I KEEP a diary, which is simply
a record of oneís thoughts and impressions, and, like that of Miss Cecily
Cardew in Oscar Wildeís play, The Importance of Being Earnest, is meant
for publication. I never travel without it, because, as the honourable
Gwendolen Fairfax says in the play: "One should always have something
sensational to read in the train" - or nowadays, "plane".
is at once a confidant, confessor and aide-memoire. It resembles a stream
of consciousness, sweeping along the mundane with the meaningful, and
diarists have probably existed since man first put quill pen to parchment.
One of the greatest, Samuel Pepys, racily recorded events in the
seventeenth century, from Londonís great fire and plague to sly gropes at
serving wenches, and unknown diarists probably had entries like, "Ende of
worlde reported near so drank three botts of Madeira and fell insensible."
Snobbish, lecherous and often tipsy, James Boswell, the Scottish author,
biographer of supremo lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson, wrote entertaining,
frankly confessional, personally-critical but often self-admiring journal
Sample: "How easily and cleverly do I write just
now. I am really pleased with myself. Words come skipping to me like lambs
upon Moffat Hill and I turn my periods smoothly and imperceptibly like a
skilful wheelwright." Writers know that feeling and, only too well, its
As an example of his all-too-variable charm, his
encounter with certain Scottish women in London reads:
the Lord Advocateís ... Mrs Millerís abominable Glasgow tongue excruciated
me. I resolved never again to dine where a Scotchwoman from the West was
allowed to feed with us."
MY DIARY is as revelatory as
Mother Goose but could have commercial relevance as a tranquilliser. It is
full of what the English poet, Frances Cornford, described as "the long
littleness of life". Here are some typical entries:
Purdie who is due for her first cataract operation, second hip
replacement, fourth sinus wash and is planning to go to India for a trip
up the Ganges with breast enlargement and colonic irrigation thrown in."
"In the doctorís waiting room where I read a five-year-old copy of Brick
News despite noise made by a child attempting to demolish the furniture.
Doctor cheerful, never gets depressed at the sight of me, says I could
linger on for years and prescribes new capsules in crazy colours."
raining. There is a hole in my sock."
It takes dedication and
discipline to keep a daily diary; some people only write entries when the
mood takes them or some significant event happens such as being fined for
keeping a library book overdue.
Some reject diary pages and
pen for computer entries, but if a device, described as the "human black
box", becomes popular, people will be able, as it were, to download their
life, with startling realism, onto a computer.
MICROSOFTíS British engineers will unveil in Cambridge, next month,
SenseCam, a miniature, ultra-wide-angle-lens camera that can be disguised
as jewellery or a badge, but is powerful enough to retain up to 2,000
images and sound recordings of people and places encountered by the
wearer, thus creating a personal digital diary.
Significant or trivial moments in peopleís lives could be recalled,
showing, every 12 hours, office meetings, street encounters, arguments
with traffic wardens, the place where oneís spectacles were mislaid, what
little Wayne did with grannyís false-teeth-cleaning tablets and the
secret, household places where menís odd socks lie.
could share images of each otherís day - the modern equivalent of slide
shows - and family archives could be created. Crimes and accidents could
be recorded and oneís descendants could sit enthralled, seeing and hearing
about oneís early struggles against dandruff.
Along with identity cards
containing iris scans, text messages, mobile phones with cameras, CCTV,
and police DNA data bases, the "black box" could add to the erosion of
privacy, exposing our lives like bacilli under a microscope.
to become, effectively, a camera; "No Leica", automatically, springs to
mind. I shall drop the shutters on that invention, stick to my dear, old,
dated diary and continue to record the progress of my ingrowing toenail.
Itís as sensational as it gets.