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Keeping a Diary

When I retired two and a half years ago, I began writing my diary each day.

Having recently read these words of the poet, William Allingham, I am wondering whether there is any truth in them, and maybe it is time for a change.

“A man who keeps a diary pays, Due toll to many tedious days; But life becomes eventful – then, His busy hand forgets the pen. Most books, indeed, are records less Of fulness than of emptiness.”

Do you keep a diary?

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Categories: General
  1. February 26, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Gaz – as a schoolboy I kept a diary (our parents used to drop a “Letts Schoolboy diary” into our Christmas stocking.) But looking back at some of the entries is embarrassingly tedious. In recent years I had aspired to some sort of diary chronicling the daily fun and games with my son (now coming on 7 years). In reality I can readily understand where Allingham is coming from; I might even say that words on the page become a shadow of the real thing; but a diary of some kind can provide a record of ‘eureka’ moments and well crafted words can provide a snapshot of eventful days.

    I suppose this site is a kind of diary for some e.g. Christina’s last post on “Eh Oops, its Global Warming!” and with accompanying pictures is very effective.

  2. February 26, 2014 at 9:03 am

    PapaG,
    I think you have it. The Chariot is a lot more interesting, cos’ it’s like reading someone else’s diary. Back in the boarding school days, Sunday morning included the obligatory home letter writing period. My parents had to put up with a lot of “this week we did geography, biology and English” type letters.

  3. February 26, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Gaz, funnily enough, I kept a diary once in my life: for the first 100 days after I took early retirement. We had moved to the Med. and life was extremely ‘different’, not empty at all.

    Akshully one of my favourite ‘reads’ is Claire Tomlin’s ‘Life of Pepys’, which extracts a fascinating account of his life and times from his famous diaries. What might have been described by his contemporaries as ‘boring’ – just daily stuff with his family and career – now shines a penetrating light on the ‘mores’ of the time.

  4. February 26, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for the comments PapaG, Jhleck and Janus.
    When I started my diary two and a half years ago I quickly realised that I needed to decide whether to be my own censor or not. I mean, it is private, so why should I censor it? Should I really write down my innermost thoughts such as feelings for others good and bad, or experiences such as sexual or similar? I decided there is no point keeping a diary but leaving out all of the juicy bits, and would therefore write each day completely without any restrictions. Consequently I now already have four volumes which I could never show to a soul, especially not my children or grandchildren 🙂
    So, now I have to ask myself the question. Should I burn them before I die just to make sure that they are never read? That would destroy the whole point of writing them.
    A bit of a quandary.

  5. February 26, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Hello Gaz.

    Good to see you writing here.

    I haven’t kept a diary since I was a child. I think William Allington had a point. My diaries were a tedious record of every meal I consumed for two years or so.

    I’m quite sure I must have done something else, but I was obviously too busy to write it down!

    Regarding your quandary, I wouldn’t risk it, you could be run over by a bus tomorrow. I sincerely hope not, but I doubt your nearest and dearest could resist the temptation to read your diaries.

  6. February 26, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    H Araminta, so you are really saying destroy them.
    I remember when my mother-in-law died about eight years ago. She kept a diary every day and after she died there was a stack of over 50 years worth. We did read some of them. I was particularly interested in her entry for the day when my to-be wife first introduced me to her. With some trepidation I opened the 1995 diary, turned to the date and read ” Today I was introduced to Bettina’s new boyfriend.” That was all, no opinion…nothing. I was quite disappointed, not because I was particularly looking for compliments as we subsequently became very fond of each other, but just to see her first impression…..nothing 😦
    This is why I write mine with spice 🙂

  7. Four-eyed English Genius
    February 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    From what I have seen,some people use Facebook as a diary, and they become very tedious. The sort of thing I am referring to: “Today, I had bangers and mash and a beer” accompanied by photos of same. This might be interesting if (a) it was not nearly every day and (b) it read “Today I had swan in aspic and a bottle of Chateau Neuf de Pape”.

    Also, where will it end? “Having consumed a formidable repast, I took my easement in the garde robe?” Heaven forfend!

