Have you ever tried summing up your day in fewer than twenty words? Then doing that, every single day, for the next two years? That’s 730 days of short, pithy, memories.
Sometimes, if one is in the habit of using long words (and I am famous for my unfortunate tendency to use a long word when a perfectly satisfactory short word would suffice) the word count is nearer fifteen or sixteen. Which
is, indeed, a considerable challenge.
Last Christmas, grandchildren Jack and Hazel presented me with a small book entitled “365 Days of Happiness”.
It’s a Happiness Journal, the title page of which explains that it will allow me “to document what made you smile each day over a period of two years.” I am on Day 200 and am happy (if you’ll excuse the pun) to advise you that I have
not missed a single day so far.
The good thing about the necessary brevity of each entry is that, unlike a more regular diary, there simply is no space to
record the mundane, the miserable or the boring. You can’t waste those precious twenty words on the fact that you let the saucepan in which you were cooking the sprouts for dinner boil dry because you were too busy watching Pointless on TV. It would
be, well, pointless, now wouldn’t it? The fact that black fly have invaded the broad bean plants; that you’ve run out of suet balls (enriched with mealworms) for the many, greedy feathered friends which like to visit our garden; that one of the
Grand Old Lady’s rear tyres needs pumping up again - none of these has made it to the pages of my Happiness Journal, nor ever will. There is only room for whatever it was that has made me smile on the day in question.
It had been my intention not to revisit the Days Gone By until I started to write up my smiley moments in 2021. However, on realising that I had reached the 200 day milestone, I couldn’t resist
reading through how 2020 has been so far for me. Bearing in mind what an unprecedented (a much over-used word!) year this has been so far, it has turned out to be a more interesting read than I thought it would be.
There’s barely a mention of Covid 19, or Lockdown, of social distancing, face masks (to wear or not to wear, that is the question - or, rather, isn’t the question in the case of my Happiness Journal) or Downing
Street press briefings. And yet, in a strange way, the story of Lockdown 2020 is spelt out loud and clear - and in fewer that twenty words a day.
The first 83
days of the year are my life before Lockdown. The monthly Birdy Group gatherings: “Watching the larks a-rising on Highdown Hill and a proud kestrel hovering above us before swooping downwards.” (Seventeen words.) Friday mornings at Singing for
Pleasure: “Trying to sing the alto line in our new choir songs - must get Jack to help me out.” (Eighteen words.) “Matt Next Door came over for a chat - he always cheers Brian up with his company.” (Sixteen words.) “Lovely visit
by Hil, Massi and the Rascally Trio Lots of fun making a treat for the birds.” (Eighteen words.)
The entry on Day 84 marks the beginning of the change in
our daily lives: “I put my rainbow in the front bedroom window and sorted out the food larder - day 1 of Lockdown sorted!” I sound extremely positive about the future - and in exactly twenty words.
Over the following 116 days, the subject matter of my daily entries changes completely. No more outings to celebrate, no more meeting up with friends to play cards, to sing, to use far too much glitter and glue at crafty
group. Instead there are lots of mentions of something called Zoom which was never a feature in my vocabulary before. There are triumphant entries when I finish yet another of my Lockdown projects - from growing sunflowers to knitting octopi to completing
various scrap-books, some of which had been patiently awaiting my attention for several years. So many phone calls made to family and friends. So many hand-made birthday and anniversary cards - crafted with little skill but “best love.” Learning
lessons with my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys courtesy of BBC Bitesize.
Then there are the entries marking special events like birthdays - mine was “chilly
but perfect”. The Spitfire roaring over our garden on VE Day. Captain Tom. “Even more neighbours than last week on their doorsteps clapping the NHS - rather wonderful” reads my fourteen word entry for April 2nd. The life and death of Dame
Vera Lynn was encapsulated in eighteen heart-felt words: “Dame Vera Lynn died today at 103 - a long life well-lived. So many tributes - We’ll Meet Again.”
Mark Twain once apologised to a friend that the letter he had sent him was so long: “I didn’t have time to write a short one...”
what he meant - it’s far easier to write a long diary entry than a short one - but brevity has one major advantage. When it comes to memories, my journal ensures I only have room for happy ones...