Monday, 14 May 2007

Don't Look Back

"Pa," young Jasper said to me this morning, "perhaps your readers would enjoy reading about how you got interested in journalism?" I thought I detected just a hint of sarcasm in his voice, but it's so difficult to tell with the younger generation these days. Well, it's an idea, anyway.

When I try to recall the spark that led me into a life-time of working in a newsroom, I'm drawn inevitably to that Christmas Day in 1953, when an excited young chap opened up his presents to find, amongst them, a John Bull Printing Set.

In the days before blogs and computers, this was possibly the only way a youngster could get to see his name in print. For the benefit of anyone who never saw the John Bull in all it's glory, it provided an array of tiny rubber letters (none of which, strangely, came with accents - unless there was a special edition of French letters that I never discovered), and you were expected to slide these into a special holder.

Once you had assembled your words, using a tiny pair of tweezers, you were ready to impress them on an ink pad, and then away you went. Of course, producing anything more than a few lines was the labour of Hercules - but it was a start. This was desk top publishing at its most primitive. But the heady smell of the ink, the wondrous smudgy feel of the paper when it had received its imprint was like a drug to a child with little opportunity before him other than, perhaps, working down a local mine.

I am sure it was that Christmas Day, in the kitchen of that tiny, terraced house, that my fire was first lit. The rest, as they say, is history.


Enumerator said...

Ah, the wonders of the John Bull printing outfit! I also remember some way of printing through use of jelly - here's an example -

Daddy Papersurfer said...

I'd forgotten - my older brother had a John Bull printing kit. I didn't. I didn't mind. Not really. It's good to have a reminder though.......I think.

The good news is, I've followed in the master's footprints re WBC - time for a malt.

Bill Blunt said...

That hectograph sounds like just the thing to produce a rant or a hector on, enumerator!

Bill Blunt said...

I've often wondered if your middle initial shouldn't be 't', dp!
Sibling envy - best not go there, I think!
Let me not be the last to congratulate you on joining me in the rarified halls of the World Blog Council. Well done!

70s teen said...

Wow I remember my older brother having one too. I was so envious, and was so not allowed to touch it. When he was out one day I decided to have a go, I heard him returning so hurriedly put it away. I was, however, not as smart as I thought I was as 'I love Donny' was found made up in the box!!!! (I got a dead arm along with a chinese burn and as you would say Bill... the rest is history!

Bill Blunt said...

Well, 70s teen, I trust that was a lesson to you. Some things, like Wilkins & Sons Tiptree Tawny Orange Marmalade, remain the preserve of the male.

Theresa111 said...

Nice to know you received your John Bull Printing Set gift on my first Christmas. What a good year that was too. Nice to make your acquaintance Mr. Blunt. I've been reading Harry McFry lately and met the esteemed and lovely author. Your style of writing is easy to read so I shall visit here again. Please do stop sometime soon.

Sincerely yours,


Bill Blunt said...


I have been asked to stop many times, by many people, but never quite so nicely as that. Thank you.
Unfortunately, my blog provides the perfect vehicle for my distinctive voice, so I'm not planning to hang up my quill just yet!

Good luck with your own quite remarkable blog.