Miss Moneypenny tells us a lot about how the world has changed.
In all but the most recent James Bond film she’s a demure, adoring, secretary who knows her place – on the shelf and behind a desk.
But in the latest Bond film, Skyfall, she’s as swashbuckling as Bond, engaged in the same acrobatic, dare-devil feats. You’ll remember her as the markswoman who nearly shoots both Bond and the villain as they grapple on the top of a train that’s swooshing across a viaduct.
The joke comes in the final minutes of the film when we learn that she’s Miss Moneypenny. It’s during one of those debriefing scenes in Whitehall, and we see her, newly retired from the action-heroine stuff, as an important woman behind a desk, definitely nowhere near the shelf, and with no conspicuous adoration for James.
And let’s not forget that C is a woman too (how we will miss Judi Dench).
Times have changed. We live in a more gender-equal world, and many of the things that women were assigned, largely by men, to do, we now do ourselves, man or woman. The ‘typing pool’ has long been drained.
In fact, I think I’ve never said, ‘Take a note, Miss Weaver’, or ‘Get me so and so.’ I do all my own emails, I dial all my own calls, and I always have (very nearly). I do most of my own hotel and travel reservations, too.
(Though, quickly to forestall an accusation of hypocrisy, I must admit that Darina and Kamila do make a lovely cup of tea.)
No one just types, dials and photocopies anymore. No longer are shorthand and typing both essential and sufficient qualifications for any young woman or man. The windows of ‘temp’ agencies rarely refer to ’50 wpm (words per minute)’ as a qualification. We do things ourselves nowadays and the world is a better place for it.
But one word of advice: learn to type properly, whoever you are and whatever you are..
In 1980 I set myself the task of learning touch-typing, using an old-fashioned portable typewriter and a book that took me through the intricate motions, lesson by lesson. It was one of the most useful things I ever did. Far more useful than a degree in Philosophy. And though I don’t quite touch-type nowadays (all sorts of lazy habits have crept into my technique) I’m grateful that I can still type rapidly. Perhaps even 50 wpm, with lots of corrections.
Typing is an essential skill, whether you’re Miss, Ms, Madam, Master, or Mister Weaver.