In between the nappy changes and the construction of ever elaborate castles make of Mega Bloks, I sometimes find time to do my work. Whenever people ask me what I do, I find it difficult to explain. A friend of mine, who’s known me for a considerable time asked me the other day; ‘What exactly is it that you do Vikki?’. ‘Erm....well, I write a bit, and take photos and put them together as press releases and then try and place people on the radio or tv. Sometimes it works, but it never really feels like work, if you know what I mean’.
A day at the coalface (if there are any left in the country) or a day down the mines (any of those left?) that’s work. Messing about with words isn’t exactly what my beloved granddad would have called work. He broke his back and ruined his body doing 12 hours shifts 6 days a week at Fords in Dagenham. A janitor, and not a mild mannered one, ‘Jimmy Lane’ cleaned up after the men had spilled their oil. Pouring cold water on it, and swishing it about with a mop, wasn’t easy. God only knows what Jimmy Lane would have made of my working day this week. Which went something like this......
Tesco’s finest had just stomped through my hallway leaving wet footprints in his wake and Nipper was delighting in spreading the newly delivered items about the house when the telephone rang.
‘Hello, my name is David and I’ve worked out a system that’s going to revolutionise the way we spell’.
‘Would you like me to tell you about it?’
‘I’ve done away with a consonant’.
I had visions of him bludgeoning it from the English language. David then decided it would make for an amusing game if I could guess the done-for consonant.
'P?', I said.
'No, try again'.
'Erm - Q?'
'No - try again Miss Rimmer'
'That's a vowel Miss Rimmer (a little laugh from him). Try again'.
Oh for Pete’s sake! I had a pile of washing to go through and Nipper had progressed from moving the shopping around the house to opening packets and mixing the contents on the rug, and here I was guessing consonants like a clueless contestant on Countdown.....
'Now, come on - try again'.
'I don't know, David, you'll have to give me a clue'.
'Quick, quick, quick - it's in this word - quick'.
I'd guessed Q and U so I went for 'c'.
'Bingo - you have it Miss Rimmer - I've done away with 'K's'.
His written treaty arrived in the post the next day. The opening line of his letter apologised for his handwriting, apparently he had a problem with the muscles in his wrist, he also explained that he didn't own a computer.... So I waded through 12 pages of handwritten thoughts on doing away with 'K'.
It’s not a bad treaty. Have you ever tried to explain to a child why the word ‘knife’ begins with a ‘k’? I haven’t yet either, but I’m sure the day’s not far off.....
He rang again this morning. I explained that I only worked for the Spelling Society as their publicist, and as a ‘neutral’ I didn't really have any views on spelling reform or methods of reforming, but that I would pass it on to Jack Bovill the Chair. After making me spell Jack's name twice he finally let me go. His mother needed helping out of her bathchair...... Ok, maybe he didn't say 'bathchair' but it was something similar.
He may have been a little odd on the telephone but his desire to cull the alphabet from 26 letters to 25 isn’t as mad as it first sounds. Theodore Roosevelt sent memos about the White House with simplified spelling. George Bernard Shaw left money in his will to fund the creation of a new phonemic alphabet for the English language. Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie were all poor spellers, but you wouldn’t turn them down if they applied for a job now would you? Richard Branson famously struggles with his spelling yet he’s one of the most famous entrepreneurs in the world. Spelling reform as a topic has enthused many over the years, but somehow I doubted that David’s killing of K would inspire the changes desired by the Spelling Society, however, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t pass it on to the correct person at the forthcoming AGM of The Spelling Society.
In the meantime I needed to work out a way of placing the Spelling Society in the public consciousness via the news. Suggestions on a postcard please....and that’s Vikki with two ‘k’s.........