation that shall remain nameless and it involved two weeks of shredding documents of a highly sensitive and nationally controversial nature.  I am under no illusion that I was employed for any other reason than it was assumed I would have no idea of the importance of those documents and their political significance.  I understood very well, but I did the job I was paid to do.  I put all those documents, words and typed letters through the shredding machine one by one.  Words can be destroyed and with it history apparently changed.

Some of the greatest love affairs in history have been lost to us because of the written or typed word being destroyed for one reason or another.

The English writers Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis embarked on a wild, passionate, reckless and scandalous affair which rocked society in the 1920’s and lasted to varying degrees for their entire lifetime.  Yet we are only aware of their love from the letters Violet wrote to Vita and Vita kept locked away to be found later by her son, after her death.   Violet’s husband burnt all Vita’s letters in a fit of rage.  Yet in 2013 a piece of paper fell from a book at Sissinghurst Vita’s former home now managed by her grandson.  It was an erotic verse penned from Vita to Violet in the 1920’s and had lain hidden all those years waiting to be revealed to a more receptive world.


Perhaps it is my guilt at being a former professional ‘word shredder’ that makes me more sensitive to finding old long forgotten thoughts or even results committed to paper and being extremely loathe to destroy them.  I sometimes find myself looking for them.  Vinyl records are another place where history gives up it’s secrets in long forgotten words secreted inside the sleeve.  A love note of such ardour and fervour tucked away inside a Bay City Roller LP destined for a charity shop and worth far more than the vinyl could ever be.

Perhaps one day at some point in the future when the internet is entirely redundant somebody will find this blog and my ramblings and if they do perhaps they will be reticent to press delete on these words.

History is the words we share, the words that survive the ones we commit to permanency and the words that we passionately meant whether that be for good, bad, love or war and of course the football results.


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