Typewriters and secretaries

Sunday 24 May 2015, 12.01am HKT

M E N T A L   I M P R E S S I O N S   R E V I V E D

SOMEONE once told me:—

“When you’re in anger, you should sit down and start writing something. That usually calms a person down.”


I don’t think so.

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The blog is dead! Long live blogging!

Saturday 2 May 2015, 12.39am HKT

LET’S make waves now.

IBM Selectric II typewriter via Wikipedia

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Reminiscences: Week 32

Sunday 12 August 2012, 12.01am HKT

Updated 04 JUN 2013 (name redaction upon request)

MENTAL IMPRESSIONS retained and revived during 05–12 August 2012.

* * *


SOMEONE once told me:—

“When you’re in anger, you should sit down and start writing something. That usually calms a person down.”


Are you deliberately stupid, or were you actually born this dumb?

The last time I checked, anybody who can sit down and start writing usually isn’t farkin’ angry anymore or enough.

Have you ever tried getting an real, live, sweating, angry person to sit down and calm down? You haven’t, have you, smartypants? That’s why policemen in some countries are given firearms to give the ole’ two-in-stomach-one-in-head.

Some people really do deserve to get an extra round in the gonads.

This, my friends, probably does a better job calming someone down:

Hamsters are not rats
“If you want gratitude, get a hamster,” so says the rat.



La macchina da scrivere Olivetti «Lettera 32» con custodia
(The Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter with slipcase)

WHILST on the subject of writing, I was (and still am) terribly fond of this manual typewriter. It was very popular with journalists and students worldwide in the 1960s and ’70s. Use one and you’ll never want to use anything else (computers excepted).

It’s also the only model of typewriter that North Korea bans from entering into that feudal kingdom. (North Korea has a longer hereditary rule than the United Kingdom, in fact.)

First steps. It’s not Lettera Thirty-two. You say LET-t’rra Trentadue (TREN-tah-DOO-weh). So now you know the correct name.

Dad gave me his Trentadue when I was around nine. He had bought himself a brand-new Trentadue because it’s more seemly for business appearances. Can’t argue with that.

But what’s a nine year old supposed to do with a portable typewriter, I hear you ask?

Nothing. Just clack away for fun.

Dad’s idea was to get me used to the physical presence of having my own typewriter, so that hopefully I’d be comfortable enough one day to learn touch-typing. Dad was a one-finger typist (with occasional bursts of double-finger action), so I can relate to that.

I can’t remember exactly now, but Dad probably said something like it’s sometimes just a pointless waste of time to write longhand, so just do it on the typewriter, mistakes and all, mark up, and be done with it. It’s a great deal easier to type manually on index cards than to fiddle around with computer printers.

Okay, I think Dad was ultimately right. I took a one-year Pitmans Typewriting course around 13 or 14 years old, and then a full one-year Pitmans Secretarial course around 16. I wasn’t the only guy there — though the chicks did outnumber the studs 8 to 1. Can’t complain.

Truth be told, I learnt better spelling, writing, penmanship, English, French and probably better chat-up lines with the birds from those Pitman classes than all of my years in normal school classes — or with the lads.

The secretarial teacher (Sue Rodwell) was hot.

Classmate Keren (“yes, that’s the correct spelling!”) was hot.

Wendy Marshall (“effs like a tiger”, so Paul Baker said) was hot.

That left “MS,” originally from Iran, two notches down the hawtness scale, but she was hot enough, boyo. Srsly.

Plus, in secretarial classes, it’s unnecessary to put on ‘academic’ or disciplined airs. We could nibble on snacks, bring in drinks, gossip and do other stuff.

“We’re training out secretaries and typist-clerks, not bloody scholars or nuns. We’re supposed to take dictation with skirt up, wiggle our tits now and then, and then go home for the day. That could be a problem for you though, Robert.”

Today, I can touch-type at 70 wpm — and burst of 85 wpm when I’m paid. I’m sorry to say I’m not built for skirts or T-wiggles. My fault, I know, but I can’t help it.

Incidentally, the Chinese name for Olivetti is 好利獲得 (Mandarin: Hào Lì Huò Dé / Cantonese: Hoe Lee Wok [or Waai] Dak —literally, ‘to obtain good fortune/benefits’). The sound of that name coincided more closely with 偶利吉帝 (orr ley gut daie) — an older-fashioned, highly idiomatic Cantonese phrase that defies translation but kind of means pwned, self-pwnage, a lemon, a drip, orz , twerp and derp all rolled into one. So during most of the 1950s to the 70s, Olivetti was nicknamed that way. Actually, Olivetti did very well business-wise with Cantonese-speaking people because of that nickname.

My Trentadue has long gone (stolen).

Right now, the only portable manual typewriter I own is an Underwood 250 made in former Czechoslovakia.



‘Best friends and worst enemies’

TALKING of chicks, does anyone remember these two comic-book chicks?

Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, both girls of Archie Andrews. I remember them from the 1970s.



DJIBOUTI on the Horn of Africa was a long time ago.

I can’t remember how or why we got there, but we arrived and left the same day. At the time, I was told the place was called Le Territoire Français des Afars et des Issas (the French Territory of the Afars and Issas), which I thought was a mouthful.

I have no memory of the place other than its name.

The Lonely Planet book “Africa on a Shoestring” (2004) described Djibouti as “a French Hong Kong in the Red Sea” on account of the buildings there — which must have been one helluva typographical mistake.



Yeah, you wouldn’t have thought so, but American soulfood was kinda ‘hip’ in Hong Kong at one time from — oh — 1970 to Bruce Lee’s death in 1973, or thereabouts.

There were about a dozen of these eateries that served genuine-looking and -tasting favourites of the South. They weren’t upscale, experimental or ‘nouveau soul’ — as these restaurants tend to be nowadays even in the States.

One of the more upscale ones opened with some fanfare, with a TV photo op of the American basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

After the death of Bruce Lee, soulfood quickly started disappearing from the Hong Kong dining scene.

It was gone by the time the Vietnam War ended and no more American servicemen passed through the place.

Today, ‘soulfood’ in Hong Kong is a completely different kettle of fish. The faggots and faggotesses (usually overseas-raised locals) who talk about it clearly never seen soul bloody food even in pictures, much less on a dish in front of them.

Magnolia (www.magnolia.hk) is now the only place in Hong Kong serving New Orleans-style Cajun and Creole cuisine. It is a ‘private dining’ establishment by pre-booking only.

By my own reckoning, the only dishes that come reasonably close to the soulfood of the 1970s are those cooked in Filipino-run foodstalls in World-Wide House in Central district.



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. (B12467)

Updated 25 May 2013 (typo fixes)
Updated 04 June 2013 (name redaction)

Images: Dickhead tee via vis.ualize | Hamster via c4c | Olivetti Lettera 32 via iNetGiant | Olivetti advertisement in author’s collection | Secretary taking dictation via AllPosters.com | Betty and Veronica via apina | Djibouti via Wikipedia | Soulfood via LTH Forum | Soulfood stuffed peppers via LTH Forum.

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