Way With Words
Transcriber Renee Carpenter tells us about her journey to Way With Words
I was brought up in Kent along with my two brothers until I was nine and then the family moved to Essex. During the latter part of my schooling I had visions of becoming a journalist or a hairdresser, but my father decided that I should go to evening college to learn to type. My father was of the view that I should have a skill which would always be in demand. I suppose, God bless him, he was right, but as a young girl in the sixties I was less than convinced. My college taught typing in the good old fashioned way, a black cloth over the keyboard, music to type to and a tongue lashing for making mistakes. Luckily, my cloth had quite a big tear in it! I popped out at the end of the process as an employable entity in a world which wanted what I could do. Okay, rather reluctantly, but thank you Father.
Some of you may remember, or have heard of, the “typing pool”. Although you didn’t swim, you got that sinking feeling when sitting in rows in a large room watched over by the supervisor. A late arrival would be castigated by this demon in human form (well, almost human) sitting on her dais. You would have to make your way to your desk through the giggles of the more fortunate (early) typists. However, I had a favourite supporter who gave me tapes full of music, as well as work, and the supervisor was none the wiser.
I finally managed to join one of the tunnelling parties and one day we made our escape into the broad sunny uplands of real life. I became a secretary in a very old and well known legal practice in the City of London. My boss was a fine, meticulous drafter of wills, leases and trust deeds and I was necessarily expected to be a fine and meticulous typist of those long and lordly documents. No mistakes, no tippex, no rubbing out. I used to sit, fairly petrified, as each page was held up to the light to seek out my transgression from the perfect. How would a girl feel now having to retype 40 pages of a document because of two lines omitted on page two! I do say, though, that we all reached a standard which spell check can never achieve.
During this time, I married and moved back to Kent but continued to work in the City. In due course some geek invented the office computer and I progressed (if that’s the word) to the dizzy heights of running the firm’s IT department. The firm’s approach to life was strictly 19th century and it would have been fun to watch the interesting clash as the two centuries met in mutual misunderstanding. Unfortunately, I was where the clash happened.
As the century rolled its way towards fireworks and a non-existent millennium bug, the firm joined the fashion for amalgamation. Before I knew it, I was precipitated into a huge legal factory, with a turnover of zillions and office politics which made a swim in a piranha pool a positive pleasure. I swam around in all this and was persuaded to take on a management role in HR. A few years of political correctness and legal management straight out of Orwell’s 1984, made me yearn for a nice long simple document which did not threaten a legal tribunal at the end of it.
During this time my husband and I had drifted apart, in a friendly way, and I moved back into London. In 2002 my new partner retired and we decided it was time to move to sunnier climes. Having visited quite a few countries we decided on Spain because, one, we like the lifestyle and, two, it was easy for family and friends to come and visit us. That was probably a big mistake as the first few years it was like running a hotel. The journey to Spain (including two cats and an enormous shed – don’t ask), and the first few months here, were quite stressful and very amusing, but that is probably another article in itself. One amusing, but stressful, episode was that although we had spent a small fortune on obtaining the proper import papers and inoculations for our two cats, when we arrived at Valencia Airport and dutifully made our way to Customs, our two cats proceeded to be sent round on the conveyor belt with the luggage. If it hadn’t been for a quick thinking passenger, who managed to grab the carrying cases, they would have fallen off as it snaked its way around.
We love our life here and until the bankers decided completely to wreck everyone’s life, we were surviving quite nicely. However, in 2010 with the exchange rate of the pound to the euro on the floor, and my partner’s pension dwindling as a result of the drop in share prices, I was at the point of going back to the UK and doing contract work for three months at a time – which I wasn’t relishing. But then, oh happy days, I fell upon the Way With Words website. I applied and went through the thorough training and, much to my surprise was accepted.
I really enjoy working for WWW (well, apart from full verbatim focus groups) and being part of a virtual team. Originally, my plan was to work a few days a week, but, like most of you I’m sure, I often work six days a week because how can you resist a request and a smiley face from OPS?