Friday, 14 May 2010


Last night I finally caught up with my current diary; I hadn’t made any entries for several weeks and it was becoming a question of looking at the household engagement diary and copying dates. I hate the kind of diary which says “and then I did - - - - -,  and then I went - - - - -, ” as much as I dislike blogs of that nature.

I have written diaries of one sort or another, my own and invented ones, for many years, starting as a child. I still write them now, by hand, in ordinary school exercise books, lined and with margins, the sort of exercise books used  by morons, who write with tongue sticking out from between moist, slightly open lips, while mouthing each word as they press on their pencils to keep within the lines.

As a teenager I got into serious trouble because of it. I read a lot of unsuitable books from an early age and being a solitary child with a feverish imagination, I thought I could do as well, or better. Transferring some of the more insalubrious passages, in my own, still rather childish words, and altered to fit  my ideas of the femme fatale I was training to become, to my own diaries, was good writing practice, I thought. And fun too, of course.

My mother thought differently. She must have been sneaking peeks at my various diaries for some time and when she came upon a passage describing adventures I really should not have known about, ( and actually didn’t, in reality) she made a very unfortunate comment in the diary, in large letters, across a whole page. Poor Mum. Finding this comment the next time I opened the diary was devastating for me.

The whole sorry episode ended with my mother feeling a complete and very angry fool and me tearing up the diaries.

I still read unsuitable books, but now I know what they are talking about and a purple passage stimulates my funny bone rather than erotic imagination. I also have first hand knowledge on the subject of my own to fall back on, when necessary.

Several years later, I re-started writing diaries until I now have a whole wooden chest full of be-scribbled paper and exercise books. I used to hide them, although I know that there were others who found them and occasionally read them, until I found a new hiding place. I got my revenge on mum by writing in a language she couldn’t read and on an ex-husband by writing in shorthand and in a foreign language, adapting the one to the other, just in case.

It must have been infuriating for them.

Only once did I forgive an uninvited reader and that was when an entry was used to trace me in an emergency. But that really is a very private story.

I am very happy that I no longer need to hide any writing, imagined or factual.


  1. No wonder you turned into a born blogger - your diaries were simply your way of practising!

  2. What a loss to blogging if your mother had put you off for life!

  3. It's interesting, this urge we feel to record our thoughts. I have some of my very early diaries and it's almost like reading someone else's words.

  4. Oh the angst of coming of age! Not knowing how others would see our interest in that which we are not supposed to know.

  5. Every few years I look back at my girlhood diaries. There was a time when I had little patience with the girl that I was. I found the diaries a bit shameful. Now I read them and find that I like that girl more every year.
    Several years ago a novelist asked for my diaries, and used them in the research for a book that hit the best seller list. Very odd to find one's diaries edited, adjusted and fictionalised.

  6. I had a diary when I was a teenager but I tore if off because I was afraid someone would see it, since then I only have a pocket diary for appointments and flight numbers. I think diaries are great for people who love writing and are good at it. I love reading literary diaries. Right now I am reading the diary of a Russian émigrée in Paris at the turn of the century – she was a friend of Marcel Proust and it reads as if it had been written yesterday. I get as much pleasure reading it as eating some fancy Belgian dark chocolate. A few years ago I read in a French article about this woman who kept her mother’s black book diary, without reading it, since her mother had died in the concentration camp – she was another Russian émigrée. She finally read her mother’s black book diary and felt it should be published. She had it published and it became a best seller in France (was translated in English I believe) I ordered the book when it came out. I enjoyed it immensely. The author’s name is Irène Némirovsky, her book is Suite Française. I have more of her books (in French.) I admire writers tremendously and reading is one of my great pleasures. Some of your pieces should be published maybe in a “recueil” (google translate says it means collection – well not really.)

  7. I gave up writing diaries for the very reason you speak of (the "and then's") as well as the pressure to write everyday. Now I use an A4 hardback book and journal - and write often about my struggles, so it tends to be a self-help book. As for reading diaries and journals, can't get enough of them.

  8. What a spell-binding story, Friko!! There's a novel there. Oh, most definitely so. Are you ever tempted to do that? If you do, I hope you'll work the emergency into it.

  9. friko i'm sharing all that i know about diary and journal writing with my students. you would not believe what they can write and what they write about!! i really really hope they keep on writing and keep their writing to share with their own children and grandchildren. steven

  10. Jinksy - thanks, Jinksy, born blogger, eh? poor me.

    her at home - another one of the same mind, even poorer me. (All that promise and that what it's come to)

    Vicki Lane - there are many of us who think that our every thought is worth recording. (Poor us, we learn better, don't we)

    Tabor - I am glad that part is over. I'd never want to go there again.

    Pondside - Really? Do tell! What is the book? You must have something to say that was worth recording.

