From fifty years ago today, 2 January 1969, I have kept a daily diary. There is an entry, however short, for every day since then.
For the first ten years I used the World Wildlife Fund’s diary; I was a member of the WWF’s Wildlife Youth Service.
Then for five years Mum passed me her unwanted diary from AA Fisher, the grocery store in Gerrards Cross which is now Fisher Butchers.
After that there is an odd assortment. The Country Gentlemen’s diary (Dad was a member of the Country Gentlemen’s Association (CGA)) features three times: I used the 1981 edition in 1987 and the 1979 one in 1990—the days and dates were the same for both years; I had to amend the 1974 one for use in 1994. I was given two copies of the Dartmoor Diary for 1991 (published by the Dartmoor National Park authority to celebrate the park’s 40th anniversary) and, rather than waste the second one, I amended all the dates so as to use it in 1992.
The 1993 diary was an amended version of the 1982 diary, etchings of the Norwich School, produced by Norwich Union Insurance (I was working for Noble Lowndes insurance in Exeter at the time); the days and dates were the same so the transformation was simple. Ditto for the conversion of the 1980 NEL diary (National Employers’ Life Assurance, also obtained from Noble Lowndes) to 1988—both were leap years.
After 1994 the diaries were provided by the bank and then I moved boringly to WH Smith’s diaries from 2002, a day to a page so at least my writing didn’t have to be too small. I cannot say that they are all legible now, I struggle to read my handwriting!
Since the 1980s I have kept a list of nature notes and books read at the back of each. The birds seen greatly outnumber the books read.
The first diary
And so to the first diary, 1969, and the entry for 50 years’ ago today, 2 January 1969 (I don’t know why new year’s day is blank). Not very informative I’m afraid: ‘Went to Sabine’s. Rode Weeks’ pony with Veronica, then Firecracker’ (Sabine was a friend in Denham Village, and Firecracker was a skewbald pony which was residing temporarily in our meadow at Denham). At the time of this diary I was in my second year at boarding school, and the news is mostly brief and not very stimulating, with schoolgirl slang and abbreviations.
It is possible that I was inspired in this by my friend Sally Forster. In 1966 she gave me a diary with a poem she had written. I have recorded this on a previous blog but it is such a good poem that I repeat it here. I used that diary as she suggested, to record odd notes rather than my daily activities.
These things I must remember e’er they fade.
Distorted by the passing rush of time,
These things I must record and have arrayed
For future use in either prose or rhyme.
These things are not the chores of day by day,
All jotted down with nought of any note,
But sights that I have seen along the way
And dreams I’ve dreamed that had me by the throat,
That made me laugh or made we want to cry,
These fleeting things set down in black and white
Must all be re-discovered by and by
And used relentlessly if I would write.
These things experienced become my own
For they are part me—and mine alone.
Despite the lack of an index, I find my diaries invaluable references as I can look up what I was doing on every day of my life since 2 January 1969. But they are solipsistic and say little about what was happening in the world so are unlikely to be of interest to anyone but me.