The Irish language has a delicate way of saying something is back to front, we say it’s ‘tóin ar aghaidh’, or arse about face. I have made a habit all my life of doing things out of sequence. For instance, most people get an education which prepares them for life, then they start working, I did it the other way round. When I retired from work I then went to Maynooth University in search of an education. The ordering of my life though was outside my control at the time, most men of my generation didn’t get even to secondary school.
When I was studying for my degree in Irish I came across the memoirs of Ernest Blythe and enjoyed reading them. A few years later I took a vagary ( or a figary as my mother called it) and decided to translate them into English. This took about a year.
When I had completed this task I decided to write my own memoir. This also took the best part of a year, as I am a two-finger typist, or at best maybe three fingers. Then I had another brainwave, it occurred to me that I should write my life story in the first official language, so off we go again, as Gaeilge.
Now these two enterprises, Blythe’s story and my own infinitely less interesting one probably contain a couple of hundred thousand words, all laboriously hammered out with two fingers; I won’t count the many, many essays I laboriously wrote, in two languages, while studying in Maynooth.
Now here’s the thing; three weeks ago I was struck by another ‘figary’ and decided to learn to type. I found a brilliant app online and am happy with my progress. But it could be said that the cart was definitely in front of the horse.
Sitting in the garden the other day drinking coffee, I remarked to the light of my life that I found it strange that if I failed to put a capital letter at the start of a sentence while writing on my phone, it automatically changes the letter to upper case. Why, I wondered, did this not happen on my computer? Why did Microsoft Word not offer this service, thus saving me the bother of having to use one of my three typing fingers to press the ‘Shift’ key at the start of each sentence, hundreds, maybe thousands of times on each document.
So I googled it. And guess what, it is there, it was there all the time, it just hadn’t been activated.
So now I can ignore the shift key, forget capitals and let the software do the work for me. But the big question is now, will I have the opportunity to make use of this great labour saving technology in a substantial way? Will I get to do much more writing? Who knows? But I did use my newly acquired skills to type this piece, so the effort has not been entirely in vain. Follow your ‘figaries’.