Do you keep a diary?

Ever since we introduced middle son to Les Miserables, by watching the show DVDs and then taking him to see the movie, we’ve been arguing about when we first went to see the stage show and who the cast was at the time. After weeks of debating various points about who we remember seeing, what our lives were like at the time and trying to pin it down, inspiration struck and I headed for the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet, where my old diaries and notebooks are kept.

I first started keeping a diary in 1988. It was a red five-year diary, and I kept it faithfully for a year and then very sporadically after that – there were various entries, including our wedding day, the few days around the birth of my eldest son in 1992 and our visit to the theatre to see Les Mis on Saturday 4th November 1989. “lunch in pizza hut then we went and saw les miserables. it was a great show and I loved the music.” We went to see it again about a year or so later, but that appears undocumented. It must have been in 1990 or 91 because it wasn’t after my son was born at the beginning of 92.

It’s an amazing feeling to be able to identify what happened on a specific day that long ago, and I really regret not having kept that particular diary properly, as it started in the year I met my husband and then continued past our wedding to the birth of our eldest, so probably the era of the biggest changes in my life ever.

Still, I picked up the diary habit again a few years later, around mid-2004 I think (must remember to write the year somewhere in a 5 year diary!) and have kept one solidly ever since. This year is the 5th year in my current diary, so every time I write in it I can look back on the same day in the four previous years. It’s odd switching to a new diary and not having a previous year to look back on!

I’ve also got loads of old notebooks from where I used to write morning pages – never reread, but probably full of complaining and planning. The rule is that the diary is written first thing in the morning but as though I was writing it the night before, about that day’s events, while the morning pages are written in the morning but looking forward to the day ahead and not looking backwards.

To some extent I have online diaries as well – my livejournal blog contains entries about various important episodes in my life, and this one contains general musings, and then of course there’s facebook – but when it comes to specifics of what I did on a given date, it’s the diaries that I can turn to most easily.

Sometimes it can be hard to fit in the day’s events to the few lines allotted. Sometimes it can be hard to even find enough to fill that space. Sometimes I let it slide and find myself writing up two or three days at a time, especially during holidays or other events where the normal routine is broken.

But this triumph of record-keeping has given me enough of a buzz to renew my resolution to keep recording activities in my diary, and maybe even to pick up the pen for a little longer and get back to regular morning pages.

Incidentally son’s greatest triumph at the moment is of “beating the bishop”* as we call it, or actually managing to read to the end of the original book of Les Mis. Hubby read it years ago, but at my first attempt the bishop completely defeated me, and on my second attempt I finally managed to get past the bishop but then ran out of steam. One day I’ll get back to it.

I did, however, once read War and Peace – that reading was inspired by a diary: Adrian Mole’s diary, to be precise.  Friday: got War and Peace out of the library. Saturday: took War and Peace back to the library. It was dead good!”  It took me a little more than the evening it apparently took Adrian, but finish it I did!

*In the musical, the character of the Bishop, while playing an important part in the redemption of Jean Valjean, appears in the story for a very short time. In the novel, several chapters are devoted to explaining his character, before anything actually happens. In fact apparently the book is full of such side passages, which the reader has to plough through (or skip!) between the main story passages.