This blog is a bit like a diary. Except that, given its on-line presence, there is absolutely nothing secret about the Daily Blog. In fact these days I am finding myself left out of all kinds of conversations because when
I start telling my friends what I’ve been up to since they saw me last, they cut me off with an off-hand: “Oh, I read all about that on the blog...” Is there anything left of me that is interesting once I’ve rattled off my 600 odd words
My family has its share of diary-keepers. My mother kept her diary in dozens of school exercise books (the ones with ruled lines and margins, and helpful
printed tables on the back which are absolutely no use to anyone since we all went metric) and I still love to dip into them from time to time. Unfortunately for the family historian (that’ll be me, then) they are remarkably short on the kind of
detail – dates, names, places – which I need to fill in the yawning gaps where branches of my family tree should be.
What my mum was really good at
was recording in her diaries what she and my dad had had for breakfast, dinner and tea on the date in question. If anyone wants to write a book on “Eating Habits of a Retired Couple in the Sixties and Seventies” then I can happily provide them
with stacks of material. This remarkable fixation with food has led to some major frustrations. Take the entry where my mum describes the journey she and my father took to find the house where he was born and spent his earliest years. “It
was so poor, so run-down,” she writes, before finishing, poetically: “we bought fish and chips on the way home – lovely!”
Or the time they
paid a visit to Dad’s sister and brother: “...and talked and talked about old times.” Yes! Yes! I am all agog. “And Clara served up tinned peaches and evaporated milk for tea.” The anti-climax is desperate.
There are, however, lovely references to me and my children growing up. “Off to Maidstone to see my Jaqui, the sunshine of my life,” she wrote once. It always brings
a lump to my throat as I wonder whether I could have shone just a little more brightly, a little more often, a little more warmly....
The Youngest of the Darling
Daughters used to take diary-keeping to extremes. Not only did she keep her own diary but also one for each of her two children covering their early years, those before their own memories would kick in. That’s what I call over and above maternal
duty. One day, perhaps, we will read them and live the Baby Years all over again.
When she was away in Australia for a year after finishing University, the
Youngest of the Darling Dauighters used to write her diary in exercise books (almost exactly like the ones her grandmother used, though the helpful tables on the back were more up-to-date.) Every time she finished an exercise book she would send it home to
us for (i) reading and (ii) safe keeping. The arrival of the diary in the post was the highlight of our days while she was away. Mr B and I would wrangle, mostly good-naturedly, over who should read it first. My argument was always that I read faster than
Mr B so he would not have to wait so long as I would to get his hands on the precious journal. Sometimes this argument carried the day. Sometimes it didn’t.
about the many adventures she was enjoying was pretty scary at times. We would find ourselves reading about some crazy jaunt she had planned and think: “Please, please, don’t do that!” – only to realise that the diary entries we were
reading were from at least three weeks previously so the daring deeds were done and dusted and she had lived to tell the tale.
The Youngest of the Darling Daughters
had lots of practice as she kept a diary from her tender years. We started her off on her journal-keeping when we bought her a Five Year Diary – one of those with a little lock and key to keep its entries safe from prying eyes. Each page was divided
into five spaces, one for each of the five years – and the spaces were so small that there was only room for a very few words each day.
Mark Twain once apologised
to a friend for writing him a long letter on the basis that he “didn’t have time to write a short one.” The Y of the DDs had writing briefly off to a fine art. My favourite entry, summing up what was clearly not the most exciting
of days, read as follows:
“Mucked around. Downright boring day. Played The London Game. Lost.”
Ten words. Mark Twain would have been proud of her.