The Broom and the Comptometer
Every morning I sweep out the shed. A daily ritual. It helps me get ready for Labour of Love activities. Today I was thinking about how brooms have been used for centuries, their form and function hardly changed. A beautiful simple work tool.
Other tools and machines become obsolete a little quicker. One visitor to the shed mentioned using a machine, the comptometer, which I confess I’d never heard of.
I went up to Blackfriars for an interview at Carmelite House and when I was there a job had just come in that morning for John Silvers at Smithfield. So I worked there. They sent my to school in Aldwych to learn the comptometer. The comptometer worked out calculations and I went one day a week to be taught how to do it. It wasn’t very difficult to use, but it made my hand ache. Silvers was a bacon wholesalers and you had to work out the calculations of what they sold.
Other women have recalled starting their working life as Junior Shorthand Typists and using the manual typewriter, with all its associated paraphernalia, carbon copies, typing erasers, Tippex. The machine demanded considerable skill in typing accuracy, spelling and grammar. The physicality of the old manual typewriter is still sought after by some writers, Paul Auster famously using an old 1970s Olympia typewriter to write his novels to this day.