Those who favour pink ink are dancers, those who favour blue and black ink are serious thinkers and if you're using green, you're a lady novelist.
|Pic. Paul C Cumming|
Hensher estimates that of all the personal responses he received to his book Missing Ink around three quarters of these responses were (like me) ashamed of their handwriting.
Philip Hensher, primarily a writer of fiction, has won a slew of prestigious prizes and awards for his novels The Northern Clemency, King of the Badgers and Scenes from an Early Life. But his writing on the art, history and importance of scrivening is every bit as warm, funny and deeply impassioned as his storytelling. As he and David Astle speak, Hensher’s excitement occasionally causes his distant, honeyed tone to boil over, revealing the same “immediate and powerful response” in himself that he claims to have found in others, when asked about their handwriting.
|Pic Paul C Cumming|
So is it just a growing unfamiliarity with our neighbours that make us obsessed with how they write? Hensher doesn't think so. It's also about ourselves.
"Your handwriting has so much of you in it" says Hensher with a sort of restrained joy. It makes sense, he reasons, that we take it so personally. Take Hensher's own examples of our thirst for meaning in handwriting:
- Underlining your signature (which Hensher does) means that the writer is full of self importance
- Closing the loop on your lower case 'g' means that you're good at keeping secrets (Hensher doesn't close his 'g')
- The joining of a 'y' to the next letter and letter stem length both speak quietly about the author's sex life (both in nature and volume)
- Those who favour pink ink are dancers, those who favour blue and black ink are serious thinkers and if you're using green, you're a lady novelist (this one was popular in the 1950s)
But despite what handwriting may say about us, we seem to be losing it. We're in an audience which lists heavily towards the over 55 demographic. An audience where, after David Astle's probing, we find that roughly half have possessed a pen license, around a third learned handwriting from a copybook and three or four audience members were ink monitors. I'm thirty, which for handwriting enthusiasts, seems young.
"I'm not anti-twitter or anti-facebook" Hensher stresses, "I'm asking for variety..."
But it's undeniable, after listening to Astle and Hensher in conversation, that something is being lost.
There's the seaboard diary of his parents' first meeting that Astle still possesses and the enormous, detailed notebook that Hensher was able to pass onto the family of a tragically deceased student. All of which leaves us wondering what kind of watermark text message and email actually leaves upon the world.
"Your handwriting is okay" announces Hensher before the room slowly empties. "Just like people who love you first thing in the morning, they'll love your handwriting no matter what."
|Dilemma Hensher shares the optional |
methods for signing the book of fellows
for Royal Society of Literature.
Pic Paul C Cumming