Some writers have a fag and a brandy when they finish a book. To celebrate finishing my Christmas book ‘Bryant & May: London’s Glory’ on schedule I went out and spent the pitiful royalties it might possibly earn in advance, treating myself to something I’ve always wanted; a 1920 reporter’s typewriter.
Each key shifts to cover three different letters or symbols, and the whole thing folds flat so that it can be fitted in a suitcase (which I sadly don’t have). You can still buy the ribbons, but I won’t use it; I’ll keep it oiled and it can stand proudly on the old pre-Franco ballot desk I have in my study.
The stall which sells these and many other types here in Barcelona has lots of rarities, including an insanely complicated little number, very unique, from AEG. A rod stands over a letter pad, and as you adjust it to hover over each letter a reel at the back spins to stamp that letter out in ink. It looks ten times more laborious than using a pen, and makes me wonder how many other mechanical writing devices were tried out before the humble typewriter came into existence.
As the sexy new Macbook makes its first appearance (albeit with yet another new port that requires an adapter), a link is made to the old Corona by the QWERTY keyboard that was designed to slow typists down and not tangle the keys – but all attempts to ditch the system have failed. Meanwhile, after dozens of books and thousands of essays, articles, letters, documents and features, I still type with two fingers!
(NB Check out my Facebook page to see the opening action)