So how many times have you started writing a diary in your life?
Do you still write it or have you stopped?
Yet another start made earlier this year here and sat looking out on the gorgeous view from this little table in the window in the hope that I might succeed if I had a special place to sit, so why do I drift and eventually forget to write it?
Perhaps because for me it always seems like a load of uninteresting, unnecessary trivia and tosh with a tendency towards the mawkish that I and the world, (though heaven forfend the world ever saw it) can manage without, far too embarrassing for its seeming mundanity even if I am the only person to read it.
However I left the Persephone Lecture given by David Kynaston recently completely inspired to take it all up again... properly...for the 105th time. Whilst all diaries are a valuable historical resource it would seem women's diaries are especially so, and for exactly those reasons that I have given up on so many occasions, women bother to record the trivial events that are the bread and butter of the social historians of the future.
David Kynaston the author of Austerity Britain and Family Britain, recounted a moment of epiphany when it dawned on him just how important a woman's diary was as a historical source; that each person's life was of equal validity and worthy of inclusion in any account of the history of an era and this the moment that caused him to re-think the type of history he wished to take into account.
The diarists he mentioned were Jenny Hill whose 1950's diary is kept at Winchester County Records Office, Judy Haynes of Chingford whose diary opened a door onto Middle Englandand whose daughter Pamela was in the audience, Gladys Langford, born in 1890, Vere Hodgson of Few Eggs and No Oranges fame and of course perhaps the most well known, Nella Last who compiled hers as part of the Mass Observation programme.
David Kynaston proceeded to elaborate on the historical value of the diaries, how representative or not they may be in the face of far fewer working class diarists and the bias of those in existence to the south of the country, but nevertheless the diaries were contemporaneous, autobiographical and undistorted and predominantly by woman, thus giving a female point of view to domestic, local and occasionally national events. I sat and looked around the elegant room at the Art Worker's Guild in Queen's Square, as the portraits of the great and eminent (and mostly men) peered down at me and had a little revelation of my own, all fuelled by David Kynaston's insistence, about the importance of everyone's offerings not just the seemingly great and the good.
On my return, Bookhound, a prolific diarist himself for the last five years or so and always nagging me to start one, produced as if by magic a blank Moleskinne notebook and I'm back in the groove, writing it all down because who knows how useful it may be for the historians of the future to know that last week a Barn Owl circled the Branwolery (yes really) or that I personally am very happy about the Royal Wedding and wish Wills and Kate much happiness, or that we've had an unusually early and rather challenging cold snap this week. And apparently, if you write about similar national events from your own perspective that is even more useful because then comparisons can be made and different points of view explored.
Currently I have written amongst other things for the last four days 'Must read War & Peace' and now I really must.
So do you or don't you keep a diary?