    Vagabonde - oh dear me, no, Vagabonde, you do flatter me. I think the word you are looking for is "collected Works". Any collection of mine would be a lot of rubbish. (Nemirovsky's book has been very successful here too)

    Freda - thank you for visiting and commenting. Writing is a wonderful tool for sorting our problems, it's been a great help to me too.

    Deborah - do stop it. You make me blush. I'll tell you about the emergency some time.

    steven - do they have more to say than we used to? I would think that human nature is much the same in any age and that young people simply repeat for themselves everything that the young people before them have already done. Good work, encourage them to write and they'll stay on the straight and narrow.

  11. your writing is very interesting and also entertaining, Friko and I really must visit you more often (lack of time...). I always remember you if you put a comment on Robert's site. So, today I thought just to say hello and wish you a very nice evening!

  12. Do you listen to the Radio 4 programme where a comedian is asked to read sections from his childhood diaries? Last night's was very funny, but I do wonder whether they've made bits up. Diaries are fascinating. You and Pepys have something in common with the code thing.

  13. I really appreciate people who journal and continue through their lives. It seems a wonderful source of daily life and expression of the age and culture of the writer. Letter writing has given us charming glimpses into ages past. I'm glad you are one of the story tellers. I certainly enjoy your blog.
    I've tried journaling and bored myself silly in the rereading. I have to hope oral history among my grandchildren as they share the quilts I've made will be full of good humor and sweet memories.

  14. I tried and failed to keep diaries many times - have you read Guernsey Leek and Potato Pie Literary Society? - a really wonderful diary

  15. Renée - danke für deinen Besuch. Auch ich lese gerne deine Kommentare bei Robert und ich wünschte mir, dich direkt erreichen zu können. Deine philosophischen Antworten an unseren gemeinsamen Freund sind wohl oft zu kompliziert für den Allgemeinverbrauch und ich muß oft erst überlegen, ehe ich sie verstehe.

    Ein schönes Wochenende wünsche ich dir, wo immer du bist.

    Fran - No, I haven't yet, thanks for pointing the programme out.
    Thanks for putting me and Pepys into the same sentence, I hope Pepys feels duly honoured.

    Cloudhands - Of course, most of what is in a private journal is desperately boring. Do you think the published variety remains unedited? Things are always tidied up before they see the light of day.

    snailbeachshepherdess - sounds a fun title, who wrote it? Not the GLaPPLS ?

  16. Friko, I arrive late, but have the pleasure of not only reading your post, but also the wonderful comments.

    I will follow up with Vagabonde.

    Meanwhile, the last time I actually kept a daily, handwritten diary was about twelve years ago, when I took a self-funded sabbatical between careers. I allowed myself the freedom to paint and draw every day, and use the other hours as I wished. It was marvelous to record how all this settled upon me.

    And then, the stock market fell, and I needed to return to the official workplace.

    And then, I eventually discovered the blog as a form of diary. Not quite the same thing as scribbling in a spiral bound notebook, but good.


  17. And I am glad you now share your writing with all of us...

  18. I agree with your preference of plain ruled books to use as your journals.

    You know . . . the following two sentences jumped out at me.
    "Poor Mum. Finding this comment the next time I opened the diary was devastating for me."

  19. I'm curious about the book based on Pondside's diary too. I'm fascinated by diaries and would gladly peak into anyone's diary as into a treasure box. Once, years ago, while staying at someone's apartment, I noticed a notebook in their room. When they weren't home I went in and opened the notebook and read their personal diary. It was a terrible thing to do, an absolute betrayal, and yet I couldn't help myself.

    I have a whole trunk full of handwritten notebooks, but since I started blogging I don't write that way very much way anymore.

    I've heard of people creating blogs based on their childhood diaries...

  20. Frances - how sad that you gave up 'scribbling' because of the pressures of work. I used to find keeping a diary therapeutic. Since I've taken up blogging I too have less time for my diary; a blog can never be as intimate as a diary and I am sure I'd loose many thoughts, pain and pleasures without it.

    Chancy - As do we all, thank you.

    June - I can see what you mean, the reason is that I now feel sorry for her. Which right-minded person would do something as drastic as that rather than speak to the child? It says a lot about the relationship between us. Blogging and thinking about those years is bringing up a lot of stuff I had forgotten about.

    Mark - I agree, that was rather unworthy of you.
    As for making a blog out of childhood diaries, are you daring me? . .

  21. Diaries are a fascinating glimpse back into our lives - I certainly haven't kept diaries as you did but I have many written memories and often start and stop - something is better than nothing I suppose. My daughter is as prolific as you and I have never been tempted to look inside her journals but do treasure the times she's shared her diaries with me. When we were travelling in Europe she read to me every night...the stories of her semester in Cortona, Italy and then several times after she's been on trips she's read her journals to me. I treasure those special times.

  22. Sheila - You and your daughter have a lovely relationship, obviously built on trust. Perhaps she will treasure your written memories in the future, when she no longer has you in front of her.

  23. Well you could take it as a dare if you'd like...


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