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More about diaries

Two days ago, in my Birthday Musings, I mentioned digging out my 1991 pocket diary. As I wrote in this piece last year I have an unbroken run of diaries from 1979 to 2001, “available any time if I want to check the dates of holidays, meetings, gigs, exams, Film Festivals, and very occasionally how I was feeling about things”. These diaries usually sit in a plastic storage box, along with notebooks, a range of old maps from London Transport (tube maps, and bus maps covering the whole of London which are no longer published), old school journals and a few souvenirs. Having dragged the storage box out from the cupboard under the stairs and spent some time looking through old diaries I decided to scan a few pages. Many of the entries are in pencil. If they fade much more they will be barely readable. The page that prompted me to start scanning was from my last school journal. It’s a list of those of us who came back after A-Levels to sit seventh term exams for Oxford and Cambridge. I have noted, in pencil as faint as can be, the university destinations of my contemporaries. After all these decades the information is still just about readable, and now it’s in a PDF file too, and backed up in various locations.

Yesterday evening my 10-year-old daughter, curious about the contents of the storage box, read through the earliest of my diaries, from 1971. It’s a “Puffin Readers’ Diary”. I was younger then than she is now. She is unfamiliar with the word “banal” but it’s a good description of most of the entries: “Went to school”, “Went to mass”, “Mummy went to work”, “Got up early, had breakfast with Daddy”, all written in capitals. There are records of football matches played in the park or in the back garden (one game was drawn 25-25) and a note about the FA Cup Final on 8 May: “Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in FA Cup”. That was of particular interest to my daughter, as she’s a Junior Gunner. By 8 May 1971 I was using upper and lower case letters, and Friday 7 May was the first day for which there is no entry.

There is a classic tip about completing projects and otherwise getting things done: there should be no blank days. I didn’t know about it back then but was adhering to it anyway during the first 126 days of 1971, and indeed the last few days of 1970, when the diary begins: “Played in the snow”, “Bad Fog”, “Bad Fog”, “Went Shopping”.

The image below is a sample week from early 1971, which included four days at a film studio, one of the less banal things that my brother and I did that year. It’s noted here as “WENT TO THE TELEVISION STUDIOS”. I wrote about it in “1000 Memories”, and that piece is available here, on the Memories Menu. I wrote “1000 Memories” from memory, not researching the exact date of each piece. It was a record of how I remembered things, not an autobiography requiring dates to be cross-checked. I now discover that my chronology was slightly out. I thought that the commercial was recorded during two days in February but it turns out that it was four days in January. My Puffin Readers’ Diary from 1971 tells me so.

A week in the life: 17-23 January 1971



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