  8. February 26, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Hello Gazoopi: I have never kept a personal diary, I do keep a Daytimer (maybe it’s called something else in GB) which contains my appointments. I have them back to the early 1970’s. Why keep them? Habit I suppose, and as a first line of defense if accused of something . “Were you in Kuala Lumpur on the 6th of June 1975?” “Just a moment……..No, sorry, I certainly was not, it was July 6th”.

    The pre-retirement volumes are full of stuff, names, meetings, travel etc. Since the dawn of the 21st century they are reduced to doctors and dentist appointments and reminders to buy tires for the car, sometimes weeks of pages with nothing on them. The difference between having to do things and doing things one wants to do.

    My somewhat paranoid view is that anything recorded in any form whether dead tree writing or electronic stuff will one day become public knowledge (Rather like the battle over making HRH Prince Charles’ letters to the movers and shakers public under some FOI act). Much prefer to pass over in anonymity.

    My late mother kept a diary, I only discovered that when, during one of her visits to the U.S. she asked me “Do you remember during my visit in 1995, we went to the Baltimore Aquarium?” “Hell and death, I thought, she’s got a good memory for an 80 year old” Turns out she carried the dairies with her on her trips and kept on recording what she did.

  9. February 26, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Low Wattage, “My somewhat paranoid view is that anything recorded in any form whether dead tree writing or electronic stuff will one day become public knowledge “……..oh no, I must burn them asap.

  10. Pseu
    February 26, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    No, don’t burn them. But have them locked up for about 100 years, by which time anyone you knew personally will have died and the next generation can have some juicy insights.

  11. christinaosborne
    February 26, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Definitely not!

    Far too many of the vicissitudes of life have been immoral, illegal and fattening.
    I may be old and boring now but it wasn’t always that way!
    Anything written down or said on a phone these days can be used against you. There are no guarantees that you will have the convenience of having died before they get to you.

  12. February 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Christina, I can only say……gulp!

  13. christinaosborne
    February 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Needs must when the devil drives!

  14. Soutie
    February 27, 2014 at 6:18 am

    Morning Gaz, no diaries here.

    As your post appeared I immediately thought ‘no, not here’ but then realised that a lot of my writings here are a diary of sorts (selective extracts of course 😉 )

    Like LW I too have diaries dating back to the early ’90’s and like LW they are more a recording of appointments, telephone numbers and conversations, I used to keep it next to the phone so it was handy to scribble down notes, as we’ve got more mobile the need for that sort of register has become obsolete, so much so that I haven’t bothered buying one for 2014!

    Appointments now are simply written on my calendar which hangs on the wall.

  15. February 27, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Hi Soutie, I do my appointments electronically in my computer and synchronise to the phone. One of the reasons that I began my diary was because I wanted to regain my handwriting ability. After we moved to France in October 2011 I called my parents (both now 89) each week in the UK. My mother doesn’t hear well and much prefers a letter. So, after probably 10-15 years of almost solely computer use, and very little handwriting, I began to compose some long letters to my Mum. She was thrilled. The problem for me was that I had great difficulty to write legibly. My hand cramped every few sentences and I realised that I was totally out of practice. I now write one or two pages every day in my diary and my old handwriting technique has returned to its normal level. I also write them with a good fountain pen in leather bound books. Destroying them is really out of the question but having them read by anyone else is also out of the question. 🙂

  16. February 27, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Our former furry fountain pen purveyor would no doubt have approved! 🙂

  17. Boadicea
    February 27, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I kept diaries as a teenager, for a while in my twenties, and whenever I needed to say things that I couldn’t say to anyone but me!

    They are full of outrageous comments, bad poetry, letters that I never sent, and, often, utter stupidity.

    I still have them – and they make amusing reading (to me!) on the very, very odd occasion that I drag them out. I shall have to destroy them before I depart, but who knows I might need to laugh at myself again in the future… 🙂

  18. christinaosborne
    February 27, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    I understand the need to keep writing by hand.
    I have always found complaints written in black ink on beautiful cream laid paper get an instant response.
    Much more satisfactory outcomes than crappy computer print outs on white bond.

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