When it wasn’t all type on the night

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Apologies to those who have missed my ramblings for the past three weeks – I did a couple of weeks holiday cover on the Hawick News and then enjoyed a week’s break.

To those who didn’t miss my weekly muses – tough. I’m back, so you’ll just have to turn the page and enjoy our coverage of Kelso Civic Week and the Cleikum Ceremonies and Games at Innerleithen.

Seriously, I do enjoy penning – or, more correctly, computering – this column. Journalists who are given the opportunity to be a columnist should really consider themselves fortunate. It provides an opportunity to express opinion – something that is normally denied the news reporter. An opportunity to break away from the rather rigorous rules of engagement that exist, if not for all newspaper reporters, at least for the local press man and woman.

It provides an opportunity to reflect on times, people, places and happenings that hopefully provide a half-decent read for those who cough up the cover price of the publication.

So, that’s why, when opportunity arose for Grey Matter to sprout from the pages of The Southern, I grabbed it with mouse and keyboard in hand. No need for Tipp-Ex now – just find the delete button.

In my early days as a reporter, we didn’t have erasing fluid. We had the ‘x’ key on our trusty Remington typewriter. It used to drive the linotype operators crazy (and that could be fun). Line after line of xxxxxxxx erasing our mistakes or change of mind. And that was followed by the editor’s red pen.

I truly wonder how those typesetters made head or tail of some of the copy we put through. But, of course, if it was too bad, the good old Ed gave it back to us and we had to start all over again.

I committed a cardinal sin – some cardinals still do – on my first day at work as a 16-year-old. I typed on both sides of the paper. That was a definite no-no.

I’d like to say it was an exclusive page-one lead that first got me into bother with my editor. But it wasn’t. It was the Top Ten music listing which I was copying from the New Musical Express. I got to Number 5 and turned the paper over. My boss was kind, but firm. I did learn a lesson that first day – and I’m still learning now.

The arrival of Tipp-Ex in liquid and paper form was a boon in a way – but you got into some mess at times. It also did some damage to the roller.

But at least it extended the life of the typewriter ribbon by sparing it the excessive use of xxxx, which we seemed to always hit with excessive force, angry at our own mistakes.

To an extent those tantrums still exist. How many times have we repeatedly hit a computer because we think it is being stubborn and awkward because it doesn’t fulfil the required action immediately – only to remember every time you hit that key you were instructing the computer to carry out the same function over and over again. Frustrating, but, yes, I and a few colleagues still do it.

Somewhere in my loft I have a portable typewriter. I suppose then it was the equivalent of today’s laptop. I think I’ll dig it out for old time’s sake. xxxx