Dear Diary

The Rogue Semiotician has been talking about diaries. I have never kept one in the classic sense of owning a narrative book, preferably with a lock, ‘Dear Diary, I woke this morning to understand yet more fully the extent to which I am misunderstood…’. I think Miss Dog has one of those, in which, doubtless, there is a full explanation of how human reception of the fact that half a packet of Anchor butter somehow ended up removed from the counter to her noisome bed, paper and all, uneaten, but flattened and covered in black hairs, constitutes ‘being misunderstood’. Miss Cat on the other hand simply has a Hating Book, a small, scruffy reporter’s notebook, in which is written, in pencil, Dido, Dido, Dido, Dido, The Rough Cats, Dido, Dido, Dido, and more recently, Meg (the New Best Friend), Dido, Dido, Meg, Dido, Dido, and Johnny (a Jack Russell who today, chased her up a tree). But I was reflecting today, mulling over the RS’s note, that since my teens, I have always had a pocket diary, and most of these little books are still with me. There are specifically feminine reasons for keeping track of passing time, there are also appointments, and both are good reasons for having such a thing. But for some reason, in my young youth, I developed the habit (since lost) of writing down purchases as well, often with what I paid for things. With the passage of time, these have acquired a sort of fascination of their own. I have a 1980 diary to hand: ‘Ring Granny and Tom’. Who the hell was Tom? Why? ‘Vulgate Concordance, £20′. My God. A hundred and fifty if you’re lucky, these days. A novel’s £20. I’ve still got it, and it’s E.C. Ratcliffe’s copy – a famous scholar in his day, which was basically 1920s-ish – it must have been sold on after he was dead, as it will be again, some time or other. ‘Bought heavy silk shirt, £7′ –– and I wore it for the best part of fifteen years before it fell to bits. It figures somewhere in my list of 50 Favourite Garments Of All Time. The people I was seeing, just the names: Tom may have escaped me, but ‘Drew Latah’ triggers immediate recall. Oh, yes. Latah Soakai, a huge and magnificent personage from Tonga, who I haven’t seen since that year because she went home to the South Seas. The moment a drawing’s mentioned I can remember doing it; the very hand movements come back to you, and sometimes, some of what was being talked about, or what was on my mind at the time. I’m glad that I have never kept a real diary; I agree with the New Scientist that they are very dodgy. But I am glad that I have these spare memoranda of my past; they function to a most surprising extent as memory triggers, even at the distance of nearly twenty-five years. The blog, by the way, is not a diary. It is a cross between a postcard and a message in a bottle.

3 Responses to “Dear Diary”

  1. arnold Says:

    Ratcliff was still active in the 1950s and 1960s; he was one of the liturgical experts responsible for the Coronation service in 1953. Somewhere on my shelves is a short memoir of him, with one sentence that has stuck in my memory: ‘no one knew him well, but his devotion to his cats was legendary’.

  2. Marisa Says:

    I just discovered your site from It’s really great, and I will be reading in the future. Just a spot of encouragement, if you needed it.

  3. Janey Says:

    Marisa, welcome to the small & eccentric band of Readers! Can you pass on what ilike said about us, just for interest? I couldn’t find their comment.

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