We were living on the edge of the Knysna forest on the southern coast of Africa when my lovely old Olivetti typewriter and I parted ways in a traumatic fashion. When my eldest daughter presented me with a computer for my birthday I realised the personal computer had arrived, turning the world, including my small corner of it, upside down. We enjoyed endless games of Pacman on it. But my Olivetti still had first place in my writing. Frankly, I must admit that I did not know how to do anything but play Pacman on my computer, despite the effort of my kids to teach me.
So on a day something was needed from town. I can’t remember what it was, but Miriam and my daughter, Tes, both insisted I go and collect it. At that moment I should have smelled a rat, as they say. It was a big and very smelly rat. But I trusted them. What a mistake.
To understand the story you need to know that I was determined to avoid the digital age. I had my old Olivetti and what could that thing do that my Olivetti could not? I really did ask that question. They tried to answer, but I was not listening. After all, love trumps everything, doesn’t it?
So I agreed to go into town and collect whatever it was. When I got back a few hours later wife, daughter and granddaughter Sheena lined up to meet me, doing their best to look sorrowful. “A terrible thing happened,” one of them said, without explaining further.
I am reluctant to admit that I was taken in by their act. “What was it?” I asked.
“I was dusting your desk when I accidentally bumped your typewriter and it fell to the floor,” Miriam said. “And now it doesn’t seem to be working too well.”
Not working too well? That was a good one. It was not working at all.
I took off the cover and saw that the chassis, or whatever you call it on a typewriter was shattered right through. It was clear that my Olivetti would never type another line, not even a word.
“I’m so sorry,” Miriam said. Because she never lies, I believed her.
It was much later that I finally heard the full story. The three of them had conspired to destroy my old, dearly beloved Olivetti to force me to use the new computer. While I was away in town, they had pushed it off the desk and onto the floor. But game little fighter that she was, she survived it.
So they took her outside and dropped her onto a concrete slab, but she survived that too. Eventually, Tes got up on a kitchen chair with Miriam and Sheena holding onto her to steady her, and held my typewriter above her head. Then she threw it as hard as she could to the cement floor. My trusted friend of decades was gone.
Now I had no choice but to learn how to use the computer. Today I have to admit that the computers have some advantages, but I will never feel about one of them the way I felt about my old Olivetti. She was beautiful, and she died bravely.
More on the joys of writing novels on a manual typewriter here.