Would you keep a one-day diary for Mass Observation?

12 May

‘In 1937, Mass Observation called for people from all parts of the UK to record everything they did from when they woke up in the morning to when they went to sleep at night on 12th May. This was the day of George VI’s Coronation. The resulting diaries provide a wonderful glimpse into the everyday lives of all sorts of people on this day.’

Mass observation -Recording everyday life in Britain

Mass observation have repeated their request for your one day diary entry for this day this year. You can write about anything and everything that happens today and send it to them. I’ve never kept a diary of the proper journaling kind, it always seemed, well, too much like hard work to me. I’ve never thought of representing myself in the medium of the written word, why would I when there are pencils and an endless supply of sketchbooks to fill up, diary pages and text books to cover in doodles?
Don’t misunderstand me, I think writing a diary is a wonderful thing to do if you find it enjoyable and rewarding. The last time I tried to write a diary I was a teenager and thought it was something I should give a go, but I was also convinced that it was something I should be good at. This self imposed pressure to be good, to achieve a worthwhile end result is a problem that has permeated almost every area of my life and one which I have been trying to kick since becoming a mother. Its really not one of my finer qualities and certainly not one I wish to pass on to future generations.

Though I may not place any particular value on my writing (and believe me when I say that writing this is taking considerable effort) I am hugely touched by the written words of others. In my studio I have a suitcase that has moved with me everywhere I’ve gone since I left home. Its rarely opened and even then only to add to, but I know everything that is in it. Its my collection, a small time capsule consisting of every letter anyone has ever written to me since I was about 11 years old, all the cards, drawings, notes, phone numbers as well as all the ticket stubs from every journey and gig. Then there are the photos, the school ones printed on ‘proper’ paper with scuffed up edges, the ones of old childhood friends I now barely recognise but nonetheless feel deserve a place. I feel a huge sense of comfort knowing that its there to be added to and to look back on in the future should I ever feel the need.

I consider myself extremely lucky every time I receive a handwritten letter in this age of emails and texts and Facebook alter egos. I treasure everything from the smell of the paper to the inky smudges that bring news of people I love. I’m particularly sentimental about the family calendar I keep on the kitchen wall and enjoy flipping through the pages every December as I transfer all the important anniversaries and birthdays on to the new fresh pages of the next year. I like looking back over past years and relying on a few scribbles, times and names to jog my memory of where we were and what we were doing at a point in time. These aren’t fluent, self edited musings on life and love but they are a quick sketch of a personality, a life lived and documented in an informal way.

These papers all deserve a place in the suitcase and are my diary of sorts I suppose. They have a value in the future and I will keep them safe there just in case, just in case for me, for Andy, for Henry. I know they all say that its all about emails and texts, that digital photos never make it off the hard drive, that we have lost the art of doing anything longhand. And although I am not going to leave behind beautifully crafted prose for my loved ones to read when I am gone and understand the secret intellectual I had been hiding all along I will diligently write them inky letters, send postcards with stamps I have to lick, leave love notes and instructions on sticky notes and print out photographs with random ‘jog your memory’ scribbles on the back.

So I will write my diary for today and send it off to Mass Observations because just as I am someone who would pore over the diaries of  a hundred years ago with fascination at the everyday and normal, mine might find its way to being read with interest one day too. I’ll write about this as well, the blog that makes me sit and write all this and have another go at something I believed I was terrible at. I suppose this blog is my virtual suitcase, my concession to not being a total twenty first century luddite.


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