To Orwell Today,

Dear Jackie,

Thanks for your prompt response to my question. I was very gratified that you followed-up on Kevin's typewriter essays and enjoyed reading them. I think that Kevin was always amazed that out of all the works he had put online, the typewriter essays seemed to be the most widely read.

I have never owned a Canon Sure Shot, but bought one for Kevin some years ago, just before he made a trip to Paris. He took many interesting photos with it, and even sent me one that he had taken of Jim Morrison's (The Doors) grave site. Eventually, the camera was lost the fate of most of the nice cameras I have owned, too.

My awakening to George Orwell came about twenty years ago; I discovered his little Volume about living down and out in Paris and London in a used-book bin at a local Flea market. It really opened my eyes to his keen sense of social conscience and, needless to say, I just had to read more. I am an avaricious reader, too. I devoured all of his writings I could lay my hands on. He was and is one of the most fascinating people I have ever met through books.

Incidentally, I thought his tea essay on your website was terrific. My wife Kathy intends to follow his tea-drinking advice to the letter.

Best regards,
Robert McGowin
Trinity School

Greetings Robert,

I think one of the reasons your son's typewriter essays are his most well read is because they strike a chord of familiarity in those of us who at one time typed on manual typewriters, having at the time no concept that there was any other way.

As mentioned in my essay about Orwell's and my grandfather's typewriters being the same, I learned to type on that manual Remington. It just so happened that I was living with my grandparents for a year when I was in grade 9, the first year of high school, and that is when I took typing for the first time as a course. At the school we typed on big huge manual typewriters (don't know the make) but at home I practised on my grandfather's - actually at that same table where I have the photo of him typing. He - being a perfectionist in everything he did - took my typing very seriously and wanted to make sure I didn't cheat by looking at the keys and so he covered them up with white tape. (He himself was a two-finger typist, although he could build up incredible speed).

After the year I spent living with my grandparents I returned back home to join a big family of brothers and sisters and carried on taking typing at school - and shorthand etc - including of course all the usual subjects: English, History, Math, Science (ugh). It was around this time that teachers started accepting assignments typed instead of handwritten (wow, that's going back to the "old days").

Then, toward the end of high school, electric typewriters came into being and I think we typed on IBMs. I attended business courses after high school and became a secretary - and that is where I became a high-speed typist. My first major job was as a financial statement typist at a Charterered Accountants' firm. I typed on an electric machine with a huge carriage capable of holding spreadsheets. That's where I became proficient in typing columns and numbers - everything having to line up perfectly as there could be no errors in the final Auditor's Reports that the clients paid a fortune for.

My typing fingers eventually became my ticket around the world and I got jobs dicta-typing in Germany and Australia to finance further trips. My mother always used to say "whatever you do, don't break your fingers". By that time the IBM Selectric (with the ball instead of hammers) was what was used.

Then, as years went by, I became the owner (my Dad gave them as gifts at Christmas) of several portable electric typewriters (Smith Corona, Olympia, Olivetti come to mind) and would open their cases and put them on the kitchen table whenever I had typing to do - including essays for college courses I was taking. When I worked outside the home during those years it usually involved typing. I was working as an off-campus site administrator for a University Teacher Education program when the Apple computers came out and we all had to train on those. And that was where the beginning of the end of my relationship with typewriters occurred.

So, in summary, I can relate to your son's stories about his typing experiences. Deep down I do prefer typing on a manual, not this electronic keyboard, because it involves more rhythm and I think in a way it does add a dimension to the thinking process - more pause time I believe.

Your experience of your awakening to Orwell as one of the most fascinating people you have ever met through books is similar to mine. I picked up an old volume of assorted essays one time while away on a hockey tournament with the kids and in between games read it in the motel - laughing my head off at some of his passages. Up until then all I'd known him for was "1984" (which I'd hated in high school). The next time I read him (before re-reading "1984" after noticing its similarities to political correctness at college) was when my psychology instructor gave me, from his own library, a hardcover first edition of THE ORWELL READER which was published in 1957 and is a compilation of excerpts from all his books - and several major essays. After that, I was totally smitten. I loved the man and I loved his writing, and when I went back and re-read "1984" it meant more to me than I had ever dreamt (or nightmared).

After that I became inspired to create the website "Orwell Today". But at this time my knowledge of Orwell was only through his writing. I knew nothing about his personal life other than that he was English and that he had died from TB. It wasn't until after my visit to England (after my website had been up for a year) and I'd driven through a village named "Orwell" (on my way to visit my grandfather's house) that I read my first biography about him. It was Sydney Sheldon's ORWELL: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY. Since that time I've read dozens of biographies and I was pleasantly surprised and amazed to discover that the man was as true and good in life as he comes across in his writing.

You don't mention where on my website you read his essay A NICE CUP OF TEA but it might have been in the PILGRIMAGE TO ORWELL section where I describe my visit to his little house in the village of Wallington. It's another one of those incredible godincidents that I actually experienced having a cup of tea in Orwell's very own much-loved home where he did much of his great writing and drank much of his never-ending cups of tea.

Please tell your wife Kathy that I, like her, tried to follow Orwell's tea-making instructions too but in the end I found that I don't like it as strong as he does and (blasphemy of blasphemies) I like mine with sugar (which Orwell says destroys the flavour of the tea).

Another thing your Kevin and I have in common (besides typewriter stories) is we visit the graves of people we admire - and take photos (on a Canon Sure Shot). I've visited Shakespeare's, Princess Diana's and Orwell's graves, but not yet President Kennedy's.

All the best,
Jackie Jura


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~