Wednesday, 26 December 2012
The Pleasure of Keeping a Diary
I thought I might publish one or two random, rambling posts, for those of my readers who feel like checking their computers as a change from Christmassy things.
This one is about the pleasure of keeping a diary. The desire to keep a diary can strike at any time; I was in my late 50s when I took it up. It wasn't even New Year's Day when I started, but early December. I don't know what possessed me, but it has been several years since then, and I haven't missed a day.
Like all late starters, I suppose, I think back with frustration at the adventures I might have recorded as they happened, instead of having to rely on memories whose details gradually fade.
By the way, New Year's Day is a terrible day on which to start keeping a diary: too many expectations and high resolutions, and by the third day all one can think to write about is what one had to eat. But why not, say I. Parson Woodforde's wonderful diary is full of detailed accounts of his meals, enabling us to savour the delights of Pigg's Face and various other Georgian delicacies.
No half-measures for me: my diary is A4, with a full page for each day. I promised myself I wouldn't worry if I wrote just a few lines on any day. Momentous news or trivial witterings: it didn't matter. Nor would I worry about style; I wasn't writing a work of literature. Thinking along these lines helped me to overcome any initial self-consciousness, and gradually it became very natural and a part of me.
Sometimes I have had to record the events of a few days in one batch, such as the time when I was whisked off to hospital for an operation. Holidays are dealt with variously. I take the diary with me if we are going by car. If we fly abroad, I sometimes take a thin notebook, write each day's entry in it, and transcribe the lot on my return. The first time I thought it would be tedious to write everything again, but in fact it was a pleasure to re-live the holiday in this way. You see what an addict I have become.
A surprising pleasure has been the diary's contribution to family reminiscences. More than once my son has said, "Do you remember when such-and-such happened? "Yes," I say, "and I wrote about it in my diary." I turn to the time in question in one of my old diaries, and it is as though the memories have come alive again, much to his delight.
I hope you have found this little post entertaining; and I hope it will encourage you not to throw away that Christmas-present diary just yet, but to tuck it away somewhere. As the year progresses, the number of blank pages will increase, but it doesn't matter at all. You never know: after an unknown number of weeks or months, and however late in the year, the words may suddenly start to flow.