Dear Diary

‘Write,’ commanded Rob who runs my writing group and because I am inherently dutiful I wrote about my diary keeping.

I would like it to be witty and insightful – a clever play on words. But it doesn’t come easy – not like the angst and heartache stuff – oh that flows ad. tedium!

It was only a few years ago that I realised heartache is a physical thing. Like you, I’ve wept; been shocked to numbness when my cat died and my mum died and my dad died but it wasn’t until I had a major falling out with youngest daughter in her second year at uni that my heart truly ached – fingers reaching into my chest and squeezing the life blood from me while I sat in Clackett Services on the M25.

Then, as now, I wrote it down – my stupidity and my sorrow recorded for all to see. Why do we do that? The pseudo psychologists of the glossy magazine self-help variety advocate it. It’s cathartic apparently and I suppose it is. I tend to think it is a gender thing as I suspect that more women than men write a diary. I have every day since was 11. I wish I’d kept the early ones. What did my 11 year old self worry about? Of course I didn’t worry did I.  I do remember that family was a big thing – the extended family of aunts uncles and cousins and big picnics and playing charades. Not boys at that stage .They waited in the wings for a couple more years and thereafter filled my head.

I recall lots of comparing and marking – hair 6/10, eyes 9/10. In an ever so slightly more mature way I still do that. Internet dating has a lot to answer for.

During all those teenage years I kept my diaries – the keepers of the secrets lived on my bedroom shelf and it became a ritual each New Year’s Day to savour the pristine pages of the new version – my future life a blank canvas. Oh I had plans and schemes and clever tricks but the formative years have their own agenda free from the constraints of the dreaded responsibility.

To this day I treasure the sensory delights of beautiful notebooks and journals. I don’t have that with books themselves. I wish I did and envy those with stacked shelves of much loved tomes. Oh I read – don’t get me wrong but I suppose I treasure the impact that the words have on me rather than their physical presence.

I wish I had those diaries now. Aged 16 in 1964 and a wicked girl to boot – part of history now.  One year’s entries were so incriminating that best friend and I took our diaries to Southsea beach at dusk and ceremoniously burnt them, scattering the ashes of our sins to the wind – oh the melodrama!

But life moved on and I didn’t keep them – I think mum chucked them when I moved out of home.

When I moved from husband no. 1 to husband no. 2 I dumped another load of diaries. I stood in a friend’s garden in Bristol, where I was living, surrounded by another 7 years of my life recorded in what is often fortunately a virtually illegible left-handed scrawl. I knew I couldn’t take them with me as I was running away to a bedsit. But before tossing them into the bin liner I sat on the grass reading about deeply insightful matters such as ‘cooked a lamb stew for supper, Ned was late home.’ How are the mighty fallen?

And that’s how it’s been over the years – the angst punctuating the mundane.

40 years on and downsizing means I’m about to dump another lot. Yes I really do have 40 diaries and can’t resist once more dipping into them.

I am shocked by how busy I was and how much I packed in to life back then. I am shocked to discover people I’d clearly been close to at one time who have been completely erased from memory – how much of our lives we just forget and who on earth were Nigel and Liz?

There are a couple of 5 year diaries and I randomly pick a few dates to peruse. A clear pattern to the shape of my life emerges that I was hitherto unaware. For recorded in black and white is the spooky revelation that time and again I’d met up with the same people or done the same things on exactly the same day during that 5 year period without any realisation that this was happening – fascinated I read on marvelling at what might have triggered said meetings but there are no clues – the mind is cleverer than that.

The diaries form a motley collection – from the large to the small, to the page-a-day variety. Although these days I’m fussy in the annual selection

There are diaries with lock and key to prevent the prying eyes of mother or some husband/lover or other. No clue about potential tampering of said locks but would love to know.

So, I question do diary writers do it because they secretly want others to read their wisdomly pearls? I’ve long been impressed by the legendary Samuel Pepys – all that worrying about how to preserve his precious cheeses as the Great Fire approached. And Anne Frank – gosh now there’s a diary!

Do I secretly want my diaries to be read? I can’t decide but if any of you feel the urge to discover what I cooked for supper on 21st September 2008 or indeed who I fancied last week – then take a look in the recycling bin round the corner.



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